IBM is keeping the identities of the initial beta users of the zEnterprise 196 machines a better guarded secret than the details of the new machine, which were splashed all over the Internet weeks before the late July announcement. It is not hard to describe who these early adopters will most likely be although you might be as surprised as I was when I finally tracked one down and talked with him.
Just based on the capabilities of the new machine, its pedigree, and its cost, which will start somewhere north of $1 million (although everything is negotiable), you can guess who they are: very large enterprises, mainframe shops for sure but also heterogeneous with large AIX, UNIX, and Linux deployments.
Most will go to the z196 for its substantially greater speeds and feeds just as they would go to the next rev of the z10, a z11 so to speak. They won’t care, at least at first, about innovations like cross platform management and the extension cabinet to be packed with blades that are still months away from being shipped anyway.
Shops with large POWER Systems deployments might have been good candidates for the zEnterprise, but unless they already have a System z and are thinking about a consolidation play it doesn’t make much sense. IBM has boosted its POWER Systems server lineup over the past six months with the latest POWER7 announcement just last week.
In terms of speeds and feeds the new POWER7 machines also are impressive enterprise servers. POWER Systems shops probably don’t need a z196 for performance; they can get the performance they need from the new POWER7 servers and for less money.
Similarly, x86 shops that run large numbers of virtualized Linux servers on commodity x86 boxes and blades probably won’t go to the zEnterprise despite the promise to support Linux on IBM’s x86 blades (anticipated arrival not until well into 2011). Unless these shops already use IBM x86 Linux blades or have a System z and want to consolidate everything, maybe as part of a private cloud play, it just doesn’t seem likely.
So who would have thought that a large Web-based retailer would be an early adopter? And the main reason that retailer wants the z196 is to serve images and flash videos to customers surfing their websites. The z196 as an image and video server; who would have guessed?
But that is exactly what UK-based JD Williams, part of the N. Brown Group, plans to do. The company operates over 50 online commerce websites. They had a couple of z9 machines. In the last couple of months they upgraded one z9 to a z10 and are replacing the other with the z196.
The z10 handles the traditional business and back-end e-commerce transaction processing. For that they run the z10 with z/OS, CICS, DB2, and other traditional mainframe business applications.
The z196 is going to run Java, SUSE Linux, WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere MQ, DB2, and z/OS. The retailer also is packing the box with as many as 9 specialty processors, a mix of IFLs, zIIPs, and zAAPs. The company will be starting the z196 as a 2-book system, 32 processors, which is fewer z/OS MIPS than they had previously but not fewer overall MIPS. The many specialty processors more than make up the processing power while minimizing software costs.
Watch for a more detailed case study from Independent Assessment and progress updates here as I follow this deployment beginning this fall. If you know of other zEnterprise early adopters please let me know.