Posts Tagged ‘z196’

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

Social Business and Linux on System z at Enterprise 2013

October 17, 2013

The Enterprise 2013 conference next week in Orlando is sold out! However, you can still participate and learn from the session through Livestream, which starts Monday morning (8am ET) with two IBM senior VPs; Tom Rosamilia, followed by Steve Mills. On Tuesday Livestream sessions start at 10:30am ET. Check out the full Livestream schedule here.

Let’s expand on the social business topics to be covered at the conference. Building a Social Environment in an Enterprise Private Cloud looks at the advantages of building a social environment in an on-premise private cloud, exploiting System z where practical. The hybrid System z models seem particularly well suited for this, and the TCO should be quite favorable. Daily Business can Profit from Social Networks for System z looks at how to exploit social on the z to keep current with news and events of importance to the organization and its customers through Twitter and other social networks. Finally, Gaining Competitive Advantage with Social Business separates the social hype from the facts. The session keys in on utilizing social business relationships to help you achieve competitive advantages.

DancingDinosaur has long considered Linux on z as the single most important thing IBM did to save the mainframe from a future as a niche product serving mainly big banks and financial services firms. Today, the mainframe is the center of a hybrid computing world that can do anything business strategists want to do—mobile, cloud, open systems, Linux, Windows. Linux, the key to that, has been slow to catch on, but it is steadily gaining traction. At Enterprise 2013 you can see, to paraphrase a movie title starring Clint Eastwood; The Good, the Great, and the Ugly of Linux on System z.

Linux on System z: Controlling the Proliferating Penguin presents Mike Riggs, Manager of Systems and Database Administration at the Supreme Court of Virginia, sharing his experiences leveraging the power of Linux on System z by utilizing WebSphere, DB2, Oracle, and Java applications in concert with the longstanding success of z/VM, z/VSE, CICS applications, and other platform systems. He will explain how a funds-limited judicial branch of a state government is leveraging all possible resources to manage, grow, and support statewide judicial application systems.

What’s New with Linux on System z provides an overview of Linux on System z. It will show Linux as a very active open source project and offer insight into what makes Linux so special. It also looks at both the latest and as well as upcoming features of the Linux kernel and what these features can do for you.

From there, you can attend the session on Why Linux on System z Saves $$, which will help you build the business case for Linux on z. The presenter, Buzz Woeckener, Director of IT at Nationwide Insurance, will pepper you with facts, disprove some myths, and help you understand why Linux on System z is one of the best values in the marketplace today. DancingDinosaur has written on Nationwide’s Linux on z experience before; it is a great story.

Finally, here’s the ugly: Murphy’s Law Meets VM and Linux on System z. Murphy’s law observes that whatever can go wrong possibly (or probably, depending on your level of pessimism) will go wrong. This can also be the case in some unfortunate Linux on System z and z/VM proof of concepts or improperly configured production systems. Having been called into a number of these situations over the last couple of years, the speaker brings a lot of experience handling these problems. Where some sessions highlight successes, this one will present stories from the battlefield on what it took to get these projects back on track. It will show the mistakes and draw the lessons learned.

Plus there is networking, security, systems management, big data and analytics, development, and more. For those lucky enough to get space, you won’t be at a loss for what to do next. DancingDinosaur will there Sunday through Thursday. If you see me, please feel welcome to introduce yourself.

Enterprise 2013—System z Storage, Hybrid Computing, Social and More

October 10, 2013

The abstract for the Enterprise 2013 System z program runs 43 pages. Haven’t tallied the number of sessions offered but there certainly are enough to keep you busy for the entire conference (Oct. 20-25, in Orlando, register now) and longer.

Just the storage-related sessions are wide ranging, from  DFSM, which DancingDinosaur covered a few weeks back following the SHARE Boston event here, to the IBM Flash portfolio, System z Flash Express, dynamically provisioning Linux on z storage, capacity management, and more. For storage newcomers, there even is a two-part session on System z Storage Basics.

A storage session titled the Evolution of Space Management looks interesting.  After the advent of System Managed Storage (SMS), the mainframe went decades without much change in the landscape of space management processing. Space management consisted of the standard three-tier hierarchy of Primary Level 0 and the two Migration tiers, Migration Level 1 (disk) and Migration Level 2 (tape).This session examines recent advances in both tape and disk technologies that have dramatically changed that landscape and provided new opportunities for managing data on the z. Maybe they will add a level above primary called flash next year. This session will cover how the advances are evolving the space management hierarchy and what to consider when determining which solutions are best for your environment.

IBM has been going hog-wild with flash, the TMS acquisition playing no small part no doubt. Any number of sessions deal with flash storage. This one, IBM’s Flash Portfolio and Futures, seems particularly appealing. It takes a look at how IBM has acquired and improved upon flash technology over what amounts to eight generations technology refinements.  The session will look at how flash will play a major role across not only IBM’s storage products but IBM’s overall solution portfolio. Flash technology is changing the way companies are managing their data today and it is changing the way they understand and manage the economics of technology. This session also will cover how IBM plans to leverage flash in its roadmap moving forward.

Hybrid computing is another phenomenon that has swept over the z in recent years. For that reason this session looks especially interesting, Exploring the World of zEnterprise Hybrid: How Does It Work and What’s the Point? The IBM zEnterprise hybrid system introduces the Unified Resource Manager, allowing an IT shop to manage a collection of one or more zEnterprise nodes, including an optionally attached zBX loaded with blades for different platforms, as a single logical virtualized system through a single mainframe console. The mainframe can now act as the primary 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 but in a unified manner. It amounts to a new world of blades and virtual servers with the z at the center of it.

Maybe one of the hardest things for traditional z data center managers to get their heads around is social business on the mainframe. But here it is: IBM DevOps Solution: Accelerating the Delivery of Multiplatform Applications looks at social business and mobile along with big data, and cloud technologies as driving the demand for faster approaches to software delivery across all platforms, middleware, and devices. The ultimate goal is to push out more features in each release and get more releases out the door with confidence, while maintaining compliance and quality. To succeed, some cultural, process, and technology gaps must be addressed through tools from Rational.

IBM has even set itself up as a poster child for social business in another session, Social Business and Collaboration at IBM, which features the current deployment within IBM of its social business and collaboration environments. Major core components are currently deployed on System z. The session will look at what IBM is doing and how they do it and the advantages and benefits it experiences.

Next week, the last DancingDinosaur posting before Enterprise 2013 begins will look at some other sessions, including software defined everything and Linux on z.

When DancingDinosaur first started writing about the mainframe over 20 years ago it was a big, powerful (for the time), solid performer that handled a few core tasks, did them remarkably well, and still does so today. At that time even the mainframe’s most ardent supporters didn’t imagine the wide variety of things it does now as can be found at Enterprise 2013.

Please follow DancingDinosaur and its sister blogs on Twitter, @mainframeblog.

Mantissa z86VM Virtualization Leverages IBM zEC12 and z/VM

September 19, 2013

Jim Porell, formerly an IBM Distinguished Engineer with hefty System z credentials, has been pushing the idea of running large numbers of cheap virtualized x86 virtual systems on the zEnterprise for over a year, when DancingDinosaur covered the announcement of his STASH initiative then. Now he is working with Mantissa, known mainly as a provider of mainframe emulation products, on its latest product, z86VM, announced here.

Mantissa z86VM promises to simplify cloud deployment while dramatically reducing virtual image costs by potentially virtualizing thousands of x86 VMs on a zEC12 z/VM partition.  Porell actually isn’t ready to estimate how many until he has done more testing. At this point, all Mantissa is promising is a system that permits you to create virtual x86 machines for use as servers or desktop systems in minutes.

As Porell puts it: existing IBM zEnterprise server customers already have the capacity to run hundreds or thousands of virtual x86 machines. Now he invites DancingDinosaur readers (and anyone else) to try a free version of the z86VM beta software—to become a beta participant, send a request using this form and z86VM Beta as the subject. This will let you try out the latest version and see for yourself. The current beta ships with Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) Linux. SME Server is a CentOS Linux distribution specifically optimized and configured for use as web, file, email, and database servers. It employs a comprehensive browser UI for all management-related tasks.

Specifically Mantissa’s z86VM provides a 32-bit virtual x86 environment which cannot be distinguished by software from real x86 hardware. That means operating systems like Linux for x86 or Windows will run without alteration under IBM z/VM. An important aspect of this virtual operating environment is that no changes are required to move 32-bit x86 operating systems and applications to the z86VM environment. Current test projection modeling shows that up to 50,000 virtual images may be able to operate efficiently on a fully configured zEnterprise server.  But Porell is not quite ready to promise that.

Mantissa hopes to tie z86VM to cloud computing. “Cloud computing, server consolidation, virtual desktops, security, and resilience are all important considerations for customers of the zEnterprise server,” said Gary Dennis, co-Founder, Mantissa, in the beta announcement. “Most x86 virtualization deployments waste 25- 50% of all available hardware capacity.  The z86VM approach can’t do that because there is no real machine,” he add. Actually, there is a real machine underlying the system, currently the zEC12 or, presumably, any other zEnterprise.

Pricing for z86VM when it is released hasn’t been formalized. “My expectation is we will charge per engine, a la zLinux pricing. However, it may be more like z/VM or VMware pricing,” says Porell. The bigger difference is that there should be many more x86 images per core than you’d see with a conventional x86 system. Since the z can run at 100% utilization without fear of failover, Porell expects to squeeze more systems onto each core, which will reduce application and operating system fees where pricing is based on actual cores.

Hybrid computing looms large in Porell and Mantissa’s hopes for z86VM.  For hybrid computing the z86VM can use the same software binary images as other platforms, Porell explains. It should speed the time to deploy those workloads as no new software versions need to be acquired or developed  while providing an ability to further reduce software license costs, environmental costs, operational expense, and complexity, he continues.

In addition, the z/VM hypervisor already is capable of running thousands of virtual system images in a single server. Most of the redundancy necessary for business resilience, fault isolation and disaster recovery is built into the z and the z/VM hypervisor. The z 86VM takes advantage of the z/VM hypervisor to provide the security functionality that isolates one virtual guest from another in such a way that bad behavior by one cannot compromise the execution or data associated with another.

At this point z86VM is looking mostly like a zEnterprise hybrid computing play.  Whether z86VM offers significant benefits beyond what you can do with a hybrid zEnterprise and z/VM will be seen what happens in the beta program, what other business compute needs they address, what they decide with pricing.

Also, hope you will register for Enterprise 2013 in Orlando, Oct 21-25. It will combine the System z and the Power Systems technical universities with an Executive Summit.  The session programs already are out for the System z and Power Systems tracks; registration has already started. Check it out here. DancingDinosaur will be there. In the coming weeks this blog will look more closely intriguing sessions.

BTW–follow DancingDinosaur at its new name on Twitter, @mainframeblog

Free Stuff Lowers Mainframe Costs

September 9, 2013

Timothy Sipples’ blog Mainframe recently ran a piece listing free software you can get for the System z. The piece, here, is pretty exhaustive, including direct links. In keeping with DancingDinosaur’s continuing search for ways to lower mainframe computing costs, listed below some of Sipples’ freebies; find more in his full piece.

While freebies are always welcome, another proven way to lower mainframe costs is by paying close attention to mainframe software usage and costs. For this, BMC introduced a mainframe software cost analyzer tool that promises to reduce mainframe software operating costs by 20%. Called the BMC Cost Analyzer for zEnterprise, it aims to help IT departments plan, report and reduce their mainframe licensing charge (MLC) by identifying system peaks and recommending preemptive cost-reduction strategies. After deploying the BMC Cost Analyzer, a typical customer consuming 5,000 MIPS — at an annual cost of $3.6 million — could save $720,000 or more with the new BMC solution, according to the company.

Linux, an open source operating system licensed under the GNU Public License (GPL), is the first place Sipples looks for mainframe freebies. The GPL license means you don’t have to pay a license fee to obtain and use Linux; Linux distributors like Novell and Red Hat, however, do charge fees for their optional support services. Here are Sipples’ freebies for Linux on z:

Sipples’ list of IBM Freebies for z/OS, z/TPF, z/VSE, and z/VM

  • IBM makes its Java Software Development Kit (SDK) releases for z/OS available at no additional charge. You may also be interested in the Java technologies available from Dovetailed, such as Co:Z and Tomcat for z/OS.
  • The DB2 Accessories Suite for z/OS (5697-Q02) includes many useful tools and accessories to make DB2 for z/OS more powerful and more useful. Examples include IBM Data Studio, SPSS Modeler Server Scoring Adapter, Spatial Support, International Components for Unicode, and Text Search.
  • Go graphical! You can manage your z/OS system much more easily with graphical interfaces for every major subsystem and component. Grab the z/OS Management Facility. From the Explorer for z/OS you can then use (or directly install) plug-ins for CICS, IMS, IBM’s application development tools, IBM’s problem determination tools, and other products.
  • The XML Toolkit for z/OS (5655-J51) adds to the XML System Services that’s already part of z/OS.
  • IBM offers many more z/OS-related downloads including the IBM Encryption Facility for z/OS Client, Logrec Viewer, LookAt, z/OS UNIX System Service Tools and Toys, and many others.
  • Be sure to install the Alternate Library for REXX to run compiled REXX programs on your z/OS and z/VM systems. Compiled programs won’t run as efficiently as when the regular licensed REXX library is installed, but at least they’ll run.
  • The z/OS Ported Tools (5655-M23) include OpenSSH, IBM HTTP Server, and many other useful products. (Rocket Software also offers several ported tools.)

BMC conducts an annual survey of z data centers. This year, as in previous years, cost concerns were the number one issue.  The number two concern was business availability. The full survey will be released at the end of this month when DancingDinosaur expects to cover it in a little more detail.

New zEnterprise Business Class Entry Model—zBC12

July 23, 2013

IBM introduced its new zEnterprise Business Class machine, the equivalent of the z114 for the zEC12, the zEnterprise BC12 (zBC12).  It offers significantly more power than its predecessor but the $75,000 base price hasn’t changed.

The company has been hinting at the arrival of this machine for months (and DancingDinosaur has been passing along those hints as quickly as they came). Of particular interest is that the System z Solution Edition pricing applies to the zBC12. Solution Edition pricing should make the machine quite competitive with x86-based systems, especially when running multiple Linux instances.

IBM isn’t being coy about its intentions to discount this machine. The initial announcement touted a new Linux-only based version of the zBC12, the Enterprise Linux Server (ELS). The ELS includes hardware, the z/VM Hypervisor, and three years of maintenance at a deeply discounted price. Besides over 3,000 Linux applications it includes two new capabilities, ELS for Analytics and Cloud-Ready for Linux on System z, each acting as an onramp for analytics or cloud computing.

DancingDinosaur has been a big fan of the Solution Edition program as the only way to get serious discounts on a mainframe. The big caveat is the constraints IBM puts on the use of the discounted machine. Each Solution Edition program is negotiated so just make sure you fully understand the constraints and all the fine print so you can live with it for several years. Of course, a zBC12 can be used for anything you would use a mainframe although enterprise Linux serving seems  an ideal use.

Besides its faster processor the zBC12 also offers up 156 capacity settings on each model  to choose just the right capacity setting for your needs along with a new pay-as-you-grow approach. When it is integrated with the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator, the zBC12 can perform business analytics workloads with10x better price performance and 14 percent lower total cost of acquisition than the closest competitor, according to IBM.

Out of the box the zBC12 specs look good:

  • 4.2 GHz processor designed to deliver up to a 36% performance increase per core to help boost software performance for business-critical workloads
  • Up to six general purpose processors designed to deliver up to 58% more capacity compared to the z114, which had five general purpose processors
  • Up to a 2x increase in available memory (496 GB) compared to the z114 for improved performance of memory-demanding workloads such as DB2, IBM WebSphere, and Linux on System z

The zBC12 comes in two models, the H06 and H13. Both are air cooled, single frame, or support 30 LPARS. The H06 has one processor drawer for 9 processor units. These can be divided between SAPs, CPs, IFLs/ICFs, zIIPs and zAAPs, and 1 IFP.  The Model H113 has two processor drawers to handle 18 processor units. It allows the same mix of processor types but in larger quantities and 2 dedicated spares. There are configurations where the H06 requires the second processor drawer. The entry processing level is 50 MIPS, up from 26 MIPS with the z114 with no change in the base price.

As far as other pricing, the zBC12 follows essentially an extension of the z114 stack pricing with a 27% price/performance improvement over the z114 for specialty engine pricing, which translates in 36% greater performance for the money.  Pricing for maintenance remains the same. Software keeps with the same pricing curve with a 5% discount applied. The price of Flash Express for the zBC12 remains at $125,000.

IBM has provided a straightforward upgrade path from the z10 or zEnterprise to the zBC12 as well as from the zBC12 to the zEC12. It also can be connected to the zBX (Model 003) to seamlessly manage workloads across a hybrid computing environment consisting of multiple architectures (Linux, AIX, and Intel/Windows).

The announcement of the zBC12 was accompanied by a slew of other new z announcements, including the new IBM zEnterprise Analytics System 9710,and native JSON support to bridge the gap between mobile devices and enterprise data and services along with conversion between JSON  and the new CICS Transaction Server Feature Pack for Mobile Extensions V1.0 and DB2 11 for z/OS (ESP).  Plus there is the new z/VM v6.3 and enhancements to the z/OS Management Facility.

As DancingDinosaur noted last week, expect z sales to get a boost in the next quarter or two as organizations choose the new zBC12. With its improved price/performance and low entry pricing and the Solution Edition deal for the zBC12 ELS the z should see a nice bounce.

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.

New Announcements Fuel zEnterprise Rebound

February 6, 2013

A couple of weeks ago DancingDinosaur looked at the year-end results posted by IBM, with the z, led by the zEC12, leading the gains. Despite some tough quarters earlier in 2012, the System z has been on quite a roll; in 4Q12  it experienced 56% year to year revenue growth, the strongest since 2000.

The numbers look that much when better compared to what had immediately preceded them. In 3Q12, the z was down 19% on revenue (ouch).

The financials prove what long-time IBM watchers know: a new mainframe intro always kicks up the numbers, although it may take a quarter or two. The new machine, the zEC12, launched at the end of August 2012. Historically IBM follows a new mainframe with a business class version about a year after the initial launch, so we can expect a business class version of the zEC12 around August or September. (The z114 was introduced in July 2011, a year after the z196.) You can expect IBM will price it aggressively, as was the z114.

But it wasn’t only the new machine driving the good number.  Since the introduction of hybrid computing in 2010 with the zEnterprise 196, IBM has been doggedly pushing the idea of cloud computing, analytics (big data or otherwise), efficient centralized management, elastic scalability, and mobility. It has steadily brought out tools and optimizations that enhance the z for these kinds of workloads. Today its three main growth initiatives for the z focus on cloud, analytics, and security, which parallel IBM’s overall Smarter Computing thrust.

Optimizations and enhancements, like those announced or previewed earlier this week, will continue to drive the zEnterprise forward. For example, newly enhanced tools like z/OSMF (z/OS Management Facility) ease management of z/OS through a modern, browser-based console for z/OS.

The newest version, z/OSMF Version 2.1, previewed this week, provides intuitive management intended to enable IBM’s Smarter Computing through such capabilities as at-a-glance reports on software service levels and system software assets. New workflow capabilities promise to simplify z/OS configuration tasks and tune them to user roles. It leverages the Liberty profile for WebSphere for z/OS to accelerate deployment and speed time to value. Finally, it includes a REST API for jobs submission, which bridges batch and web-based applications and, in the process, helps bring younger z/OS system programmers up to speed.

Eletrobras Electronuclear, Brazil, the largest generator of electricity in Latin America, turned to z/OSMF for help in cloning its production system to ensure system resilience. As an Eletrobras manager noted: With z/OSMF this cloning process is much easier and can be completed in a matter of a few hours.

Also previewed was z/OS Version 2.1, described by IBM as the Smart Foundation for Smart Computing. z/OS v2.1 brings enhanced security through a new crypto server and support for additional industry security standards.  Enhancements around paging and throughput enable greater scalability while providing optimized performance reporting.  It offers enhanced data serving to fuel analytics for new data-hungry analytic applications as well as optimized data storage and faster file retrieval through an enhanced zFS along with improved FICON management. For management, it includes built in workload optimization, extended management reporting, and continued batch modernization.

IBM also previewed a z/VM upgrade, version 6.3. This adds support for 1TB of real memory and improved performance with HiperDispatch. The z/VM memory will provide better performance for larger virtual machines and reduced LPAR sprawl by allowing up to 4x more VMs per LPAR.  z/VM v6.3 boasts a higher server consolidation ratio with support for more virtual servers than any other platform in a single footprint, according to IBM.

Meanwhile IBM continues to roll out z customer examples at an increasing pace. Bankia, a Spanish banking company, turned to the System z for real-time integration of data to facilitate monitoring and mitigate risk. Vantiv, a leading payment processor based in Cincinnati, turned to the z for its cryptographic coprocessors to secure 2 billion transactions per month.

Marriott, an early zEC12 adopter, uses the machine to centralize its reservations and streamline the selling of rooms through elastic pricing. The University of Florida turned to the z for a scalable and reliable IT infrastructure that could accommodate students accessing and interacting with applications and data through mobile applications.

Already 2013 promises to be an interesting year for z shops. Expect more innovation, optimization, and a new low cost business class machine to accompany the zEC12.

System z Clouds Pay Off

January 9, 2013

From its introduction last August, IBM has aimed the zEC12 at cloud use cases, especially private clouds. The zEC12’s massive virtualization capabilities make it possible to handle private cloud environments consisting of thousands of distributed systems running Linux on zEC12.

One zEC12, notes IBM, can encompass the capacity of an entire multi-platform data center in a single system. The newest z also enables organizations to run conventional IT workloads and private cloud applications on one system.  If you are looking at a zEC12 coupled with the zBX you can have a hybrid private cloud running Linux, Windows, and AIX workloads.

There are three main reasons why z-based data centers should consider a private cloud:

  1. The z does it so naturally and seamlessly
  2. It boosts IT efficiency, mainly through user self service
  3. It increases enterprise agility, especially when it comes to provisioning and deploying IT resources and applications fast

Organizations everywhere are adopting private clouds (probably because C-level execs are more comfortable with private cloud security).  The Open Data Center Alliance reports faster private cloud adoption than originally predicted. Over half its survey respondents will be running more than 40% of their IT operations in private clouds by 2015.

Mainframes make a particularly good private cloud choice. Nationwide, the insurance company, consolidated 3000 distributed servers to Linux virtual servers running on a variety of z mainframes, creating a multi-platform private mainframe cloud optimized for its different workloads. The goal was to improve efficiency.

Nationwide initially intended to isolate its Linux and z/OS workloads on different physical mainframes. This resulted in a total of seven machines – a mixture of z9 and z10 servers – of which two were dedicated to Linux. To optimize this footprint, however, Nationwide ended up consolidating all workloads to four IBM zEnterprise 196 servers and two z10 servers, putting Linux and z/OS workloads on the same machines because its confidence level with Linux on the mainframe and the maturity of the platform made the Nationwide IT team comfortable mixing workloads.

The key benefit of this approach was higher utilization and better economies of scale, effectively making the mainframes into a unified private cloud—a single set of resources, managed with the same tools but optimized for a variety of workloads. The payback:  elimination of both capital and operational expenditures, expected to save about $15 million over three years. The more compact and efficient zEnterprise landscape also means low costs in the future. Specifically, Nationwide is realizing an 80% reduction in power, cooling and floor space despite an application workload that is growing 30% annually, and practically all of it handled through the provisioning of new virtual servers on the existing mainframe footprint.

Another z cloud was built by the City and County of Honolulu. It needed to increase government transparency by providing useful, timely data to its citizens. The goal was to boost citizen involvement, improve delivery of services, and increase the efficiency of city operations.

Honolulu built its cloud using an IFL engine running Linux on the city’s z10 EC machine. Between Linux and IBM z/VM the city created a customized cloud environment. This provided a scalable self-service platform on which city employees could develop open source applications, and it empowered the general public to create and deploy citizen-centric applications. Other components included IBM XIV storage, IBM Maximo Asset Management, IBM Tivoli OMEGAMON, Tivoli Workload Scheduler, and Tivoli Storage Manager.

The results: reduction in application deployment time from one week to only hours, 68% lower licensing costs for one database, and a new property tax appraisal system that increased tax revenue by $1.4 million in just three months.

There are even more examples of z clouds. For z shops a private cloud should be pretty straightforward; you’re probably over half-way there already. All you need are a few more components and a well-defined business case.  Give me a call, and I’ll even help you pull the business case together.

zEnterprise EC12: the Next Hybrid Mainframe

August 30, 2012

On Tuesday, IBM launched the zEnterprise EC12 (zEC12), a machine it had been hinting at for months as zNext, the next hybrid mainframe. As you would expect from the latest release of the top-of-the-line mainframe, the zEC12 delivers faster speed and better price/performance. With a 5.5 GHz core processor, up from 5.2 GHz in the z196, and an increase in the number of cores per chip (from 4 to 6) IBM calculates it delivers 50% more total capacity in the same footprint. The vEC12 won’t come cheap but on a cost per MIPS basis it’s probably the best value around.

More than just performance, it adds two major new capabilities, IBM zAware and Flash Express, and a slew of other hardware and software optimizations. The two new features, IBM zAware and Flash Express, both promise to be useful, but neither is a game changer. IBM zAware is an analytics capability embedded in firmware. It is intended to monitor the entire zEnterprise system for the purpose of identifying problems before they impact operations.

Flash Express consists of a pair of memory cards installed in the zEC12; what amounts to a new tier of memory. Flash Express is designed to streamline memory paging when transitioning between workloads. It will moderate workload spikes and eliminate the need to page to disk, which should boost performance.

Unless you are finding it difficult to keep your z machines running or are experiencing paging problems these capabilities won’t be immediately helpful.  They really are intended for shops with the most demanding workloads and no margin for error. The zEC12 also continues IBM’s hybrid computing thrust by including the zBX and new capabilities from System Director to be delivered through Unified Resource Manager APIs. You’ll need a zBX mod 3 to connect to the zEC12.

This is a stunningly powerful machine, especially coming just 25 months after the z196 introduction. The zEC12 is intended for optimized corporate data serving. Its 101 configurable cores deliver a performance boost for all workloads. The zEC12 also comes with the usual array of assist processors, which are just configurable cores with the assist personality loaded on. Since they are EC12 cores, they bring a 20% MIPS price/performance boost.

The processor has been optimized for better software performance, particularly for Java, PL/1, and DB2 workloads.  As with the z196, it handles out of order instruction processing and multi-level branch prediction for complex workloads. The new machine’s larger L2, L3, and L4 caches deliver almost 2x more on the chip to speed data to the processor. In addition, Flash Express provides 1.6 TB of usable capacity (packaged in pairs for redundancy, 3.2 TB total).

IBM estimates up to a 45% improvement in Java workloads, up to a 27% improvement in CPU-intensive integer and floating point C/C++ applications, up to 30% improvement in throughput for DB2 for z/OS operational analytics, and more than 30% improvement in throughput for SAP workloads. IBM has, in effect, optimized the zEC12 from top to bottom of the stack. DB2 applications are certain to benefit as will WebSphere and SAP.

IBM characterizes zEC12 pricing as follows:

  • Hardware—20% MIPS price/performance improvement for standard engines and specialty engines , Flash Express runs $125,000 per pair of cards (3.2 TB)
  • Software—update pricing will provide 2%-7% MLC price/performance for flat-capacity upgrades from z196, and IFLs will maintain PVU rating of 120 for software  yet deliver more 20% MIPS
  • Maintenance—no less than 2% price performance improvement for standard MIPS and 20% on IFL MIPS

IBM is signaling price aggressiveness and flexibility to attract new shops to the mainframe and stimulate new workloads. The deeply discounted Solution Edition program will include the new machine. IBM also is offering financing with deferred payments through the end of the year in a coordinated effort to move these machines now.

As impressive as the zEC12 specifications and price/performance is DancingDinosaur is most impressed by the speed at which IBM delivered the machine. It broke with its with its historic 3-year release cycle to deliver this potent hybrid machine just two years after the z196 first introduced hybrid computing.


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