Posts Tagged ‘Oracle’

IBM 2Q 2016 Report—Where’s z System and POWER?

July 22, 2016

“IBM continues to establish itself as the leading cognitive solutions and cloud platform company,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a statement accompanying the latest IBM 2Q financial report. The strategic imperatives grew; second-quarter revenues from its cloud, analytics, and engagement units— increased 12 percent year to year.

IBM Quantum Computing Lab - Friday, April 29, 2016, Yorktown Heights, NY (Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM Quantum Experience delivered via Cloud (Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

Where’s z and POWER? The z and POWER platforms continued to flounder: revenues of $2.0 billion, down 23.2 percent. Revenue reflects z Systems product cycle dynamics; gross profit margin improved in both z Systems and Power. “Product cycle dynamics” refers to the lack of a new z.  In the past year IBM introduced the new LinuxONE and, more recently a new z13s, essentially what used to be known as a Business Class mainframe.

There is no hint, however, of a new z, a z14 that will drive product dynamics upward. IBM showed a POWER roadmap going all the way out to the POWER10 in 2020 but nothing comparable for the z.

DancingDinosaur, a longtime big iron bigot, remains encouraged by IBM’s focus on its strategic initiatives and statements like this: “And we continue to invest for growth with recent breakthroughs in quantum computing, Internet of Things and blockchain solutions for the IBM Cloud.” IBM strategic initiatives in cloud, mobile, IoT, and blockchain will drive new use of the mainframe, especially as the projected volumes of things, transactions, users, and devices skyrocket.

Second-quarter revenues from the company’s strategic imperatives — cloud, analytics and engagement — increased 12 percent year to year.  Cloud revenues (public, private and hybrid) for the quarter increased 30 percent.  Cloud revenue over the trailing 12 months was $11.6 billion.  The annual run rate for cloud as-a-service revenue — a subset of total cloud revenue — increased to $6.7 billion from $4.5 billion in the second quarter of 2015.  Revenues from analytics increased 5 percent.  Revenues from mobile increased 43 percent and from security increased 18 percent.

IBM indirectly is trying to boost the z and the cloud. CSC and IBM  announced an alliance with IBM in which IBM will provide CSC Cloud Managed Services for z Systems. CSC already includes IBM SoftLayer as part of its “Service-enabled Enterprise” strategy. “Cloud for z” extends that offering and will be of interest to current and potential mainframe customers in healthcare, insurance, and finance. CSC still sees life in the managed mainframe market, and IBM Global Technology Services, a competitor to CSC, apparently is happy to let them sell managed cloud services for mainframes. All this is taking place as IBM scrambles to secure a leadership share of cloud revenue, and any cloud billing CSC brings will help.

Microsoft, like IBM, claimed big cloud momentum on its fourth quarter conference call, according to a report in Fortune Magazine. It was enough to send Microsoft share price up 4% at one point in after hours trading.

As Fortune notes, for Microsoft as for IBM and other legacy IT providers like Oracle, putting up big cloud numbers is mandatory as more companies change the way they buy IT products. Instead of purchasing hundreds or thousands of new servers or storage boxes every few years, more companies are running their software and storing their data on shared public cloud infrastructure, like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, the Google Compute Platform, or the IBM Cloud.

For reporting purposes, Microsoft combines Azure with other products in its intelligent cloud product segment. Overall, that segment’s revenue grew about 7% year over year to $6.7 billion from about $6.3 billion.

Oracle, too, is facing the same scramble to establish an enterprise cloud presence. Cloud software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) revenues were $690 million, up 66% in U.S. dollars. Total Cloud revenues, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), were $859 million, up 49% in U.S. dollars. At the same time, Oracle’s hardware revenue fell by 7% to $1.3 billion, and its software license revenue fell by 2% to $7.6 billion.

“We added more than 1,600 new SaaS customers and more than 2,000 new PaaS customers in Q4” (which ended in June), said Oracle CEO, Mark Hurd. “In Fusion ERP alone, we added more than 800 new cloud customers. Today, Oracle has nearly 2,600 Fusion ERP customers in the Oracle Public Cloud — that’s ten-times more cloud ERP customers than Workday.”

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is the last of the big public enterprise platform vendors, along with IBM and Oracle. (Dell is private and acquired EMC). HPE recently reported its best quarter in years. Second quarter net revenue of $12.7 billion, up 1% from the prior-year period. “Today’s results represent our best performance since I joined in 2011,” said Meg Whitman, president and chief executive officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The businesses comprising HPE grew revenue over the prior-year period on an as-reported basis for the first time in five years.

IBM needs to put up some positive numbers. Seventeen consecutive losing quarters is boring. Wouldn’t it be exciting if a turnaround started with a new enterprise z14?

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.


Oracle Aims at Intel and IBM POWER

July 8, 2016

In late June Oracle announced the SPARC S7 processor, a new 20nm, 4.27 GHz, 8-core/64-thread SPARC processor targeted for scale-out Cloud workloads that usually go to Intel x86 servers. These are among the same workloads IBM is aiming for with POWER8, POWER9, and eventually POWER10, as reported by DancingDinosaur just a couple of weeks ago.

oracle roadmap trajectory

Oracle 5-year SPARC trajectory (does not include newly announced S series).

According to Oracle, the latest additions to the SPARC platform are built on the new 4.27 GHz, 8-core/64-thread SPARC S7 microprocessor with what Oracle calls Software-in-Silicon features such as Silicon Secured Memory and Data Analytics Accelerators, which enable organizations to run applications of all sizes on the SPARC platform at commodity price points. All existing commercial and custom applications will also run on the new SPARC enterprise cloud services and solutions unchanged while experiencing improvements in security, efficiency, and simplicity.

By comparison, the IBM POWER platform includes with the POWER8, which is delivered as a 12-core, 22nm processor. The POWER9, expected in 2017, will be delivered as 14nm processor with 24 cores and CAPI and NVlink accelerators, which ensure delivery of more performance with greater energy efficiency.  By 2018, the IBM roadmap shows POWER8/9 as a 10nm, maybe even a 7nm, processor, based on the existing micro-architecture. And an even beefier POWER10 is expected to arrive around 2020.

At the heart of the Oracle’s new scale-out, commodity-priced server, the S7. According to Oracle, the SPARC S7 delivers balanced compute performance with 8 cores per processor, integrated on-chip DDR4 memory interfaces, a PCIe controller, and coherency links. The cores in the SPARC S7 are optimized for running key enterprise software, including Java applications and database. The SPARC S7–based servers use very high levels of integration that increase bandwidth, reduce latencies, simplify board design, reduce the number of components, and increase reliability, according to Oracle. All this promises an increase in system efficiency with a corresponding improvement in the economics of deploying a scale-out infrastructure when compared to other vendor solutions.

Oracle’s SPARC S7 processor, based on Oracle enterprise class M7 servers, is optimized for horizontally scalable systems with all the key functionality included in the microprocessor chip. Its Software-in-Silicon capabilities, introduced with the SPARC M7 processor, are also available in the SPARC S7 processor to enable improved data protection, cryptographic acceleration, and analytics performance. These features include Security-in-Silicon, which provides Silicon Secured Memory and cryptographic acceleration, and Data Analytics Accelerator (DAX) units, which provide In-memory query acceleration and in-line decompression

SPARC S7 processor–based servers include single- and dual-processor systems that are complementary to the existing mid-range and high-end systems based on Oracle’s SPARC M7 processor. SPARC S7 processor–based servers include two rack-mountable models. The SPARC S7-2 server uses a compact 1U chassis, and the SPARC S7-2L server is implemented in a larger, more expandable 2U chassis. Uniformity of management interfaces and the adoption of standards also should help reduce administrative costs, while the chassis design provides density, efficiency, and economy as increasingly demanded by modern data centers. Published reports put the cost of the new Oracle systems at just above $11,000 with a single processor, 64GB of memory and two 600GB disk drives, and up to about $50,000 with two processors and a terabyte of memory.

DancingDinosaur doesn’t really have enough data to compare the new Oracle system with the new POWER8 and upcoming POWER9 systems. Neither Oracle nor IBM have provided sufficient details. Oracle doesn’t even offer a roadmap at this point, which might tell you something.

What we do know about the POWER machines is this: POWER9 promises a wealth of improvements in speeds and feeds. Although intended to serve the traditional Power Server market, it also is expanding its analytics capabilities and is being optimized for new deployment models like hyperscale, cloud, and technical computing through scale-out deployment. Available for either clustered or multiple formats, it will feature a shorter pipeline, improved branch execution, and low latency on the die cache as well as PCI gen 4.

According to IBM, you can expect a 3x bandwidth improvement with POWER9 over POWER8 and a 33% speed increase. POWER9 also will continue to speed hardware acceleration and support next gen NVlink, improved coherency, enhance CAPI, and introduce a 25 GPS high speed link. Although the 2-socket chip will remain, IBM suggests larger socket counts are coming. It will need that to compete with Intel.

At least IBM showed its POWER roadmap. There is no comparable information from Oracle. At best, DancingDinosaur was able to dig up the following sketchy details for 2017-2019: Next Gen Core, 2017 Software-in-Silicon V1, Scale Out fully integrated Software-in-Silicon V1 or 2; 2018- 2019 Core Enhancements, Increased Cache, Increased Bandwidth, Software-in-Silicon V3.

Both Oracle and IBM have made it clear neither really wants to compete in the low cost, scale out server market. However, as both companies’ large clients turn to scale out, hyperscale Intel-based systems they have no choice but to follow the money. With the OpenPOWER Foundation growing and driving innovation, mainly in the form of accelerators, IBM POWER may have an advantage driving a very competitive price/performance story against Intel. With the exception of Fujitsu as an ally of sorts, Oracle has no comparable ecosystem as far as DancingDinosaur can tell.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.


Mainframe Cloud Storage Attracts Renewed Interest at Share

March 4, 2016

Maybe it was Share 2016, which runs through today in San Antonio that attracted both EMC and Oracle to introduce updated products that specifically target mainframe storage. Given that IBM has been struggling in the storage area, who would have guessed the newfound interest in mainframe storage. Or maybe these vendors sense a vulnerability.


Courtesy of EMC

EMC Corporation, for instance, announced new capabilities for its EMC VMAX and EMC Disk Library for mainframe storage products. With VMAX support for mainframe, in both the VMAX3 and the new VMAX All Flash products, mainframe shops can modernize, automate and consolidate disparate data center technologies within a simplified, high-performance data services platform. The additional capabilities of VMAX3 extend its automated performance tiering functionality to the mainframe.

The VMAX family, according to EMC, now offers twice the processing power in a third of the footprint for mainframe customers. Furthermore, in modernizing data protection for the mainframe, the company also announced what it refers to as the first-to-market scale-out automated snapshot solution for mainframe storage, called zDP (Data Protector for z Systems). It also announced updates to its EMC Disk Library for mainframe (DLm) technology that gives two virtual tape systems the ability to read from, write to, and update the

Not to be ignored at Share, Oracle announced its new StorageTek Virtual Storage Manager (VSM) 7 System, calling it the most secure and scalable data protection solution for mainframe and heterogeneous systems with the additional capability to provide fully automated tiering directly to the public cloud. Specifically, Oracle reports the StorageTek VSM 7 System delivers, 34x more capacity, significantly higher scalability to 256 StorageTek VSM 7 Systems, data deduplication, and native cloud tiering that provides mainframe and heterogeneous storage users the ability to access additional capacity on demand. Furthermore, Oracle’s StorageTek VSM 7 System has been architected to integrate with Oracle Storage Cloud Service—Object Storage and Oracle Storage Cloud Service – Archive Service to provide storage administrators with a built-in cloud strategy, making cloud storage as accessible as on-premises storage.

BTW, DancingDinosaur has not independently validated the specifications of either the new EMC or Oracle products. Links to their announcements are provided above should you want to perform further due diligence. Still, what we’re seeing here is that all enterprise data center systems vendors are sensing that with the growing embrace of cloud computing there is money to be made in modifying or augmenting their mainframe storage systems to accommodate cloud storage in a variety of ways. “Data center managers are starting to realize the storage potential of cloud, and the vendors are starting to connect the dots,” says Greg Schulz, principal of StorageIO.

Until recently cloud storage was not a first tier option for mainframe shops, in large part because cloud computing didn’t support FICON and still doesn’t.  “Mainframe data shops would have to piece together the cloud storage. Now, with so much intelligence built into the storage devices the necessary smart gateways, controllers, and bridges can be built in,” noted Schulz. Mainframe storage managers can put their FICON data in the cloud without the cloud specifically supporting FICON. What makes this possible is that all these capabilities are abstracted, same as  any software defined storage. Nobody on the mainframe side has to worry about anything; the vendors will take care of it through software or sometimes through firmware either in the data center storage device or in the cloud gateway or controller.

Along with cloud storage comes all the other goodies of the latest, most advanced storage, namely automated tiering and fast flash storage. For a mainframe data center, the cloud can simply be just one more storage tier, cheaper in some cases, faster but maybe a bit pricier (flash storage) in others. And flash, in terms of IOPS price/performance, shouldn’t be significantly more expensive if storage managers are using it appropriately.

IBM initially staked out the mainframe storage space decades ago, first on premises and later in the cloud. StorageTek and EMC certainly are not newcomers to mainframe storage. DancingDinosaur expects to see similar announcements from HDS any day now.

It’s telling that both vendors above–EMC, Oracle– specifically cited the mainframe storage although their announcements were primarily cloud focused. The strategy for mainframe storage managers at this point should be to leverage this rekindled interest in mainframe storage, especially mainframe storage in the cloud, to get the very best deals possible.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

IBM LinuxONE and Open Mainframe Project Expand the z System

August 20, 2015

Meet the new IBM z System; called LinuxONE Emperor (named after the Emperor Penguin.) It is a z13 running only Linux. Check out the full announcement here.

Primary LinuxOne emperor

Courtesy of IBM, LinuxONE Emperor, the newest z System

DancingDinosaur is excited by several aspects of this announcement:  IBM is establishing, in conjunction with the Linux Foundation, an Open Mainframe Project; the company is breaking with its traditional mainframe pricing model; it also is putting KVM and Ubuntu on the machine; and it is offering a smorgasbord of app-dev options, including some of the sexiest in the industry today. DancingDinosaur never believed it would refer to a mainframe as sexy (must be time to retire).

Along with LinuxONE Emperor IBM announced an entry dedicated Linux machine, the LinuxONE Rockhopper. (BTW; notice the new playfulness in IBM’s product naming.) Rockhopper appears to be very similar to what IBM used to call a Business Class z, although IBM has stepped away from that designation. The closest you may get to a z13 business class machine may be LinuxONE Rockhopper. Rockhopper, according to IBM, is designed for clients and emerging markets seeking the speed, security and availability of the mainframe but in a smaller package.

The biggest long term potential impact from the announcement may come out of the Open Mainframe Project. Like many of IBM’s community project initiatives, IBM is starting by seeding the open community with z code, in effect creating the beginning of an open z System machine.  IBM describes this as the largest single contribution of mainframe code from IBM to the open source community. A key part of the mainframe code contributions will be the z’s IT predictive analytics that constantly monitor for unusual system behavior and help prevent issues from turning into failures. In effect, IBM is handing over zAware to the open source community. It had already announced intentions to port zAware to Linux on z early this year so it might as well make it fully open. The code, notes IBM, can be used by developers to build similar sense-and-respond resiliency capabilities for other systems.

The Open Mainframe Project, being formed with the Linux Foundation, will involve a collaboration of nearly a dozen organizations across academia, government, and corporate sectors to advance development and adoption of Linux on the mainframe. It appears that most of the big mainframe ISVs have already signed on. DancingDinosaur, however, expressed concern that this approach brings the possibility of branching the underlying functionality between z and Linux versions. IBM insists that won’t happen since the innovations would be implemented at the software level, safely insulated from the hardware. And furthermore, should there emerge an innovation that makes sense for the z System, maybe some innovation around the zAware capabilities, the company is prepared to bring it back to the core z.

The newly announced pricing should also present an interesting opportunity for shops running Linux on z.  As IBM notes: new financing models for the LinuxONE portfolio provide flexibility in pricing and resources that allow enterprises to pay for what they use and scale up quickly when their business grows. Specifically, for IBM hardware and software, the company is offering a pay-per-use option in the form of a fixed monthly payment with costs scaling up or down based on usage. It also offers per-core pricing with software licenses for designated cores. In that case you can order what you need and decrease licenses or cancel on 30 days notice. Or, you can rent a LinuxONE machine monthly with no upfront payment.  At the end of the 36-month rental (can return the hardware after 1 year) you choose to return, buy, or replace. Having spent hours attending mainframe pricing sessions at numerous IBM conferences this seems refreshingly straightforward. IBM has not yet provided any prices to analysts so whether this actually is a bargain remains to be seen. But at least you have pricing option flexibility you never had before.

The introduction of support for both KVM and Ubuntu on the z platform opens intriguing possibilities.  Full disclosure: DancingDinosaur was an early Fedora adopter because he could get it to run on a memory-challenged antiquated laptop. With the LinuxONE announcement Ubuntu has been elevated to a fully z-supported Linux distribution. Together IBM and Canonical are bringing a distribution of Linux incorporating Ubuntu’s scale-out and cloud expertise on the IBM z Systems platform, further expanding the reach of both. Ubuntu combined with KVM should make either LinuxONE machine very attractive for OpenStack-based hybrid cloud computing that may involve thousands of VMs. Depending on how IBM ultimately prices things, this could turn into an unexpected bargain for Linux on z data centers that want to save money by consolidating x86 Linux servers, thereby reducing the data center footprint and cutting energy costs.  LinuxONE Emperor can handle 8000 virtual servers in a single system, tens of thousands of containers.

Finally, LinuxONE can run the sexiest app-dev tools using any of the hottest open technologies, specifically:

  • Distributions: Red Hat, SuSE and Ubuntu
  • Hypervisors: PR/SM, z/VM, and KVM
  • Languages: Python, Perl, Ruby, Rails, Erlang, Java, Node.js
  • Management: WAVE, IBM Cloud Manager, Urban Code Openstack, Docker, Chef, Puppet, VMware vRealize Automation
  • Database: Oracle, DB2LUW, MariaDB, MongoDB, PostgreSQL
  • Analytics: Hadoop, Big Insights, DB2BLU and Spark

And run the results however you want: single platform, multi-platform, on-prem and off-prem, or multiple mixed cloud environments with a common toolset. Could a combination of LinuxONE alongside a conventional z13 be the mainframe data center you really want going forward?

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

z Systems and Cloud Lead IBM 2Q Results

July 24, 2015

DancingDinosaur generally steers clear of writing about reported quarterly revenue. Given the general focus of this blog on enterprise and cloud computing, however, IBM’s recent 2Q15 report can’t be ignored. Although it continued IBM’s recent string of negative quarterly results, the z and cloud proved to be bright spots.

Infographic - IBM Q2 2015 Earnings - Cloud - July 20 2015 - Final

Strong IBM cloud performance, Q2 2015 (click to enlarge)

As IBM reported on Monday: Revenues from z Systems mainframe server products increased 9 percent compared with the year-ago period (up 15 percent adjusting for currency).  Total delivery of z Systems computing power, as measured in MIPS, increased 24 percent.  Revenues from Power Systems were down 1 percent compared with the 2014 period (up 5 percent adjusting for currency).

It’s not clear when and how Power Systems will come back. IBM has opened up the Power platform through the Open Power Foundation. A good move in theory, which DancingDinosaur applauds. Still, much depends on the Foundation gaining increased momentum and individual members rolling out successful Power-based products. The roadmap for POWER8, POWER9, and beyond looks promising but how fast products will arrive is unclear. There also is potential for the commoditization of the Power platform, a welcome development in many quarters, but commoditization’s impact on future revenue also is not clear.

Cloud revenue was up more than 70 percent, adjusting for currency and divested businesses; up more than 50 percent as reported, according to IBM. Given that cloud, along with mobile and analytics, has been designated strategic by IBM this is an encouraging development. The company’s cloud strategy is starting to bear fruit.

The big question hanging over every vendor’s cloud strategy is how to make money at it. One of the appealing aspects of the cloud in terms of cost and pricing for IT-using organizations is what amounts to a race to the bottom. With pricing immediately apparent and lower pricing just a click away it has become a feast for the bottom grazers to whom the lowest price is all that matters. For companies like IBM and Oracle, which also has declared cloud a strategic initiative, and other large legacy enterprise platform providers the challenge is to be competitive on price while differentiating their offerings in other ways. Clearly IBM has some unique cloud offerings in Watson and Bluemix and others but can they deliver enough revenue fast enough to offset the reduction in legacy platform revenue. Remember, x86 is off IBM’s menu.

Timothy Prickett Morgan, who writes frequently about IBM technology, also had plenty to say about IBM’s 2Q15 announcement, as did a zillion other financial and industry analyst. To begin he noted the irony of IBM promoting cloud computing, primarily an x86 phenomenon while trying to convince people that Power-based systems are cost competitive—which they can be—and will do a better job for many of those workloads, correct again.

Morgan also makes an interesting point in regard to the z: “IBM doesn’t have to push the System z mainframe so much as keep it on a Moore’s Law curve of its own and keep the price/performance improving to keep those customers in the mainframe fold.” That’s harder than it may seem; DancingDinosaur addressed the Moore’ Law issue last week here. As Morgan notes, with well over $1 trillion in software assets running on the mainframe, the 6,000 or so enterprises that use mainframes are unlikely to move off the platform because of the cost, disruption, and risk such a move would entail. Just ask Union-Pacific Railroad, which seems to be doing a slow-motion platform migration off the mainframe that seemingly may never actually end. Morgan concludes: “IBM can count on a certain level of money from the System z line that it just cannot with the Power Systems line.”

As noted above, how much revenue Power can generate for IBM depends on how fast the Open Power Foundation members introduce products that expand the market and how many Power processors SoftLayer can absorb as the business unit expands its global footprint.  There also is the question of how many POWER8 servers Rackspace, a much larger cloud provider than SoftLayer, will take and whether the Rackspace initiative will catch on elsewhere.

In any event, IBM’s 2Q15 report showed enough positive momentum to encourage IT platform enthusiasts. For its part, DancingDinosaur is expecting a business class z13 in the coming months and more.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

IBM z Systems as a Cloud Platform

February 13, 2015

DancingDinosaur wrote a long paper for an audience of x86 users. The premise of the paper: the z Systems in many cases could be a better and even lower cost alternative to x86 for a private or hybrid cloud. The following is an excerpt from that paper.


BTW, IBM earlier this month announced it signed a 10-year, large-scale services agreement with Shop Direct to move the multi-brand digital retailer to a hybrid cloud model to increase flexibility and quickly respond to changes in demand as it grows, one of many such IBM wins recently. The announcement never mentioned Shop Direct’s previous platform. But it or any company in a similar position could have opted to build its own hybrid (private/public) cloud platform.

A hybrid cloud a company builds today probably runs on the x86 platform and the Windows OS. Other x86-based clouds run Linux. As demand for the organization’s hybrid cloud grows and new capabilities are added traffic increases.  The conventional response is to scale out or scale up, adding more or faster x86 processors to handle more workloads for more users.

So, why not opt for a hybrid cloud running on the z? As a platform, x86 is far from perfect; too unstable and insecure for starters. By adopting a zEC12 or a z13 to host your hybrid cloud you get one of the fastest general commercial processors in the market and the highest security rating for commercial servers, (EAL 5+). But most x86-oriented data centers would balk. Way too expensive would be their initial reaction. Even if they took a moment to look at the numbers their IT staff would be in open revolt and give you every reason it couldn’t work.

The x86 platform, however, is not nearly as inexpensive as it was believed, and there are many ways to make the z cost competitive. Due to the eccentricities of Oracle licensing on the z Systems, for instance, organizations often can justify the entire cost of the mainframe just from the annual Oracle software license savings. This can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more each year. And the entry level mainframe has a list price of $75,000, not much more than an x86 system of comparable MIPS. And that’s before you start calculating the cost of x86 redundancy, failover, and zero downtime that comes built into the mainframe or consider security. Plus with the z Systems Solution Edition program, IBM is almost giving the mainframe away for free.

Some x86 shops could think of the mainframe as a potent Linux machine that can handle thousands of Linux instances without breaking a sweat. The staff wouldn’t even have to touch z/OS. It also runs Java and Hadoop. And it delivers an astonishingly fast and efficient Linux environment that provides a level of performance that would require a much great number of x86 cores to try to match. And if you want to host an on-premises or hybrid cloud at enterprise scale it takes a lot of cores. The cost of acquiring all those x86 cores, deploying them, and managing them will break almost any budget.

Just ask Jim Tussing, Chief Technology Officer for infrastructure and operations at Nationwide Insurance (DancingDinosaur has covered Tussing before): “We had literally 3000 x86 servers deployed that were underutilized,” which is common in the x86 environment even with VMware or Hyper-V virtualization. At a time when Nationwide was seeking to increase the pace of innovation across its products and channels, but rolling out new environments were taking weeks or months to provision and deploy, again not unheard of in the x86 world. The x86 environment at Nationwide was choking the company.

So, Nationwide consolidated and virtualized as many x86 servers on a mainframe as possible, creating what amounted to an on-premises and hybrid cloud. The payoff: Nationwide reduced power, cooling, and floor space requirements by 80 percent. And it finally reversed the spiraling expenditure on its distributed server landscape, saving an estimated $15 million over the first three years, money it could redirect into innovation and new products. It also could provision new virtual server instances fast and tap the hybrid cloud for new capabilities.

None of this should be news to readers of DancingDinosaur. However some mainframe shops still face organizational resistance to mainframe computing. Hope this might help reinforce the z case.

DancingDinsosaur is Alan Radding, a long-time IT analyst/writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of my IT writing at and here.

System z Takes BackOffice Role in IBM-Apple Deal

July 21, 2014

DancingDinosaur didn’t have to cut short his vacation and race back last week to cover the IBM-Apple agreement. Yes, it’s a big deal, but as far as System z shops go it won’t have much impact on their data center operations until late this year or 2015 when new mobile enterprise applications apparently will begin to roll out.

The deal, announced last Tuesday, promises “a new class of made-for-business apps targeting specific industry issues or opportunities in retail, healthcare, banking, travel and transportation, telecommunications, and insurance among others,” according to IBM. The mainframe’s role will continue to be what it has been for decades, the backoffice processing workhorse. IBM is not porting iOS to the z or Power or i or any enterprise platform.

Rather, the z will handle transaction processing, security, and data management as it always has. With this deal, however, analytics appears to be assuming a larger role. IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities is one of the jewels it is bringing to the party to be fused with Apple’s legendary consumer experience. IBM expects this combination—big data analytics and consumer experience—to produce apps that can transform specific aspects of how businesses and employees work using iPhone and iPad devices and ultimately, as IBM puts it, enable companies to achieve new levels of efficiency, effectiveness and customer satisfaction—faster and easier than ever before.

In case you missed the point, this deal, or alliance as IBM seems to prefer, is about software and services. If any hardware gets sold as a result, it will be iPhones and iPads. Of course, IBM’s MobileFirst constellation of products and services stand to gain. Mainframe shops have been reporting a steady uptick in transactions originating from mobile devices for several years. This deal won’t slow that trend and might even accelerate it. The IBM-Apple alliance also should streamline and simplify working with and managing Apple’s mobile devices on an enterprise-wide basis.

According to IBM its MobileFirst Platform for iOS will deliver the services required for an end-to-end enterprise capability, from analytics, workflow and cloud storage to enterprise-scale device management, security and integration. Enhanced mobile management includes a private app catalog, data and transaction security services, and a productivity suite for all IBM MobileFirst for iOS offerings. In addition to on premise software solutions, all these services will be available on Bluemix—IBM’s development platform available through the IBM Cloud Marketplace.

One hope from this deal is that IBM will learn from Apple how to design user-friendly software and apply those lessons to the software it subsequently develops for the z and Power Systems. Would be interesting see what Apple software designers might do to simplify using CICS.

Given the increasing acceptance of BYOD when it comes to mobile, data centers will still have to cope with the proliferation of operating systems and devices in the mobile sphere. Nobody is predicting that Android, Amazon, Google, or Microsoft will be exiting the mobile arena as a result, at least not anytime soon.

Finally, a lot of commentators weighed in on who wins or loses in the mobile market. In terms of IBM’s primary enterprise IT competitors Oracle offers the Oracle Mobile Platform. This includes mobile versions of Siebel CRM, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, and a few more. HP offers mobile app development and testing and a set of mobile application services that include planning, architecture, design, build, integration, and testing.

But if you are thinking in terms of enterprise platform winners and losers IBM is the clear winner; the relationship with Apple is an IBM exclusive partnership. No matter how good HP, Oracle, or any of IBM’s other enterprise rivals might be at mobile computing without the tight Apple connection they are at a distinct disadvantage. And that’s before you even consider Bluemix, SoftLayer, MobileFirst, and IBM’s other mobile assets.

BTW, it’s not too early to start planning for IBM Enterprise 2014. Mark your calendar, Oct 6-10 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. This event should be heavily z and Power.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. Follow him on Twitter @mainframeblog or at

Oracle Partners to Match IBM in the Cloud

June 28, 2013

At IBM Edge 2013 earlier in June the company effectively declared the cloud the face of the computing future, citing a fast compound annual growth rate that would result in 25% of companies using public or private clouds by 2015. Everywhere it seems, noted Clod Barrera,  IBM Chief Technical Strategist in a presentation at the June conference, companies are  “re-plumbing IT, making it more cloud-like.”

That means offering  user self service, click through service, service catalogs, chargeback, and more.  These companies,  Barrera continued,  start with what they have and want to layer the cloud user experience and cloud speed and flexibility on top of it.  They’re not intending to throw anything away either, not the System z or P or anything else.

With that in mind, IBM has been rolling out a stream of SmartCloud offerings for every flavor of organization and making acquisitions to facilitate its cloud strategy, the most recent being SoftLayer. You also read about an even more recent effort targeting the C-Suite last week here in DancingDinosaur.

The SoftLayer acquisition  promises to make it easier and faster for organizations around the world to incorporate cloud computing by marrying the speed and simplicity of SoftLayer’s public cloud services with the enterprise grade reliability, security and openness of the IBM SmartCloud portfolio.

SoftLayer accelerates IBM’s ability to integrate public and private clouds for its clients with flexibility that provides deployment options to enable a faster, broader transformation for small, medium and large businesses. All the while it addresses a range of performance and security models.  The addition of SoftLayer potentially gives IBM a big advantage compared to its enterprise rivals, particularly Oracle and HP.

Suddenly racing to bolster its cloud presence, Oracle has gone on a partnering binge with, Microsoft, and NetSuite just in the past week. While the details differ in each of the deals they all boil down to Oracle agreeing to play nice in the cloud with former competitors.  The hope is that customers will be able to make the various products they use from each vendor work together in the cloud, never a sure thing.

While Oracle appears to be just getting off Square One in the cloud, IBM already is delivering an increasingly capable set of cloud services that enable organizations to use the cloud to rethink IT and to reinvent the business. Rethinking IT means rapidly delivering IT services and integrating those services across cloud environments for the purpose of increasing efficiency. Reinventing the business means faster time to market for new services, a new focus on differentiated processes, and meeting changing customer expectations through real time access to technology in the cloud. And to make sure it also plays nice, IBM is emphasizing support for a variety of open cloud standards initiatives.

The formula for getting started with cloud is pretty straightforward, and IBM has been reciting it like a mantra for a year or more.  Barerra again laid it out at his IBM Edge 2013 session: Start with consolidation to bring things together and create as much system homogenization as is reasonable.  You can help this by adding a virtualization layer like SVC, which creates the appearance of homogeneity so you can at least manage it as one.

What you end up with, at least, is homogeneous systems behavior, which enables you to more easily automate systems processes.  Later on you can add capabilities like automation and the orchestration of entire workflow. Later still you can add capabilities to deal with specific requirements  for performance, service levels,  multiple tiers, and differentiated services like chargeback. IBM has already locked this down in a set if three cloud offerings dubbed Consolidate and Virtualize, Automate and Manage, and  Optimize/Cloud Ready.

An upcoming DancingDinosaur post will delve into Barerra’s cloud storage strategy, which begins with storage for workload optimized systems and moves through his taxonomy of storage in the cloud. It also will cover his six classes of cloud storage (as seen from the VM).  As  more systems are virtualized for private and public clouds and as cloud storage in general becomes ever more critical few enterprise players are really talking about this the way Barerra does.

zEnterprise vs. Intel Server Farms

May 17, 2013

How many Intel x86 servers do you need to match the performance of a zEnterprise and at what cost for a given workload? That is the central question every IT manager has to answer.

It is a question that deserves some thought and analysis. Yet often IT managers jump to their decision based on series of gut assumptions that on close analysis are wrong. And the resulting decision more often than not is for the Intel server although an honest assessment of the data in many instances should point the other way. DancingDinosaur has periodically looks at comparative assessments done by IBM. You can find a previous one, lessons from Eagle studies, here.

 The first assumption is that the Intel server is cheaper. But is it? IBM benchmarked a database workload on SQL Server running on Intel x86 and compared it to DB2 on z/OS.  To support 23,000 users, the Intel system required 128 database cores on four HP servers.  The hardware cost $0.34 million and the software cost $1.64 million for a 3-year TCA of $1.98 million. The DB2 system required just 5 cores at a hardware/software combined 3-year TCA of $1.4 million

What should have killed the Intel deal was the software cost, which has to be licensed based on the number of cores. Sure, the commodity hardware was cheap, but the cost of the database licensing drove up the Intel cost. Do IT managers wonder why they need so many Intel cores to support the same number of users they can support with far fewer z cores? Obviously many don’t.

Another area many IT managers overlook is I/O performance and its associated costs. This becomes particularly important as an organization deploys virtual machines.  Increasing the I/O demand on an Intel system uses more of the x86 core for I/O processing, effectively reducing the number of virtual machines that can be deployed per server and raising hardware costs.

The zEnterprise handles I/O differently. It provides 4-16 dedicated system assist processors for the offloading of I/O requests and an I/O subsystem bus speed of 8 GBps.

The z also does well with z/VM for Linux guest workloads. In this case IBM tested three OLTP database production workloads (4 server nodes per cluster), each supporting 6,000 trans/sec, Oracle Enterprise Edition, and Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) running on 12 HP DL580 servers (192 cores). This was compared to three Oracle RAC clusters of 4 nodes per cluster with each node as a Linux guest under z/VM . The zEC12 had 27 IFLs. Here the Oracle HP system cost $13.2 million, about twice as much as on the zEC12, $5.7 million. Again, the biggest cost savings came from the need for fewer Oracle licenses due to fewer cores.

The z also does beats Intel servers when running mixed high- and low- priority workloads on the same box. In one example, IBM compared high priority online banking transaction workloads with low priority discretionary workloads.  The workloads running across 3 Intel servers with 40 cores each (120 cores total) cost $13.7 million compared to z/VM on an zEC12 running 32 IFLs, which cost $5.77 million (58% less).

Another comparison demonstrates that core proliferation between Intel and the z is the killer. One large workload test required sixteen 32-way HP Superdome App. Production/Dev/ Test servers and eight 48-way HP Superdome DB Production/Dev/Test for a total of 896 cores. The 5-year TCA came to $180 million. The comparable workload running on a zEC12 41-way production/dev/test system used 41 general purpose processors (38,270 MIPS) with a 5-year TCA of $111 million.

When you look at the things a z can do to keep concurrent operations running that Intel cannot you’d hope non-mainframe IT managers might start to worry. For example, the z handles core sparing transparently; Intel must bring the server down.  The z handles microcode updates while running; Intel can update OS-level drivers but not firmware drivers. Similarly, the z handles memory and bus adapter replacements while running; Intel servers must be brought down to replace either.

Not sure what it will take for the current generation of IT managers to look beyond Intel. Maybe a new business class version of the zEC12 at a stunningly low price. You tell me.

BTW; are you planning to attend IBM Edge 2013 in Las Vegas, Jun 10-14? There will be much there to keep enterprise data center managers occupied.  Overall, IBM Edge 2013 will offer over 140 storage sessions, over 50 PureSystems sessions, more than 50 client case studies, and sessions on big data and analytics along with a full cloud track.  Look for me in the Social Media Lounge at the conference and in the sessions.  You can follow me on Twitter for conference updates@Writer1225.  I’ll be using hashtag #IBMEdge to post live Twitter comments from the conference.

Oracle’s Tough 3Q and New SPARC Chip

March 29, 2013

Almost like a good news/bad news joke, Oracle announced dismal financials last week along with the next rev of its SPARC processor. The company clearly is hoping that the new processor will revive its rapidly fading hardware business and pose some sort of challenge to IBM’s zEnterprise and Power Systems.

Hardware systems product revenue was $671 million. That’s sounds good for a quarter until you realize it was down 23% over the previous year. Ouch. Hardware systems support didn’t do much better, falling to $570 million even as Oracle’s hardware maintenance prices continued to climb, noted Timothy Sipples, who writes a blog called Mainframe.  Hardware platforms go through refresh cycles, as DancingDinosaur readers know, but Oracle has been struggling at this with Sun for three years.

Note that these figures include what Oracle calls its engineered systems like Exadata and Exalogic. These types of systems combine Oracle’s Sun hardware with its software in an optimized product. Such systems were expected to provide the synergies necessary to justify the initial Sun acquisition. And maybe they will someday, but Oracle stockholders have to be getting impatient. Along with the engineered systems was Oracle’s SPARC SuperCluster.  During that time IBM has been delivering its own highly optimized systems, hybrid systems, a new generation of  HPC systems, and expert-integrated systems.

Oracle’s 3Q report didn’t even mention its storage business, which consists mainly of StorageTek tape products and Oracle’s Sun ZFS Storage Appliance family.  By comparison, IBM has been advancing its storage offerings with products like Storwize, XIV, Real-time Compression, SSD, and more.

About the only bright spot Oracle could point to was its cloud effort. In the 3Q report it declared: “The Oracle Cloud is the most robust and comprehensive cloud platform available with services at the infrastructure (IaaS), platform (PaaS) and application (SaaS) level. In Q3, our SaaS revenue alone grew well over 100% as lots of new customers adopted our Sales, Service, Marketing and Human Capital Management applications in the Cloud,” according to Oracle President, Mark Hurd. And even here IBM has been busily building out its SmartCloud as-a-service offerings and putting them into a slew of SmarterPlanet initiatives.

From the standpoint of DancingDinosaur readers, who tend to focus on the System z, zEnterprise, and Power Systems, the most interesting part of Oracle’s recent activity is the new SPARC processor, the T5. New T5 servers can have up to eight microprocessors while Oracle’s new M5 system can be configured with up to thirty-two microprocessors. The M5 runs the Oracle database 10 times faster than the M9000 it replaces, according to Oracle. For the record, the top end zEC12 includes 101 cores. The zEC12 chip runs at 5.5 GHz.

Elizabeth Stahl, IBM’s chief technical strategist and benchmark guru, wrote this on her blog about Oracle’s T5 claims: Many of the claims are Oracle’s own benchmarks that are not published and audited. For price claims, Oracle, as they’ve done in the past, only factors in the price of the pizza box – make sure you add in the all-important software and storage. Stahl goes on to directly address Oracle’s benchmark claims here.

DancingDinosaur has been waiting for a rebound of the SPARC platform in the hopes that it might revive the Solaris on z initiative led by David Boyes and others. They actually had it working and at least one serious bank was piloting it. Lack of support from Oracle/Sun and IBM killed it. Solaris on z could have attracted Sun customers to the zEnterprise, mainly those in banking and financial services where Solaris and Sun were strong.  In case you are interested, Oracle still offers Solaris, now Oracle Solaris 11, and touts it as the first cloud OS.

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