4 ways to view the IBM System zEnterprise

The introduction a few weeks ago of IBM’s newest family mainframes, the zEnterprise System, clearly is not simply the next upgrade of the top-of-the current line, the System z10. IBM was clear to emphasize that this is not a z11.

What follows is an excerpt from a brief report Independent Assessment released the day the zEnterprise was announced. Here is the full report. Beyond the expected boost in performance—the speeds and feeds—the zEnterprise System has the potential to change the way some organizations think about mainframe computing.

The new system also is packed with a rich assortment of features and capabilities that this blog will explore in subsequent case studies and reports. DancingDinosaur interviewed an early zEnterprise adopter who intends to use the new machine as a large-scale Web image and flash video serving machine for online commerce. Not the traditional z workload. Stay tuned

Large organizations can be easily classified as those that have a mainframe computer and those that don’t. For the most part, sales of new mainframes go to organizations that already had a mainframe. The exceptions tend to be in newly developing regions of the world.

Linux consolidation on the System z also proved to be an exception. Companies that needed to consolidate large numbers of distributed Linux servers discovered they often could do better running Linux instances on a System z mainframe. IBM encouraged this by lowering hardware and software costs in such a way that consolidated Linux servers on the mainframe actually were cost-competitive with multiple distributed Linux servers running on commodity processors, especially when the reliability, availability, scalability, manageability, and security of Linux on System z was figured in. Independent Assessment has published case studies of organizations doing exactly this.

Still, in general organizations that don’t use mainframe systems simply don’t even consider them. The introduction of the zEnterprise has the potential to change this. Here are four reasons why some organizations may think differently about the mainframe given the zEnterprise, especially if they are consolidating AIX or Linux machines or considering a private cloud:

  1. zEnterprise breaks the boundaries of the mainframe cabinet—ability to reach beyond the box to UNIX/AIX on POWER7 and x86 blade systems and couple them closely with the z196, allowing end-to-end management of the extended virtual platforms. This requires IBM succeed in making the Unified Resource Manager into a useful virtual cross-platform resource manager.
  2. Potential to change the cost per workload and other costs—the more workloads you run on a shared system, the lower the cost of each workload and, ultimately the greater the overall ROI (assuming each workload delivers a positive ROI). With the z196 and the zBX you can now run z/OS, Linux on z, AIX, and x86 Linux workloads. Additional workloads change the cost equation.
  3. Extension of z/OS management—the Unified Resource Manager extends the span of control of the z196 administrator to workloads on the virtualized POWER7 and x86 blade platforms, enabling organizations to reduce cost of ownership and increase admin efficiency and productivity.
  4. Serious alternative cloud platform—to date the cloud has been considered primarily a commodity x86 server play despite IBM’s isolated forays into the cloud. The z196 and zBX combine to present a viable alternative to the commodity x86 cloud platforms. It should be of particular interest to organizations considering private clouds.

These ways to think about the mainframe seem viable based on what is known of the newly introduced machine at this point. Of course, the extent IBM actually builds out the potential in the zEnterprise design and prices it competitively will greatly impact how viable any of the above becomes, but the potential is there.

Still, don’t expect non-mainframe shops to flock to the zEnterprise. IBM’s revitalized POWER7 server lineup should be pretty compelling for the IBM AIX and Linux crowd, and zEnterprise is unlikely to be a Windows play anytime soon, if ever.

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