Many mainframe veterans think the System z has long acted as a private cloud, at least since SOA appeared on the System z, allowing users to access data and logic residing on the System z through nothing more than their browser. And they are right.
The distributed world, unlike the mainframe world, sees private clouds as something new and radical because it is not straightforward there to virtualize, service-enable, and integrate all the piece parts that make up a private cloud. The System z learned these tricks years ago, and the zEnterprise with x86 and p-blades in an attached zBX makes it even easier.
With the z114 and the System z Solution Edition for Cloud Computing program a mainframe-based private cloud becomes that much less expensive to acquire, especially since most of the piece parts already are included and optimized from the start. The System z Solution Edition for Cloud includes the z hardware, Tivoli software, and IBM services to deliver the foundation for the private cloud.
A private cloud, whether distributed or mainframe-based, does not come cheap. The payback, however, still is there; it just comes in a different form. The private cloud restructures IT around a services delivery model. Applications and users tap IT-based data and business logic as services. Cost savings are generated from the ensuing operational efficiency enabled through the standardization, automation and virtualization of IT services. When the organization progresses to the point where users can self-provision and self-configure the needed IT services through private cloud automation and management, the real efficiencies kick in.
According to IDC many of today’s private cloud business cases are being anchored by savings from application rationalization and IT staff productivity improvements in addition to expected optimization of hardware assets. But unlike the public cloud, which promises to shift IT spending from CAPEX to OPEX, private clouds actually drive increases in CAPEX since the organization is likely to invest in new hardware and software optimized for virtualized cloud services delivery and management automation.
With a mainframe private cloud, much of the investment in virtualized, optimized, and integrated hardware assets has already been made. The private cloud initially becomes more of an exercise in partitioning and reallocating those assets as a private cloud. Still, given the appeal of the IT services model, it is likely that the organization will boost its hardware assets to accommodate increasing demand and new services.
The greatest ROI of the private cloud, whether mainframe-based or distributed, comes from the business agility it enables. The virtualized pool of IT resources that makes up the private cloud can be easily reallocated as services to meet changing business needs. Instead of requiring weeks if not months to assemble and deploy the IT hardware and software resources necessary to support a new business initiative, those resources can be allocated from the pooled virtual resources in minutes or hours (provided, of course, sufficient resources are available). With a private cloud you can, in effect, change the business almost on-the-fly and with no additional investment.
As CIO, how are you going to put a value on this sudden agility? If it lets the organization effectively counter competitive challenges, seize new business opportunities, or satisfy new customer demands it could deliver astounding value. It all depends on the business leadership. If they aren’t terribly agile thinkers, however, the value might be minimal.
Other benefits from a private cloud include increased IT productivity and efficiency, the ability of business users to self-provision the desired IT resources (with appropriate policy-based automation controlling the provisioning behind the scenes), and an increased ability to monitor and measure IT consumption for purposes of chargeback or, as is more likely, show back. Such monitoring and measurement of IT consumption has long been a hallmark of the mainframe, whether a private cloud or not.
Even with a mainframe-based private cloud the organization will likely make additional investments, particularly in management automation to ensure efficient service delivery, monitoring, measurement, chargeback, self-provisioning, and orchestration. IBM Tivoli along with other mainframe ISVs like CA and BMC provide tools to do this.
In the end, the value of private cloud agility when matched with agile thinking business leadership should more than offset the additional investments required. And with a zEnterprise-based private hybrid cloud, which comes highly virtualized already, you have a head start on any distributed private cloud.