Will the zEnterprise run Windows is a question IBM has been asked repeatedly starting almost as soon as the machine was introduced last summer, even before. It is a fair question given that the zEnterprise will support IBM x86 blades through the zBX extension cabinet, and Microsoft Windows runs on the x86 processor.
Here is the response of IBM’s Alan Altmark on July 22. to the Windows question.
Q: Will the zEnterprise System support for Microsoft Windows or IBM iOS operating systems?
A: No, Windows [and] iOS are not supported at this time. IBM will initially support AIX, Linux on System x (SOD available 1H 2011) and optimizers through the zBX. Support for additional operating systems will be evaluated over time based on demand from our clients.
DancingDinosaur also asked various IBMers the same question and got pretty much the same response: There is no technical reason the zEnterprise cannot run Windows; we’ll get to it if there is customer demand.
Will the z run Windows might not be the right question. Maybe the more important question is this: SHOULD organizations run Windows on the z? Is there a compelling business case for doing so?
Running Windows on the z will vastly increase the number of workloads organizations could run on the machine, and DancingDinosaur always welcomes new mainframe workloads. From that standpoint, it’s a no-brainer.
Licensing and pricing details of Windows on z aside, one could argue a solid business case for consolidating Windows server workloads on the z. Using Linux server consolidation on z as a guide, organizations should be able to consolidate hundreds if not thousands of virtual Windows servers on a single z. The organization would capture the savings from massive consolidation as well as achieve z levels of RAS compared to what they typically can achieve today with distributed x86 servers. (You can achieve high levels of RAS in the distributed world, but it doesn’t come cheap or easy.)
Although the business case may be advantageous, there is a political problem organizations will have to confront. Simply put, the chances are very high that any proposal to consolidate Windows apps on the z would encounter bitter resistance. Most organizations with mainframes also support distributed platforms. Data center managers already report resistance to consolidating distributed Linux severs on the mainframe. Just imagine the resistance from the Windows camp.
There are other considerations as well. To start, not every Windows server workload needs the capabilities the z brings. Some small Windows workgroup apps might not even be worth z MIPS.
The x86 blades for the zBX aren’t expected until sometime in the first half of 2011. After that there will be plenty of time to start advocating for Windows on z. Just be ready for an epic battle.