Latest IBM Initiatives Drive Power Advantages over x86

November 20, 2015

This past week IBM announced a multi-year strategic collaboration between it and Xilinx that aims to enable higher performance and energy-efficient data center applications through Xilinx FPGA-enabled workload acceleration on IBM POWER-based systems. The goal is to deliver open acceleration infrastructures, software, and middleware to address applications like machine learning, network functions virtualization (NFV), genomics, high performance computing (HPC), and big data analytics. In the process, IBM hopes to put x86 systems at an even greater price/performance disadvantage.


Courtesy of IBM

At the same time IBM and several fellow OpenPOWER Foundation members revealed new technologies, collaborations and developer resources to enable clients to analyze data more deeply and at high speed. The new offerings center on the tight integration of IBM’s open and licensable POWER processors with accelerators and dedicated high performance x86e processors optimized for computationally intensive software code. The accelerated POWER-based offerings come at a time when many companies are seeking the best platform for Internet of Things, machine learning, and other performance hungry applications.

The combination of collaborations and alliances are clearly aimed at establishing Power as the high performance leader for the new generation of workloads. Noted IBM, independent software vendors already are leveraging IBM Flash Storage attached to CAPI to create very large memory spaces for in-memory processing of analytics, enabling the same query workloads to run with a fraction of the number of servers compared to commodity x86 solutions.  These breakthroughs enable POWER8-based systems to continue where the promise of Moore’s Law falls short, by delivering performance gains through OpenPOWER ecosystem-driven, full stack innovation. DancingDinosaur covered efforts to expand Moore’s Law on the z a few weeks back here.

The new workloads present different performance challenges. To begin, we’re talking about heterogeneous workloads that are becoming increasingly prevalent, forcing data centers to turn to application accelerators just to keep up with the demands for throughput and latency at low power. The Xilinx All Programmable FPGAs promise to deliver the power efficiency that makes accelerators practical to deploy throughout the data center. Just combine IBM’s open and licensable POWER architecture with Xilinx FPGAs to deliver compelling performance, performance/watt, and lower total cost of ownership for this new generation of data centers workloads.

As part of the IBM and Xilinx strategic collaboration, IBM Systems Group developers will create solution stacks for POWER-based servers, storage, and middleware systems with Xilinx FPGA accelerators for data center architectures such as OpenStack, Docker, and Spark. IBM will also develop and qualify Xilinx accelerator boards for IBM Power Systems servers. Xilinx is developing and will release POWER-based versions of its leading software defined SDAccel™ Development Environment and libraries for the OpenPOWER developer community.

But there is more than this one deal. IBM is promising new products, collaborations and further investments in accelerator-based solutions on top of the POWER processor architecture.  Most recently announced were:

The coupling of NVIDIA® Tesla® K80 GPUs, the flagship offering of the NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform, with Watson’s POWER-based architecture to accelerate Watson’s Retrieve and Rank API capabilities to 1.7x of its normal speed. This speed-up can further improve the cost-performance of Watson’s cloud-based services.

On the networking front Mellanox announced the world’s first smart network switch, the Switch-IB 2, capable of delivering an estimated 10x system performance improvement. NEC also announced availability of its ExpEther Technology suited for POWER architecture-based systems, along with plans to leverage IBM’s CAPI technology to deliver additional accelerated computing value in 2016.

Finally, two OpenPOWER members, E4 Computer Engineering and Penguin Computing, revealed new systems based on the OpenPOWER design concept and incorporating IBM POWER8 and NVIDIA Tesla GPU accelerators. IBM also reported having ported a series of key IBM Internet of Things, Spark, Big Data, and Cognitive applications to take advantage of the POWER architecture with accelerators.

The announcements include the names of partners and products but product details were in short supply as were cost and specific performance details. DancingDinosaur will continue to chase those down.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

DancingDinosaur will not post the week of Thanksgiving. Have a delicious holiday.

IBM LinuxONE Can Uberize x86-Based IT

November 13, 2015

Uberization—industry disruption caused by an unlikely competitor—emerged as a dominant concern of C-suite executives in a recently announced IBM-Institute of Business Value study. According to the study, the percentage of C-suite leaders who expect to contend with competition from outside their industry increased from 43% in 2013 to 54% today.

IBM Csuite Study_Tiles_10_30_2 competition data

These competitors, future Ubers, aren’t just resulting from new permutations of old industries; they also are coming from digital invaders with totally different business models. Consider IBM LinuxONE, a powerful open source Linux z13 mainframe supported by two open communities, the Open Mainframe Project and the Linux Foundation. For the typical mass market Linux shop, usually an x86-based data center, LinuxONE can deliver a standard Linux distribution with both KVM and Ubuntu as part of a new pricing model that offers a pay-per-use option in the form of a fixed monthly payment with costs scaling up or down based on usage. It also offers per-core pricing with software licenses for designated cores.

Talk about disruptive; plus it brings scalability, reliability, high performance, and rock-solid security of the latest mainframe. LinuxONE can handle 8000 virtual servers in a single system, tens of thousands of containers. Try doing that with an x86 machine or even a dozen.

Customers of traditional taxi companies or guests at conventional hotels have had to rethink their transportation or accommodation options in the face of Uberization and the arrival of other disruptive alternatives like Airbnb. So too, x86 platform shops will have to rethink their technology platform options. On either a per-workload basis or a total cost of ownership (TCO) basis, the mainframe has been cost competitive for years. Now with the Uberization of the Linux platform by LinuxONE and IBM’s latest pricing options for it, the time to rethink an x86 platform strategy clearly has arrived. Many long-held misconceptions about the mainframe will have to be dropped or, at least, updated.

The biggest risk to businesses used to come from a new rival with a better or cheaper offering, making it relatively simple to alter strategies. Today, entrenched players are being threatened by new entrants with completely different business models, as well as smaller, more agile players unencumbered by legacy infrastructure. Except for the part of being smaller, IBM’s LinuxONE definitely meets the criteria as a threatening disruptive entrant in the Linux platform space.

IBM even is bring new business models to the effort too, including hybrid cloud and a services-driven approach as well as its new pricing. How about renting a LinuxONE mainframe short term? You can with one of IBM’s new pricing options: just rent a LinuxONE machine monthly with no upfront payment.  At the end of the 36-month rental (can return the hardware after 1 year) you choose to return, buy, or replace. Try that with enterprise-class x86 machines.

The introduction of support for both KVM and Ubuntu on the z platform opens even more possibilities. With the LinuxONE announcement Ubuntu has been elevated to a fully z-supported Linux distribution. Together IBM and Canonical are bringing a distribution of Linux incorporating Ubuntu’s scale-out and cloud expertise on the IBM z Systems platform, further expanding the reach of both. Ubuntu combined with KVM should make LinuxONE very attractive for OpenStack-based hybrid cloud computing that may involve thousands of VMs and containers. And don’t forget a broader range of tools, including an expanded set of open-source and industry tools and software, including Apache Spark, Node.js, MongoDB, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Chef and Coker.

Deon Newman, VP of Marketing for IBM z Systems, can recite the LinuxONE scalability stats off the top of his head: The entry-level, single-frame LinuxONE server, named Rockhopper, starts at 80 virtual Linux machines, and hundreds and hundreds of containers while the high-end double-frame server, Emperor, features six IFLs that support up to 350 virtual machines and can scale all the way to 8,000 virtual machines. On the Emperor server, you can literally have hundreds of thousands of containers on a single platform. Newman deliberately emphasizes that LinuxONE machines are servers.  x86 server users take note. LinuxONE definitely is not your father’s mainframe.

In the latest C-suite study all C-suite executives—regardless of role—identified for the first time technology as the most important external force impacting their enterprise. These executives believe cloud computing, mobile solutions, the Internet of Things, and cognitive computing are the technologies most likely to revolutionize or Uberize their business.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.






IBM Acquires Weather Company to Supercharge Cloud Data Analytics

November 6, 2015

Last week IBM announced it would acquire The Weather Company’s B2B, mobile and cloud-based web properties, including WSI,, Weather Underground, and The Weather Company brand in a move intended to boost its data analytics capabilities. The company has big plans for the acquisition, especially for Watson but is probably not thinking of streaming weather images onto the z System.

IBM Weather Company

IBM to acquire the Weather Company

Maybe it should. How many of the z Systems logistics, supply chain management, scheduling, and reservation systems rely on weather? Might be nice to get access to a couple of Weather Company APIs to pop weather data and analytics into z production systems.

Instead most of the weather goodies will go the Watson as IBM aims to improve the precision of weather forecasts by further deepening Watson’s IoT capabilities through the integration of global atmosphere and weather insights with enterprise information (hello zSystem) to create disruptive industry solutions that optimize decision-making. For instance, IBM reports that airlines can save millions of dollars annually by tapping multiple real-time and historical data sources to optimize fuel consumption, reduce delays and airport congestion, and improve passenger safety during disruptive conditions.

In short, the planned acquisition would bring together IBM’s powerful cognitive and analytics platform and The Weather Company’s dynamic cloud data platform, which powers the fourth most-used mobile app daily in the United States and handles 26 billion inquiries (more than its fair share from DancingDinosaur) to its cloud-based services each day. The plan calls to integrate real-time weather insights into business to improve operational performance and decision-making.

A few days earlier, IBM announced what it describes as a transformational approach to making the most of data, with the introduction of IBM Insight Cloud Services. Through collaboration with Twitter and The Weather Company, as well as the use of open data sets and business-owned data, IBM believes it can help clients cut through the noise of unstructured data, help turn streaming data into insights, and change critical business outcomes across industries such as retail, insurance, and media/entertainment.

As part of that announcement, IBM identified three specific actions it is taking:

  1. Provide four new APIs that developers can access from IBM Bluemix, IBM’s cloud platform, to incorporate historical and forecasted weather data from The Weather Company into web and mobile apps; and two APIs that allow developers to incorporate Twitter content enriched with sentiment insights
  2. Introduce new bundled data sets from IBM and The Weather Company customized for key industries and available on the IBM Cloud. The data packages can help insurers use weather data to alert policyholders ahead of hail storms that may cause property damage, help utilities forecast demand and identify likely service outages, help local governments to develop detailed emergency planning in advance of severe weather, and enable many industries such as retail to use data to help optimize their operations, reduce costs, and uncover revenue opportunities ahead of changes in weather.
  3. Offer a set of pre-built solutions that leverage IBM Insight Cloud Services cognitive techniques to help enable business users to tackle very specific industry challenges. This expands a set of industry solutions IBM introduced in May 2015 that provide businesses with the ability to generate new types of insights based on customer behavior.

With the pending acquisition of the Weather Company properties IBM is able to further advance its capabilities in big data, analytics, cloud computing, and cognitive computing. These encompass what the company refers to as its strategic imperatives and, alongside the z, they delivered the only bright spot in IBM’s 3Q15 financials. As reported by DancingDinosaur here a few weeks ago: strategic imperatives revenue: up 27 percent year-to-year; Cloud revenue up more than 65 percent year-to-date.  Total cloud revenue hit $9.4 billion over the trailing 12 months. Cloud delivered as a service had an annual run rate of $4.5 billion vs. $3.1 billion in third-quarter 2014.  Business analytics revenue was up 19 percent year-to-date. With its plans for the Weather Company expect the numbers to grow in upcoming quarters. The Weather Company can also show IBM a thing or two about mobile, another top priority.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

IBM Enhances the DS8000 Storage Family for New Challenges

October 30, 2015

Earlier this month IBM introduced a family of business-critical hybrid data storage systems that span a wide range of price points. The family is powered by the next generation of IBM’s proven DS8000 storage platform and delivers critical application acceleration, 6-nines (99.9999) availability, and industry-leading capabilities, like integrated high performance flash.  And coming along in November and December will be new tape storage products.


DS8880, courtesy of IBM (click to enlarge)

The company sees demand for the new storage being driven by cloud, mobile, analytics, and security. As IBM continues to encourage data centers to expand into new workloads, it is introducing a new family of business-critical hybrid flash data systems primarily to support the latest requirements of z System- and Power-based data centers. If your shop hasn’t started to experience a ramp up of new workloads it likely will soon enough.

The new storage family, all based on POWER8 and the DS8000 software stack, currently consists 3 models:

  1. The entry model, the DS8884, delivers fast hybrid flash starting at under $50K. It offers up to 12 cores, 256 GB total system memory, 64 16GB FCP/FICON ports, and 768 HDD/SSD + 120 Flash cards in a 19”, 40u rack.
  2. The DS8886 brings a 2x performance boost, up to 48 cores, 2 TB total system memory, 128 16GB FCP/FICON ports, and 1536 HDD/SSD’s + 240 Flash cards packed into a 19”, 46u rack.
  3. The high end DS8888, according to IBM, is the industry’s fastest T1 Subsystem. It offers all-flash with up to 96 cores, 2 TB total system memory, 128 16GB FCP/FICON ports, and 480 Flash cards packed in the 19”, 40u rack. Won’t be available until spring 2016.

Being built on the DS8000 software stack, the new storage brings unparalleled integration with IBM z System. The systems are especially tuned for insight and cloud environments. They also deliver top efficiency and maximum utilization of resources including staff productivity, space utilization and lower cost through streamlined operations and a 30% reduction in footprint vs. 33″-34” racks.

The DS8888 family comes with two license options: Base function license provides Logical Configuration support for FB, Original Equipment License (OEL), IBM Database Protection, Thin Provisioning, Encryption Authorization, Easy Tier, and I/O Priority Manager. The z Synergy Service  Function license brings PAV, and Hyper-PAV, FICON and High Performance FICON (zHPF), IBM z/OS Distributed Data Backup, and a range of Copy Services Functions including FlashCopy, Metro Mirror, Global MirrorMetro/Global Mirror, z/Global Mirror & z/Global Mirror Resync, and Multi-Target PPRC .

The DS8880 family also provides 99.9999% uptime, an increase over the typical industry uptime benchmark of 99.999% uptime. That extra decimal point translates into 365.243 continuous days of uptime per year. Even the most mission-critical application can probably live with that.

The High-Performance Flash Enclosure for the DS8880 family redefines what IBM considers true enterprise hybrid flash data systems should be, especially in terms of performance for critical applications. Usually, hybrid systems combine flash and traditional spinning drives to be deployed among a variety of mixed workloads of private or public clouds, while reserving more costly all-flash storage for delivering the most extreme performance for only those applications that require it. Now IBM recommends hybrid configurations for consolidation of virtually all workloads since the DS8880 preserves the flexibility to deliver flash performance exactly where and when it is needed automatically through Easy Tier, which optimizes application performance dynamically across any DS8880 configuration without requiring administrators to manually tune and retune applications and storage.

The DS8880 also supports a wide variety of enterprise server and virtual server platforms, but not all are created equal. It includes special integration with z Systems and IBM Power Systems. This is due to the advanced microcode that has been developed and enhanced in lockstep with the mainframe’s I/O architecture over the past several decades. For Power shops the DS8880 copy services are tightly integrated with IBM PowerHA SystemMirror for AIX and IBM i, which add another level of assurance for users who need 24×7 business continuity for their critical Power systems.

For shops dealing with VMware, the DS8880 includes interoperability with VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration, VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager, and a VMware vCenter plug-in that allows users to offload storage management operations in VMware environments to the DS8880. Should you prefer to go the other direction, the DS8880 supports IBM Storage Management Console for VMware vCenter to help VMware administrators independently monitor and control their storage resources from the VMware vSphere Client GUI.

If you didn’t notice, there have been a series of interesting announcements coming out of IBM Insight, which wrapped up yesterday in Las Vegas. DancingDinosaur intends to recap some of the most interesting announcements in case you missed them.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

IBM z System Shines in 3Q15 Quarterly Report

October 23, 2015

IBM posted another down quarter this past Monday, maybe the thirteenth in a row; it’s easy to lose track. But yet again, the IBM z System provided a bright spot, a 15 percent increase compared with the year-ago period. Last quarter the z also came up a winner. Still the investment analysts went crazy, the stock tumbled, and wild scenarios, inspired by Dell’s acquisition of EMC no doubt, began circulating.


IBM z13

However, don’t expect IBM to be going away anytime soon. DancingDinosaur is a technology analyst and writer, absolutely not a financial analyst (his wife handles the checkbook).  If you look at what has been going on in the past two years with z System and POWER from a technology standpoint these platforms are here for the long haul.  Most of the top 100 companies rely on a mainframe.  Linux on z has become a factor in roughly 70 percent of the leading shops. When DancingDinosaur last ran the numbers there still are about 5000-6000 active mainframe shops and the numbers aren’t dropping nearly as fast as some pundits would have you believe.



The z13 and LinuxONE are very powerful mainframes, the most powerful by any number of measures in the industry.  And they are a dramatically different breed of enterprise platform, capable of concurrently running mixed workloads—OLTP, mobile, cloud, analytics—with top performance, scalability, and rock solid security. The Open Mainframe Project in conjunction with the Linux Foundation means that IBM no longer is going it alone with the mainframe. A similar joint effort with the Open POWER Consortium began delivering results within a year.

The Dell-EMC comparison is not a valid one. EMC’s primary business was storage and the business at the enterprise level has changed dramatically. It has changed for IBM too; the company’s revenues from System Storage decreased 19 percent. But storage was never as important to the company as the z, which had long been its cash cow, now diminished for sure but still worth the investment. The dozens and dozens of acquisitions EMC made never brought it much in terms of synergy. IBM, at least, has its strategic imperatives plan that is making measurable progress.

IBM’s strategic imperatives, in fact, were the only business that was doing as well as the z. Strategic imperatives revenue: up 27 percent year-to-year; Cloud revenue up more than 65 percent year-to-date.  Total cloud revenue hit $9.4 billion over the trailing 12 months. Cloud delivered as a service had an annual run rate of $4.5 billion vs. $3.1 billion in third-quarter 2014.  Business analytics revenue was up 19 percent year-to-date. Be interesting to see what cognitive computing and Watson can produce.

Besides storage, the other dim spot in the IBM platform story is Power Systems.  Revenues from Power Systems were down 3 percent compared with the 2014 period. DancingDinosaur, long a fan of Power Systems, anticipates the platform will turn positive next quarter or the first quarter of 2016 as some of the new technology and products coming, in part, from the Open POWER Consortium begin to attract new customers and ring up sales. The new Power Systems LC Server family should attract interest for hybrid Cloud, Hyperscale Data Centers, and Open Solutions, hopefully bringing new customers. With online pricing starting around $6600 the LC machines should be quite competitive against x86 boxes of comparable capabilities.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.


Syncsort Brings z System Integration Software to Open Source Tools

October 13, 2015

In a series of announcements last month, Syncsort integrated its DMX-h data integration software with Apache Kafka, an open distributed messaging system. This will enable mainframe shops to tap DMX-h’s easy-to-use GUI to subscribe, transform, enrich, and distribute enterprise-wide data for real-time Kafka messaging.

Spark graphic

Courtesy of IBM

Syncsort also delivered an open source contribution of an IBM z Systems mainframe connector that makes mainframe data available to the Apache Spark open-source analytics platform. Not stopping there, Syncsort is integrating the Intelligent Execution capabilities of its DMX data integration product suite with Apache Spark too. Intelligent Execution allows users to visually design data transformations once and then run them anywhere – across Hadoop, MapReduce, Spark, Linux, Windows, or Unix, on premise or in the cloud.

Said Tendü Yoğurtçu, General Manager of Syncsort’s big data business, in the latest announcement: “We are seeing increased demand for real-time analytics in industries such as healthcare, financial services, retail, and telecommunications.” With these announcements, Syncsort sees itself delivering the next generation streaming ETL and Internet of Things data integration platform.

Of course, the Syncsort offer should be unnecessary for most z System users except those that are long term Syncsort shops or are enamored of Syncsort’s GUI.  IBM already  offers Spark native on z/OS and Linux on z so there is no additional cost.  BTW, Syncsort itself was just acquired. What happens with its various products remains to be seen.

Still  IBM has been on a 12-year journey to expand mainframe workloads—Linux to Hadoop and Spark and beyond—the company has been urging mainframe shops as fast as fast as possible to become fully engaged in big data, open source, and more. The Syncsort announcements come at a precipitous time; mainframe data centers can more easily participate in the hottest use cases: real-time data analytics, streaming data analytics across diverse data sources, and more at the time when the need for such analytics is increasing.

Apache Spark and some of these other technologies should already be a bit familiar to z System data centers; Apache Kafka will be less familiar. DancingDinosaur noted Spark and others here, when LinuxOne was introduced.

To refresh, Apache Spark consists of a fast engine for large-scale data processing that provides over 80 high-level operators to make it easy to build parallel apps or use them interactively from the Scala, Python, and R shells. It also offers a stack of libraries including SQL and DataFrames, MLlib for machine learning, GraphX, and Spark Streaming. You can combine these libraries seamlessly in the same application.  As noted above Syncsort offers an open source version of the IBM z Systems mainframe connector that makes mainframe data available to the Apache Spark open-source analytics platform.

Spark already has emerged as one of the most active big data open source projects, initially as a fast memory-optimized processing engine for machine learning and now as the single compute platform for all types of workloads including real-time data processing, interactive queries, social graph analysis, and others. Given Spark’s success, there is a growing need to securely access data from a diverse set of sources, including mainframes, and to transform the data into a format that is easily understandable by Spark.

Apache Kafka, essentially an enterprise service bus, is less widely known. Apache Kafka brings a fast, scalable, durable, and fault-tolerant publish-subscribe messaging system. Kafka is often used in place of traditional message brokers like JMS and AMQP because of its higher throughput, reliability and replication. Syncsort has integrated its data integration software with Apache Kafka’s distributed messaging system to enable users to leverage DMX-h’s GUI as part of an effort to subscribe, transform, enrich, and distribute enterprise-wide data for real-time Kafka messaging.

According to Matei Zaharia, creator of Apache Spark and co-founder & CTO of Databricks: “Organizations look to Spark to enable a variety of use cases, including streaming data analytics across diverse data sources”.  He continues: “Syncsort has recognized the importance of Spark in the big data ecosystem for real-time streaming applications and is focused on making it easy to bring diverse data sets into Spark.” IBM certainly recognizes this too, and the z System is the right platform for making all of this happen.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

IBM Power Systems LC Aims to Expand the Power Systems Market

October 8, 2015

IBM is rapidly trying to capitalize on its investment in POWER technology and the OpenPOWER Foundation to expand the POWER franchise. The company is offering up the  Power Systems LC Server family; LC for Linux Community. This addresses how processing will be used in the immediate future; specifically in Hybrid Cloud, Hyperscale Data Centers, and Open Solutions. You could probably throw in IoT and big data/real-time analytics too although those weren’t specifically mentioned in any of the LC announcement materials or briefings.

Linux Community 1 lc server

Courtesy of IBM:  the new Power S822LC (click to enlarge)

The LC Server family  comes with a new IBM go-to-market strategy, as IBM put it: buy servers the way you want to buy them; online with simple pricing and a one-click purchase (coming soon). Your choice of standard configurations or have your configuration customized to meet your unique needs through IBM’s global ecosystem of partners and providers. Same with a selection of service and support options from an array of IBM technology partners.

There appear to be three basic configurations at this point:

  1. Power Systems S812LC: designed for entry and small Hadoop workloads
  2. Power Systems S822LC for Commercial Computing: ideal for data in the cloud and flexible capacity for MSPs
  3. Power Systems S822LC for High Performance Computing: for cluster deployments across a broad range of industries

According to the latest S812LC spec sheet, the IBM 8348 Power System S812LC server with POWER8 processors is optimized for data and Linux. It is designed to deliver superior performance and throughput for high-value Linux workloads such as industry applications, open source, big data, and LAMP.  It incorporates OpenPOWER Foundation innovations for organizations that want the advantages of running their big data, Java, open source, and industry applications on a platform designed and optimized for data and Linux. Modular in design, the Power S812LC is simple to order and can scale from single racks to hundreds.

The Power S812LC server supports one processor socket, offering 8-core 3. 32 GHz or 10-core 2.92 GHz POWER8 configurations in a 19-inch rack-mount, 2U drawer configuration. All the cores are activated. The server provides 32 DIMM memory slots. Memory features supported are 4 GB (#EM5A), 8 GB (#EM5E), 16 GB (#EM5C), and 32 GB (#EM5D), allowing for a maximum system memory of 1024 GB.

The LC Server family will leverage a variety of innovations that have been brought out by various members of the OpenPOWER Foundation over the last few months.  These include innovations from Wistron, redislabs, Tyan, Nvidia, Mellanox, Ubuntu, and Nallatech in the areas of big data, GPU acceleration, HPC, and cloud. And, of course, IBM’s CAPI.

No actual pricing was provided. In response to a question from DancingDinosaur about whether the arrival of products from the OpenPOWER Foundation was driving down Power Systems prices, the response was a curt: “We haven’t seen the drag down,” said an IBM manager. Oh well, so much for an imminent price war over Power Systems.

However, IBM reported today that  based on its own internal testing, a new Power Systems LC server can complete an average of select Apache Spark workloads – including analyzing Twitter feeds, streaming web page views and other data-intensive analytics – for less than half the cost of an Intel E5-2699 V3 processor-based server, providing clients with 2.3x better performance per dollar spent. Additionally, the efficient design of a Power Systems LC server allows for 94% more Spark social media workloads in the same rack space as a comparable Intel-based server.

These new systems are exactly what is needed to make the POWER platform viable over the long term, and it can’t be just an IBM show. With OpenPOWER Foundation members delivering innovations there is no telling what can be done in terms of computing with POWER9 and POWER10 when they come.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

IBM z System After Moore’s Law

October 2, 2015

The last z System that conformed to the expectations of Moore’s Law was the zEC12. IBM could boast that it had the fastest commercial processor available.  The subsequent z13 didn’t match it in processor speed.  The z13 chip runs a 22 nm core at 5 GHz, one-half a GHz slower than the zEC12, which ran its 32nm core at 5.5 GHz. Did you even notice?

third dimension chip

In 2007 an IBM scientist holds a 3-D integrated stacked chip

In 2015, the z13 delivers about a 10 percent performance bump per core thanks to the latest tweaks in the core design, such as better branch prediction and better pipelining. But even one-half a Ghz slower, the z13 was the first system to process 2.5 billion transactions a day.  Even more importantly for enterprise data centers, z13 transactions are persistent, protected, and auditable from end-to-end, adding assurance as mobile transactions grow to an estimated 40 trillion mobile transactions per day by 2025.

IBM clearly isn’t bemoaning the decline of Moore’s Law. In fact, it has been looking beyond silicon for the processing of the future.  This week it announced a major engineering breakthrough that could accelerate carbon nanotubes for the replacement of silicon transistors to power future computing. The breakthrough allows a new way to shrink transistor contacts without reducing the performance of carbon nanotube devices, essentially opening a path to dramatically faster, smaller, and more powerful computer chips beyond the capabilities of traditional semiconductors. Guess we can stop worrying about Moore’s Law.

Without Moore’s Law, IBM optimized just about everything on the z13 that could be optimized. It provides 320 separate channels dedicated to drive I/O throughput as well as such performance goodies as simultaneous multithreading (SMT), symmetric multiprocessing (SMP), and single instruction, multiple data (SIMD). Overall about 600 processors (in addition to your configurable cores) speed and streamline processes throughout the machine. Moore’s Law, in effect, has been bypassed. As much as the industry enjoyed the annual doubling of capacity and corresponding lower price/performance it doesn’t need Moore’s Law to meet today’s insatiable demand for processing power.

The company will be doing similar things with the POWER processor. Today we have the POWER8. Coming is the POWER9 followed by the POWER10. The POWER9 reportedly will arrive in 2017 at 14nm, feature a new micro-architecture, and be optimized with CAPI and NVLINK. POWER10, reportedly, arrives around 2020 optimized for extreme analytics.

As IBM explains its latest breakthrough, carbon nanotubes represent a new class of semiconductor materials that consist of single atomic sheets of carbon rolled up into a tube. The carbon nanotubes form the core of a transistor device whose superior electrical properties promise several generations of technology scaling beyond the physical limits of silicon.

The new processor technology, IBM reports, overcomes a major hurdle that silicon and any other semiconductor transistor technologies face when scaling down. In the transistor, two things scale: the channel and its two contacts. As devices become smaller, the increased contact resistance of carbon nanotubes hindered performance gains. The latest development could overcome contact resistance all the way to the 1.8 nanometer node – four technology generations away.

Carbon nanotube chips could greatly improve the capabilities of high performance computers, enabling, for example, big data to be analyzed faster, increasing the power and battery life of mobile devices, and allowing cloud data centers to deliver services more efficiently and economically. Even cognitive computing and Internet of Things can benefit.

Until now, vendors have be able to shrink the silicon transistors, but they are approaching a point of physical limitation, which is why Moore’s Law is running out of steam. Previously, IBM demonstrated that carbon nanotube transistors can operate as effective switches at channel dimensions of less than ten nanometers. IBM’s new contact approach overcomes the contact resistance by incorporating carbon nanotubes into semiconductor devices, which could result in smaller chips with greater performance and lower power consumption.

As transistors shrink in size, electrical resistance within the contacts increases, which limits performance. To overcome this resistance, IBM researchers gave up traditional contact schemes and created a metallurgical process akin to microscopic welding that chemically binds the metal atoms to the carbon atoms at the ends of nanotubes. This end-bonded contact scheme allows the contacts to be shrunken below 10 nanometers without impacting performance. This brings the industry a step closer to the goal of a carbon nanotube technology within the decade, says IBM.

Let’s hope this works as expected. If not, IBM has other possibilities already in its research labs. DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

IBM Makes a Big Play for the API Economy with StrongLoop

September 25, 2015

APIs have become essential in connecting systems of engagement with the systems of record typically found on the IBM z System. That’s one reason why IBM earlier this month acquired StrongLoop, Inc., a software provider that helps developers connect enterprise applications to mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) and web applications in the cloud mainly through rapidly proliferating and changing APIs.  Take this as a key signal IBM intends to be a force in the emerging API economy. Its goal is to connect existing enterprise apps, data, and SOA services to new channels via APIs.

api economy ibm

Courtesy: (click to enlarge)

Key to the acquisition is StrongLoop’s position as a leading provider of Node.js, a scripting language that has become a favorite among developers needing to build applications using APIs. According to IBM it intends to integrate Node.js capabilities from StrongLoop with its own software portfolio, which already includes MobileFirst and WebSphere, to help organization better use enterprise data and conduct transactions whether in the cloud or on-premises.

These new capabilities, IBM continues, will enable organizations and developers to build scalable APIs, and more easily connect existing back-end enterprise processes with front-end mobile, IoT, and web apps in an open hybrid cloud. Node.js is one of the fastest growing development frameworks for creating and delivering APIs in part due to it similarities with JavaScript. This shortens the learning curve.

Although Node.js is emerging as the standard for APIs and micro-services, APIs still present challenges. These include the lack of an architected approach, limited scalability, multiple languages and point products, limited data connectors, and large, fragile monolithic applications.

Mainframe data centers, in particular, are sitting on proven software assets that beg to be broken out as micro-services to be combined and recombined to create new apps for use in mobile and Web contexts. As IoT ramps up the demand for these APIs and more will skyrocket.  And the mainframe data center will sit at the center of all this, possibly even becoming a revenue generator.

In response, StrongLoop brings API creation and lifecycle support and back end data connectors. It also will integrate with IBM’s API management, creating an API Platform that can enable polyglot run-times, integration, and API performance monitoring. It also will integrate with IBM’s MobileFirst Platform, WebSphere and other products, such as Bluemix, to enable Node across the product portfolio. StrongLoop also brings Arc and its LoopBack framework, which handles everything from API visual modeling to process manager to scale APIs, and a security gateway. Together StrongLoop Arc along with IBM’s API Management can deliver the full API lifecycle. IBM also will incorporate select capabilities from StrongLoop into its IoT Foundation, a topic DancingDinosaur expects to take up in the future.

At the initial StrongLoop acquisition announcement Marie Wieck, general manager, Middleware, IBM Systems, alluded to the data center possibilities, as noted above: “Enterprises are focused on digital transformation to reach new channels, tap new business models, and personalize their engagement with clients. APIs are a critical ingredient.” The fast adoption of Node.js for rapidly creating APIs combined with IBM’s strength in Java and API management on the IBM cloud platform promises a winning strategy.

To make this even more accessible, IBM is adding Node.js to Bluemix, following a summer of enhancements to Bluemix covered here by DancingDinosaur just a few weeks ago. Java remains the leading language for web applications and transaction systems. Combining StrongLoop’s Node.js tools and services with IBM’s WebSphere and Java capabilities will help organizations bridge Java and Node.js development platforms, enabling enterprises to extract greater value from their application investments. Throw in integration on IBM Bluemix and the Java and Node.js communities will gain access to many other IBM and third-party services including access to mobile services, data analytics, and Watson, IBM’s crown cognitive computing jewel.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

IBM Expands Spectrum Storage in the Cloud with Spectrum Protect

September 18, 2015

IBM is targeting storage for hybrid clouds with Spectrum Protect. Specifically, it brings new cloud backup and a new management dashboard aimed to help businesses back up data to on-premises object storage or the cloud without the expense of cloud-gateway appliances. It also enables advanced data placement across all storage types to maximize performance, availability, and cost efficiency. Spectrum Protect represents the latest part of the IBM Spectrum storage family; which provides advanced software defined storage (SDS) storage capabilities and flexible storage either as software, an appliance, or a cloud service.  IBM announced Spectrum Protect at the end of August.

ibm Spectrum Protect Dashboard dino

Courtesy IBM: Spectrum Protect dashboard (click to enlarge)

Introduced early this year, IBM Spectrum brings a family of optimized SDS solutions designed to work together. It offers SDS file, object, and block storage with common management and a consistent user and administrator experience.  Although it is based on IBM’s existing storage hardware products like XIV, Storwize, IBM FlashSystem, and SVC you can deploy it as software on some non IBM hardware too. It also offers support for VMware environments and includes VMware API support for VASA, VAAI, and VMware SRM. With Spectrum, IBM appears to have come up with a winner; over the last six months, IBM reports more than 1,000 new clients have chosen products from the IBM Spectrum Storage portfolio.

Specifically, IBM Spectrum Protect supports IBM Cloud infrastructure today with plans to expand to other public clouds in future. IBM Spectrum Accelerate (XIV block storage) also can be accessed as a service by IBM Cloud customers via the SoftLayer cloud infrastructure. There it allows companies to deploy block storage on SoftLayer without having to buy new storage hardware or manage appliance farm.

In competitive analysis, IBM found that a single IBM Spectrum Protect server performs the work of up to 15 CommVault servers. This means that large enterprises can consolidate backup servers to reduce cost and complexity while managing data growth from mobile, social, and Internet of Things environments.  Furthermore, SMBs can eliminate the need for a slew of infrastructure devices, including additional backup servers, media servers, and deduplication appliances, thereby reducing complexity and cost. Cost analysis with several beta customers, reports IBM, indicates that the enhanced IBM Spectrum Protect software can help clients reduce backup infrastructure costs on average by up to 53 percent.

IBM reports that the Spectrum Storage portfolio can centrally manage more than 300 different storage devices and yottabytes (yotta=1024 bytes) of data.  Its device interoperability is the broadest in the industry – incorporating both IBM and non-IBM hardware and tape systems.  IBM Spectrum Storage can help reduce storage costs up to 90 percent in certain environments by automatically moving data onto the most economical storage device – either from IBM or non-IBM flash, disk, and tape systems.

IBM Spectrum Storage portfolio packages key storage software from conventional IBM storage products. These include IBM Spectrum Accelerate (IBM XIV), Spectrum Virtualize (IBM SAN Volume Controller along with IBM Storwize), Spectrum Scale (IBM General Parallel File System or GPFS technology, previously referred to as Elastic Storage), Spectrum Control (IBM Virtual Storage Center and IBM Storage Insights), Spectrum Protect (Tivoli Storage Manager family) and Spectrum Archive (various IBM tape backup products).

The portfolio is presented as a software-only product and, presumably, you can run it on IBM and some non-IBM storage hardware if you chose. You will have to compare the cost of the software license with the cost of the IBM and non-IBM hardware to decide which gets you the best deal.  It may turn out that running Spectrum Accelerate (XIV) on low cost, generic disks rather than buying a rack of XIV disk to go with it may be the lowest price. But keep in mind that the lowest cost generic disk may not meet your performance or reliability specifications.

IBM reports it also is enhancing the software-only version of IBM Spectrum Accelerate to reduce costs by consolidating storage and compute resources on the same servers. In effect, IBM is making XIV software available with portable licensing across XIV systems, on- premises servers, and cloud environments to offer greater operational flexibility. Bottom line: Possibly a good deal but be prepared to do some detailed comparative cost analysis to identify the best mix of SDS, cloud storage, and hardware at the best price for your particular needs.

In general, however, DancingDinosaur favors almost anything that increases data center configuration and pricing flexibility. With that in mind consider the IBM Spectrum options the next time you plan storage changes. (BTW, DancingDinosaur also does storage and server cost assessments should you want help.)

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.




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