The HP announcement earlier this week wasn’t specifically the death knell for Itanium-based systems, but it just as well might have been. Rather, HP disclosed plans to extend the HP NonStop architecture to the Intel x86 platform. With NonStop to be available on x86 servers, why would anyone even consider the Itanium platform?
Meanwhile, at an IBM analyst briefing at Enterprise 2013 and again this week, IBM rattled off growth figures for the zEnterprise: 56% MIPS growth and 6% revenue growth year-to-year, over 230 new z accounts since the introduction of the hybrid zEnterprise, and over 290 hybrid computing devices shipped including over 200 zBX cabinets. Linux on z continues to penetrate the mainframe world with 80% of the top 100 mainframe enterprises having IFLs installed. But maybe the best sign of the vitality of the zEnterprise was the news that 33 new ISVs brought product to the z platform in 3Q2013.
Another sign of zEnterprise vitality: over 65,000 students entered the Master the Mainframe competition in the last 8 years. In addition, over 1000 universities are teaching curriculum related to mainframe topics. Are you worried that you will not be able to find mainframe talent going forward? You probably never thought that the mainframe would be cool.
Recruiters from Cigna, Fidelity, JP Morgan Chase, Baldor, Dillars, Wal-mart, and more have been actively recruiting at schools participating in the Academic Initiative. For example, a senior business leader for switching systems at Visa described the Academic Initiative as a critical success factor and a lifeline for the company’s future.
With regard to the Itanium platform, HP’s announcement is more about trying to salvage the NonStop operating system than to save the Itanium server business. “Extending HP NonStop to an x86 server platform shows a deep level of investment in maintaining the NonStop technology for mission-critical workloads in financial markets, telecommunications and other industries. At the same time, it brings new levels of availability to the x86-based standardized data center infrastructure,” said Jean Bozman, IDC research VP in the HP announcement.
Certainly for those organizations that require continuous operations on x86 the HP move will be a boon. Otherwise, high availability on x86 has always been something of a kluge. But don’t expect HP to get anything running overnight. This is just the latest step in a multi-year HP effort underway since 2011, and it will probably be another two years before everything gets ported and fully tested. HP promises to help customers with migration.
DancingDinosaur’s advice to NonStop customers that are frustrated by the underwhelming performance of Itanium systems today: Jump to the zEnterprise, either zEC12 or zBC12. You are almost certain to qualify for one of the deeply discounted System z Solution Edition deals (includes hardware, software, middleware, and 3 years of maintenance). And something like IBM’s Migration Factory can help you get there. If it has taken HP two years to get this far, you can probably be up and running on z long before they get the first lines of NonStop code ported to x86.
Meanwhile, the System z team hasn’t been twiddling their collective thumbs. In addition to introducing the zBC12 in July (shipped in Sept.) and absorbing the CSL International acquisition, which should prove quite valuable in z cloud initiatives, there has been a new IBM Entry Cloud Configuration for SAP Solutions on zEnterprise, a version of IBM Cognos TM1 for financial planning, and improved enterprise key management capabilities based on the Crypto Analytics Tool and the Advanced Crypto Services Provider.
System z growth led the enterprise server pack in the Gartner and IDC quarterly tabulations. Ironically, HP did well too with worldwide server shipments growing by more than 5% in the third quarter, halting a slump of eight consecutive quarters of shipment declines, according to preliminary market data from Gartner. Still, DancingDinosaur doesn’t think anyone will miss Itanium.
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