Posts Tagged ‘SOA’

February 25, 2014

How the 50 Year-Old Mainframe Remains Relevant

The mainframe turns 50 years old this year and the many pundits and experts who predicted it would be long gone by now must be scratching their heads.  Yes, it is still around and has acquired over 260 new accounts just since zEnterprise launch. It also has shipped over 320 hybrid computing units (not to be confused with zBX chassis only) since the zBX was introduced and kicked off hybrid mainframe computing.

As for MIPS, although IBM experienced a MIPS decline last quarter that follows the largest MIPS shipment in mainframe history a year ago resulting in a 2-year CGR of +11%.  (Mainframe sales follow the new product release cycle in a predictable pattern.) IBM brought out the last System z release, the zEC12, faster than the mainframe’s historic release cycle. Let’s hope IBM repeats the quick turnaround with the next release.

Here’s what IBM is doing to keep the mainframe relevant:

  • Delivered steady price/performance improvements with each release. And with entry-level BC-class pricing and the System z Solution Edition programs you can end up with a mainframe system that is as competitive or better than x86-based systems while being more secure and more reliable out of the box.
  • Adopted Linux early, before it had gained the widespread acceptance it has today. Last year over three-quarters of the top 100 enterprises had IFLs installed. This year IBM reports a 31% increase in IFL MIPS. In at least two cases where DancingDinosaur recently interviewed IT managers, Linux on z was instrumental in bringing their shops to the mainframe.
  • Supported for SOA, Java, Web services, and cloud, mobile, and social computing continues to put the System z at the front of the hot trends. It also prominently plays with big data and analytics.  Who ever thought that the mainframe would be interacting with RESTful APIs? Certainly not DancingDinosaur’s computer teacher back in the dark ages.
  • Continued delivery of unprecedented scalability, reliability, and security at a time when the volumes of transactions, data, workloads, and users are skyrocketing.  (IDC predicts millions of apps, billions of users, and trillions of things connected by 2020.)
  • Built a global System z ecosystem of tools and technologies to support cloud, mobile, big data/analytics, social and non-traditional mainframe workloads. This includes acquisitions like SoftLayer and CSL Wave to deliver IBM Wave for z/VM, a simplified and cost effective way to harness the consolidation capabilities of the IBM System z platform along with its ability to host the workloads of tens of thousands of commodity servers. The mainframe today can truly be a fully fledged cloud player.

And that just touches on the mainframe platform advantages. While others boast of virtualization capabilities, the mainframe comes 100% virtualized out of the box with virtualization at every level.  It also comes with a no-fail redundant architecture and built-in networking. 

Hybrid computing is another aspect of the mainframe that organizations are just beginning to tap.  Today’s multi-platform compound workloads are inherently hybrid, and the System z can manage the entire multi-platform workload from a single console.

The mainframe anniversary celebration, called Mainframe50, officially kicks off in April but a report from the Pulse conference suggests that Mainframe50 interest already is ramping up. A report from Pulse 2014 this week suggests IBM jumped the gun by emphasizing how the z provides new ways never before thought possible to innovate while tackling challenges previously out of reach.

Pulse 2014, it turns out, offered 38 sessions on System z topics, of which 27 will feature analysts or IBM clients. These sessions promise to address key opportunities and challenges for today’s mainframe environments and the latest technology solutions for meeting them, including OMEGAMON, System Automation, NetView, GDPS, Workload Automation Tivoli Asset Discovery for z/OS and Cloud.

One session featured analyst Phil Murphy, Vice President and Principal Analyst from Forrester Research, discussing the critical importance of a robust infrastructure in a mixed mainframe/distributed cloud environment—which is probably the future most DancingDinosaur readers face—and how it can help fulfill the promise of value for cloud real time.

Another featured mainframe analyst Dot Alexander from Wintergreen Research who looked at how mainframe shops view executing cloud workloads on System z. The session focused on the opportunities and challenges, private and hybrid cloud workload environments, and the impact of scalability, standards, and security.

But the big celebration is planned for April 8 in NYC. There IBM promises to make new announcements, launch new research projects, and generally focus on the mainframe’s future.  A highlight promises to be Showcase 20, which will focus on 20 breakthrough areas referred to by IBM as engines of progress.  The event promises to be a sellout; you should probably talk to your System z rep if you want to attend. And it won’t stop on April 8. IBM expects to continue the Mainframe50 drumbeat all year with new announcements, deliverables, and initiatives. Already in February alone IBM has made a slew of acquisitions and cloud announcements that will touch every mainframe shop with any cloud interests (which should be every mainframe shop at one point or another).

In coming weeks stay tuned to DancingDinosaur for more on Mainframe50. Also watch this space for details of the upcoming Edge 2014 conference, with an emphasis on infrastructure innovation coming to Las Vegas in May.

Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog

2014 to be Landmark Year for the Mainframe

February 10, 2014

The official announcement is still a few weeks away and the big event won’t take place until April, but the Internet is full of items about the 50th anniversary of the mainframe. Check some out here, here, and here.

In 1991 InfoWorld editor Stewart Alsop, predicted that on March 15, 1996 an InfoWorld reader would unplug the last mainframe.  Alsop wrote many brilliant things about computing over the years, but this statement will forever stand out as one of the least informed, as subsequent events amply demonstrated.  That statement, however, later became part of the inspiration for the name of this blog, DancingDinosaur. The mainframe did not march inexorably to extinction like the dinosaur as many, many pundits predicted.

It might have, but IBM made some smart moves over the years that ensured the mainframe’s continued relevance for years to come.  DancingDinosaur marks 2000 as a key year in the ongoing relevance of the mainframe; that was the year IBM got serious about Linux on the System z. It was not clear then that Linux would become the widely accepted mainstream operating system it is today.  Last year over three-quarters of the top 100 enterprises had IFLs installed.  There is no question that Linux on the System z has become mainstream.

But it wasn’t Linux alone that ensured the mainframe’s continued relevance. Java enables the development of distributed type of workloads on the System z, which is only further advanced by WebSphere on z, and SOA on z. Today’s hottest trends—cloud, big data/analytics, mobile, and social—can be handled on the z too: cloud computing on z, big data/analytics/real-time analytics on z, mobile computing on z, and even social on z.

Finally, there is the Internet of things. This is a natural for the System z., especially if you combine it with MQTT, an open source transport protocol that enables minimized pub/sub messaging across mobile networks. With the z you probably will also want to combine it with the Really Small Message Broker (RSMB). Anyway, this will be the subject of an upcoming DancingDinosaur piece.

The net net:  anything you can do on a distributed system you can do on the System z and benefit from better resiliency and security built in. Even when it comes to cost, particularly TCO and cost per workload, between IBM’s deeply discounted System z Solution Editions and the introduction of the zBC12, which delivers twice the entry capacity for the same low cost ($75k) as the previous entry-level machine (z114), the mainframe is competitive.

Also coming up is Edge 2014, which focuses on Infrastructure Innovation this year. Please plan to attend, May 19-23 in Las Vegas.  Previous Edge conferences were worthwhile and this should be equally so. Watch DancingDinosaur for more details on the specific Edge programs.

And follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter: @mainframeblog

A Maturity Model for the New Mainframe Normal

February 3, 2014

Last week Compuware introduced its new mainframe maturity model designed to address what is emerging as the new mainframe normal. DancingDinosaur played a central role in the creation of this model.

A new mainframe maturity model is needed because the world of the mainframe is changing rapidly.  Did your data center team ever think they would be processing mainframe transactions from mobile phones? Your development team probably never imagined they would be architecting compound workloads across the mainframe and multiple distributed systems running both Windows and Linux? What about the prospect of your mainframe serving up millions or even billions of customer-facing transactions a day?  But that’s the mainframe story today.

Even IBM, the most stalwart of the mainframe vendors, repeats the driving trends—cloud, mobile, social, big data, analytics, Internet of things—like a mantra. As the mainframe celebrates its 50th anniversary year, it is fitting that a new maturity model be introduced because there is, indeed, a new mainframe normal rapidly evolving.

Things certainly are changing in ways most mainframe data center managers wouldn’t have anticipated 10 years ago, probably not even five years ago. Of those, perhaps the most disconcerting change for traditional mainframe shops is the need to accommodate distributed, open systems (systems of engagement) alongside the traditional mainframe environment (systems of record).

Since the rise of distributed systems two decades ago, there has existed both a technical and cultural gap between the mainframe and distributed teams. The emergence of technologies like hybrid computing, middleware, and the cloud have gone far to alleviate the technical gap. The cultural gap is not so amenable to immediate fixes. Still, navigating that divide is no longer optional – it has become a business imperative.  Crossing the gap is what the new maturity model addresses.

Many factors contribute to the gap; the largest of which appears to be that most organizations still approach the mainframe and distributed environments as separate worlds. One large financial company, for example, recently reported that they view the mainframe as simply MQ messages to distributed developers.

The new mainframe maturity model can be used as a guide to bridging both the technical and cultural gaps.  Specifically, the new model defines five levels of maturity. In the process, it incorporates distributed systems alongside the mainframe and recognizes the new workloads, processes and challenges that will be encountered. The five levels are:

  1. Ad-hoc:  The mainframe runs core systems and applications; these represent the traditional mainframe workloads and the green-screen approach to mainframe computing.
  2. Technology-centric:  An advanced mainframe is focused on ever-increasing volumes, higher capacity, and complex workload and transaction processing while keeping a close watch on MIPS consumption.
  3. Internal services-centric:  The focus shifts to mainframe-based services through a service delivery approach that strives to meet internal service level agreements (SLAs).
  4. External services-centric:  Mainframe and non-mainframe systems interoperate through a services approach that encompasses end-user expectations and tracks external SLAs.
  5. Business revenue-centric:  Business needs and the end-user experience are addressed through interoperability with cloud and mobile systems, services- and API-driven interactions, and real-time analytics to support revenue initiatives revolving around complex, multi-platform workloads.

Complicating things is the fact that most IT organizations will likely find themselves straddling different maturity levels. For example, although many have achieved levels 4 and 5 when it comes to technology the IT culture remains at levels 1 or 2. Such disconnects mean IT still faces many obstacles preventing it from reaching optimal levels of service delivery and cost management. And this doesn’t just impact IT; there can be ramifications for the business itself, such as decreased customer satisfaction and slower revenue growth.

DancingDinosaur’s hope is that as the technical cultures come closer through technologies like Java, Linux, SOA, REST, hybrid computing, mobile, and such to allow organizations to begin to close the cultural gap too.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter: @mainframeblog

SOA Software Enables New Ways to Tap Mainframe Code

January 30, 2014

Is the core enterprise processing role handled by the mainframe enough? Yet, enterprises today often are running different types of workloads built using different app dev styles. These consist of compound applications encompassing the mainframe and a variety of distributed systems (Linux, UNIX, Windows) and different programming models, data schema, services, and more. Pieces of these workloads may be running on the public cloud, a partner’s private cloud, and a host of other servers. The pieces are pulled together at runtime to support the particular workload.  Mainframe shops should want to play a big role in this game too.

“Mainframe applications still sit at heart of enterprise operations, but mainframe managers also want to take advantage of these applications in new ways,” says Brent Carlson, SVP at SOA Software. The primary way of doing this is through SOA services, and mainframes have been playing in the SOA arena for years. But it has never been as seamless, easy, and flexible as it should. And as social and mobile and other new types of workloads get added to the services mix, the initial mainframe SOA approach has started to show its age. (Over the years, DancingDinosaur has written considerably on mainframe SOA and done numerous SOA studies.)

That’s why DancingDinosaur welcomes SOA Software’s Lifecycle Manager to the mainframe party.  It enables what the company calls a “RESTful Mainframe,” through governance of REST APIs that front zOS-based web services. This amounts to a unified platform from a governance perspective to manage both APIs as well as existing SOA assets. As Carlson explained: applying development governance to mainframe assets helps mainframe shops overcome the architectural challenges inherent in bringing legacy systems into the new API economy, where mobile apps need rapid, agile access to backend systems.

The company is aiming to make Lifecycle Manager into the system-of-record for all enterprise assets including mainframe-based SOAP services and RESTful APIs that expose legacy software functionality. The promise: seamless access to service discovery and impact analysis whether on mainframe, distributed systems, or partner systems. Both architects and developers should be able to map dependencies between APIs and mainframe assets at the development stage and manage those APIs across their full lifecycles.

Lifecycle Manager integrates with SOA’s Policy Manager to work either top down or bottom up.  The top down approach relies on a service wrapping of existing mainframe programs. Think of this as the WSDL first approach to designing web services and then developing programs on mainframe to implement it.  The bottom up approach starts with the copy book.  Either way, it is automated and intended to be seamless. It also promises to guide services developers on best practices like encryption, assign and enforce correct policies, and more.

“Our point: automate whatever we can, and guide developers into good practices,” said Carlson.  In the process, it simplifies the task of exposing mainframe capabilities to a broader set of applications while not interfering with mainframe developers.  To distributed developers the mainframe is just another service endpoint that is accessed as a service or API.  Nobody has to learn new things; it’s just a browser-based IDE using copy books.

For performance, the Lifecycle Manager-based runtime environment is written in assembler, which makes it fast while minimizing MIPS consumption. It also comes with the browser-based IDE, copybook tool, and import mappings.

The initial adopters have come from financial services and the airlines.  The expectation is that usage will expand beyond that as mainframe shops and distributed developers seek to leverage core mainframe code for a growing array of workloads that weren’t on anybody’s radar screen even a few years ago.

There are other ways to do this on the mainframe, starting with basic SOA and web services tools and protocols, like WSDL. Many mainframe SOA efforts leverage CICS, and IBM offers additional tools, most recently SoftLayer, that address the new app dev styles.

This is healthy for mainframe data centers. If nothing else SOA- and API-driven services workloads that include the mainframe help lower the cost per workload of the mainframe. It also puts the mainframe at the center of today’s IT action.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter: @mainframeblog

Latest in System z Software Pricing—Value Unit Edition

December 5, 2013

Some question how sensitive IBM is to System z costs and pricing.  Those that attended any of David Chase’s several briefings on System z software pricing at Enterprise 2013 this past October, however would realize the convulsions the organization goes through for even what seems like the most trivial of pricing adjustments. So, it is not a small deal that IBM is introducing something called Value Unit Edition (VUE) pricing for System z software.

VUE began with DB2. The purpose is to give z data centers greater pricing flexibility while encouraging new workloads on the z. VUE specifically is aimed at key business initiatives such as SOA, Web-based applications, pureXML, data warehousing and operational business intelligence (BI), and commercial (packaged) applications such as SAP, PeopleSoft, and Siebel. What started as a DB2 initiative has now been extended to WebSphere MQ, CICS, and IMS workloads.

In short, VUE pricing gives you a second pricing option for eligible (meaning new) z workloads. BTW, this eligibility requirement isn’t unusual with the z; it applies to the System z Solution Edition deals too. Specifically, VUE allows you to opt to pay for the particular software as a one-time capital expenditure (CAPEX) in the form of a one-time charge (OTC) rather than as a monthly license charge (MLC), which falls into the OPEX category.

Depending on your organization’s particular circumstances the VUE option could be very helpful. Whether it is more advantageous for you, however, to opt for OTC or MLC with any eligible workload is a question only your corporate accountant can answer (and one, hopefully, that is savvy about System z software pricing overall).  This is not something z data center managers are likely to answer on their own.

Either way you go, IBM in general has set the pricing to be cost neutral with a five-year breakeven. Under some circumstances you can realize discounts around the operating systems; in those cases you may do better than a five-year breakeven. But mainly this is more about how you pay, not how much you pay. VUE pricing is available for every System z model, even older ones. Software running under VUE will have to run in its own LPAR so IBM can check its activity as it does with other software under SCRT.

In summary, the main points of VUE are:

  • One-time-charge (OTC) pricing option across key middleware and packaged applications
  • The ability to consolidate or grow new workloads without increasing operational expense
  • Deployment on a z New Application License Charge (zNALC) LPAR, which, as expected, runs under the zNALC terms and conditions
  • Of course, new applications must be qualified; it really has to be new
  • Allows a reduced price for the z/OS operating system
  • Runs as a mixed environment, some software MLC  some OTC
  • Selected ISV offerings qualify for VUE

Overall, System z software pricing can be quite baffling. There is nothing really comparable in the distributed world. The biggest benefit of VUE comes from the flexibility it allows, OPEX or CAPEX, not from not from any small discount on z/OS. Given the set of key software and middleware VUE applies to the real opportunity lies in using its availability to take bring on new projects that expand the footprint of the z in your organization. As DancingDinosaur has pointed out before, the more workloads you run on the z the lower your cost-per-workload.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog

New Ways to Lower System z Costs

April 26, 2013

The latest System z capacity offerings offer new ways to boost z usage at  lower cost. The offerings were developed jointly with z users in response to their specific business requirements.

The offerings, reflecting IBM’s willingness to be flexible on pricing, enable z users who typically handle operations like development and testing on cheaper x86 platforms to move those operations to the z while getting the additional capacity they would need at a lower cost. In the process, they eliminate the extra steps involved in deploying the finished production system on the z. You can find more info on IBM System z software here.

With the new capacity offerings and other initiatives, IBM is demonstrating its intention to drive down the cost of mainframe computing in a variety of ways. For example, with the System z capacity offering for Cloud, IBM offers the flexibility to increase capacity, then move portions of that incremental capacity within a 12-18 month period. This enables clients to grow before they know exactly where they’ll want to run the work, a welcome sign of flexibility. 

For System z disaster recovery in the cloud, again users gain more flexibility by moving workloads between systems.  For clients who are working aggressively towards business resiliency and disaster recovery, this can be very valuable and removes the restrictions previously out there on the number of tests than can be run.

Specifically, this allows active capacity mobility between zEnterprise primary servers and disaster recovery servers (mirrored data center) for more than just a one-time test.  IBM also offers comparable deals in the form of active multiplex pricing for GDPS Active/Active workloads.  While the DR offering requires all workload moves to the DR box at one time, the active multiplex offering allows fractional workload movement.

And finally, with the System z Test and Development offering, IBM is now allowing for discounts for clients who want do their testing on the platform. Previously, IBM was willing to lower the cost for development, but now, by doing development and test on the platform, it’s making the mainframe more attractive again.

None of this is exactly new. Last June DancingDinosaur reported that IBM was moving in this direction with its System z capacity offering for the cloud.  For more, click here.

IBM also announced new System z software for development, deployment and automation of workloads, described as simple-to-use tools for mainframe development. They start with a new enterprise COBOL compiler that promises significant performance improvements to meet increasingly narrow batch windows organizations face and a new Rational Developer for System z and Rational Developer for Enterprise.

Given increasing demands for new ways to connect the z to mobile activities, IBM also announced enhancements to CICS; specifically the CICS TS feature pack for mobile extension, the IBM Mobile messaging client, and Cognos Mobile on z/OS among others. Organizations have been connecting mobile applications to the z for years using SOA and gateways in one form or another.  These just provide another, possible more efficient way to do it.

After you build the app you need to deploy it. For this IBM announced a new Business Process Manager for z/OS, the Operational Decision Manager for z/OS, and Integration Bus on z/OS (previously called IBM WebSphere Message Broker for z/OS). Organizations also can rapidly deploy Java workloads with the new CICS Transaction Server for z/OS, Value Unit Edition. Finally, Tivoli System Automation on z/OS can provide automated end-to-end deployment and management.

At the same briefing IBM introduced Algar Telecom, a Brazilian telco that offers other services as well. A new z user, Algar consolidated large numbers of Intel servers on a z196 and zBX, an example of z-based hybrid computing.  It offers an interesting experience DancingDinosaur will take up in a later post here along with the experience of a z196 shop that upgraded to a zEC12 to create a z-based production systems core around a slew of Intel blades. Both organizations report good results.

Finally, please note: the IBM Edge Conference 2013 is coming up in Las Vegas, June 10-14. Last year Edge was primarily a storage event. This year there continues to be a large amount of storage material, including considerable new material around System z storage, but it appears IBM has expanded the program beyond storage. DancingDinosaur covered it last year and will begin covering Edge 2013 in a series of posts leading up to the event. Please join me in Las Vegas.  If you register here by 4/28 you can save a few bucks. Look for me there; I’ll be the blogger wearing the Mainframes Rule t-shirt.

Next Generation zEnterprise Developers

April 19, 2013

Mainframe development keeps getting more complicated.  The latest complication can be seen in Doug Balog’s reference to mobile and social business on the zEnterprise, reported by DancingDinosaur here a few weeks ago. That is what the next generation of z developers face.

Forget talk about shortages of System z talent due to the retirement of mainframe veterans.  The bigger complication comes from need for non-traditional mainframe development skills required to take advantage mobile and social business as well as other recent areas of interest such as big data and analytics. These areas entail combining new skills like JSON, Atom, Rest, Hadoop, Java, SOA, Linux, hybrid computing along with traditional mainframe development skills like CICS and COBOL, z/VM, SQL, VSAM, and IMS. This combination is next to impossible to find in one individual. Even assembling a coherent team encompassing all those skills presents a serious challenge.

The mainframe industry has been scrambling to address this in various ways.  CA Technologies added GUI to its various tools and BMC has similarly modernized its various management and DB2 tools. IBM, of course, has been steadily bolstering the Rational RDz tool set.   RDz is a z/OS Eclipse-based software IDE.  RDz streamlines and refactors z/OS development processes into structured analysis, editing, and testing operations with modern GUI tools, wizards, and menus that, IBM notes, are perfect for new-to the-mainframe twenty- and thirty-something developers, the next generation of z developers.

Compuware brings its mainframe workbench, described as a modernized interactive developer environment that introduces a new graphical user interface for managing mainframe application development activities.  The interactive toolset addresses every phase of the application lifecycle.

Most recently, Micro Focus announced the release of its new Enterprise Developer for IBM zEnterprise.  The product enables customers to optimize all aspects of mainframe application delivery and promises to drive down costs, increase productivity, and accelerate innovation. Specifically, it enables both on- and off-mainframe development, the latter without consuming mainframe resources, to provide a flexible approach to the delivery of new business functions. In addition, it allows full and flexible customization of the IDE to support unique development processes and provides deep integration into mainframe configuration management and tooling for a more comprehensive development environment. It also boasts of improved application quality with measurable improvement in delivery times.  These capabilities together promise faster developer adoption.

Said Greg Lotko, Vice President and Business Line Executive, IBM System z, about the new Micro Focus offering:  We are continually working with our technology partners to help our clients maximize the value in their IBM mainframes, and this latest innovation from Micro Focus is a great example of that commitment.

Behind all of this development innovation is an industry effort to cultivate the next generation of mainframe developers. Using a combination of trusted technology (COBOL and mainframe) and new innovation (zEnterprise, hybrid computing, expert systems, and Eclipse), these new developers; having been raised on GUI and mobile and social, can leverage what they learned growing up to build the multi-platform, multi-device mainframe applications that organizations will need going forward.

As these people come on board as mainframe-enabled developers organizations will have more confidence in continuing to invest in their mainframe software assets, which currently amount to an estimated 200-300 billion lines of source code and may even be growing as mainframes are added in developing markets, considered a growth market by IBM.  It only makes sense to leverage this proven code base than try to replace it.

This was confirmed in a CA Technologies survey of mainframe users a year ago, which found that 1) the mainframe is playing an increasingly strategic role in managing the evolving needs of the enterprise; 2) the machine is viewed as an enabler of innovation as big data and cloud computing transform the face of enterprise IT—now add mobile; and 3) companies are seeking candidates with cross-disciplinary skill sets to fill critical mainframe workforce needs in the new enterprise IT thinking.

Similarly, a recent study by the Standish Group showed that 70 percent of CIOs saw their organizations’ mainframes as having a central and strategic role in their overall business success.  Using the new tools noted above organizations can maximize the value of the mainframe asset and cultivate the next generation mainframe developers.

zEnterprise Workload Economics

February 21, 2013

IBM never claims that every workload is suitable for the zEnterprise. However, with the advent of hybrid computing, the low cost z114, and now the expected low cost version of the zEC12 later this year you could make a case for any workload that benefits from the reliability, security, and efficiency of the z is fair game.

John Shedletsky, VP, IBM Competitive Project Office, did not try to make that case. To the contrary, earlier this week he presented the business case for five workloads that are optimum economically and technically on the zEnterprise.  They are:  transaction processing, critical data workloads, batch processing, co-located business analytics, and consolidation-on-one-platform. None of these should be a surprise; possibly with the exception of analytics and consolidated platform they represent traditional mainframe workloads. DancingDinosaur covered Shedletsky’s z cost/workload analysis last year here.

This comes at a time when IBM has started making a lot of noise about new and different workloads on the zEnterprise. Doug Balog, head of IBM System z mainframe group, for example, was quoted widely in the press earlier this month talking about bringing mobile computing workloads to the z. Says Balog in Midsize Insider: “I see there’s a trend in the market we haven’t directly connected to z yet, and that’s this mobile-social platform.”

Actually, this isn’t even all that new either. DancingDinosaur was writing about organizations using SOA to connect CICS apps running on the z to users with mobile devices a few years ago here.

What Shedletsky really demonstrated this week was the cost-efficiency of the zEC12.  In one example he compared a single workload, app production/dev/test running on a 16x, 32-way HP Superdome and an 8x, 48-way Superdome with a zEC12 41-way. The zEC12 delivered the best price/performance by far, $111 million (5yr TCA) for the zEC12 vs. $176 million (5yr TCA) for the two Superdomes.

When running Linux on z workloads with the zEC12 compared to 3 Oracle database workloads (Oracle Enterprise Edition, Oracle RAC, 4 server nodes per cluster) supporting 18K transactions/sec.  running on 12 HP DL580 servers (192 cores) the HP system priced out at $13.2 million (3yr TCA). That compared to a zEC12 running 3 Oracle RAC clusters (4 nodes per cluster, each as a Linux guest) with 27 IFLs, which priced out at $5.7 million (3yr TCA). The zEC12 came in at less than half the cost.

With analytics such a hot topic these days Shedletsky also presented a comparison of the zEnterprise Analytics System 9700 (zEC12, DB2 v10, z/OS, 1 general processor, 1 zIIP) and an IDAA with a current Teradata machine. The result: the Teradata cost $330K/queries per hour compared to $10K/queries per hour.  Workload time for the Teradata was 1,591 seconds for 9.05 queries per hour. That compared to 60.98 seconds and 236 queries per hour on the zEC12. The Teradata total cost was $2.9 million versus $2.3 million for the zEC12.

None of these are what you would consider new workloads, and Shedletsky has yet to apply his cost analysis to mobile or social business workloads. However, the results shouldn’t be much different. Mobile applications, particularly mobile banking and other mobile transaction-oriented applications, will play right into the zEC12 strengths, especially when they are accessing CICS on the back end.

While transaction processing, critical data workloads, batch processing, co-located business analytics, and consolidation-on-one-platform remain the sweet spot for the zEC12, Balog can continue to make his case for mobile and social business on the z. Maybe in the next set of Shedletsky comparative analyses we’ll see some of those workloads come up.

For social business the use cases aren’t quite clear yet. One use case that is emerging, however, is social business big data analytics. Now you can apply the zEC12 to the analytics processing part at least and the efficiencies should be similar.

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.

System z Application Modernization

December 10, 2012

People still complain about how they are held back by old green-screen mainframe applications. It’s not the underlying business logic or application performance they usually are complaining about—that apparently remains rock solid and relevant and has been, in some cases, for decades—but the user interface. Granted, 3270 apps are clunky to use and require plowing through cumbersome screen sequences to complete even a simple task and scream for modernization but they can be modernized through CICS.

Another complaint is that the applications are difficult to change, especially now when organizations want to provide access to mainframe logic and data to users with smartphones or tablets. The question then is what degree of modernization: a pretty GUI facelift or something more structural or maybe a migration to a new platform.  In the age of IBM hybrid computing, you actually have a lot more options than you did even a year ago.

IBM, mainly through the Rational Software group, offers a variety of ways to modernize z applications. You can start with the System z tools here. They enable you to develop mainframe-based applications in COBOL, PL/I, Assembler, C/C++, and Java, as well as workstation-based applications in COBOL, PL/I, and Java.

WebSphere, the app server, is another way to modernize z apps using Java and J2EE. IBM Rational Application Developer for WebSphere accelerates the development and deployment of not only Java, Java EE, Web 2.0 but mobile, portal, and service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications by providing integrated tools for development, testing, profiling, and delivery of applications. Recent upgrades to CICS also make SOA-based modernization even more appealing with support for some of the latest goodies like Atom feeds, RESTful interfaces, and more.

For several years DancingDinosaur has been touting SOA as the most direct way to modernize and repurpose mainframe logic and data. IBM Rational Developer for SOA Construction enables you to create and maintain RPG and COBOL applications as well as modernize them with a variety of techniques using IBM HATS. IBM’s developerWorks has the latest on SOA and web services. Ball State University has been using SOA to modernize its z applications for several years. For example, the school made the critical student schedule app, a CICS system, available to students anywhere, anytime, from any device.  You can read Independent Assessment’s case study here.

Since social business promises to be the next thing, you can develop social business applications through Linux on z, either Red Hat or SUSE, using IBM Connections and WebSphere.  Social business will become of interest to z shops as companies begin collecting social sentiment data on the z and want to analyze it fast.

System z shops actually have been doing some of this for a while.  IBM reports an ISV seeking to increase efficiency and improve time to market for its z software products took advantage of the Metal C feature of the IBM z/OS XL C/C++ compiler to enable its programmers to write code in the C syntax and leverage advanced optimization technology in the z/OS XL C/C++ compiler. The IBM compiler’s Metal C feature cut development time by up to 66% while the company capitalized on C programming skills.

Even IBM reports its CICS dev team tapped IBM Rational Team Concert and IBM Rational Developer for System z software to convert its product development cycle from the existing waterfall development processes to agile development methods. The team used the Rational products to create a highly configurable, end-to-end integrated development environment. Adopting an agile approach and using IBM Rational software has helped the team reduce the amount of preparation required for status meetings by 75% and improved the efficiency of status meetings, decreasing meeting times by 33%. Anything that shortens meetings is worth its weight in gold.

The point is that z shops can do all the sexy app dev stuff—Java, cloud, social, mobile, agile, SOA—to produce richer, more flexible apps faster. And do so without abandoning the z or eating its considerable investment in the mainframe and still bring the z’s compelling virtues it brings to the party.


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