IT pundits continue to argue that the System z is a dinosaur heading to extinction (hence the title of this blog, dancingdinosaur). The Register, a UK publication, implied that in a recent article about the System z unable to compete on price/performance against the latest Intel Nehalem processors discussed here in September. Several mainstream business and IT publications said the same thing in articles citing the Union Pacific Railroad’s slow, painstaking, and not yet completed migration from the System z to servers running commodity processors.
The truth: the System z ain’t heading for extinction. Even Union Pacific may never get its critical workloads off the z. And if it does, that migration may signal its last stumbling steps toward its own extinction.
A number of recent studies from CA (reported here previously), BMC, and IDC, a source with no more stake in the z than in any other platform, all point to the System z weathering the current economic turmoil and to signs for a brighter future going forward.
The latest survey by BMC, the fourth in the past four years, shows the System z chugging right along with 56% of respondents expecting to increase their MIPS, and this came despite a declared priority to reduce overall MIPS growth, typically as part of a consolidation and cost savings strategies. Seventy-five percent of larger mainframe shops expect to increase MIPS.
A very small number of shops (11%) reported plans to consider leaving the System z altogether, but these generally were small shops whose workloads may indeed be better suited to other platforms. A slightly large number of shops (12%) reported plans to consolidate more workloads on the mainframe. Most (77%) expect to keep their workloads right where they are.
More significant findings have come recently from IDC (International Data Corp., Framingham, MA), which is a platform neutral IT research firm, unlike CA or BMC, which have vested interests in mainframe growth. As reported by Reuters in mid-September nearly one-half of 300 survey respondents reported plans to increase annual spending on mainframe hardware and software.
The IDC study describes the emergence of a blended workload approach for the z. According to Jean S. Bozman, research vice president with IDC’s Enterprise Platforms Group: “Customers are finding that new workloads, including Linux-based and Java-based workloads, can leverage the mainframe’s built-in security and high levels of availability, by running them on mainframe specialty processors, such as the IFL, zIIP and zAAP processors. This pattern of adoption is placing software licensing costs on a lower price schedule for these new workloads than if they were running natively on the IBM System z hardware platform.”
This ability to shift workloads to specialty processors is the key to significant savings in software licensing costs. And the number of workloads organizations can shift to the z is poised to increase dramatically if Neon’s zPrime gains traction. zPrime enables companies to run IMS, DB2, CICS and batch legacy applications on specialty processors, thereby reducing mainframe computing costs by as much as 20%, according to Neon. (Dancingdinosaur will have more on zPrime in upcoming postings.)
As note previously here, with OpenSolaris on z and .NET applications via Mono there is the possibility of greatly increasing the workloads able to run on the z, making it an increasingly cost-efficient platform. Add in the cost savings possible through running a growing assortment of applications on specialty processors and the z doesn’t look at all like a platform heading for extinction.