Posts Tagged ‘Power7’

Meet the Power 795—the RISC Mainframe

December 16, 2013

The IBM POWER 795 could be considered a RISC mainframe. A deep dive session on the Power 795 at Enterprise 2013 in early October presented by Patrick O’Rourke didn’t call the machine a mainframe. But when he walked attendees through the specifications, features, capabilities, architecture, and design of the machine it certainly looked like what amounted to a RISC mainframe.

Start with the latest enhancements to the POWER7 chip:

  • Eight processor cores with:

12 execution units per core

4 Way SMT per core – up to 4 threads per core

32 Threads per chip

L1: 32 KB I Cache / 32 KB D Cache

 L2: 256 KB per core

 L3: Shared 32MB on chip eDRAM

  • Dual DDR3 Memory Controllers

100 GB/s Memory bandwidth per chip

  • Scalability up to 32 Sockets

360 GB/s SMP bandwidth/chip

20,000 coherent operations in flight

Built on POWER7 and slated to be upgraded to POWER8 by the end of 2014 the Power 795 boasts a number of new features:

  • New Memory Options
  • New 64GB DIMM enable up to 16TB of memory
  • New hybrid I/O adapters will deliver Gen2 I/O connections
  • No-charge Elastic processor and memory days
  • PowerVM will enable up an 20 LPARs per core

And running at 4.2 GHz, the Power 795 clock speed starts to approach the zEC12 at 5.5 GHz while matching the clock speed of the zBC12.

IBM has also built increased flexibility into the Power 795, starting with turbo mode which allows users to turn on and off cores as they manage power consumption and performance. IBM also has enhanced the concept of Power pools, which allows users to group systems into compute clusters by setting up and moving processor and memory activations within a defined pool of systems, at the user’s convenience. With the Power 795 pool activations can be moved at any time by the user without contacting IBM, and the movement of the activations is instant, dynamic, and non-disruptive. Finally, there is no limit to the number of times activations can be moved. Enterprise pools can include the Power 795, 780, and 770 and systems with different clock speeds can coexist in the same pool. The activation assignment and movement is controlled by the HMC, which also determines the maximum number of system in any given pool.

The Power 795 provides three flavors of capacity of demand (CoD). One flavor for organizations that know they will need the extra capacity that can be turned on through easy activation over time. Another is intended for organizations that know they will need extra capacity at predictable times, such as the end of the quarter, and want to pay for the added capacity on a daily basis. Finally, there is a flavor for organizations that experience unpredictable short bursts of activity and prefer to pay for the additional capacity by the minute. Actually, there are more than the three basic flavors of CoD above but these three will cover the needs of most organizations.

And like a mainframe, the Power 795 comes with extensive hardware redundancy.  OK, the Power 795 isn’t a mainframe. It doesn’t run z/OS and it doesn’t do hybrid computing. But if you don’t run z/OS workloads and you’re not planning on running hybrid workloads yet still want the scalability, flexibility, reliability, and performance of a System z the Power 795 might prove very interesting indeed. And when the POWER8 processor is added to the mix the performance should go off the charts. This is a worthy candidate for enterprise systems consolidation.

Enterprise 2013 Details System z and Power Technology and New Capabilities

October 25, 2013

IBM announced a lot of goodies for z and Power users at Enterprise 2013 wrapping up in Orlando today. There were no blockbuster announcements, like a new z machine—we’re probably 12-18 months away from that and even then the first will likely focus on Power8—but it brought a slew of announcements nonetheless. For a full rundown on what was announced click here.

Cloud and analytics—not surprisingly—loom large. For example, Hadoop and a variety of other capabilities have been newly cobbled together, integrated, optimized, and presented as new big data offerings or as new cloud solutions.  This was exemplified by a new Cognos offering for CFOs needing to create, analyze and manage sophisticated financial plans that can provide greater visibility into enterprise profitability or the lack thereof.

Another announcement featured a new IBM Entry Cloud Configuration for SAP on zEnterprise. This is a cloud-enablement offering combining high-performance technology and services to automate, standardize and accelerate day-to-day SAP operations for reduced operational costs and increased ROI. Services also were big at the conference.

Kicking off the event was a dive into data center economics by Steve Mills, Senior Vice President & Group Executive, IBM Software & Systems. Part of the challenge of optimizing IT economics, he noted, was that the IT environment is cumulative. Enterprises keep picking up more systems, hardware and software, as new needs arise but nothing goes away or gets rationalized in any meaningful way.

Between 2000 and 2010, Mills noted, servers had grown at a 6x rate while storage grew at a 69x rate. Virtual machines, meanwhile, were multiplying at the rate of 42% per year. Does anyone see a potential problem here?

Mills’ suggestion: virtualize and consolidate. Specifically, large servers are better for consolidation. His argument goes like this: Most workloads experience variance in demand. But when you consolidate workloads with variance on a virtualized server the variance of the sum is less due to statistical multiplexing (which fits workloads into the gaps created by the variances). Furthermore, the more workloads you can consolidate, the smaller the variance of the sum. His conclusion: bigger servers with capacity to run more workloads can be driven to higher average utilization levels without violating service level agreements, thereby reducing the cost per workload. Finally, the larger the shared processor pool is the more statistical benefit you get.

On the basis of statistical multiplexing, the zEnterprise and the Power 795 are ideal choices for this. Depending on your workloads, just load up the host server, a System z or a big Power box, with as many cores as you can afford and consolidate as many workloads as practical.

Mills’ other cost savings tips: use flash to avoid the cost and complexity of disk storage. Also, eliminate duplicate applications—the fewer you run, the lower the cost. In short, elimination is the clearest path to saving money in the data center.

To illustrate the point, Jim Tussing from Nationwide described how the company virtualized and consolidated 60% on their 10,500 servers on a few mainframes and saved $46 million over five years. It also allowed the company to delay the need for an additional data center for 4 years.

See, if DancingDinosaur was an actual data center manager it could have justified attendance at the entire conference based on the economic tips from just one of the opening keynotes and spent the rest of the conference playing golf. Of course, DancingDinosaur doesn’t play golf so it sat in numerous program sessions instead, which you will hear more about in coming weeks.

You can follow DancingDinosaur on twitter, @mainframeblog

Open POWER Consortium Aims to Expand the POWER Ecosystem beyond IBM

August 7, 2013

With IBM’s August 6 announcement of new POWER partners, including Google, not only is IBM aiming to expand the variety of POWER workloads but establish an alternative ecosystem to Intel/ x86 that continues to dominate general corporate computing.  Through the new Open POWER Consortium, IBM will make  POWER hardware and software available for open development for the first time as well as offer open-source POWER firmware, the software that controls basic chip functions. By doing this, IBM and the consortium can enable innovative customization in creating new styles of server hardware for a variety of computing workloads.

IBM has a long history of using open consortiums to grab a foothold in different markets;  as it did with Eclipse (open software development tools), Linux (open portable operating system), KVM (open hypervisor and virtualization), and OpenStack (open cloud interoperability). In each case, IBM had proprietary technologies but could use the open source consortium strategy to expand market opportunities at the expense of entrenched proprietary competitors like Microsoft or VMware.  The Open POWER Consortium opens a new front against Intel, which already is scrambling to fend off ARM-based systems and other lightweight processors.

The establishment of the Open POWER Consortium also reinforces IBM’s commitment to the POWER platform in the face of several poor quarters. The commitment to POWER has never really wavered, insists an IBM manager, despite what financial analysts might hint at. Even stronger evidence of that commitment to POWER is POWER8, which is on track for 2014 if not sooner, and POWER9, which is currently in development, he confirmed.

As part of its initial collaboration within the consortium, IBM reported it and NVIDIA will integrate NVIDIA’s CUDA GPU and POWER.  CUDA is a parallel computing platform and programming model that enables dramatic increases in computing performance by harnessing the power of the graphics processing unit (GPU).  GPUs increasingly are being used to boost overall system performance, not just graphics performance. The two companies envision powerful computing systems based on NVIDIA GPUs and IBM’s POWER CPUs  and represent an example of the new kind of systems the open consortium can produce.

However, don’t expect immediate results.  The IBM manager told DancingDinosaur that the fruits of any collaboration won’t start showing up until sometime next year. Even the Open POWER Collaboration website has yet to post anything. The consortium is just forming up; IBM expects the public commitment of Google to attract other players, which IBM describes as the next generation of data-center innovators.

As for POWER users, this can only be a good thing. IBM is not reducing its commitment to the POWER roadmap, plus users will be able to enjoy whatever the new players bring to the POWER party, which could be considerable. In the meantime, the Open POWER Consortium welcomes any firm that wants to innovate on the POWER platform and participate in an open, collaborative effort.

An even more interesting question may be where else will IBM’s interest in open systems and open consortiums take it. IBM remains “very focused on open and it’s a safe bet that IBM will continue to support open technologies and groups that support that,” the IBM manager told DancingDinosaur.  IBM, however, has nothing to announce after the Open POWER Consortium. Hmm, might a z/OS open collaborative consortium someday be in the works?

SHARE will be in Boston next week. DancingDinosaur expects to be there and will report on the goings-on. Hope to see some of you there.  There also are plans for a big IBM System z/Power conference, Enterprise Systems 2013, toward to end of October in Florida.  Haven’t seen many details yet, but will keep you posted as they come in.

zEC12 Drives Buoyant IBM Results

January 24, 2013

IBM posted strong 4Q 2012 and full year 2012 financials on Tuesday.  So strong that the results beat Wall Street’s expectations, as did the technology bellwether’s guidance for the current year. The results bumped up IBM’s stock and helped fuel a market rally for a couple of days at least.

DancingDinosaur particularly liked the performance of the System z. Q4 2012 revenues from System z increased 56% compared with the year-ago period, reflecting the contribution of the zEC12 introduced in 3Q 2012. System z revenue in the growth markets increased 68%. Total delivery of System z computing power, as measured in MIPS, increased 66% versus the prior year and represented the largest MIPS shipment quarter in the company’s history, according to IBM.  New workload specialty engines, including the Linux IFL, represented one-half of the MIPS shipped, a further sign that Linux on z is finally gaining real traction after a decade.

Revenues from Power Systems decreased 19% compared with the 2011 period. DancingDinosaur expects that to turn around in 2013 as more Power products using the new Power7+ processor catch on and will get a further boost when machines running the POWER8 processor come out, maybe even in late 2013. DancingDinosaur wrote about Power7+ here back in October.

Let’s let IBM’s top boss, Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and chief executive officer gloat a little: “We achieved record profit, earnings per share and free cash flow in 2012.  Our performance in the fourth quarter and for the full year was driven by our strategic growth initiatives—growth markets, analytics, cloud computing, Smarter Planet solutions—which support our continued shift to higher-value businesses. Looking ahead, we continue to invest to deliver innovations for the enterprise in key areas such as big data, mobile solutions, social business and security, while expanding into new markets and reaching new clients.  We are well on track toward our long-term roadmap for operating EPS of at least $20 in 2015. If you are an IBM fan, it doesn’t get much better than this.

DancingDinosaur was surprised that the System z was driving the bus this quarter. It expected the front position to be taken by services or software, not hardware and certainly not the z, which sometimes comes across as a multi-billion dollar afterthought.

Software was another high point. According to IBM, software rang up $7.9 billion, an increase of 3% (up 4%, adjusting for currency) from 4Q 2011. Of more interest to DancingDinosaur was IBM’s key middleware products, which are key to driving new workloads on the z.

The middleware products, which include WebSphere, Information Management, Tivoli, Lotus, and Rational rang up $5.5 billion, an increase of 5% (up 6%, adjusting for currency) versus 4Q 2011. Specifically, revenues from the WebSphere family of software products increased 11% year over year.  Information Management software revenues increased 2% and revenues from Tivoli software increased 4%.  The best performers were Lotus software (including IBM Connections), which increased 9%, and Rational software, up 12%.  It is these products, along with Linux on z and Java that enable the kind of new workloads mainframe shops are likely to run.

So, DancingDinosaur has to conclude that this was a pretty good week for IBM and particularly for those invested in the mainframe.

IBM Introduces POWER7+ and More

October 4, 2012

IBM’s Systems and Technology Group (STG) introduced a slew of new products and enhancements, both hardware and software, for the System z and Power. The System z announcements, which DancingDinosaur will take up in subsequent posts, focused mainly on software enhancements, such as new revs of CICS and Omegamon, for the zEC12. The Power announcements covered new capabilities as well as new machines. And all the announcements in one way or another address IBM’s current big themes: Cloud, Analytics, and Security.

Of the new Power announcements, Power7+ certainly is the star.  Other capabilities, such as elastic capacity on demand and dynamic Power system pools, may prove more important in the long run. Another new announcement, the EXP30 Ultra SSD I/O Drawer, may turn out quite useful as organizations appreciate the possibilities of SSD and ramp up usage.

Power7+, with 2 billion transistors, promises to deliver 40% more performance, especially for Java workloads, compared to Power7.  Combined with other enhancements Power announced, it looks particularly good for data and even real-time analytics workloads.  The new processor boasts 4.4 GHz speeds, a 10MB L3 cache per core (8 cores =80 MB), and a random number generator along with improved single precision floating point performance and an enhanced GX system bus. IBM invested the additional transistors primarily in the cache. All of this will aid performance.

The enhanced chip also brings an active memory expansion accelerator and an on-chip encryption accelerator for AIX. Previously this was handled in software; now it is done in hardware for better performance and efficiency.  Power7+ also can handle 20 VMs per core, double the number of Power7 VMs. This allows system administrators to make VM partitions, especially development partitions, quite small (just 5% of the core).  With energy enhancements, it also delivers 5x more performance per watt. New power gating also allows the chip to be configured in a variety of ways. The upshot: more flexibility.

Elastic capacity on demand (CoD) and Power System Pools work hand in hand.  Depending on the server model, you can create what amounts to a huge pool of shared system resources, either permanent or temporary. IBM has offered versions of CoD for years, but they typically entailed elaborate set up and cumbersome activation routines to make the capacity available.  Again, depending on the model IBM is promising more flexible CoD and easier activation, referring to it as instant elasticity.  If it works as described, you should be able to turn multiple Power servers into a massive shared resource. Combine these capabilities to create a private cloud based on these new servers and you could end up with a rapidly expandable private cloud. Usually, it would take a hybrid cloud for that kind of expansion, and even that is not necessarily simple to set up. The payback: greater agility.

There are, however, limitations to elastic CoD and Power Systems Pool. An initial quantity of CoD credits are offered only with new Power 795 and Power 780 (a Power7+ machine). There also is a limit of 10 Power 795 and/or 780 servers in each pool.

Enterprises are just starting to familiarize themselves with SSD, what it can do for them, and how best to deploy. The EXP30 Ultra SSD I/O Drawer, scheduled for general release in November, should make it easier to include SSD in an enterprise infrastructure strategy using the GX++ bus. The 1U drawer can hold up to 30 SSD drives (387 GB) in that small footprint.  That’s a lot of resource in a tight space: 11.6 TB of capacity, 480,000 read IOPS, and 4.5 GB/s of aggregate bandwidth. IBM reports that it can cut batch window processing by up to 50% and reduce the number of HDD by up to 10x. Plus, you can still attach up to 48 HDD downstream for another 43 TB. The result: great scalability and efficiency.

And this just touches on some of what IBM packed into the Oct. 3 announcement. DancingDinosaur will look at other pieces of the Power announcement, from enhancements of PowerVM to PowerSC for security and compliance as well as look at the enhancements made to zEC12 software.

HP-UX and AIX : The Difference is POWER7

July 10, 2012

HP’s enterprise-class UNIX operating system, HP-UX, faces a stark future compared to IBM’s AIX. The difference comes down to the vitality of the underlying platforms. IBM runs AIX on the POWER platform, now at POWER7 and evolving to POWER8 and even POWER9 (although the naming may change)—a dynamic platform if ever there was one. Meanwhile, HP-UX has been effectively stranded on the withering Itanium platform. Oracle has stopped development for Itanium, and Intel, HP’s partner in Itanium, has been, at best, lackluster in its support.

It not clear whether HP-UX is a better UNIX than AIX, but in an industry driven by ever increasing demands for speed, throughput, cost-efficiency, and energy efficiency, the underlying platform matters. HP-UX customers surely will outgrow their Itanium-based systems without a platform boost.

“There’s no question that [our] Business Critical Server business has been hurt by this,” said HP CEO Meg Whitman in the transcript of an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s All Things D column. The business, which had been growing 10% a year before Oracle spurned further support of Itanium now is declining by 20-30% a year (Ouch!).  So Whitman is counting on two things: 1) winning its lawsuit against Oracle, which is still making its way through the courts and 2) porting HP-UX to an advanced x86 platform, namely Xeon. “Ultimately we’ve got to build UNIX on a Xeon chip, and so we will do that,” she told All Things D. All spring long there had been hints that this was imminent, but an official HP announcement never materialized.

Of course Oracle wants the HP customers running Oracle on HP-UX with Itanium to jump to its Sun platform.  IBM, however, has been wooing and winning those same customers to its System z or POWER platforms. Oracle runs on both the z and POWER platforms.  Running Oracle on Linux on System z yields substantial savings on Oracle licensing. But IBM wants to do even better by migrating the Oracle shops to DB2 as well, with incentives and tools to ease the transition.

What HP customers also get when they move to POWER or to the z is a platform in both cases with a real platform future, unlike either Itanium or Sun’s server platforms. DancingDinosaur has long extolled the zEnterprise and hybrid computing, but POWER is dynamic in its own right and when you look at the role it now plays in IBM’s new PureSystems, another IBM hybrid platform, POWER becomes all that more attractive.

From the start HP with HP-UX and Itanium was bound to have to settle for compromises given the different parties—HP, Intel, Oracle—involved. With POWER7, IBM system developers got exactly what they wanted, no compromises. “We gave the silicon designers a bunch of requirements and they gave us our wish list,” says Ian Robinson, IBM’s PowerVM virtualization and cloud product line manager. As a result POWER7, which runs AIX, Linux, and System i on the same box, got a slew of capabilities, including more memory bandwidth and better ways to divide cores.

POWER7, which amazed the IT world with its stunning Watson victory at Jeopardy, also is turning out to be an ideal virtualization and cloud machine. The rate of virtualization and cloud adoption by POWER7 shops is running something north of 90%, notes Robinson. The adoption of PowerVM, the POWER7 hypervisor built in at both the motherboard and firmware levels is close to 100%. And now POWER7 is a key component of IBM’s PureFlex initiative, a major IBM strategic direction.

Meanwhile, Whitman is fighting a costly court battle in the hope of coercing grudging support for the Itanium platform from Oracle. The trial began in June and mud has been flying ever since. Even if HP wins the case, don’t expect the story to end soon. Using appeals and delay tactics Oracle could put off the final outcome so long that Itanium will have shriveled to nothing while POWER7 continues along IBM’s ambitious roadmap.

System z Finally Comes to SmartCloud

June 11, 2012

A few weeks ago IBM announced it was bringing the System z to its SmartCloud Enterprise offerings.  This raises a few questions, for starters: what took IBM so long? You could argue that the mainframe, as the original time-shared system, has been doing an early form of cloud computing for decades. More recently, mainframes have been available as hosted services at the company’s data centers.

Maybe a better question is why now? Might it be that Oracle bolstered its cloud offerings earlier this month? Similarly, barely a week ago EMC announced a cloud venture with a Verizon subsidiary. Not to be left out, HP also announced an updated converged cloud strategy last week. In that sense, IBM was ahead of the curve with its latest SmartCloud enterprise announcement, including System z. The industry’s sudden infatuation with big data is driving vendors to bolster their public and private cloud offerings.

IBM SmartCloud Enterprise+ for System z, as IBM describes it, is a cloud computing service designed to meet the evolving needs of IBM mainframe organizations. The service provides shared, secure and scalable IBM z/OS mainframe capacity delivered as secured logical partitions (LPARs) within a continually refreshed, managed environment residing in the cloud. IBM suggests companies will adopt this offering to avoid capital outlays for hardware and reduce software expenditures as they move toward a pay-for-use financial model.

In fact, IBM presents what amounts to myriad public, private, and hybrid cloud offerings. The IBM System z Capacity Offering for Cloud allows for partial balancing of incremental capacity growth on IBM zEnterprise 196 or z114 during a twelve month period. The offering enables companies to deal with business change by moving capacity between systems and even between locations.  As to be expected, IBM constrains how much you can rebalance, although the constraints are based on an unusually straightforward formula.

The IBM System z Disaster Recovery Offering for Cloud offers active capacity mobility between IBM zEnterprise 196 or z114 primary servers and disaster recovery servers. As IBM explains: companies need to test their disaster recovery capability by running production at the disaster recovery site over an extended period of time, such as when wanting to ensure, in the event of a disaster, all systems and processes can efficiently run from the disaster recovery site.

To that end, System z Disaster Recovery Offering for Cloud allows active capacity mobility between z196 or z114 primary servers and mirrored disaster recovery servers. With this offering an organization can perform a thorough disaster recovery test longer than a CBU test by moving its primary active workload on z196 or z114 to its disaster recovery server for up to 60 days. Usually this is needed to satisfy stringent audit or compliance requirements.

Again, the product comes with a few constraints.  For example, a workload may be moved up to four times a year, and for each move the maximum time a workload may run on the Disaster Recovery machine is 60 days.

There are more IBM SmartCloud offerings than noted above. And DancingDinosaur expects to see other z offerings in the cloud moving forward. Fully virtualized from the start, the z is a natural for the cloud. Power, another highly virtualized and integrated IBM system that should play well in the cloud, also has a SmartCloud offering now.  It’s about time.

IBM PureSystems Hint at the Future of zEnterprise

April 16, 2012

IBM’s April 11 announcement of PureSystems family of products was focused on POWER and x86 systems. A closer look, however, suggests the initiative both leveraged some of the advances of the zEnterprise and zBX and hints at extending the PureSystems approach to the zEnterprise.

To summarize, PureSystems is the name IBM is giving to a family of integrated appliances. These combine physical and virtual server, storage, and network hardware in the form of POWER and Hx5 blades with the appropriate middleware and software to deliver a system that is fast, flexible, and simple to deploy and maintain.

The first two products in the family are PureFlex, which provides Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and PureApplication, which provides Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).  The clear implication is that more PureSystems are on the way. Don’t be surprised to see something like PureAnalytics, maybe followed by something like PureTransaction.

For the introduction, IBM pulled out a couple of its biggest guns. Said Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president of software and systems: “By tightening the connections between hardware and software, and adding software know-how, PureSystems is designed to help organizations free up time and money to focus on innovation.”

PureSystems, however, is not the typical appliance most vendors deliver by repackaging existing technology and wrapping it up in a spiffy interface. PureSystems was designed and engineered from the ground up to deliver flexibility, simplicity of operation, efficiency, and lower cost.

Rod Adkins, senior vice president in charge of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group, called it “a new category of business computing that combines server, storage and networking resources along with an array of built-in software patterns and business processes into one highly automated and simple-to-manage machine.” IBM’s goal was to change the economics of IT by addressing the issues of time, cost, and risk.

The PureSystem device arrives private cloud capable. It is thoroughly integrated, automated, and optimized using an extensive set of patterns that encapsulate the best hardware, software, deployment, and management practices. Plus, it offers a facility to pull in third-party patterns or add your own custom patterns.

IBM expects PureSystems can shift organizations from where today they spend 70% or more of their IT budget just keeping the systems running to where they can direct more than half their budget to new initiatives. To that end, IBM initiated an approach it calls scale-in design, which provides for increased density (PureSystems can handle twice as many applications compared to previous IBM blade systems), effectively doubling the computing power per square foot of data center space through the use of expert automation, optimization, and virtualization, and then packaging it at an attractive price. The entry level PureFlex is priced at $100,000 and is sufficiently configured for a midsize organization.

IBM estimates that a PureSystems machine can be running in four hours, one-third the time of earlier IBM blade technology.  If IT did it from piece parts figure on taking weeks or months. IBM calculates PureSystems requires 47% less deployment labor hours and 73% fewer management hours versus conventional systems.

From the standpoint of zEnterprise shops, key innovations—especially the optimization and expert patterns—will likely be incorporated into the next zEnterprise release.  The expert patterns may finally address persistent concerns about replacing retiring z veterans and the loss of mainframe experience.

Also of interest to zEnterprise shops will be the design of the new PureSystems devices. They clearly borrow from the zBX and the zEnterprise hybrid ensemble, including its ability to manage a combined physical/virtual hybrid environment from a single console. They don’t call it the Unified Resource Manager but they could have. Today PureSystems and the hybrid zEnterprise are close cousins. Expect them to grow even closer in the future.

Workload-Driven zEnterprise Solution Edition Program

March 12, 2012

The IBM Solution Edition (SE) program for the zEnterprise is one of the few true bargains in mainframe computing. It delivers a zEnterprise mainframe as a bundle with software, middleware, and maintenance at a steep discount. It is, however, workload-specific.  It is a great deal only if you can live within the workload constraints of the SE agreement.

To qualify for the SE deal you must use it for a workload new to your mainframe environment. This deal is designed to expand the usage of the mainframe at a given shop.

IBM notes, the SE is tailored to meet specific business needs and designed to enable maximum value from the current IT infrastructure in the fastest possible time and at the lowest cost. The SE program addresses the following specific workloads: ACI, App Dev, Chordiant (CRM), Cloud Computing, Enterprise Linux, GDPS, Security, and WebSphere as well as SAP.

Take the SE for SAP program. The program makes it more affordable for companies to benefit from the strengths of System z for their SAP environment.  If you already are running SAP in a distributed environment you can bring it to the mainframe through SE for SAP or Linux on System z by taking advantage of the System z SE for Enterprise Linux, which is one of the most versatile SE offerings .

Hybrid computing environments also can be accommodated under the SE program. For example, when implementing the SAP with z/OS and DB2 on zEnterprise companies may choose to implement the SAP application server on zEnterprise with Linux on z or on the zBX with POWER7 blades and AIX.  This comes at a higher cost as both the zBX and Unified Resource Manager are considered SE optional products.

The SE program offers a great deal if you can live within the constraints. But as one DancingDinosuar reader writes, “from experience we now know that the reality is somewhat different. The SE contract imposes procurement terms and usage restrictions that detract from the perceived discount relative to the business-as-usual (BAU) price to meet the same business requirement.

For example, software price protection is only guaranteed for the SE term as long as there are no software version upgrades. Version upgrades will incur revised charges. Very few applications, it turns out, are truly fenced in to the extent that this issue can be ignored. Furthermore, since the SE is a bottom-line deal, there is no way to determine exactly what discount level would be applicable in the event of a version upgrade.

Another complaint: SE software is licensed for peak workload. It is highly unlikely, however, in any BAU situation the monthly software charges would be for 100% of the capacity of the machine/LPAR from day one and for every month through the contract period. In a BAU situation, the highest four hour rolling average for an on-line workload typically is less than 80% of the machine/LPAR capacity. It’s wonderful that the z can perform reliably at near 100% utilization, but most shops don’t run it that way.

This manager has identified a dozen or so similar SE gotchas, many arising only when something has changed at the company that requires changes to the z. IBM insists that SE users can add and delete software from the stack, spread workloads across LPARs, and buy more capacity if needed.  Where IBM gets difficult, and rightly so, is when the requested change alters the nature of the workload. “The SE is workload-based pricing and will be the best price you can get for that workload and capacity,” says an IBM SE manager.

Another DancingDinosuar reader balked at the SE qualifying workload notion. The whole concept of a qualifying workload, he notes, is an inhibitor.  Workloads evolve over time.  Furthermore, if you price a z114 to run a certain workload compared to the price of a System p capable of running that same workload, the p likely will be more attractive.  The z only wins when other factors (reliability, fault-tolerance, granularity of virtualization, scalability, etc.) make the premium worth it.

SE delivers a great deal but you must read the fine print closely to make sure you can live within the workload constraints for the 3-5 years of the SE agreement before you take the low price.

Anyone who has considered the SE program and will talk about it (anonymously, of course) please contact me.


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