Extend the System z to the Cloud via IBM Bluemix

The System z offers an increasing number of cloud options.  At a SHARE conference this past spring Erich Amrehn, IBM Distinguished Engineer elaborated on Cloud Computing with IBM System z.  In his presentation, Amrehn focused on five cloud options: Solution Edition for Computing and Data Cloud, SAP Cloud, CICS Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, and Mobile solution for z. And that’s not even mentioning the z-based IBM Enterprise Cloud System.

Why should a z data center care?  In short, you risk being left behind. The next architecture will encompass traditional systems of record and the new systems of engagement. Both, according to Amrehn, are headed to the cloud.

From the cloud your data center can deliver on-demand self-service, ubiquitous network access, location-independent resource pooling, rapid elasticity (for storage, compute, and network), and pay-per-use. For this, Amrehn identifies 5 steps starting with virtualization. However, with his last step—patterns—many z shops drop the ball. All they have is Rational Programming Patterns via Rational Developer for System z.

Patterns become critical when the organization wants to capitalize on the agility, efficiency, orchestration, and optimization that are essential for gaining maximum value from clouds, especially hybrid clouds.

The easiest way to get started should be through IBM’s SmartCloud Entry and Linux on z. Amrehn notes just one catch: in the spring, IBM SmartCloud entry for z was still only a statement of direction: “IBM intends to update IBM SmartCloud Entry to support the System z platform…” DancingDinosaur, however, found a Starter kit of IBM SmartCloud Entry for IBM System z. Go figure. Still awaiting clarification from IBM (2 years ago DancingDinosaur wrote that SmartCloud Entry for z was imminent based on an IBM announcement that has since been pulled).

The hybrid cloud is emerging as IBM’s preferred cloud solution. The company suggests a 2-step path to the hybrid cloud: 1) select an automated cloud application platform and 2) capture the desired application(s) into a pattern. IBM’s PureSystems, particularly PureApplication, directly enable hybrid cloud innovation, especially with the IBM Pattern Engine and its support for a variety of containers.  Notice the evolution in IBM’s thinking around PureApplication. What started as integrated hardware with built-in expertise in the form of patterns is morphing into the PureApp software system and service with a cloud component.

For best results, you want expert-driven automation at the infrastructure, application, and deployment tiers. Through patterns, especially IBM patterns, you avoid any need to re-architect when shifting from on premise to off premise (and back, if needed). Without patterns, you must do everything manually, an inefficient and costly approach. You can find a selection of patterns at  the IBM Cloud Marketplace.

To capitalize on your hybrid cloud environment you eventually will want to augment it with new software—mobile apps, customer-driven innovations, whatever—apps that tap the capabilities of the latest devices and integrate with mobile and social environments. That’s why IBM is rolling out Bluemix, an integrated application development and deployment environment.

Bluemix is not your standard IBM licensed technology. IBM has adopted distinctly different pricing for Bluemix. Runtimes are charged by the GB-hours that your app runs, including some free per month. For IBM this truly is innovative pricing, and IBMers suggest it is a work in progress. Right now, pricing varies with each Bluemix service. Whatever mix of services you end up with, they will be tallied monthly and charged to your credit card.

The current charges look like this:

courtesy of IBM

courtesy of IBM

The goal is rapid app development; to go from idea to app in minutes, no coding. Instead assemble new apps using APIs and existing systems. Bluemix handles the heavy lifting (via Cast Iron) behind the scenes, including integrating with legacy systems.

And it works. A demo by San Francisco’s BART showed how they used Bluemix to build a mobile app in 15 days. EyeQ reduced operations costs by 30% by focusing on the apps and code while leaving Bluemix to handle the infrastructure. aPersona, which provides multi-factor authentication, used Bluemix to reduce the time to deploy a new customer from 2 days to 30 seconds.

Bluemix speeds development and deployment through instant access to IBM’s SoftLayer cloud infrastructure, IBM software, runtimes, third party services, and IBM DevOps services.  Now IBM needs to get the z completely wired in.

Expect to hear more about the z, Bluemix, SoftLayer, and hybrid clouds at IBM Enterprise 2014 this coming October in Las Vegas.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. Follow him on Twitter, @mainframeblog and at Technologywriter.com

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