The zEnterprise 196 clearly is a big deal in the System z mainframe world. Last week at IBM System z University in Boston I encountered a number of corporate mainframers whose organizations were awaiting delivery of their first z196 or were planning to put in their requests this year. No surprise there.
The z196 has been touted as the first hybrid mainframe, meaning that it can extend beyond the mainframe cabinet to closely interact with other platforms, namely AIX and Linux (and probably Windows) on POWER7 and x86 blades. In contrast to the enthusiasm over the new machine among the mainframe crowd it appears to be a decidedly ho-hum event in the POWER7 and AIX world. AIX is IBM’s enterprise UNIX running primarily on POWER7 platform, which was upgraded and optimized earlier this past spring. You can check out IBM POWER7/AIX here.
Not only, does it seem, that the AIX folks aren’t interested in any hybrid mainframe that incorporates AIX, they are downright hostile. From discussions with numerous IT managers at large heterogeneous mainframe shops—ones with hundreds if not many thousands of AIX systems—their AIX counterparts want nothing to do with the zEnterprise, the z196, or the zBX, the extension cabinet in which all the AIX, Linux, and, eventually, Windows blades would live.
This shouldn’t be too surprising. The AIX crowd hasn’t been happy campers for 10 years, when IBM went big for Linux, an open source version on UNIX. Sure, they have a slick, highly optimized hot platform based on the POWER7 processor but that apparently isn’t enough. AIX managers years ago, it seems, circled the proverbial wagons and are going to cling to every AIX machine.
Once the POWER7 blade pricing for the zBX and the performance metrics become known, one will probably be able to construct a compelling ROI case based on consolidating AIX applications on z196 POWER7 blades. One analyst at last week’s System z event even declared that when the numbers prove the cost and performance advantages it will happen. Don’t bet on it happening anytime soon. There are many ways to dispute even the best ROI and TCO numbers.
Part of the fear may revolve around the Unified Resource Manager, a cross virtual platform management tool. It will be able to manage POWER7 and x86 blades in the zBX but only at the virtual platform level. If you want to know what’s actually going on at the system and application level you will still need, at least initially, the AIX managers and their tools. Somehow I doubt that will be enough to convince them to join the z196/zBX party.
Change is difficult. The zEnterprise with the z196 and the zBX represents big change, a fundamental change in how organizations could design and plan their IT infrastructure and the role of different platforms. Many people will see their vested interests threatened as they learn more about the changes that will be possible. The ensuing corporate infighting won’t be pretty.