Technology Change is Coming for the zBX

The zBX hasn’t been subject to much in the way of big new announcements this year.  Maybe the most obvious was a quiet announcement that the zBX would connect to the zBC12, the newest System z machine announced early in the summer. Buried deeply in that July announcement was that starting in Sept. 2013 you could attach the IBM zBX Model 003 to the new machine. Machines older than the zEC12 would need the zBX Model 002.

At Enterprise 2013, however, the zBX managed to grab a little of the spotlight in a session by Harv Emery titled IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension Model 3 and Model 2 Deep Dive Update. OK, it’s not exactly a riveting title, but Emery’s 60 slides were packed with far more detail than can possibly fit here.

To summarize:  a slew of software and firmware updates will be coming through the end of this year and into 2014. Similarly, starting next year and beyond, IBM will begin to stop marketing older zBX hardware and eventually stop supporting the older stuff.  This is standard IBM practice; what makes it surprising is the realization that the zBX no longer is the new kid on the scene. PureSystems in their various iterations are the sexy newcomer.  As of the end of last year somewhat over 200 z hybrid units (zBX cabinets) had been sold along with considerably more blades. Again, PureSystems are IBM’s other hybrid platform.

Still, as Emery pointed out, new zBX functionality continues to roll out. This includes:

  • CPU management for x86 blades
  • Support for Windows 12, and current LDP OS releases
  • GDPS automated site recovery for zBX
  • Ensemble Availability Manager for improved monitoring and reporting
  • Support for Layer 2 communications
  • An IBM statement of direction (SOD) on support for next generation DataPower Virtual Appliance XI52
  • Support for next generation hardware technologies in the zBX
  • zBX firmware currency
  • A stand-alone zBX node to preserve the investment
  • Bolstered networking including a new BNT Virtual Fabric 10 GbE Switch
  • zBX integrated hypervisor for IBM System x blades and running KVM

Emery also did a little crystal balling about future capabilities, relying partly on recent IBM SODs. These include:

  • Support of zBX with the next generation server
  • New technology configuration extensions in the zBX
  • CEC and zBX continued investment in the virtualization and management capabilities for hybrid computing environment
  • Enablement of Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) for Cloud
  • Unified Resource Manager improvements and extensions for guest mobility
  • More monitoring instrumentation
  • Autonomic management functions
  • Integration with the STG Portfolio
  • Continued efforts by zEnterprise and STG to leverage the Tivoli portfolio to deliver enterprise-wide management capabilities across all STG systems

DancingDinosaur periodically has been asked questions about how to handle storage for the zBX and the blades it contains.  Emery tried to address some of those.  Certain blades, DataPower for example, now come with their own storage and don’t need to any outside storage on the host z.  Through the top of the rack switch in the zBX you can connect to a distributed SAN.

Emery also noted the latest supported storage devices.  Supported IBM storage products as of Sept. 2013 include: DS3400, 3500, 3950, 4100, 4200, 4700 4800, 5020, 5100, 5300, 6000, 8100, 8300, 8700, 8800, SVC 2145, XIV, 2105, 2107, and Storwize v7000. Non-IBM storage is possible but you or you’re the OEM storage vendor will have to figure it out.

Finally, Emery made numerous references to Unified Resource Manager (or zManager, although it manages more than z) for the zBX and Flex System Manager for PureSystems.  Right now IBM tries to bridge the two systems with higher level management from Tivoli.  Another possibility, Emery hinted, is OpenStack to unify hybrid management. Sounds very intriguing, especially given IBM’s announced intention to make extensive use of OpenStack. Is there an interoperable OpenStack version of Unified Resource Manager and Flex System Manager in the works?

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