CA Technologies (formerly known as CA and before that Computer Associates) and BMC each introduced new System z tools. Might be odd timing now, just months before IBM’s widely expected rev of the System z itself, but May is a nice month for big users conferences from which these kinds of announcements typically emerge.
The CA announcements focus on mainframe software management and database management for DB2 for z/OS. BMC announced zIIP support for some of its DB2 management tools. Both announcements will lead to cost reductions.
The most interesting of the new CA announcements is the release of Mainframe Software Manager, v3. It adds a GUI interface, which, as has been written about here previously, improves mainframe management productivity. It also provides wizards, guided workflows in CA-speak, amounting to the equivalent of Install Shield for mainframes. DancingDinosaur has been cheerleading the adoption of GUIs for the System z as essential for cultivating the next generation of System z staff and lowering cost so this is welcome news.
To bolster database management CA also introduced CA Mainframe Chorus, described as a graphical workspace. CA refers to it as role-based, interactive visualization that integrates features across multiple products and disciplines for the purpose of facilitating collaboration and knowledge sharing between expert and novice mainframe staff.
You can build an attractive business case for GUI-based mainframe tools based on increased admin and operator productivity and the opportunity to use less skilled (meaning lower paid) people. Better yet, the ability to take advantage of System z assist processors (zIIP, zAAP, and IFL) provides an immediate payback by shifting workloads off the z’s general processor. This brings immediate licensing cost advantages.
BMC’s new DB2 for z/OS products take advantage of IBM’s zIIP, enabling mainframe shops to move more of their DB2 workloads to the lower-cost processors, effectively reducing mainframe operational costs. As BMC describes it, “this new zIIP offloading capability, along with previously-introduced BMC MainView zIIP exploitation efforts represent a significant step to reduce the costs of MIPS” (Million Instructions per Second). MIPS are considered a primary cost driver in mainframe environments.
BMC takes particular pains to note that this approach has been blessed by IBM. “We use the IBM-approved API,” noted Jay Lipovich, BMC director of mainframe product development. The company clearly does not want its use of the assist processor to be confused with NEON’s zPrime, which allows workloads not blessed by IBM to run on assist processors. NEON currently is entangled in lawsuits and counter-lawsuits with IBM.
One BMC customer reports offloading 30% of its MainView workload to the zIIP environment. As BMC reports: hardware plus software costs for a zIIP processor run $150 to $200 per MIPS compared with $2,200 to $3,400 for a general purpose processor. In addition, BMC’s recent global mainframe survey found mainframe capacity has continued to grow, which puts more pressure on the budgets of organizations that rely on the mainframe. In large shops with more than 10,000 MIPS, more than 47 percent of survey respondents said MIPS utilization is a top priority.
Mainframe computing often is more expensive than it need be. Yet there are ways to substantially cut mainframe computing costs. The use of assist processors and GUI tools represent an easy way to start doing just that.