Since IBM introduced hybrid computing and the zEnterprise in 2010, adoption has been slow, to say the least. In November IBM announced a couple of new hybrid computing users.
At a recent analyst briefing, IBM reported about 80 zBX sales. Given the thousands of active mainframe shops in the world this represents very slow adoption at best. IBM managers insist adoption takes time, and they point to Linux on z, which took 10 years to surpass adoption by one-third of the mainframe shops. (BTW, DancingDinosaur has long argued that Linux saved the mainframe.)
The comparison to Linux on z is valid. And like Linux on z, hybrid computing raises a number of cultural, organizational, and political issues for enterprise IT. Nobody wants to trigger platform turf war.
DancingDinosaur has been talking with data center managers about zBX adoption since it was introduced. For some, the issue is cost. For others, the issue is the lack of a compelling use case.
EUROCONTROL, the European air traffic control organization, has found a convincing reason for zEnterprise hybrid computing in cost efficiency and performance. “I want to run each application where we get the lowest cost and the best performance,” says Huub Meertens, head of the Support Engineering Section of EUROCONTROL, the European air traffic management organization located at Maastricht, The Netherlands. The organization runs a mix of System z, RISC, and x86 servers.
The organization had assembled what it considered an effective platform for its applications and tools to control the air traffic in the Benelux and north-west Germany area. The organization divided its workloads into mission-critical air traffic control and administrative and support systems and began a consolidation effort. The administrative systems, specifically Linux systems, were the target for the initial consolidation phase.
An in-depth study focusing on reliability, functionality, flexibility, migration, management and cost of ownership showed that the heterogeneous and fully virtual zEnterprise hybrid environment would be the best fit. This option scored particularly well in terms of reliability, flexibility, management, and cost.
The new environment would consolidate six mainframes and 20 RISC servers down to three IBM System z servers running Linux. The IT group deployed the z196, zBX, 6 x-blades, and 1 p-blade. IBM handled the initial installation but the EUROCONTROL team handled the linking of the zEnterprise to its network. The zBX simply extended their network and immediately became a part of it. They turned on the Unified Resource Manager, which was a primary reason they went the hybrid route.
The ability to manage the consolidated environment from one console already has proven advantageous. In a cost comparison of multiple options, a virtualized x86 option and the fully virtualized hybrid platform running x86 and zEnterprise, turned out to have comparable costs when running 60 Linux instances. The new zEnterprise hybrid environment (z196, zBX, x-blades) running 100 Linux instances, however, delivers more than a 20% cost advantage. And, the more apps they run, Meertens concluded, the greater the zEnterprise advantage. Also, the fully virtualized environment is proving to be more flexible and better at meeting their requirements for safety, capacity, availability, floor space, and energy usage at minimized costs.
Meertens also reports that the HX5 blades the organization deploys achieve the same performance in the zBX as they do in a stand-alone Blade Center. Their zEnterprise environment currently runs only Linux applications. Previously the Linux apps, mainly Oracle, ran on z10 with Linux engines and on distributed Intel servers. At that time the workload performance for Oracle apps was better on the Intel platform, but the Oracle licensing structure was more advantageous running on Linux on System z. Today, the Oracle apps on the z196 outperform the Intel blade, Meertens reports.
All EUROCONTROL’S Windows workloads currently run on conventional Windows servers with VMware. In 1Q 2012 the organization plans to pilot Windows on x86 blades in the zBX.
Watch Mainframe Executive (March/April issue) for a more detailed piece on the EUROCONTROL experience. DancingDinosaur will continue to follow the Windows HX5 blade pilot.