IBM z196/zBX Enterprise Hosting

Two years ago, mainframes were literally and figuratively being pushed out of Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) in favor of distributed systems running various operating systems. Then the zEnterprise arrived. The DND mainframe team saw in the z196 and zBX a way to consolidate and centrally manage these myriad platforms as the core of a multi-platform, mainframe-based enterprise hosting strategy.

As a result, DND’s mainframe support section received funding that allowed for unprecedented mainframe growth, including virtualized Linux, model upgrades, increased redundancy, and the purchase of the first of several of the latest mainframes. The DND received a new IBM zEnterprise 196 (z196) and is expecting a zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX) imminently. In addition, it expects before the end of this year to order two more z196 machines and two zBX devices as the mainframe team upgrades its two existing System z10 machines. Check out Independent Assessment’s DND case study here.

In an industry where you still hear a lot of talk about getting rid of the mainframe, how did the mainframe team not only save but extend the platform?  In a large organization with a variety of platforms, competing IT agendas, and a history of diffuse control, the combination of a solid business case backed by a successful proof of concept (POC), years of demonstrated mainframe reliability, and a mainframe team leader with bona fide Wintel credentials did the trick.

The initial DND workload for the z196 is business recovery, which was being handled by a third party.  The DND, however, quickly expects to expand the z196 workloads, especially as subsequent machines arrive, for dev and test and then to various production workloads. With the zBX, the team can include AIX and Intel workloads.

All these operating systems and platform have their advocates at DND. The mainframe team expected resistance and overcame it by setting up a POC around Oracle running with Linux on z.  It picked an Oracle application—enterprise IT service management (ITSM)—that benefits from an abundance of processing horsepower. By running it on the z10 EC with additional IFLs, the mainframe team was able to demonstrate superior mainframe performance. Based on the results of the POC, the team built a compelling business case emphasizing the dramatic licensing cost savings. With the strong support of management, the mainframe group prevailed.

One successful POC, however, may not be enough to overcome resistance to the mainframe from the distributed IT ranks. The zEnterprise used for multi-platform enterprise hosting is very threatening to those with careers invested in other platforms. The we-can-do-it-cheaper-on-z claim can be a powerful argument, but mainframe managers still have to address the real threats these people feel to their livelihoods. Here are three strategies to try:

  1. Continue to manage/administer their applications as before—the mainframe is only managing the virtualized hosted platform the apps run on.
  2. AIX, Linux, Power, and x-based skills continue to be valuable—those operating systems and platforms remain viable and active in the enterprise as do the applications running on them.
  3. Dump platform headaches on the mainframe—the z team will manage the platforms while the platform specialists still get to do the rewarding work with the applications and workloads but without platform worries.

…and if some of the cost savings are shared with these groups, so much the better.

DND demonstrates that multi-platform enterprise hosting through the mainframe not only is feasible but preferable.

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