Pay for mainframe modernization with green dollars

Can you pay for modernizing your System z with green dollars? That would mean taking the money you can save through System z-based green computing and using it to modernize your mainframe.

Mainframe modernization is a hot topic these days, and everybody wants to get into the game. IBM,  of course, is happy to beat this drum. So is CA and Oracle.

Even Microsoft has a mainframe modernization story and has produced a blizzard of white papers on how to do it.  The papers address everything from power and energy analysis to transaction processing to disaster recovery. My favorite is titled A Comparison Between IBM CICS RACF Security and Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Security, which fails to even mention virus attacks, a non-event on the System z but a never-ending headache in the Windows environment.

This may not exactly be the premise IBM’s David Anderson had in mind when he briefed analysts on the System z green advantages and TCO.  The point he wanted to make—and made pretty compellingly—was that consolidating and virtualizing workloads on the System z produces substantial energy savings compared to what it would cost to run those workloads on a distributed x86-based platform, with or without virtualization.

In one example, according to Anderson’s calculations, an organization running a particular Oracle workload on an HP platform requiring 280 processors would cost $26 million over three years. The equivalent workload running on DB2 on a System z10 would require five processors (delivering 3,900 MIPS) and cost $19 million over the same time period.

In another example, the Oracle-HP combination would require 560 processors and cost $59 million. The equivalent System z running DB2 would require seven processors and cost $23 million.

The bottom line for Anderson: more cores (processors) mean more servers and software licenses and storage and data center infrastructure and people, which all cost money. Combine that with the historic low utilization, especially compared to the System z, and you’ll find as much as a three times overall cost difference. In terms of energy costs and energy efficiency, he calculates the System z is four times better than a distributed x86-based platform.

Running workloads on the System z reduces IT energy consumption by 75%, according to Anderson’s research. That’s where the big payoff comes from. However, Anderson bases his comparisons on the latest System z10 and taking full advantage of IFLs and virtualized Linux workloads. For many System z shops, that’s the catch.

To cash in on these green savings, they have to modernize their System z infrastructure. They must move off older machines and add IFLs to consolidate and virtualize distributed workloads. Although IBM is taking steps to reduce the expense of modernizing a System z, like discounting IFLs, it still ain’t free. There remains a serious investment involved.

But hardware modernization is only part of mainframe modernization. Software modernization, the other part, may be even more important but may not offer such a direct payback. This is something I’ll to take up later.

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