Posts Tagged ‘PureSystems’

Goodbye X6 and IBM System x

January 24, 2014

Seems just last week IBM was touting the new X6-based systems, the latest in its x86 System x server lineup.  Now the X6 and the entire System x line is going to Lenovo, which will acquire IBM’s x86 server business.  Rumors had been circulating about the sale for the last year, so often that you stopped paying attention to them.

The sale includes System x, BladeCenter and Flex System blade servers and switches, x86-based Flex integrated systems, NeXtScale and iDataPlex servers and associated software, and blade networking and maintenance operations. The purchase price is approximately US $2.3 billion, about two billion of which will be paid in cash and the balance in Lenovo stock.

Definitely NOT part of the sale are the System z, Power Systems, Storage Systems, Power-based Flex servers, and PureApplication and PureData appliances.  These are considered part of the IBM Enterprise Systems portfolio.  This commitment to the z and other enterprise systems is encouraging, especially in light of the latest IBM quarterly financial statement in which all the system hardware platforms did poorly, including System x.

DancingDinosaur’s planned follow up to last week’s X6 column in anticipation of a reported upcoming February briefing on X6 speeds and feeds is now unlikely. IBM pr folks said no such briefing is planned.

Most of the System x team appears to be departing with the products. Approximately 7,500 IBM employees around the world, including those based at major locations such as Raleigh, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Taipei, are expected to be offered employment by Lenovo, according to the announcement.

IBM, however, may become more active than ever.  Recently, IBM announced that it will invest more than $1 billion in the new IBM Watson Group, and $1.2 billion to expand its global cloud computing footprint to 40 data centers worldwide in 15 countries across five continents.  It also announced bolstering the SoftLayer operation, sort of a combined IaaS and global content delivery network, plus earlier investments in Linux, OpenStack, and various other initiatives. DancingDinosaur will try to follow it for you along with the System z and other enterprise IBM platforms.

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The zEnterprise as a Hybrid Data Center

November 21, 2013

There is no doubt that the zEnterprise enables hybrid computing. Just attach a zBX to it and start plugging in Linux and x86 blades; presto, you’ve got hybrid computing.  You can manage this entire hybrid infrastructure via the Unified Resource Manager.

The zEnterprise also has a sister hybrid computing platform, IBM PureSystems. Here, too, you can add in System x and Linux or even Power and System i and do hybrid computing. You can also manage the hybrid environment through a single console, albeit a different console—the Flex System Manager—and manage this second IBM hybrid platform as a unified environment.  DancingDinosaur has noted the irony of IBM having two different, incompatible hybrid systems; IBM has reassured this blogger several times that it is trying to converge the two. Whenever it happens DancingDinosaur will be the first to report it.

The zEnterprise or even PureSystems as a hybrid computing platform, however, is not the same as a hybrid data center.  Apparently there is no definition of a hybrid data center despite all the talk about hybrid computing, hybrid clouds, and hybrid systems.  As best DancingDinosaur can piece it together, the hybrid data center is multiplatform like the zEnterprise, but it also is multi-location, often using co-location facilities or factory-built containerized data centers (IBM calls them Portable Modular Data Centers, PMDC). More often, however, hybrid data centers are associated with cloud computing as the third of the three flavors of cloud (private, public, hybrid).

Gartner recently described some architecture options for a hybrid data center. In one case you could have a zEnterprise acting as, say, a private cloud using a co-location facility as a DMZ between the private cloud and a public cloud like Amazon. Not sure, however, you would need the DMZ if your private cloud was running on the highly secure zEnterprise but Gartner included it. Go figure.

Hybrid showed up in numerous Enterprise 2013 sessions this past October. You can catch some video highlights from it here. The conference made frequent mention of hybrid in numerous sessions, some noted in previous DancingDinosaur posts, such as Exploring the World of zEnterprise Hybrid: How Does It Work and What’s the Point? The session introduced the Unified Resource Manager and described how it would allow an IT shop to manage a collection of one or more zEnterprise nodes including any optionally attached zBX cabinets as a single logical virtualized system through a Hardware Management Console (HMC). In short, it was about providing a single point of control through which data center personnel can deploy, configure, monitor, manage and maintain the integrated System z and zBX blades based on heterogeneous architectures in a unified manner. But it wasn’t talking about the hybrid enterprise data center described in the previous paragraph.

Similarly, Application Performance Management and Capacity Planning for the IBM zEnterprise Hybrid Workload focused on extending the Unified Resource Manager to goal-oriented performance management for both traditional System z and BladeCenter applications. It was about applying WLM, RMF, and Platform Performance Management to cross-platform hybrid applications. Again, this really wasn’t about the hybrid data center described above.

BTW, plans apparently already are underway for Enterprise 2014. Looks like it will be Oct. 6-10 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. It should be quite an event given that IBM will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the mainframe in 2014.

And there is much more on z hybrid computing and hybrid clouds. The zEnterprise has its own page on cloud computing here, and last month the zEnterprise zBC12 won CRN Tech Innovator Award for the most Innovative cloud solution.  You can also click here to see how a dozen IBM customers used various IBM platforms to build hybrid clouds.

IBM has already used the zEnterprise to consolidate over 30,000 servers around the world for an 84% improvement in data center efficiency and a 50% reduction in power and cooling. This effectively freed $1 billion to spend on innovative new projects that drive business growth across the company. And IBM is about as hybrid a data center as you can find.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog

Technology Change is Coming for the zBX

November 1, 2013

The zBX hasn’t been subject to much in the way of big new announcements this year.  Maybe the most obvious was a quiet announcement that the zBX would connect to the zBC12, the newest System z machine announced early in the summer. Buried deeply in that July announcement was that starting in Sept. 2013 you could attach the IBM zBX Model 003 to the new machine. Machines older than the zEC12 would need the zBX Model 002.

At Enterprise 2013, however, the zBX managed to grab a little of the spotlight in a session by Harv Emery titled IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension Model 3 and Model 2 Deep Dive Update. OK, it’s not exactly a riveting title, but Emery’s 60 slides were packed with far more detail than can possibly fit here.

To summarize:  a slew of software and firmware updates will be coming through the end of this year and into 2014. Similarly, starting next year and beyond, IBM will begin to stop marketing older zBX hardware and eventually stop supporting the older stuff.  This is standard IBM practice; what makes it surprising is the realization that the zBX no longer is the new kid on the scene. PureSystems in their various iterations are the sexy newcomer.  As of the end of last year somewhat over 200 z hybrid units (zBX cabinets) had been sold along with considerably more blades. Again, PureSystems are IBM’s other hybrid platform.

Still, as Emery pointed out, new zBX functionality continues to roll out. This includes:

  • CPU management for x86 blades
  • Support for Windows 12, and current LDP OS releases
  • GDPS automated site recovery for zBX
  • Ensemble Availability Manager for improved monitoring and reporting
  • Support for Layer 2 communications
  • An IBM statement of direction (SOD) on support for next generation DataPower Virtual Appliance XI52
  • Support for next generation hardware technologies in the zBX
  • zBX firmware currency
  • A stand-alone zBX node to preserve the investment
  • Bolstered networking including a new BNT Virtual Fabric 10 GbE Switch
  • zBX integrated hypervisor for IBM System x blades and running KVM

Emery also did a little crystal balling about future capabilities, relying partly on recent IBM SODs. These include:

  • Support of zBX with the next generation server
  • New technology configuration extensions in the zBX
  • CEC and zBX continued investment in the virtualization and management capabilities for hybrid computing environment
  • Enablement of Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) for Cloud
  • Unified Resource Manager improvements and extensions for guest mobility
  • More monitoring instrumentation
  • Autonomic management functions
  • Integration with the STG Portfolio
  • Continued efforts by zEnterprise and STG to leverage the Tivoli portfolio to deliver enterprise-wide management capabilities across all STG systems

DancingDinosaur periodically has been asked questions about how to handle storage for the zBX and the blades it contains.  Emery tried to address some of those.  Certain blades, DataPower for example, now come with their own storage and don’t need to any outside storage on the host z.  Through the top of the rack switch in the zBX you can connect to a distributed SAN.

Emery also noted the latest supported storage devices.  Supported IBM storage products as of Sept. 2013 include: DS3400, 3500, 3950, 4100, 4200, 4700 4800, 5020, 5100, 5300, 6000, 8100, 8300, 8700, 8800, SVC 2145, XIV, 2105, 2107, and Storwize v7000. Non-IBM storage is possible but you or you’re the OEM storage vendor will have to figure it out.

Finally, Emery made numerous references to Unified Resource Manager (or zManager, although it manages more than z) for the zBX and Flex System Manager for PureSystems.  Right now IBM tries to bridge the two systems with higher level management from Tivoli.  Another possibility, Emery hinted, is OpenStack to unify hybrid management. Sounds very intriguing, especially given IBM’s announced intention to make extensive use of OpenStack. Is there an interoperable OpenStack version of Unified Resource Manager and Flex System Manager in the works?

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog.

IBM Technical Edge 2013 Tackles Flash – Big Data – Cloud & More

June 3, 2013

IBM Edge 2013 kicks off in just one week, 6/10 and runs through 6/14. Still time to register.  This blogger will be there through 6/13.  You can follow me on Twitter for conference updates @Writer1225.  I’ll be using hashtag #IBMEdge to post live Twitter comments from the conference. As noted here previously I’ll buy a drink for the first two people who come up to me and say they read DancingDinosaur.  How’s that for motivation!

The previous post looked at the Executive track. Now let’s take a glimpse at the technical track, which ranges considerably wider, beyond the System z to IBM’s other platforms, flash, big data, cloud, virtualization, and more

Here’s a sample of the flash sessions:

Assessing the World of Flash looks at the key competitors, chief innovators, followers, and leaders. You’ll quickly find that not all flash solutions are the same and why IBM’s flash strategy stands at the forefront of this new and strategic technology.

There are many ways to deploy flash. This session examines Where to Put Flash in the Data Center.  It will focus particularly on the new IBM FlashSystem products and other technologies from IBM’s Texas Memory Systems acquisition. However, both storage-based and server-based flash technologies will be covered with an eye toward determining what works best for client performance needs.

The session on IBM’s Flash Storage Future will take a look at how IBM is leveraging its Texas Memory Systems acquisition and other IBM technologies to deliver a flash portfolio that will play a major role across not only IBM’s storage products but its overall solution portfolio and its roadmap moving forward.

The flash sessions also will look at how Banco Azteco, Thompson Reuters, and Sprint are deploying and benefiting from flash.

In the big data track, the Future of Analytics Infrastructure looks interesting. Although most organizations understand the value of business analytics many don’t understand how the infrastructure choices they make will impact the success or failure of their analytics projects.  The session will identify the key requirements of any analytical environment: agility, scalability, multipurpose, compliance, cost-effective, and partner-ready; and how they can be met within a single, future-ready analytics infrastructure to meet the needs of current and future analytics strategies.

Big data looms large at the conference. A session titled Hadoop…It’s Not Just about Internal Storage explores how the Hadoop MapReduce approach is evolving from server internal disks to external storage. Initially, Hadoop provided massively scalable, distributed file storage and analytic capabilities. New thinking, however, has emerged that looks at a tiered approach for implementing the Hadoop framework with external storage. Understanding the workload architectural considerations is important as companies begin to integrate analytic workloads to drive higher business value. The session will review the workload considerations to show why an architectural approach makes sense and offer tips and techniques, and share information about IBM’s latest offerings in this space.

An Overview of IBM’s Big Data Strategy details the company’s industrial-strength big data platform to address the full spectrum of big data business opportunities. This session is ideal for those who are just getting started with big data.

And no conference today can skip the cloud. IBM Edge 2013 offers a rich cloud track. For instance, Building the Cloud Enabled Data Center explains how to get maximum value out of an existing virtualized environment through self-service delivery and optimization along with virtualization optimization capabilities. It also describes how to enable business and infrastructure agility with workload optimized clouds that provide orchestration across the entire data center and accelerate application updates to respond faster to stakeholder demands and competitive threats. Finally it looks at how an open and extensible cloud delivery platform can fully automate application deployment and lifecycle management by integrating compute, network, storage, and server automation.

A pair of sessions focus on IBM Cloud Storage Architectures and Understanding IBM’s Cloud Options. The first session looks at several cloud use cases, such as storage and systems management.  The other session looks at IBM SmartCloud Entry, SmartCloud Provisioning, and ServiceDelivery Manager.  The session promises to be an excellent introduction for the cloud technical expert who desires a quick overview of what IBM has to offer in cloud software and the specific value propositions for its various offerings, along with their architectural features and technical requirements.

A particularly interesting session will examine Desktop Cloud through Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and Mobile Computing. The corporate desktop has long been a costly and frustrating challenge complicated even more by mobile access. The combination of the cloud and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) provides a way for companies to connect end users to a virtual server environment that can grow as needed while mitigating the issues that have frustrated desktop computing, such as software upgrades and patching.

There is much more in the technical track. All the main IBM platforms are featured, including PureFlex Systems, the IBM BladeCenter, IBM’s Enterprise X-Architecture, the IBM XIV storage system, and, for DancingDinosaur readers, sessions on the DS8000.

Have you registered for IBM Edge 2013 yet?  There still is time. As noted above, find me in the Social Media Lounge at the conference and in the sessions.  You can follow me on Twitter for conference updates @Writer1225.  I’ll be using hashtag #IBMEdge to post live Twitter comments from the conference. I’ll buy a drink for the first two people who come up to me and say they read DancingDinosaur.  How much more motivation do you need?

A look at IBM Edge 2013 tracks: Storage, PureSystems & more

May 22, 2013

Nobody ever accused this blogger of being executive caliber but that hasn’t stopped me from rummaging around the Executive Track offerings at IBM Edge 2013 coming up Jun 10-14 in Las Vegas. Called the Executive Edge, the sessions run the first two and a half days and look pretty interesting. (The technical track, which is larger and runs the entire conference, actually looks much more interesting if you are inclined toward serious geekiness; this blogger intends to attend sessions from both tracks.)

Executive Edge is organized into three sections.  The third section seems to have most of the technology product material.  Here you will find sessions on PureSystems, FlashSystems, the eX5 (x86), Storwize, and Enterprise Storage (probably DS8000).  This third section also includes this intriguing topic: How Data Science Will Change the Course of History.  If I reported to an executive, I would steer him to that one, which should be intriguing to say the least.

The first section has some interesting topics.  One looks at customer usage scenarios around big data and storage.  Some of those DancingDinosaur has already covered, like the City of Honolulu.  Another session, titled All-Flash Everywhere, will probably explain to executives how flash storage radically changes several decades of traditional storage thinking. Again, DancingDinosuar covered it a few weeks back here and also on the Storage Community blog.

Another intriguing topic in this group is Storage Futures. This is being described as: The Next Big Thing in Storage is Software Defined Storage – the inclusion of cost effective, highly automated storage in a Software Define Environment. In the session the presenter will describe the value of this approach, the technologies involved, and the adoption roadmap IBM recommends clients to follow.  This is a great topic, a part of what I describe as Software Defined Everything.  This blogger has been briefed on IBM’s plans in this regard but can’t write or talk publicly until—guess when—IBM Edge 20913. This should be an interesting session.

The second section picks up where Storage Futures left off with Software Defined Networking, another part of my Software Defined Everything but one that is gaining traction today. Another session in this section will look at defending against cyber-threats with security-ready infrastructure and security intelligence in a virtualized world.

Security should attract a crowd of executives; whenever DancingDinosaur talks with executives about cloud computing you can see fear sweep over them.  The cloud, to them, is the Wild West filled with bad guys behind every rock. They may be right, but those same bad guys already are feeding on their on-premise systems. Reputable cloud computing vendors intending to survive are highly attuned to the security challenges. With luck this session will reassure them that they aren’t defenseless.

Have you registered for IBM Edge 2013 yet?  Last year this blogger was shocked at how many people–several thousand–showed up, and this year promises to be even bigger. Overall, IBM Edge 2013 will offer over 140 storage sessions, over 50 PureSystems sessions, more than 50 client case studies, and sessions on big data and analytics along with a full cloud track.  Look for me in the Social Media Lounge at the conference and in the sessions.  You can follow this blogger on Twitter for conference updates @Writer1225 and using hashtag #IBMEdge to post live Twitter comments from the conference. And then there is the FREE drink: I’ll buy a drink for the first two people who come up to me and say they read DancingDinosaur.  How’s that for motivation!

zEC12 for Social Business

March 8, 2013

Given Doug Balog’s comments a couple of weeks ago and reported by DancingDinosaur here it should be no surprise that alongside mobile another high priority non-traditional System z workload would be social business. Of the two, mobile and social, the biggest hurdle for mainframe data center managers to get their heads around may be social, which conjures up images chatty teens.

There are, however, serious business use cases for social, starting with collaboration. And as good a platform as any, maybe better than some even, is the hybrid zEnterprise, particularly the zEC12.  When the lower cost version arrives later this year as expected social business on the z will make that much more sense where cost is an issue.  Those chatty teens, in fact, point to another use case for social business—the ability to galvanize disparate and widespread groups of people into taking action, such as coming out for a product launch event.

What makes the zEC12 an appealing platform for social business is its hybrid computing capabilities through the zBX, its solid security, and its ability to handle multiple diverse workloads at the same time. IBM’s PureSystems, the industry’s other hybrid computing platform, may be an almost equally attractive candidate for social business albeit minus the sheer power and other virtues of the zEnterprise.

There is no doubt that IBM is enamored of the cloud, mobile, social, and big data—the last three clearly non-traditional z workloads. In an announcement at the end of February on cloud-based analytics and mobile initiatives for its global ecosystem the company was quick to trumpet the latest IDC projection on the topic: the IT industry has been transitioning to a new era of computing built on mobile, cloud services, social networking and big data analytics. In 2013, spending will exceed $2.1 trillion, driven by double-digit growth in mobile, cloud, big data and social technologies …

Balog was clearly in synch with industry trends when he began talking up non-traditional workloads for z a few weeks back, including mobile, social, and analytics workloads. The February announcement focused mainly on the Power, PureSystems, and System x platforms but it could just as well been referencing the zEnterprise too.

For social business, collaboration probably will be the first non-traditional social workload to gain traction on the zEnterprise followed closely by customer service.  This blogger has been writing about collaboration in the form of Notes groupware going back to the days of Lotus Development.  Today, Notes has become one of the mainstays of the IBM social business and collaboration toolset in the form of IBM Connections, which the zEnterprise supports through Linux on z and hybrid computing. Now IBM is talking about the next phase of collaboration. It will be driven by social software that enables a smarter workforce and delivers an enhanced customer experience.

For the zEnterprise the key is IBM Collaboration Software that empowers people to connect, collaborate, and innovate while optimizing the way they work. Linux on System z combines the comprehensive collaboration environment with the power of the IBM System z. Lotus Domino on Linux for System z, for instance, has matured into a powerful mail and collaboration platform. IBM reports it can easily scale to support over 10,000 production users on a single System z while reducing operational complexity through System z virtualization and ensuring security.  Meanwhile, Domino server-to-server communications run at memory speed, and admins have a single point of management when clustering within the same zEnterprise server.  In fact, they can manage the entire hybrid computing environment through the Unified Resource Manager.

The zEnterprise plays the role of the underlying social business hardware platform, the place where data resides and is secure and where applications ranging from the capabilities in IBM Connections to messaging, real-time collaboration, analytics, social and web content management, and portals run as an integrated, unified infrastructure.  Alongside your usual CICS and production applications you soon might run applications like Trilog for social project management or Bunchball for gamification, maybe even among the datacenter IT staff to spur it to new levels of efficiency.

For social business, IBM described 2011 as a year of exploration, experimentation, and in some cases innovation.  Both small and large organizations in a variety of verticals globally began to realize the power of bringing social behaviors, processes and platforms behind the firewall. According to a 2011 AIIM survey, over 50% of organizations considered social business to be either an imperative or significant to their business goals.

In 2013, social business will be much bigger still, driven by double-digit growth in mobile, cloud, big data and social technologies. Although these may be non-traditional mainframe workloads z shops need to embrace them or risk becoming irrelevant.

IBM Gets Serious About Mobile

February 28, 2013

Just last week IBM announced IBM MobileFirst, a multi-product initiative to pull together a comprehensive mobile computing platform.  There was nothing in the announcement specific to the zEnterprise, but IBM has been telegraphing System z involvement in mobile for over a year.

In November of last year DancingDinosaur wrote of the z and all other platforms going mobile. Over a year earlier, DancingDinosaur was writing about  using the z with smartphones. With SOA, Java, Linux, WebSphere, and Lotus running on the z and with data that mobile apps and users want residing on the machine, the zEnterprise should become over time a prime player in enterprise mobile business.

Doug Balog, general manager of IBM’s System z mainframe business, might have had MobileFirst in mind when he said in Computerworld that the next steps IBM is considering include making it easier for customers to run mobile and social networking applications on mainframes.  Such an approach would, for example, benefit banks that want to offer mobile apps but still want the power and resilience of a mainframe behind those apps.

The first mobile workload you see on the zEnterprise, however, will not be Foursquare or some other funky mobile app.  More likely, it will be an operational analytics app dissecting mobile banking transaction data or analyzing the behavior of anyone making purchases through their smartphone.

MobileFirst boasts what IBM describes as the broadest portfolio of mobile offerings covering platform, management, security, and analytics.  In terms of platform, for instance, it currently offers streamlined deployment for private clouds on the PureApplication System. It provides single sign-on across multiple apps on a device, and supports all four of the latest mobile operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry). It can handle native, web, or hybrid app development, promises easy connectivity to existing data and services for mobile usage, and can be deployed on premise or through managed service delivery.

In terms of management and security MobileFirst offers unified management across all devices, making it suitable for BYOD. Similarly, it can secure sensitive data regardless of the device, including the option to remotely wipe corporate data. It also supports DOD-grade encryption and FIPS 140-2 compliance and will grant or deny email access based on device compliance.  It also provides context-aware risk-based access control through IBM Worklight. More security is delivered through IBM Security Access Manager for Mobile and Cloud and IBM AppScan.

As for analytics, MobileFirst will automatically detect customer issues through user and mobile device data. It offers user behavior drill down through high fidelity replay and reporting to analyze the user experience. Finally, it correlates customer behavior with network and application data to determine conversion and retention rates and quantify business impact. It also can capture all activity on a device and link it to backend resources. Recently acquired Tealeaf will play a key role for user analytics and behavior.

As you would expect, in addition to acquisitions IBM is rapidly assembling an ecosystem of mobile players, carriers, and ISVs to build out a complete MobileFirst offering starting with players like AT&T, IBM as a surprising Apple VAR (US only), working with Nokia Siemens Networks to develop the IBM WebSphere Application Service Platform for Networks to run IT apps at the mobile network edge, and a slew of resources for developers. There even is an IBM Academic Initiative for Mobile patterned after the System z Academic Initiative to increase the availability of skilled mobile developers. IBM also is jump starting Mobile First with about 200 of its own applications; mainly old favorites like Cognos and its key middleware.

But MobileFirst isn’t IBM’s only initiative with a mobile component. IBM Connections has had a mobile component since August 2011. Similarly, Lotus Notes Traveler supports Notes mobile users on all the major smartphones through IBM Lotus Domino or Lotus Domino Express deployments, and in the IBM cloud with IBM SmartCloud Notes.  Although they weren’t specifically called out in the MobileFirst briefing IBM assures DancingDinosaur they are included as part of the initiative’s application layer.

From the standpoint of a zEnterprise data center or any enterprise-class data center MobileFirst shouldn’t present a problem. Yes, it will increase the number and frequency of users accessing data handled through the data center and the number of devices they are using. And you’ll be running more data analytics more often. But IBM clearly has put effort into thinking through the critical security challenges of mobile and is providing a broad set of tools to begin addressing them. Sure, there is no RACF for mobile, at least not yet, but if it is needed you can bet there will be.

Getting the Payback from System z Outsourcing

February 1, 2013

A survey from Compuware Corporation on attitudes of CIOs toward mainframe outsourcing showed a significant level of dissatisfaction with one or another aspect of mainframe outsourcing. Check out the survey here.

Mainframe outsourcing has been a fixture of mainframe computing since the outset. The topic  is particularly interesting in light of the recent piece DancingDinosaur posted on winning the talent war a couple of weeks ago. Organizations intending to succeed are scrambling to find and retain the talent they need for all their IT systems, mainframe and otherwise.  In short, they need skills in all the new areas, like cloud computing, mobile access, and most urgently, big data analytics.  In addition, there is the ongoing need for Java, Linux, WebSphere, and CICS in growing System z data centers.  The rise of z-based hybrid computing and expert integrated hybrid PureSystems to some extent broadens the potential talent pool while reducing the amount of skilled experts required. Still, mainframe outsourcing remains a popular option.

The new Compuware survey found that reducing costs is a major driver for outsourcing mainframe application development, maintenance, and infrastructure. Yet multiple  associated costs are frustrating 71% of CIOs. These costs result from increases in MIPS consumption, as well as higher investments in testing and troubleshooting due mainly to poor application quality and performance.  In fact, two-thirds (67%) of respondents reported overall dissatisfaction with the quality of new applications or services provided by their outsourcer. The source of the problem: a widening in-house skills gap and difficulties with knowledge transfer and staff churn within outsource vendors.

Compuware has published a related white paper titled, Mainframe Outsourcing: Removing the Hidden Costs, which expands on the findings from the study. The company’s recommendations to remove the costs amount to reverse engineering the problems revealed in the initial survey. These include:

  • Utilize MIPS better
  • Explore pricing alternatives to CPU-based pricing
  • Improve the quality of new applications
  • Boost knowledge transfer between outsourcers and staff
  • Measure and improve code efficiency at the application level
  • Take advantage of baseline measurement to objectively analyze outsourcer performance

The System z offers numerous tools to monitor and manage usage and efficiency, and vendors like Compuware, CA, BMC, and others bring even more.

The MIPS consumption problem is typical. As Compuware reports: mainframes are being used more than ever, meaning consumption is naturally on the rise. This is not a bad thing.

However, where consumption is escalating due to inefficient coding, adding unnecessary costs. For example, MIPS costs are increasing on average by 21% year over year, with 40% of survey respondents claiming that consumption is getting out of control. Meanwhile, 88% of respondents using pay structures based on CPU consumption (approximately 42% of those surveyed) think their outsourcer could manage CPU costs better, and 57% of all respondents believe outsourcers do not worry about the efficiency of the applications that they write.

New workloads also are driving costs. For example, 60% of survey respondents believe that the increase in applications like mobile banking are driving higher MIPS usage and creating additional costs. Just think what they’d report when big data analytic applications start kicking in although some of this processing should be offloaded to assist processors.

The Compuware study is interesting and informative. Yes, outsourcers should be pressed to utilize MIPS more efficiently. At a minimum, they should shift workloads to assist processors that have lower cost per MIPS.  Similarly, developers should be pressed to boost the efficiency of their code. But this will require an investment in tools to measure and benchmark that code and hire QA staff.

A bigger picture view, however, suggests that focusing just on MIPS is counterproductive. You want to encourage more workloads on the z even if they use more MIPS because the z can run at near 100% utilization and still perform reliably. Higher utilization translates into lower costs per workload. And with the cost per MIPS decreasing with each rev of the zEnterprise the cost per workload keeps improving.  Measure, monitor, and benchmark and do whatever else you can to drive efficient operation, but aim to leverage the zEnterprise to the max for your best overall payback.

Winning the Talent War with the System z

January 17, 2013

The next frontier in the ongoing talent war, according to McKinsey, will be deep analytics, a critical weapon required to probe big data in the competition underpinning new waves of productivity, growth, and innovation. Are you ready to compete and win in this technical talent war?

Similarly, Information Week contends that data expertise is called for to take advantage of data mining, text mining, forecasting, and machine learning techniques. The System z data center is ideally is ideally positioned to win if you can attract the right talent.

Finding, hiring, and keeping good talent within the technology realm is the number one concern cited by 41% of senior executives, hiring managers, and team leaders responding to the latest Harris Allied Tech Hiring and Retention Survey. Retention of existing talent was the next biggest concern, cited by 19.1%.

This past fall, CA published the results of its latest mainframe survey that came to similar conclusions. It found three major trends on the current and future role of the mainframe:

  1. The mainframe is playing an increasingly strategic role in managing the evolving needs of the enterprise
  2. The mainframe as an enabler of innovation as big data and cloud computing transform the face of enterprise IT
  3. Demand for tech talent with cross-disciplinary skills to fill critical mainframe workforce needs in this new view of enterprise IT

Among the respondents to the CA survey, 76% of global respondents believe their organizations will face a shortage of mainframe skills in the future, yet almost all respondents, 98%, felt their organizations were moderately or highly prepared to ensure the continuity of their mainframe workforce. In contrast, only 8% indicated having great difficulty finding qualified mainframe talent while 61% reported having some difficulty in doing so.

The Harris survey was conducted in September and October 2012. Its message is clear: Don’t be fooled by the national unemployment figures, currently hovering above 8%.  “In the technology space in particular, concerns over the ability to attract game-changing talent has become institutional and are keeping all levels of management awake at night,” notes Harris Allied Managing Director Kathy Harris.

The reason, as suggested in recent IBM studies, is that success with critical new technologies around big data, analytics, cloud computing, social business, virtualization, and mobile increasingly are giving top performing organizations their competitive advantage. The lingering recession, however, has taken its toll; unless your data center has been charged to proactively keep up, it probably is saddled with 5-year old skills at best; 10-year old skills more likely.

The Harris study picked up on this. When asking respondents the primary reason they thought people left their organization, 20% said people left for more exciting job opportunities or the chance to get their hands on some hot new technology.

Some companies recognize the problem and belatedly are trying to get back into the tech talent race. As Harris found when asking about what companies are doing to attract this kind of top talent 38% said they now were offering great opportunities for career growth. Others, 28%, were offering opportunities for professional development to recruit top tech pros. A fewer number, 24.5%, were offering competitive compensation packages while fewer still, 9%, offering competitive benefits packages.

To retain the top tech talent they already had 33.6% were offering opportunities for professional development, the single most important strategy they leveraged to retain employees. Others, 24.5%, offered opportunities for career advancement while 23.6% offered competitive salaries. Still a few hoped a telecommuting option or competitive bonuses would do the trick.

Clearly mainframe shops, like IT in general, are facing a transition as Linux, Java, SOA, cloud computing, analytics, big data, mobile, and social play increasing roles in the organization, and the mainframe gains the capabilities to play in all these arenas. Traditional mainframe skills like CICS are great but it’s just a start. At the same time, hybrid systems and expert integrated systems like IBM PureSystems and zEnterprise/zBX give shops the ability to tap a broader array of tech talent.

Late 2012 zEnterprise Action

January 1, 2013

In a flurry of December activity, IBM announced the German manufacturer, ARBURG GmbH, upgraded to two z114 machines. In addition, a pair of Australian companies, Tonkin Consulting and Harris Farm Market, jumped on the PureSystems bandwagon.

It’s particularly nice to see IBM PureSystems gaining traction.  These are hybrid expert systems that can significantly lower the cost of a company’s IT. As for the z114, it has been a bargain since it was introduced.  DancingDinosuar expects a similar low end model of the zEC12 to come out sometime in 2013.

Let’s start by looking at ARBURG, which upgraded to a pair of zEnterprise 114 machines to drive down costs and accelerate its time-to-market. In the process it also wanted to improve customer satisfaction but without compromising on product quality. Specifically, it needed to make better use of the large amounts of data generated daily across its core business areas—development, procurement, production, sales, and services. ARBURG runs the two z114 machines with IBM System Storage DS8800, IBM DB2, and IBM Tivoli Monitoring solutions to support its SAP application environment.

The payback will come fast: reduced energy consumption by 80%. Likewise, implementing the IBM System Storage DS8800 storage cut power consumption for zEnterprise disk storage by 25%, according to the company. In addition, ARBURG runs applications on IBM System x servers with IBM SVC and Storwize V7000 systems. By consolidating on IBM System x servers with virtualization, ARBURG shrunk its number of physical servers by more than 50% and lowered energy requirements by 60%. The company also expects to leverage IBM Easy Tier technology built into the Storwize V7000 to automatically migrate data between spinning drives and SSDs dynamically, moving the most-accessed data to SSDs for better performance and the less-used data to lower-priced, standard drives.

ARBURG would like to grow its SAP environment gradually, avoiding the need to frequently invest in new hardware, thereby saving even more money, minimizing complexity, and maximizing performance. Long term the company plans to use SAP on the IBM technology platform to optimize processes and improve transparency and quality, which it expects will lead to shorter development cycles and reduced time-to-market.

The Aussies took the PureSystems route. Tonkin Consulting, an engineering, environmental and spatial consulting practice, is replacing its existing HP switching hardware and servers with IBM PureFlex. The new system will be the core component of the firm’s new enterprise-wide IT strategy to address its future needs and growth. It opted for the integrated PureFlex System for its a highly automated, simple-to-manage system. It also chose the integrated v7000 storage as well as additional IBM system networking, system x and tape storage products. The company expects the new system to significantly reduce IT costs, potentially halving management costs overall, while dramatically increasing its ability to rapidly scale operations up and down. Additionally, the technology will enable Tonkin to quickly create and deploy a private cloud, which will enable disaster recovery for its offices in South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Harris Farm Markets opted for an IBM Flex System to help support its business growth and reduce IT costs and complexity. It expects Flex to significantly boost the performance of its critical systems, especially its enterprise resource (ERP) system. The IBM Flex System deployment underpins a broader IT strategy intended to support Harris Farm’s continuing growth for at least ten years. As part of its emphasis on scalable efficiency, the strategy will reduce Harris Farm’s data footprint by up to 80% through real-time data compression; and optimize application performance using IBM’s Easy-tier functionality. The customized Flex System will include an IBM Flex System Enterprise Chassis; two IBM Compute nodes; and an IBM Storwize V7000 storage system. The Flex System will replace Harris Farm’s existing IBM systems and is expected to be delivered by mid-January 2013.

Let’s hope these late 2012 wins are good signs for 2013.


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