Posts Tagged ‘Flex System Manager’

The zEnterprise as a Hybrid Data Center

November 21, 2013

There is no doubt that the zEnterprise enables hybrid computing. Just attach a zBX to it and start plugging in Linux and x86 blades; presto, you’ve got hybrid computing.  You can manage this entire hybrid infrastructure via the Unified Resource Manager.

The zEnterprise also has a sister hybrid computing platform, IBM PureSystems. Here, too, you can add in System x and Linux or even Power and System i and do hybrid computing. You can also manage the hybrid environment through a single console, albeit a different console—the Flex System Manager—and manage this second IBM hybrid platform as a unified environment.  DancingDinosaur has noted the irony of IBM having two different, incompatible hybrid systems; IBM has reassured this blogger several times that it is trying to converge the two. Whenever it happens DancingDinosaur will be the first to report it.

The zEnterprise or even PureSystems as a hybrid computing platform, however, is not the same as a hybrid data center.  Apparently there is no definition of a hybrid data center despite all the talk about hybrid computing, hybrid clouds, and hybrid systems.  As best DancingDinosaur can piece it together, the hybrid data center is multiplatform like the zEnterprise, but it also is multi-location, often using co-location facilities or factory-built containerized data centers (IBM calls them Portable Modular Data Centers, PMDC). More often, however, hybrid data centers are associated with cloud computing as the third of the three flavors of cloud (private, public, hybrid).

Gartner recently described some architecture options for a hybrid data center. In one case you could have a zEnterprise acting as, say, a private cloud using a co-location facility as a DMZ between the private cloud and a public cloud like Amazon. Not sure, however, you would need the DMZ if your private cloud was running on the highly secure zEnterprise but Gartner included it. Go figure.

Hybrid showed up in numerous Enterprise 2013 sessions this past October. You can catch some video highlights from it here. The conference made frequent mention of hybrid in numerous sessions, some noted in previous DancingDinosaur posts, such as Exploring the World of zEnterprise Hybrid: How Does It Work and What’s the Point? The session introduced the Unified Resource Manager and described how it would allow an IT shop to manage a collection of one or more zEnterprise nodes including any optionally attached zBX cabinets as a single logical virtualized system through a Hardware Management Console (HMC). In short, it was about providing a single point of control through which data center personnel can deploy, configure, monitor, manage and maintain the integrated System z and zBX blades based on heterogeneous architectures in a unified manner. But it wasn’t talking about the hybrid enterprise data center described in the previous paragraph.

Similarly, Application Performance Management and Capacity Planning for the IBM zEnterprise Hybrid Workload focused on extending the Unified Resource Manager to goal-oriented performance management for both traditional System z and BladeCenter applications. It was about applying WLM, RMF, and Platform Performance Management to cross-platform hybrid applications. Again, this really wasn’t about the hybrid data center described above.

BTW, plans apparently already are underway for Enterprise 2014. Looks like it will be Oct. 6-10 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. It should be quite an event given that IBM will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the mainframe in 2014.

And there is much more on z hybrid computing and hybrid clouds. The zEnterprise has its own page on cloud computing here, and last month the zEnterprise zBC12 won CRN Tech Innovator Award for the most Innovative cloud solution.  You can also click here to see how a dozen IBM customers used various IBM platforms to build hybrid clouds.

IBM has already used the zEnterprise to consolidate over 30,000 servers around the world for an 84% improvement in data center efficiency and a 50% reduction in power and cooling. This effectively freed $1 billion to spend on innovative new projects that drive business growth across the company. And IBM is about as hybrid a data center as you can find.

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zBX and PureSystems Play Nice Together

July 19, 2012

At a recent analyst briefing an IBM manager implied that the Unified Resource Manager used by the hybrid zEnterprise to manage the zBX would converge with the Flex System Manager used to manage the new PureSystems. “We’re working on it,” he said earnestly. Someone at IBM might be working on it or at least thinking about it or arguing about it, but it is not going to happen in any foreseeable future.

That is the definitive word from Jeff Frey, IBM Fellow and CTO for System z: “Flex Manager and the Unified Resource Manager will not come together,” he told DancingDinosaur.  That does not mean the zEnterprise/zBX and PureSystems won’t play nicely together, but they will do so higher up in the IT stack. “We will federate the management at a higher level,” he said. Today, that pretty much means organizations using both platforms, zEnterprise and PureSystems, will have to rely on Tivoli to tie the pieces together and manage them.  At the lower levels in the stack where the hardware lives each platform will require its own management tooling.

This may be a disappointment to those who mistakenly thought IBM’s idealized vision of efficient hybrid computing meant one administrator working at a single console could manage everything happening across the various platforms, from a misbehaving partition to monitoring the resource consumption of a particular application.  This was never the intent, Frey noted. You still can do it to some extent, but it won’t be through the Unified Resource Manager.

Instead, Tivoli will provide a federation layer to enable higher level, logical management across both systems. When you need to manage some physical aspect of the underlying hardware you still will need platform-specific tools like Systems Director.

This shouldn’t be a surprise; the zEnterprise/zBX and PureSystems start from two different views of control.  The zEnterprise brings the mainframe tradition of disciplined centralized control, and that control point is the z. PureSystems views control from the distributed perspective.  These are not compatible views, which are why it makes sense to federate as much management as possible at the high end of the stack, far above the nitty-gritty of the underlying hardware.

As IBM moves forward with the next advances to the zEnterprise/zBX and to PureSystems the situation may seem even more confusing unless you stay focused on the point of control issues. For example, expect some IBM improvements incorporated into PureSystems hardware to make it into the zBX, but that does not mean the Flex System Manager will be able to manage the zBX.

Similarly, IBM is planning to push zBX scalability beyond the 112 blades the box supports today as well as adding clustering capabilities. The blade count expansion combined with the technology enhancements brought over from PureSystems, Frey hopes, should make clear IBM’s long term commitment to the zBX and zEnterprise hybrid computing.

At the same time, IBM is enhancing PureSystems for the purpose of scaling it beyond its current four units. This will give it something more like the Ensemble approach used with the System z. An ensemble is a collection of one or more zEnterprise system nodes where each node is comprised of a z and its optionally attached zBX. As such an ensemble can consist of a single z with no zBX attached, or two to eight CPCs where at least one has a zBX attached. The resources of a zEnterprise ensemble are managed and virtualized as a single pool of resources integrating system and workload management across the resulting multi-system, multi-tier, multi-architecture environment.

In the end, both the zEnterprise/zBX and PureSystems are poised for scaling. That should become obvious with the next rev of the zEnterprise, which should happen in 2013 if IBM sticks to its historic 3-year mainframe rev cycle. The new rev will address some of the current gaps, like partition mobility and live image mobility as well as the usual bigger and faster story.

With two hybrid computing platforms the hybrid approach is here for real at IBM. Now the question is which workloads can most benefit and on which platform. Expect DancingDinosaur to explore this question in the coming months.

IBM Hybrid Computing Choices

June 18, 2012

Enterprises now have a choice of IBM hybrid computing options, the zEnterprise/zBX and IBM PureSystems. Since the introduction of the zEnterprise in 2010 along with the zBX there is a zEnterprise option that now encompasses z/OS, Linux on z, z/VM, Power blades, AIX, Linux, System x blades, Windows, and specialty blades.  You can manage the resulting hybrid platform as one hybrid virtualized system through the Unified Resource Manager. About the only thing missing is i.

Today there are two PureSystems options: PureFlex, an IaaS offering, and PureApplication, a PaaS offering. IBM implies that more PureSystems will be coming. PureSystems brings System i to the hybrid party along with Power and System x but skips z/OS and z/VM. You manage this hybrid environment with the Flex System Manager (FSM), which looks very similar to the zEnterprise’s Unified Resource Manager. DancingDinosaur previously covered the PureSystems introduction here.

The challenge becomes choosing between two IBM hybrid computing environments that look very similar but aren’t quite the same.  So, which do you use?

Obviously, if you need z/OS, you go with the zEnterprise. It provides the optimum platform for enterprise computing with its extreme scalability and leading security and resiliency. It supports tens of thousands of users while new offerings expand the z role in BI and real time analytics, especially if much of the data reside on the z.

If you must include i you go with the PureFlex. Or, if you find you have a hybrid workload but don’t require the governance and tight integration with the z, you can choose IBM PureFlex and connect it to the zEnterprise via your existing network. Tivoli products can provide the integration of business processes.

If you look at your choice of hybrid computing environments in terms of cost, PureSystems probably will cost less, how much less depends on how it is configured. The entry PureFlex starts at $156k; the standard version, which includes storage and networking, starts at $217k; and the Enterprise version, intended for scalable cloud deployment and included redundancy for resilient operation, starts at $312k. Plus there is the cost of the O/S and hypervisor (open source KVM is free).

The zEnterprise option will cost more but maybe not all that much more depending on how you configure it, whether you can take advantage of the System z Solution Edition packages, and how well you negotiate. The lowest cost zEnterprise-zBX hybrid environment includes the z114 ($75k base price but expect to pay more once it is configured), about $200k or more for a zBX, depending on the type and number of blades, plus whatever you need for storage.

The payback from hybrid computing comes mainly from the operational efficiency and labor savings it allows. PureSystems especially come pre-integrated and optimized for the workload and is packed with built-in management expertise and automation that allow fewer, less skilled people to handle the hybrid computing environment. (Watch for an upcoming white paper on hybrid computing from Independent Assessment, the developer and publisher of DancingDinosaur.)

Right now the wrinkle in the hybrid computing management efficiency story comes from organizations that want both the zEnterprise and PureSystems. This would not be an odd pairing at all, but it will require two different management tools, Flex System Manager for the PureSystems environment and the Unified Resource Manager for the zEnterprise-zBX. At a recent briefing an IBM manager noted that discussions already were underway to bring the two management schemes together although when and how that actually might happen he couldn’t say. Let’s hope it is sooner rather than later.

PureSystems Joins zEnterprise Hybrid Family

May 8, 2012

A few weeks ago, DancingDinosaur noted that IBM’s new PureSystems was a natural fit for the zEnterprise and hybrid computing, click here. In a later briefing, IBM essentially said as much: Clients can connect IBM zEnterprise and IBM PureSystems (via Ethernet) to gain benefits of simplified management and lower IT infrastructure costs for all workloads. That’s the hybrid computing promise.

The zEnterprise with the zBX runs z/OS, AIX, Linux, and Windows. PureSystems runs AIX, i/OS, Linux and Windows. Between the two, you cover IBM’s primary platforms. The question becomes which workload to run where.

IBM’s simple answer: when data or applications exist on System z and you desire zEnterprise governance go with the zEnterprise-zBX environment populated with the appropriate blades. However, when data and applications run on a combination of Power and System x platforms, go with PureSystems.

On its website, IBM explains the choice between zBX or the new IBM PureSystems for hybrid computing: If you have a workload that traditionally ran on a distributed system, and the work spans System z and AIX, Linux, or Windows, then the zEnterprise with zBX is still the best choice. The zBX delivers the value proposition of tight integration for these hybrid workloads using the management functions of the Unified Resource Manager (zManager).

Or you can opt for PureSystems if you find you have a hybrid workload and don’t desire the governance and tight integration with System z. You still can connect the PureSystems device to the zEnterprise via your existing Ethernet network. Tivoli products can provide the integration of business processes.

Of course, if you have the zEnterprise and add PureSystems, you end up with two hybrid management tools, the Unified Resource Manager for zEnterprise and the Flex System Manager with PureSystems, for what should be one hybrid environment. Ooops, this undermines the promised management efficiency of hybrid computing. IBM promises to address this in the future through tighter integration of both systems.

The choice of a hybrid computing environment, given that most z shops already have multiple platforms, is not straightforward.  Pricing and workload performance have to be considered. For example, does a PowerLinux blade as a PureSystems component deliver better price/performance than Linux running as an IFL on z?  Similarly, where should Windows workloads run, on an Hx5 blade in the zBX or on a PureSystems device? At this point, there’s not enough pricing and performance data to decide. It may come down to scalability.

IBM, however, has been steadily improving hybrid computing on the z. It has enabled programmatic access to the zManager, expanded internal network communication between the zEnterprise and the zBX, and added support for virtual storage management.  Looking ahead, IBM already is planning zBX support for the next generation z and promises to more tightly integrate the zEnterprise with PureSystems. The zEnterprise, zBX, and hybrid computing apparently will be around for a while.

Finally, take note: on April 9, DancingDinosaur covered mainframe storage sessions being planned for the upcoming IBM Edge conference (June 4-8, Orlando).  Now there is the chance to win a free pass (value $2000). This giveaway is for one pass and is sponsored by The Storage Community. The giveaway is only open to US residents. State, local and federal government employees are not eligible.  To access the IBM Technical Edge2012 Conference Sweepstakes: click here for a chance to enter the raffle for a free conference pass.


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