IBM has been positioning the System z for a key role in data analysis. To that end, it acquired SPSS and Cognos and made sure they ran on the z. More recently, growing interest in Big Data and real-time data analytics only affirm IBM’s belief that as far as data analytics goes the zEnterprise is poised to take the spotlight. This is not completely new; DancingDinosaur addressed it in October 2009.
Over the last several decades people would laugh if you suggested a mainframe for data analysis beyond the standard canned system reporting. For ad-hoc querying, multi-dimensional analysis, and data visualization you needed distributed systems running a variety of specialized GUI tools. In addition, you’d want a small army of business analysts, PhDs, and various quants to handle the heavy lifting. The resulting queries could take days to run.
In a recent analyst briefing, Alan Meyer, senior manager for Data Warehousing on z, built the case for a different style of data analysis on the zEnterprise. He drew a picture of companies needing to make better informed decisions at the point of engagement while applications and business users are demanding the latest data faster than ever. At the same time there is no letup in pressure to lower cost, reduce complexity, and improve efficiency.
So what’s stopping companies from doing near real-time analytics and the big data thing? The culprits, according to Meyer, are duplicate data infrastructures, the complexity of integrating multiple IT environments, insufficient and inconsistent security, and insufficient processing power, especially when having to handle large volumes of data fast. The old approach clearly is too slow and costly.
The zEnterprise, it turns out, is the ideal vehicle for today’s demanding analytics. It is architected for on-demand processing through pre-installed capacity paid for only when activated and while adding processors, disk, and memory without taking the system offline. Virtualized top to bottom, the zEnterprise delivers the desired isolation while prioritization controls lets you define critical queries and workloads. Its industry-leading processors ensure the most complex queries run fast, and low latency enables near real-time analysis. Finally, multiple deployment options means you can start with a low-end z114 and grow through a fully configured z196 combined with a zBX loaded with blades, especially the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator (IDAA), a revamped version on the Smart Analytics Optimizer.
Last October IBM unveiled the IDAA and a host of other analytics tools under the smarter computing banner. But the IDAA is the zEnterprise’s analytic jewel. There IDAA incorporates Netezza, which speeds complex analytics through in-memory processing and a highly intelligent query optimizer. When run in conjunction with DB2 on the z, the results can be astonishing, with queries that normally require a few hours completed in just a few seconds, 1000 times faster according to some early users.
Netezza, when deployed as an appliance, streamlines database performance through hardware acceleration and optimization for deep analytics, multifaceted reporting, and complex queries. When embedded in the zEnterprise, it delivers the same kind of performance for mixed workloads—operational transaction systems, data warehouse, operational data stores, and consolidated data marts—but with the z’s extremely high availability, security, and recoverability. As a natural extension of the zEnterprise, where the data already resides in DB2 and OLTP systems, the z is able to deliver pervasive analytics across the organization while further speeding performance and ease of deployment and administration.
Already companies are reporting valuable results. Marriott Hotels reports using the system to book inventory down to the last room available to maximize yield. Chartis Insurance turned to it to meet SLAs that allow for no down time while requiring high performance and fast time to market. In the process, it achieved what it reports as seamless 99.99% up time, the fastest performance available, and time to market measured in days. Swiss Re turned to IDAA to put the right answers into the hands of decision makers across the business.
Today, IDAA and Netezza are just two components of a comprehensive zEnterprise data analytics portfolio that includes Cognos, SPSS, InfoSphere, Guardium, Optim, QMF, MDM, and more. IBM offers powerful data analytics capabilities for its Power and System x platforms, but the IDAA, which is the heart of the fast, near real time predictive analytics, is available only for the zEnterprise, either the z114 or the z196. Might be ideal for a private analytics cloud.