Welcome to the IBM System zEnterprise

After dropping hints for over a year about a new mainframe, the successor of the System z10, IBM announced the new machine today and it is not the z11. Instead, it will be part of the IBM zEnterprise System, of which the first machine is dubbed the zEnterprise196 or z196 for short. The z196 comes in five models, the M15, M32, M49, M66, and M80. The M80, an 80-way beast, delivers a 60% capacity increase and a 40% performance boost over the top z10 within the same footprint and using the same energy. Linux performance is even better, up 60%.

As for speeds and feeds, the new machine comes for a 5.2GHz superscalar processor. It packs up to 96 cores, of which 80 can be configured for client use. It handles up to 3TB of memory, which IBM labels RAIM (Redundant Array of Independent Memory), provides 1.5MB L2 Cache per core, and 24MB L3 Cache per processor chip. That’s twice as much on-chip cache as the System z10, which should boost data serving. It also allows out-of-order execution, which will speed compute-intensive application performance. Finally it handles data compression and cryptographic processing on the chip.

Until now all IBM would say about the new machine was that it would be a hybrid mainframe. Huh? By hybrid, IBM was signaling that it is cross-platform. It turns out that hybrid means the zEnterprise can extend mainframe QoS to selective IBM platforms, mainly the POWER7 and IBM x86 blades.

The hybrid-ness takes the form of an extension cabinet, the zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX), which connects to the zEnterprise to as many as four shareable racks for a total capacity of 112 blades configured for high availability. It provides a 10Gb Ethernet connection to the data. A private network connects the z196 and the zBX, which isolates it from traffic on user networks. The entire combination can be managed through the System z Hardware Management Console.

Running on the zBX extension might blades running Linux on System x and/or AIX on POWER7 along with a couple of IBM optimizers, specifically a DataPower appliance and Smart Analytics Optimizer to start with IBM promising more in the future.  However, if you are popping System x (x86) blades into the box, might you also consider running Windows or .NET applications in the future. So, can you consolidate a bunch of those precarious Windows servers on the zBX and manage it as part of the z196 with all the traditional reliability, availability, security, performance, and QoS associated with the mainframe. At a recent briefing IBM did NOT rule out this possibility. The System x blades apparently are not expected until the first half of 2011.

The System z Hardware Management Console will be equipped with what IBM is touting as one of the biggest differentiators for the zEnterprise, its new Unified Resource Manager. With this, the zEnterprise becomes what IBM refers to as the system of systems. An administrator working through the Unified Resource Manager—which more aptly should considered an integrated virtual hardware platform manager—can manage the server, storage, and network resources running on the z196 and the Power, and x86 blade components on the zBX as System z virtual platform resources.

It was not clear at the initial zEnterprise briefings what specifically an administrator working through the new Unified Resource Manager can actually do or how easily. Can the administrator only see what’s happening or can he/she take real actions? This has very interesting implications, which DancingDinosaur will take up next week when it looks at the winners and losers from the zEnterprise introduction.

The z196 is an enterprise-class machine. Smaller and cheaper business-class versions will likely arrive next year. IBM also says it will work the z196 into System z Solution Edition configurations in the future. Watch DancingDinosaur as the zEnterprise platform evolves.

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