New workloads for the IBM z196

If you hang around IBM conferences very long you will hear the term “new workloads” repeated so often it sounds like a mantra. The new z196, we are told repeatedly, enables new workloads. IBM especially loves to talk about the idea of new workloads for the z196. You can find examples of it here and a video here.

New workloads are the mainframe future. DancingDinosaur frequently writes about new workloads and uncovers customers running new workloads, like JD Williams, the big UK online retailer that does image and video serving through its z196. It received the machine in mid October and had it in production by early November, just in time for the peak holiday shopping season.

Using the z for image and video serving clearly qualifies as a new workload. But that’s really not what IBM generally means when it talks about new workloads.

Some of the workloads IBM refers to may sound familiar to typical mainframe shops: transactional processing, databases, OLTP, and batch. But IBM also talks about business applications and web infrastructure, which may not be as common, and analytics and highly computational workloads. These, too, may not be as familiar. JD Williams falls into the web infrastructure category.

It is not even necessary that the new workloads be radically different from what mainframe data centers have done before. Just the speed and power of the z196 and the additional horsepower that can be packed into the new zBX extension cabinet in the form of optimizers enable the organization to run these workloads bigger and faster and in ways that were not possible before. At some point they become truly new workloads doing things not previously possible.

Metering is one frequently cited example. Utilities have long been able to use the mainframe to gather and process data from meters. They now can collect this data much more frequently from many more meters and analyze the results faster—in near real-time—and in new ways that will enable them to, say, dynamically balance the demand or route energy more efficiently.

Instrumentation, often cited in relation to IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative, is another new workload. Organizations can use the z196 to instrument more, collect more data faster and more frequently and, most importantly, perform deeper and different analyses of the results pouring in. There also is the potential for streaming analytics of instrument data feeds.

The hybrid nature of the z196/zBX also enables organizations to expand the types of workloads.  Pretty soon the AIX blades will be shipping. IBM does not expect wholesale migration of AIX workloads to the zBX but some workloads that benefit from z management QoS or tight integration with z resources or data are top candidates.

The same can be said for the wide variety of Java, WebSphere, and Linux workloads.  Some already run on the z, such as Cognos BI. Expect the numbers to slowly increase as organizations feel out which workloads can benefit from the integration with other z resources and data, with z QoS as provided through the Unified Resource Manager, or from the sheer power of the z196.

DancingDinosaur has long covered and will continue to cover new mainframe workloads, everything from Web 2.0 and Domino on the z to the latest workloads appearing on the z196.  But before z data center managers can add new workloads they will need to be prepared to sell any idea of new workloads to their organizations. Upcoming posts will address that preparation.


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