New zEnterprise Developments

After telegraphing the arrival of x86 blades running Windows for months (previously reported back in January on Dancingdinosaur here), Doris Conti, System z Marketing, made it official last week announcing Windows blades for the z running in the zBX. That was just one piece of a slew of zEnterprise-related announcements Conti made when briefing analysts the day prior to the official Oct. 12 announcement.

At the same time, IBM revealed a few more details about the zBX, which still seems to continue to run in stealth mode although IBM publicly announced it when it introduced the z196. To date Conti reported over 80 zBX units shipped and over 400 blades sold to more than 60 clients. IBM says there is nothing proprietary in the zBX and its blades so it is pricing the components to be competitive with standard industry blade center pricing.

Conti also announced a zEnterprise Starter Edition for the Cloud, which will provide a fast and lower cost way to jump start a private cloud based on the zEnterprise. The product delivers an entry-level Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) delivery capability for Linux on System z in conjunction with Tivoli Provisioning Manager.

Private clouds are emerging as the preferred flavor of cloud computing for enterprises of all sizes. Top management prefers private clouds for their perceived better security and for the apparent control they allow.  Many mainframe data centers consider that they have long delivered private cloud capabilities, and with the hybrid zEnterprise the idea of a multi-platform private cloud certainly is much closer to a reality. If you’ve been thinking of a private cloud, the zEnterprise Starter Edition for the Cloud, possibly combined with a z114 Solution Edition Cloud Starter system could be a good way to get there fast and at a discounted price.

IBM also confirmed to Dancingdinosaur that the existing System z Solution Edition discounts also would be made available for the z196 and z114 with the appropriate adjustments. Besides the Cloud Starter Solution Edition referenced above, there are Solution Editions for Enterprise Linux Consolidation, Web Sphere, SAP, Application Development, and more. Now that Cognos is available on z/OS  don’t be surprised to see a Solution Edition for BI with Cognos, either running on z/OS or Linux on z.

The real question is what new workloads will the zEnterprise enable in practice. Certainly a prime candidate is server consolidation. Linux server consolidation already is a proven workload. It remains to be seen which Windows applications get moved to zBX Windows blades. Enterprises will likely pick and choose among Windows workloads. The initial workloads will probably be those that will benefit from close proximity to DB2 data residing on the z196 or z114. The same could probably be said for the initial AIX workloads heading to Power blades.

IBM does not foresee massive consolidation of distributed servers on the zEnterprise; rather companies will use tuned-for-task/fit-for-purpose analyses to select the best prospective workloads. The exception being distributed Linux workloads; a z196 can handle more than a thousand Linux virtual machines. And already there is an Enterprise Linux Solution Edition program for such massive consolidation on z.

The push for new workloads on the z seems to be gaining traction. In 2Q11 IBM reported SAP revenue up 54% year to year, installed IFL MIPS up 26% (total clients running Linux on z up 34%), total clients running WebSphere App Server up 21%, and Cognos revenue growth up 131%. Overall, the z has attracted 68 new IT shops since 3Q10.

IBM also announced some other goodies. Particularly attractive are APIs for the Unified Resource Manager that will enable the integration of the cross platform manager with the broader set of management tools while providing programmatic access to the same functions currently accessed through the hardware management console.

z/VM 6.2 sports an improved Live Guest Relocation (LGR), the ability to move Linux virtual machines without disruption. It also adds the ability to cluster z/VM, allowing up to four z/VM instances to be clustered as a single system image. In addition, you can scale up to four systems horizontally, even on mixed hardware generations. z/VM has long been the best hypervisor of all that are out there, but it is only starting to get any respect. Observed the information services VP at Baldor, “z/VM’s LGR is the very best z/VM software enhancement since 64-bit support became available.”

Other announcements last week addressed a wide range of software issues from data analytics to storage management to Notes, which has emerged as a key social networking product for IBM. Dancingdinosaur will take those up another time.

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