IBM’s z13 Redefines Mainframe Performance, Economics, and Versatility

January 14, 2015

With the introduction of the new IBM z13, the latest rev of the 50-year old mainframe product line introduced today, it will be hard for IT people to persist in the mistaken belief that the mainframe can’t handle today’s workloads or that it is too expensive. Built around an 8 core, 22nm processor, the IBM z13’s 141 configurable cores (any mix of CP, IFL, zIIP, ICF, SAP) delivers a 40% total capacity improvement over the zEC12.

 IBM z113

The z13 looks like the zEC12 but under the hood it’s far more powerful

The IBM z13 will handle up to 8,000 virtual enterprise-grade Linux servers per system, more than 50 per core.  Remember when Nationwide Insurance consolidated 3000 x86 servers mainly running Linux on a System z and saved $15 million over three years, a figure later revised considerably higher. They got a lot of press out of that, including from DancingDinosaur as recently as last May. With the IBM z13 Nationwide could consolidate more than twice the number of Linux servers at a lower cost and the resulting saving would be higher still.

If you consider Linux VMs synonymous with cloud services, the new machine will enable superior Cloud services at up to 32% lower cost than an x86-based cloud. It also will cost up to 60% less than Public Cloud over three years. In almost every metric, the IBM z13 delivers more capacity or performance at lower cost.

IBM delivered an almost constant stream of innovations that work to optimize performance and reduce cost. For example, it boosted single thread capacity by 10% over the zEC12. It also delivers 3x more memory to help both z/OS and Linux workloads. The more memory combined with a new cache design, improved I/O bandwidth, and compression will boost analytics on the machine. In fact, with the z13 you can do in-memory analytics if you want it.

The one thing it doesn’t do is boast the fastest commercial processor in terms of sheer speed. The zEC12 processor still is the fastest but with all the optimizations and enhancements IBM has built in the z13 should beat the z12 in handling the workloads organizations most want to run. For instance, the z13 performs 2X faster than the most common server processors, 300 percent more memory, 100 percent more bandwidth and delivers vector processing analytics to speed mobile transactions. As a result, the z13 transaction engine is capable of analyzing transactions in real time.

Similarly, simultaneous multi-threading delivers more throughput for Linux and zIIP-eligible workloads while larger caches optimize data serving. It also improved on-chip hardware compression, which saves disk space and cuts data transfer time.  Also, there is new workload container pricing and new multiplex pricing, both of which again will save money.

In addition, IBM optimized this machine for both mobile and analytics, as well as for cloud. This is the new versatility of this redefined mainframe. Last year, IBM discounted the cost of mobile transactions on the z. The new machine continues to optimize for mobile with consolidated REST APIs for all z/OS transactions through z/OS Connect while seamlessly channeling z/OS transactions to mobile devices with the MobileFirst Platform. It also ensures end-to-end security from mobile device to mainframe with z/OS, RACF, and MobileFirst products.

For analytics, IBM continues to optimize Hadoop and expand the analytics portfolio on the z13. Specifically, the massive memory capability, up to 10TB, opens new opportunities for in-memory computing. The ability to perform analytics by combining data from different data sources and do it in-memory and in real-time within the platform drives more efficiencies, such as eliminating the need for ETL and the need to move data between platforms, as had previously often been the case. Now, just use Hadoop on z to explore data there within the secure zone of the mainframe. This opens a wide variety of analytics workloads, anything from fraud prevention to customer retention.

In addition to improved price/performance overall, IBM announced Technology Update Pricing for z13, including AWLC price reductions for z13 that deliver 5% price/performance on average in addition to performance gains in software exploitation of z13. DancingDinosaur will dig deeper into the new z13 software pricing in a subsequent post.

And the list of new and improved capabilities with the z13 just keeps going on and on.  With security IBM has accelerated the speed of encryption up to 2x over the zEC12 to help protect the privacy of data throughout its life cycle.  It also extended enhanced public key support for constrained digital environments using Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC), which helps applications like Chrome, Firefox, and Apple’s iMessage. In addition, the z13 sports a few I/O enhancements, like the first system to use a standards based approach for enabling Forward Error Correction for a complete end-to-end solution.

Finally, IBM has not abandoned hybrid computing, where you can mix a variety of blades, including x86 Windows blades and others in the zBX extension cabinet. With the z13 IBM introduced the new Mod 004 zBX cabinet, an upgrade from the previous Mod 002 and 003.

DancingDinosaur expects the introduction of the z13 along with structural organization changes, will drive System z quarterly financial performance back into the black as soon as deliveries roll. And if IBM stays consistent with past behavior within a year or so you can expect a scaled down, lower cost business class version of the z13 although it may be not be called business class. Stay tuned; it should be an exciting year.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a long-time IT analyst and writer. You can follow him on Twitter, @mainframeblog, or check out more of his writing and analysis at Technologywriter.com or here.

IBM Ends 2014 with Flurry of Outsourcing, Cloud Activity

January 4, 2015

Happy New Year. There is much to look forward to in 2015. At the least it probably is time for IBM to rev the System z. The zEnterprise EC12 was introduced in Aug. 2012. You should expect a new machine this year.

ibm cloud centers

IBM ended the year with a flurry of deals involving outsourcing in various forms, hybrid clouds, and the expansion its cloud centers globally. The company made it clear throughout this past difficult year that its focus will be on cloud computing, analytics, and mobile, and that’s what they did. DancingDinosaur will leave to the Wall St. analysts the question of whether the deals represent enough action at a sufficient margin.

IBM believes its future rides on the cloud. To that end it writes: Enterprise cloud deployments, specifically hybrid cloud, are growing at a significant rate.  According to Gartner, nearly half of all enterprises will have a hybrid cloud deployed by 2017.  Chief among the driving forces behind the adoption of cloud computing worldwide, including hybrid cloud, are requirements for businesses and governments to store certain data locally to comply with data residency regulations, as well as a growing desire for startups to expand their businesses globally.  IBM estimates about 100 nations and territories have adopted laws that dictate how governments and private enterprises handle personal data.

The expansion of the company’s global footprint of its cloud centers, now up to 40 locations, represents an effort to capitalize on cloud interest. Since the start of November, the company announced more than $4 billion worth of cloud agreements with major enterprises around the world. These include Lufthansa, ABN AMRO, WPP, Woox Innovations, Dow Water, and Thomson Reuters. Some of these, you will notice, are mainframe shops. DancingDinosaur is assuming they are augmenting their z with a hybrid cloud, not replacing it.

In addition, there are new organizations, referred to by IBM as born-on-the-web innovators, which are building their business on the IBM Cloud. Since November, IBM has announced wins with Diabetizer and Preveniomed, Hancom, Musimundo, and Nubity. Collectively these wins reflect IBM’s ability to deliver a full range of services through the cloud. Some of these are analytics-driven wins.

An interesting recently announced win was Westfield Insurance, which began working with IBM to transform their claims operations. To this end, Westfield is looking at business analytics to increase flexibility, operational efficiency, and effectiveness while enabling the company to keep pace with its evolving customer base and business growth. When DancingDinosaur last checked, Westfield was a z196 shop running DB2.

As IBM reports, leading insurers are leveraging cloud, analytics and social technologies to stay ahead of their competition. Specifically, more than 60% of identified leading insurers are focused on advanced analytics to improve their claims handling in order to streamline processes and increase customer satisfaction. Westfield’s multi-year claims handling transformation initiatives, including process, organizational and technology changes, focus on using data and analytics to better serve customers.

For Westfield, IBM developed a new protocol to migrate data for use with predicative models, built simulation models to evaluate bottlenecks in the claims process, and designed a strategy for expedited workflow.  This simulation helped expedite organizational changes. The new claims system will also utilize a suite of IBM counter-fraud capabilities to detect suspicious activity.

In addition, IBM helped Westfield optimize its current claims handling process to provide a seamless, fully-integrated customer experience. Westfield’s claims system with Guidewire is now consolidated to ensure efficient operations across its network.

To further drive its cloud business IBM simplified its cloud contract with a goal of reducing the complexity and speeding the signing of cloud agreements. The result is a standard, two-page agreement that replaces the previous longer, more complex contracts, which typically entailed long negotiations and reviews before a deal was signed. By comparison, its cloud competitors require customers to review and commit to more complex contracts that commonly are at least five times longer and also incorporate terms and conditions from other websites, IBM reports.

Citing leading industry analyst firms, IBM claims global leadership in cloud computing with a diverse portfolio of open cloud solutions designed to enable clients for the hybrid cloud era. IBM has helped more than 30,000 cloud clients around the world. It boasts of over 30,000 cloud clients, invested more than $7 billion since 2007 in 17 acquisitions to accelerate its cloud initiatives, and holds more than 1,560 cloud patents. IBM also processes more than 5.5 million client transactions daily through its public cloud.

IBM’s initiatives in cloud computing will not diminish its interest in the System z enterprise cloud platform. To the contrary a recent IBM analysis shows the z enhancing the economic advantages of the cloud: a business scaling up to about 200 virtual machines (VM) gets far more efficient and economical results by using the Enterprise Linux Server as an enterprise cloud than with a virtualized x86 or public-cloud model. And the deal gets even better if you acquire the Enterprise Linux Server under either the Solution Edition program for Enterprise Linux  or the System z Solution Edition for Cloud Computing.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a longtime IT analyst/writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Check out more of his work at Technologywriter.com and here.

The Mainframe at the Heart of the Security Storm

December 18, 2014

A survey of Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) released by IBM in early December found more than 80% of security leaders believe the challenge posed by external threats is on the rise, while 60% also agree their organizations are outgunned in the cyber war. Even mainframe shops—the zEC12 has received the highest security rating, EAL 5+ —should not get complacent. There are a lot of bad guys gunning for the data center. Just ask Sony.

 ciso study ibm 2014

At least top management is putting resources into security. Three quarters of the CISO respondents expect their security budgets to increase dramatically over the next 3-5 years. IBM is jumping in with a security paper geared specifically for mainframe shops titled Security Intelligence for Mainframe Environments.

So what are the threats keeping CISOs awake at night?  Based on the study sophisticated external threats were identified by 40% of security leaders as their top concerns. Expect the extra budget to be thrown at these threats, which will require the most organizational effort over the next three to five years, as much as regulations, new technologies, and internal threats combined, according to the IBM analysts.

Although a majority of the CISOs surveyed appear confident their mature, traditional technologies that focus on network intrusion prevention, advanced malware detection, and network vulnerability scanning will fend off outside threats, nearly half reported that deploying new security technology is the top focus area for their organization. Their top worries: data leakage, cloud security, and mobile/device security.

Some other interesting findings from the survey:

  • While concern over cloud security remains strong, still close to 90% of respondents have adopted cloud or are currently planning cloud initiatives. Of this group, most expect their cloud security budget to increase dramatically over the next three to five years.
  • Over 70% of security leaders said real-time security intelligence is increasingly important to their organization. Yet about half found areas such as data classification and discovery and security intelligence analytics have relatively low maturity and require improvement or transformation.
  • Not surprisingly, despite the growing mobile workforce, only 45% believe they have an effective mobile device management approach. According to the study, mobile and device security ranked at the bottom of the maturity list.

Although your data center provides a tempting target to attackers, it also can protect you with an effective counter-punch. That counter-punch is delivered through increasingly powerful and fast analytics, especially real-time analytics. The objective is to identify attacks as they are underway. Otherwise, you are left scrambling to close the proverbial barn door after the horses (data) have left.

This will entail systems that identify who did what and when, recognizing what’s normal behavior versus abnormal, and obtaining visibility into subtle connections between millions of data points. This requires a great deal of contextual data and the analytical means to make sense of it. And here is where you come in: your team needs to integrate mainframe data with distributed events to gain insights that apply to the entire enterprise.

In fact, IBM identifies a series of issues that put the mainframe squarely at the heart of the challenge and the solution:

  • Complexity: The mainframe is an integral component of multiple, often large and complex business services, making it difficult to identify and analyze threats.
  • Visibility: Mainframe processes, procedures and reports are often siloed, impeding cross-enterprise information sharing to combat threats. (But silos also help protect mainframe data—be selective in breaking down the silos.)
  • Compliance: Verification of compliance is frequently a manual task—with problem alerts all too often received only after a problem has occurred.
  • Cost: Mainframe management requires highly skilled administrators, who often are costly and in short supply.

You already have many of the solutions IBM recommends, like RACF, CA-Top Secret, and CA-ACF2. The mainframe security paper cited above covers the rest. Given what happened to Sony, it’s worth reading the paper closely.

Best wishes for the holidays. DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. You can follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Check out more of my IT writing and analysis at Technologywriter.com and here.

Syncsort Leverages zIIP to Reduce Mainframe Costs

December 11, 2014

Last month Syncsort released two related products, the ZPSaver Suite and MFX Sort for z/OS, release 2.1. Both maximize the use of the System z’s zIIP co-processor to enable mainframe shops to reduce monthly software charges.

syncsort zpsaver High_Res Syncsort_Blog_ZPSaver[1]

 There are a handful of proven ways z data centers can save money, which DancingDinsosaur covers periodically:

  1. Reducing CPU usage, particularly peak software workloads
  2. Leveraging low cost assist processor MIPS, which reduces the amount of GP MIPS you need to acquire
  3. Rationalizing , consolidating, or reducing the overall amount of software you run

The new Syncsort tool plays to points 1 and 2. Citing reports from various customers, a mainframe shop reported saving 17 MSU in one month, which translates into savings of about $250k over the year. Please note: Syncsort was unable to connect DancingDinosaur with any users to validate the savings.

MFX 2.1 forms the foundation of the ZPSaver Suite, which also includes ZPCopy and ZPCompress. The first sends copy processing to the zIIP; the second directs compression processing to the zIIP.  Together, these allow the mainframe data center to remove COPY and SMS compression workloads from the GP processor and run them on zIIP engines. Reportedly, there is no degradation in performance and possibly even potential improvements.

With assist processors like the zIIP, IBM in effect sells discounted mainframe MIPS. In addition, workloads running on assist processors are not included in monthly workload charges, further adding to the potential savings. In short, you are able to replace billable GP cycles with already discounted zIIP processor cycles. Savvy mainframe data center managers can plan to purchase fewer full priced GP MIPS by deploying more assist processors and direct more workloads to them. This reduces the workload on the core GP processors from the start. By replacing GP processor MIPS with assist processor MIPS the organization can acquire the same overall number of MIPS at a lower acquisition cost while saving more money each month though lower fees. The trick, of course, is to redirect the workloads to the assist processor.

Syncsort MFX also promises to effectively reduce Copy and SMS Compression for those tasks up to 90%. This also has the potential to improve SLA compliance the company reports. Again, DancingDinosaur has not yet been able to connect with actual users to validate this.

Sort functions and compression have been part z/OS almost since the beginning. IBM offers its own sort and compress functionality. Syncsort didn’t invent sort and compress; they just architected the functions to work with the zIIP.  They should work as expected with the most noticeable change coming in the monthly software charge, which is where you want to see it.

Many z/OS shops also rely heavily on the COPY function during data transformation. According to Syncsort, a good percentage of its customers actually had more COPY executions than SORTs, making it an area ideally suited for zIIP offload.  Syncsort also decided to include its DASD Parallel Access Volume (PAV) support to improve the elapsed time of these COPY applications as well as reduce the billable CPU time. The result: a reported 90% reduction in CPU time for COPY applications by offloading that workload to a zIIP engine. If the input and output for these COPY applications, the company continues, are on DASD devices, its PAV support will reduce the elapsed time by 25%.

Mainframe SMS compression initially was created when storage was far more expensive than it is today. Still according to Syncsort, five out of six z/OS customers today continue as heavy users of SMS compression.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. Find him on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Or read more of his IT analysis and reporting at www.Technologywriter.com and here.

IBM Brings Cloud DevOps to the Mainframe

December 3, 2014

Is your organization ready for DevOps?  It should be coming to System z data centers almost any day now, riding in on newly announced IBM cloud-based DevOps services, software, and infrastructure designed to help large organizations develop and deliver quality software faster.

IBM Launches Bluemix Garage at London's Level39

Launch of the Bluemix Garage in London

DevOps streamlines enterprise workflow by truncating the development, testing, and deployment process. It entails collaborative communications around the end-to-end enterprise workflow flow and incorporates a continuous feedback to expedite the process. DevOps evolved out of Agile methodologies over a decade ago.

Agile was intended to streamline the traditional waterfall IT development process by putting developers and business unit people and the deployment folks together to build, test, and deploy new applications fast. Agile teams would deliver agreed upon and tested functionality within a month. Each deliverable was short, addressing only a subset of the total functionality. Each was followed by the next containing yet more functionality. In the process, previously delivered functionality might be modified or replaced with a new deliverable.

IBM is streamlining the process further by tapping into the collaborative power of the company’s Cloud portfolio and business transformation experience to speed the delivery of software that supports new models of engagement.  To be clear, IBM definitely is not talking about using DevOps with the organization’s systems of record—the core transaction systems that are hallmark of the z and the heartbeat of the enterprise. The most likely candidates will be systems of engagement, systems of innovation, and analytics systems.  These are systems that need to be delivered fast and will change frequently.

According to IBM software-driven innovation has emerged as a primary way businesses create and deliver new value to customers. A survey of 400 business and IT executives by the IBM Institute for Business Value showed businesses that are more effective at software delivery are also more profitable than their peers nearly 70 percent of the time. DevOps provides a way for businesses to remain competitive, applying lean and agile principles to software development to speed the delivery of software that meets new market requirements.

Agile represented a radical departure from the waterfall process, which called for developers to take a full set of business requirements, disappear to two years, and return with a finished application that worked right.  Except that it often took longer for the developers to return with the code and the application didn’t work as promised. By then the application was well over budget and late.  System z shops know this well.

DevOps today establishes a continuous, iterative process flow between the development team and the deployment group and incorporates many Agile concepts, including the active involvement of the business people, frequent testing, and quick release cycles. As the IBM survey noted  DevOps was spurred by the rise of smartphones and mobile computing. Mobile users demand working functionality fast and expect frequent updates. Two-year release cycles were unacceptable; competitors would be out with newer and better apps long before.  Even six-month release cycles seem unresponsive. This is one of the realities DevOps addresses.  Another reality is extreme scaling, something z data centers understand.

According to IBM, the company’s new DevOps Innovation Services help address the challenge of scaling development, enabling enterprises to shorten their software delivery lifecycle. The hybrid cloud services combine IBM’s industry expertise from hundreds of organizational change and application development projects with the industry’s leading application development portfolio, especially Bluemix, IBM’s open DIY cloud PaaS platform. They also apply the flexibility of IBM’s enterprise-grade, hybrid cloud portfolio, which was recently ranked by Synergy Research Group as the leading hybrid and private cloud for the enterprise. These services are based on SoftLayer, IBM’s cloud infrastructure platform.

In a second DevOps-related announcement last month IBM described an initiative to bring a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix. The new initiative enables developers to build applications around their most sensitive data and deploy them in a dedicated cloud environment to help them capture the benefits of cloud while avoiding the compliance, regulatory and performance issues that are presented with public clouds. System z shops can appreciate this.

Major enterprise system vendors like IBM, EMC, Cisco, and Oracle are making noises about DevOps. As far as solid initiatives IBM appears far ahead, especially with the two November announcements.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, an independent IT analyst and writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Find more of his IT writing at Technologywriter.com and here.

New IBM Initiatives Speed System z to Hybrid Cloud and IoT

November 20, 2014

Cloud computing, especially hybrid cloud computing, is going mainstream. Same is happening with the Internet of Things (IoT).  For mainframe shops unsure of how to get there IBM promises to speed the journey with the two recent initiatives.

Let’s start with hybrid clouds and the z. As IBM describes it, enterprises will continue to derive value from the existing investments in IT infrastructure while looking to the cloud to bolster business agility. The upshot: organizations increasingly are turning to hybrid clouds to obtain the best of both worlds by linking on-premises IT infrastructure to public cloud.

To that end, IBM has designed and tested various use cases around enterprise hybrid architecture involving System z and SoftLayer. These use cases focus on the relevant issues of security, application performance, and potential business cost.

One scenario introduces the cloud as an opportunity to enrich enterprise business services running on the z with external functionality delivered from the cloud.

hybrid use case

Here a retail payment system [click graphic to enlarge] is enriched with global functionality from a loyalty program that allows the consumer to accumulate points. It involves the z and its payment system, a cloud-based loyalty program, and the consumer using a mobile phone.

The hybrid cloud allows the z data center to maintain control of key applications and data in order to meet critical business service level agreements and compliance requirements while tapping the public cloud for new capabilities, business agility, or rapid innovation and shifting expenditure from CAPEX to OPEX.

Since the z serves as the data backbone for many critical applications it makes sense to connect on-premises System z infrastructure with an off-premises cloud environment. In its paper IBM suggests the hybrid architecture should be designed in a way that gives the businesses the flexibility to put their workloads and data where it makes most sense, mixing the right blend of public and private cloud services. And, of course, it also must ensure data security and performance. That’s why you want the z there.

To get started check out the uses cases IBM provides, like the one above. Already a number of organizations are trying the IBM hybrid cloud: Macy’s, Whirlpool, Daimler, and Sicoss Group. Overall, nearly half of IBM’s top 100 strategic outsourcing clients already implementing cloud solutions with IBM as they transition to a hybrid cloud model.

And if hybrid cloud isn’t enough to keep you busy, it also is time to start thinking about the IoT. To make it easier last month the company announced the IBM Internet of Things Foundation, an extension of Bluemix. Like Bluemix, this is a cloud service that, as IBM describes it, makes it possible for a developer to quickly extend an Internet-connected device such as a sensor or controller into the cloud, build an application alongside the device to collect the data, and send real-time insights back to the developer’s business. That data can be analyzed on the z too, using Hadoop on zLinux, which you read about here a few weeks ago.

IoT should be nothing new to System z shops. DancingDinosaur discussed it this past summer here. Basically it’s the POS or ATM network on steroids with orders on magnitude more complexity. IDC estimates that by 2020 there will be as many as 28 billion autonomous IoT devices installed. Today it estimates there are nine billion.

Between the cloud, hybrid clouds, and IoT, z data centers will have a lot to keep them busy. But with IBM’s new initiatives in both areas you can get simple, highly secure and powerful application access to the cloud, IoT devices, and data. With the IoT Foundation you can rapidly compose applications, visualization dashboards and mobile apps that can generate valuable insights when linked with back office enterprise applications like those on the z.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT writer/analyst. You can follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Also check out my other IT writing at Technologywriter.com and here.

Compuware Aims for Mainframe Literacy in CIOs

November 13, 2014

Many IT professionals, especially younger ones, are clueless about the mainframe. Chris O’Malley, president of the mainframe business at Compuware, has met CIOs who are versed in everything about IT and have seemingly done everything there is with computers, but “they are not literate about the mainframe.” That means the mainframe never comes to mind. IBM could give away a zEnterprise for free, which it comes close to doing today through the System z Solution Edition program and these CIOs would ignore it. O’Malley wants to address that.

compuware MainframeExcellence2025_cover

In response, Compuware is following the path of the IBM System z Academic Initiative, but without the extensive global involvement of colleges and universities, with a program called Mainframe Excellence 2025, which it describes as a generational call for strategic platform stewardship. “We’re also trying to debunk a lot of issues around the mainframe,” O’Malley continues.

compuware O'Malley headshot

Chris O’Malley, Pres. Mainframe, Compuware

Compuware refers to Mainframe Excellence 2025 as a manifesto, something of a call to arms for millennials to storm the IT gates and liberate IT management from enslavement to x86 computing. Somehow DancingDinosaur doesn’t see it happening exactly that way; it envisions coexistence and synergy.

Most of the Mainframe Excellence document goes over ground DancingDinosaur and many others have covered before. It is delightful, however, to see others refreshing the arguments. And, the document adds some interesting data. For instance, over 1.15 million CICS transactions are executed on System z every second of every day! That’s more than all Google searches, YouTube views, Facebook likes, and Twitter tweets combined.

It also pays homage to what it refers to as the mainframe’s culture of excellence. It characterizes this culture by rigorous adherence to a standard of excellence demonstrably higher than that associated with other platforms, notably x86. IT organizations actually expect, accept, and plan for problems and patches in other platforms (think Microsoft Patch Tuesday). Mainframe professionals, on the other hand, have zero-tolerance for downtime and system failures and the mainframe generally lives up to those high expectations.

Ironically, the document points out that the culture of excellence has created a certain chasm between mainframe professionals and the rest of IT. In fact, this ingrained zero-failure culture of the mainframe community—including both vendors and enterprise IT staffs—can sometimes put it at odds with the very spirit of innovation that allows the mainframe to deliver the repeated advances in price/performance and new capabilities that consistently produce tremendous value.

Compuware concludes its report with an action checklist:

  • Fully inventory existing mainframe data, applications (including business rules), capacity, utilization/MSUs and management tools, a veritable trove a value embedded in mainframe code and business rules.
  • Build a fact-based skills plan with a realistic timeline.
  • Ramp up current and road-mapped mainframe capabilities.
  • Rightsize investments in mainframe application stewardship.
  • Institute an immediate moratorium on short-term cost-cutting that carries long-term negative consequences.
  • Combat denial and hype in regards to non-mainframe platform capabilities, costs and risks.

And Compuware’s final thought should give encouragement to all those who must respond to the mainframe-costs-too-much complaint:  IT has a long history of under-estimating real TCO and marginal costs for new platforms while over-estimating their benefits. A more sober assessment of these platforms will make the strategic value and economic advantages of the mainframe much more evident in comparison.

Compuware certainly is on the right track with Mainframe Excellence 2025. Would like, however, to see the company coordinate its efforts with the System z Academic Initiative, the Master the Mainframe effort, and such.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT writer/analyst. You can follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Also check out my other IT writing at Technologywriter.com and here.

IBM Creates Comprehensive Cloud Security Portfolio

November 6, 2014

On Wednesday IBM introduced what it describes as the industry’s first intelligent security portfolio for protecting people, data, and applications in the cloud. Not a single product but a set of products that taps a wide range of IBM’s cloud security, analytics, and services offerings.  The portfolio dovetails with IBM’s end-to-end mainframe security solution as described at Enterprise2014 last month.

Cloud security certainly is needed. In a recent IBM CISO survey, 44% of security leaders said they expect a major cloud provider to suffer a significant security breach in the future; one that will drive a high percentage of customers to switch providers, not to mention the risks to their data and applications.  Cloud security fears have long been one of the biggest impediments to organizations moving more data, applications, and processes to the cloud. These fears are further complicated by the fact the IT managers feel that much their cloud providers do is beyond their control. An SLA only gets you so far.

2014 IBM study of CISO 44 high

The same survey found 86% of leaders surveyed say their organizations are now moving to cloud, of those three-fourths see their cloud security budget increasing over the next 3-5 years.

As is typical of IBM when it identifies an issue and feels it has an edge, the company assembles a structured portfolio of tools, a handful of which were offered Wednesday. The portfolio includes versions of IBM’s own tools optimized for the cloud and tools and technologies IBM has acquired.  Expect more cloud security tools to follow. Together the tools aim to manage access, protect data and applications, and enable visibility in the cloud.

For example, for access management IBM is bringing out Cloud Identity Services which  onboards and handles users through IBM-hosted infrastructure.  To safeguard access to cloud-deployed apps it is bringing a Cloud Sign-On service used with Bluemix. Through Cloud Sign-On developers can quickly add single-sign on to web and mobile apps via APIs.  Another product, Cloud Access Manager, works with SoftLayer to protect cloud applications with pattern-based security, multi-factor authentication, and context-based access control. IBM even has a tool to handle privileged users like DBAs and cloud admins, the Cloud Privilege Identity Manager.

Here is a run-down of what was announced Wednesday. Expect it to grow.

  • Cloud Identity Services—IBM Cloud Identity Services
  • Cloud Sign-On Service –IBM Single Sign On
  • Cloud Access Manager –IBM Security Access Manager
  • Cloud Privileged Identity Manager—IBM Security Privileged Identity Manager (v2.0)
  • Cloud Data Activity Monitoring—IBM InfoSphere Guardium Data Activity Monitoring
  • Cloud Mobile App Analyzer Service –IBM AppScan Mobile Analyzer
  • Cloud Web App Analyzer Service –IBM AppScan Dynamic Analyzer
  • Cloud Security Intelligence –IBM QRadar Security Intelligence (v7.2.4)
  • Cloud Security Managed Services –IBM Cloud Security Managed Services

Now let’s see how these map to what the z data center already can get with IBM’s End-to-End Security Solution for the Mainframe. For starters, security is built into every level of the System z structure: processor, hypervisor, operating system, communications, and storage.

In terms of security analytics; zSecure, Guardium, AppScan, and QRadar improve your security intelligence. Some of these tools are included in the new Cloud security portfolio. Intelligence is collected from z/OS, RACF, CA ACF2, CA Top Secret, CICS, and DB2. The zSecure suite also helps address compliance challenges. In addition, InfoSphere Guardium Real-time Activity Monitoring handles activity monitoring, blocking and masking, and vulnerability assessment.

Of course the z brings its crypto coprocessor, Crypto Express4S, which complements the cryptographic capabilities of CPACF. There also is a new zEC12 coprocessor, the EP11 processor, amounting to a Crypto Express adapter configured with the Enterprise PKCS #11 (EP11) firmware, also called the CEX4P adapter. It provides hardware-accelerated support for crypto operations that are based on RSA’s PKCS #11 Cryptographic Token Interface Standard. Finally, the z supports the necessary industry standards, like FIPS 140-2 Level 4, to ensure multi-tenanted public and private cloud workloads remain securely isolated. So the cloud, at least, is handled to some extent.

The mainframe has long been considered the gold standard for systems security. Now it is being asked to take on cloud-oriented and cloud-based workloads while delivering the same level of unassailable security. Between IBM’s end-to-end mainframe security solution and the new intelligent (analytics-driven) security portfolio for the cloud enterprise shops now have the tools to do the job right.

And you will want all those tools because security presents a complex, multi-dimensional puzzle requiring different layers of integrated defense. It involves not only people, data, applications, and infrastructure but also mobility, on premise and off premise, structured, unstructured, and big data. This used to be called defense in depth, but with the cloud and mobility the industry is moving far beyond that.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst with well over 20 years covering IT and the System z. You can find more of my writing at Technologywriter.com and here. Also follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog.

Mainframe Appeal Continues in 9th BMC Survey

October 30, 2014

With most of the over 1100 respondents (91%) reporting that the mainframe remains a viable long-term platform for them and a clear majority (60%) expecting to increase MIPS due to the normal growth of legacy applications and new application workloads the z continues to remain well entrenched. Check out the results for yourself here.

Maybe even more reassurance comes from almost half the respondents who reported that they expect the mainframe to attract and grow new workloads.  Most likely these will be Java and Linux workloads but one-third of the respondents listed cloud as a priority, jumping it up to sixth on the list of mainframe priorities. Mobile was cited as priority by 27% of the respondents followed by big data with 26% respondents.

ibm zec12

Apparently IBM’s steady promotion of cloud, mobile, and big data for the z over the past year is working. At Enterprise2014 IBM even made a big news with real time analytics and Hadoop on the z along with a slew of related announcements.

That new workloads like cloud, mobile, and big data made it into the respondents’ top 10 IT priorities for the year didn’t surprise Jonathan Adams, BMC vice president/general manager for z solutions.  The ease of developing in Java and its portability make it a natural for new workloads today, he noted.

In the survey IT cost reduction/optimization tops the list of IT priorities for 2014 by a large margin, 70% of respondents, followed by application availability, 52%.  Rounding out the top five are application modernization with 48%, data privacy, 47%, and business/IT alignment, 44%. Outsourcing finished out the top 10 priorities with 16%.

When asked to look ahead in terms of MIPS growth, the large majority of respondents expected growth to continue or at least remain steady. Only 9% expected MIPS to decline and 6% expected to eliminate the mainframe.  This number has remained consistent for years, noted Adams. DancingDinosaur periodically checks in with shops that announce plans to eliminate their mainframe and finds that a year later many have barely made any progress.

The top mainframe advantages shouldn’t surprise you:  availability (53%); security (51%); centralized data serving (47%) and transaction throughput (42%). More interesting results emerged when the respondents addressed new workloads. The mainframe’s cloud role includes data access (33%), cloud management from Linux on z (22%) and dynamic test environments via self-service (15%). Surprisingly, when it comes to big data analytics, 34% report that the mainframe acts as their analytics engine. This wasn’t supposed to be the case, at least not until BigInsights and Hadoop on z gained more traction.

Meanwhile, 28% say they move data off platform for analytics, and 14% report they federate mainframe data to an off-platform analytics engine. Yet, more than 81% now incorporate the mainframe into their Big Data strategy, up from 70% previously. The non-finance industries are somewhat more likely to use the mainframe as the big data engine, BMC noted. Those concerned with cost should seriously consider doing their analytics on the z, where the data is. It is costly to keep moving data around.

In terms of mobility, making existing applications accessible for mobile ranked as the top issue followed by developing new mobile applications and securing corporate data on mobile devices. Mobile processing increases for transaction volume came in at the bottom of mobility issues, but that will likely change when mobile transactions start impacting peak workload volumes and trigger increased costs. Again, those concerned about costs should consider IBM’s mobile transaction discount, which was covered by DancingDinsosaur here in the spring.

Since cost reduction is such a big topic again, the survey respondents offered their cost reduction priorities.  Reducing resource usage during peak led the list.  Other cost reduction priorities included consolidating mainframe software vendors, exploiting zIIP and specialty engines (which have distinctly lower cost/MIPS), and moving workloads to Linux on z.

So, judging from the latest BMC survey the mainframe is far from dead. But at least one recent IT consultant and commentator, John Appleby, seems to think so. This prediction has proven wrong so often that DancingDinosaur has stopped bothering to refute it.

BTW, change came to BMC last year  in the form of an acquisition by a venture capital group. Adams reports that the new owners have already demonstrated a commitment to continued investment in mainframe technology products, and plans already are underway for next year’s survey.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. You can follow him on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Or see more of his writing at Technologywriter.com or in wide-ranging blogs here.

IBM Aims to Lead Silicon Era and Beyond

October 22, 2014

Despite dumping its money-losing semiconductor business on GLOBALFOUNDRIES this week and a discouraging 3Q14 financial report, IBM appears determined to drive Moore’s Law.  The law, which produced decades of price/performance gains for IT, will continue to achieve gains but it won’t be solely silicon-based.

How badly do we need Moore’s Law to continue? Dr. Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow, VP of Innovation, as part of a keynote presentation at Enterprise2014 put it this way: when it comes to data, there are 6-9 orders of magnitude on the horizon. Today’s zEC12 processor, the fastest commercial processor out there, hasn’t a chance of keeping up for long.

Still, Meyerson isn’t writing off silicon: “Silicon transistors will dominate Information Technology for decades to come but contribute little to its progress,” he declared. To augment the shortcomings of silicon, we will have to look to innovation and the resulting integrated solutions made up of specialized hardware, software, systems, architectures, and network functionality to compensate for lost technology benefits.

Ironically, data center managers actually may find themselves worrying about the slowness of the speed of light and the longer data paths that may result. His question to data center managers: Even at 300,000,000 meters/sec, is light fast enough to keep pace with technology? His answer: Not even close.

The answer lies in new innovative integrated solutions that include 3D integration, synaptic architectures, agile computing (autonomic acceleration), cognitive computing, neuromorphic systems and more. In the near term he suggests data centers to look into advances in FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) and GPU acceleration. In the new Power8 systems, FPGAs leverage CAPI to avoid a lot of overhead and delay.

Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM

 IBM researchers explore new semiconductor materials

 The offloading of IBM’s global commercial semiconductor technology business to GLOBALFOUNDRIES, at a cost of $1.5 billion over three years, doesn’t signal an IBM retreat from the semiconductor business. The deal commits GLOBALFOUNDRIES as IBM’s exclusive server processor semiconductor technology provider for 22 nanometer (nm), 14nm, and 10nm semiconductors for the next 10 years. You can bet the upcoming generation of System z will use 22nm chips and 14nm and 10nm chips for subsequent revs of the z, or whatever they are calling it by then.

This is combined with IBM’s previously announced $3 billion investment over five years for semiconductor technology research to lead in the next generation of computing. Between that investment and the offloading of the semiconductor fabrication business this week combined with the research described at Enterprise2014, you can be sure that IBM will stay involved in the CPU business.  But one thing you should realize now, just throwing more silicon CPUs at the performance challenge, as IT has done for decades, will no longer work. Adds Meyerson: Brute force (more of the same) has run its course.

Full disclosure: DancingDinosaur is NOT a financial analyst. Still, the IBM 3Q14 financials released on Monday isn’t going to thrill IBM investors.  Revenues were down across the board. Of most interest to DancingDinosaur were the results of IBM’s hardware group, STG, which dropped.  Specifically, revenues from Power Systems were down 12% compared with the 2013 period.  Revenues from System x were down 10%, but that’s now Lenovo’s worry.  Revenues from System z fell 35% compared with a year ago while revenues from System Storage decreased 6%. The System z is due for a refresh in 2015, which will undoubtedly entail a significant price/performance gain plus whatever other goodies IBM will load on. This usually gives the z a revenue boost. Power just introduced some new POWER8 machines at Enterprise 2014, which should result in revenue increases in upcoming quarters.

Maybe not so coincidentally on the blog itjungle,  a piece titled 2020 Processor Technology Could Unite Power And Mainframe Chips, by Dan Burger throws yet a few more possibilities at the processor question, especially as it pertains to IBM’s enterprise server platforms, Power and System z. Burger apparently was attending the same session as DancingDinosaur when Bernie Meyerson and others brought up the silicon question. He caught up with Ross Mauri, the general manager of System z, grabbing this interesting quote on the subject: “Now there will have to be investment in the next big thing and so it’s interesting to consider whether the Power chip and the mainframe CMOS chip will merge into one chip for both platforms,” adding “I don’t know what is next in that 2020 time frame based on the technologies we are looking at today—anything is possible.” BTW, 2020 is just a bit more than five years away; DancingDinosaur, who has been covering business and technology since 1975, may not even be retired by then.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. You can follow him on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Or check out more of his technology writing at Technologywriter.com or here.


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