Posts Tagged ‘PaaS’

IBM Continues to Bolster Bluemix PaaS

September 10, 2015

In the last 10 years the industry, led by IBM, has gotten remarkably better at enabling nearly coding-free development. This is important given how critical app development has become. Today it is impossible to launch any product without sufficient app dev support.  At a minimum you need a mobile app and maybe a few micro-services. To that end, since May IBM has spent the summer introducing a series of Bluemix enhancements. Find them here and here and here and here.  DancingDinosaur, at best a mediocre programmer, hasn’t written any code for decades but in this new coding environment he has started to get the urge to participate in a hack-a-thon. Doesn’t that (below) look like fun?

Bluemix Garage Toronto 1

IBM’s Bluemix Garage in Toronto (click to enlarge)

The essential role of software today cannot be overestimated. Even companies introducing non-technical products have to support them with apps and digital services that must be continually refreshed.  When IoT really starts to ramp up bits and pieces of code everywhere will be needed to handle the disparate pieces, get everything to interoperate, collect the data, and then use it or analyze it and initiate the next action.

Bluemix, a cloud-based PaaS product, comes as close to an all-in-one Swiss army knife development and deployment platform for today’s kind of applications as you will find. Having only played around with a demo it appears about as intuitive as an enterprise-class product can get.

The most recent of IBM’s summer Bluemix announcement promises more flexibility to integrate Java-based resources into Bluemix.  It offers a set of services to more seamlessly integrate Java-based resources into cloud-based applications. For instance, according to IBM, it is now possible to test and run applications in Bluemix with Java 8. Additionally, among other improvements, the jsp-2.3, el-3.0, and jdbc-4.1 Liberty features, previously in beta, are now available as production-ready. Plus, Eclipse Tools for Bluemix now includes JavaScript Debug, support for Node.js applications, Java 8 Liberty for Java integration, and Eclipse Mars support for the latest Eclipse Mars version as well as an improved trust self-signed certificates capability. Incremental publish support for JEE applications also has been expanded to handle web fragment projects.

In mid-August IBM announced the use of streaming analytics and data warehouse services on Bluemix. This should enable developers to expand the capabilities of their applications to give users a more robust cloud experience by facilitating the integration of data analytics and visualization seamlessly in their apps. Specifically, according to IBM, a new streaming analytics capability was put into open beta; the service provides the capability to instantaneously analyze data while scaling to thousands of sources on the cloud. IBM also added MPP (massively parallel processing) capabilities to enable faster query processing and overall scalability. The announcement also introduces built-in Netezza analytics libraries integrated with Watson Analytics, and more.

Earlier in August, IBM announced the Bluemix Garage opening in Toronto (pictured above). Toronto is just the latest in a series coding workspaces IBM intends to open worldwide. Next up appear to be Nice, France and Melbourne, Australia later this year.  According to IBM, Bluemix Garages create a bridge between the scale of enterprises and the culture of startups by establishing physical collaboration spaces housed in the heart of thriving entrepreneurial communities around the world. Toronto marks the third Bluemix Garage. The Toronto Bluemix Garage is located at the DMZ at Ryerson University, described as the top-ranked university-based incubator in Canada. Experts there will mentor the rising numbers of developers and startups in the region to create of the next generation of cloud apps and services using IBM’s Bluemix.

Members of the Toronto Bluemix Garage include Tangerine, a bank based in Canada that is using Bluemix to implement its mobile strategy. Through the IBM Mobile Quality Assurance for Bluemix service, Tangerine gathers customer feedback and actionable insight on its mobile banking app, effectively streamlining its implementation and development processes.

Finally, back in May IBM introduced new Bluemix Services to help developers create analytics-driven cloud applications. Bluemix, according to IBM, is now the largest Cloud Foundry deployment in the world. And the services the company announced promise to make it easier for developers to create cloud applications for mobile, IoT, supply chain analytics, and intelligent infrastructure solutions. The new capabilities will be added to over 100 services already available in the Bluemix catalog.

At the May announcement, IBM reported bringing more of its own technology into Bluemix, including:

  • Bluemix API Management, which allows developers to rapidly create, deploy, and share large-scale APIs and provides a simple and consumable way of controlling critical APIs not possible with simpler connector services
  • New mobile capabilities available on Bluemix for the IBM MobileFirst Platform, which provide the ability to develop location-based mobile apps that connect insights from digital engagement and physical presence

It also announced a handful of ecosystem and third-party services being added into Bluemix, including several that will facilitate working with .NET capabilities. In short, it will enable Bluemix developers to take advantage of Microsoft development approaches, which should make it easier to integrate multiple mixed-platform cloud workloads.

Finally, as a surprise note at the end of the May announcement IBM added that the company’s total cloud revenue—covering public, private and hybrid engagements—was $7.7 billion over the previous 12 months as of the end of March 2015, growing more than 60% in first quarter 2015.  Hope you’ve noticed that IBM is serious about putting its efforts into the cloud and openness. And it’s starting to pay off.

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

 

POWER Systems for Cloud & Linux at IBM Edge2015

April 23, 2015

In October, IBM introduced a new range of POWER systems capable of handling massive amounts of computational data faster at nearly 20 percent better price/performance than comparable Intel Xeon v3 processor-based systems, delivering to clients a superior alternative to closed, commodity-based data center servers. DancingDinosaur covered it last October here. Expect this theme to play out big at IBM

Edge2015 in Las Vegas, May 10-15. Just a sampling of a few of the many POWER sessions makes that clear:

IBM Power S824L

Courtesy of Studio Stence, Power S824L (click to enlarge)

(lCV1655) Linux on Power and Linux on Intel: Side By Side, IT Economics Positioning; presenter Susan Proietti Conti

Based on real cases studied by the IBM Eagle team for many customers in different industries and geographies, this session explains where and when Linux on Power provides a competitive alternative to Linux on Intel. The session also highlights the IT economic value of architecture choices provided by the Linux/KVM/Power stack, based on open technologies brought by POWER8 and managed through OpenStack. DancingDinosaur periodically covers studies like these here and here.

(lCV1653) Power IT Economics Advantages for Cloud Service Providers and Private Cloud Deployment; presenter Susan Proietti Conti

Since the announcement of POWER8 and building momentum of the OpenPOWER consortium, there are new reasons for cloud service providers to look at Power technology to support their offerings. As an alternative open-based technology to traditional proprietary technologies, Power offers many competitive advantages that can be leveraged for cloud service providers to deliver IaaS services and other types of service delivery. This session illustrates what Power offers by highlighting client examples and the results of IT economics studies performed for different cloud service providers.

(lSY2653) Why POWER8 Is the Platform of Choice for Linux; presenter Gary Andrews

Linux is the platform of choice for running next generation workloads. With POWER8, IBM is investing heavily into Linux and is adding major enhancements to the Power platform to make it the server of choice for running Linux workloads. This session discusses the new features and how they can help run business faster and at lower costs on the Power platform. Andrews also points out many advanced features of Linux on Power that you can’t do with Linux on x86. He shows how competitive comparisons and performance tests demonstrate that POWER8 increases the lead over x86 latest processor family. In short, attend this session to understand the competitive advantages that POWER8 on Linux can deliver compared to Linux on x86.

(pBA1244) POWER8: Built for Big Data; presenter William Starke

Starke explains how IBM technologies from semiconductors through micro-architecture, system design, system software, and database and analytic software culminate in the POWER8 family of products optimized around big data analytics workloads. He shows how the optimization across these technologies delivers order-of-magnitude improvements via several example scenarios.

 (pPE1350) Best Practices Guide to Get Maximum Performance from IBM POWER8; presenter Archana Ravindar

This session presents a set of best practices that have been tried and tested in various application domains to get the maximum performance of an application on a POWER8 processor. Performance improvement can be gained at various levels: the system level, where system parameters can be tuned; the application level, where some parameters can be tuned as there is no one-size-fits-all scenario; and the compiler level, where options for every kind of application have shown to improve performance. Some options are unique to IBM and give an edge over competition in gaming applications. In cases where applications are still under development, Ravindar presents guidelines to ensure the code runs fastest on Power.

DancingDinosaur supports strategies that enable data centers to reuse existing resources like this one. (pCV2276) Developing a POWERful Cloud Strategy; presenter, Susan Schreitmueller

Here you get to examine decision points for how and when to use an existing Power infrastructure in a cloud environment. This session covers on-premises and off-premises, single vs. multi-tenant hosting, and security concerns. You also review IaaS, PaaS, and hybrid cloud solutions incorporating existing assets into a cloud infrastructure. Discover provisioning techniques to go from months to days and then to hours for new instances.

One session DancingDinosaur hasn’t found yet is whether it is less costly for an enterprise to virtualize a couple of thousand Linux virtual machines on one of the new IBM Power servers pictured above or on the z13 as an Enterprise Linux server purchased under the System z Solution Edition Program. Hmm, will have to ask around about that. But either way you’d end up with very low cost VMs compared to x86.

Of course, save time for the free evening entertainment. In addition to Penn & Teller, a pair of magicians, and rocker Grace Potter, here, there will be a weird but terrific group, 2Cellos as well.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing on Technologywriter.com and here. Please join DancingDinosaur at IBM Edge2015. You will find me hanging out wherever people gather around available power outlets to recharge mobile devices.

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.

The Future of IBM Lies in the Cloud

March 13, 2014

In her annual letter to stockholders IBM CEO Virginia Rometty made it clear that the world is being forever altered by the explosion of digital data and by the advent of the cloud. So, she intends IBM to “remake the enterprise IT infrastructure for the era of cloud.” This where she is leading IBM.

DancingDinosaur thinks she has it right. But where does that leave this blog, which was built on the System z, Power Systems, and IBM’s enterprise systems? Hmm.

Rometty has an answer for that buried far down in her letter. “We are accelerating the move of our Systems product portfolio—in particular, Power and storage—to growth opportunities and to Linux, following the lead of our successful mainframe business. “

The rapidly emerging imperatives of big data, cloud computing, and mobile/social require enterprise-scale computing in terms of processing power, capacity, availability, security, and all the other ities that have long been the hallmark of the mainframe and IBM’s other enterprise class systems. She goes so far as to emphasize that point:  “Let me be clear—we are not exiting hardware. IBM will remain a leader in high-performance and high-end systems, storage and cognitive computing, and we will continue to invest in R&D for advanced semiconductor technology.”

You can bet that theme will be continued at the upcoming Edge 2014 conference May 19-23 in Las Vegas. The conference will include an Executive program, a Technical program with 550 expert technical sessions across 14 tracks, and a partner program. It’s being billed as an infrastructure innovation event and promises a big storage component too. Expect to see a lot of FlashSystems and XIV, which has a new pay-as-you-go pricing program that will make it easy to get into XIV and scale it fast as you need it. You’ll probably also encounter some other new go-to-market strategies for storage.

As far as getting to the cloud, IBM has been dropping billions to build out about as complete a cloud stack as you can get.  SoftLayer, the key piece, was just the start. BlueMix, an implementation of IBM’s Open Cloud Architecture, leverages Cloud Foundry to enable developers to rapidly build, deploy, and manage their cloud applications while tapping a growing ecosystem of available services and runtime frameworks, many of which are open source. IBM will provide services and runtimes into the ecosystem based on its already extensive and rapidly expanding software portfolio. BlueMix is the IBM PaaS offering that compliments SoftLayer, its IaaS offering. Cloudant, the most recent acquisition, brings database as a service (DBaaS) to the stack. And don’t forget IBM Wave for z/VM, which virtualizes and manages Linux VMs, a critical cloud operation for sure. With this conglomeration of capabilities IBM is poised to offer something cloud-like to just about any organization. Plus, tying WebSphere and its other middleware products to SoftLayer bolsters the cloud stack that much more.

And don’t think IBM is going to stop here. DancingDinosaur expects to see more acquisitions, particularly when it comes to hybrid clouds and what IBM calls systems of engagement. Hybrid clouds, for IBM, link systems of engagement—built on mobile and social technologies where consumers are engaging with organizations—with systems of record, the main workloads of the System z and Power Systems, where data and transactions are processed.

DancingDinosaur intends to be at Edge 2014 where it expects to see IBM detailing a lot of its new infrastructure and demonstrating how to use it. You can register for Edge 2014 here until April 20 and grab a discount.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter: @mainframeblog

IBM Points System z Further into the Cloud with CSL

July 12, 2013

With the announcement of its plans to acquire CSL International as a strategic addition to its System z portfolio IBM is underscoring its intention to move the z even closer to the cloud, if that is possible.  For over a year DancingDinosaur has been touting the z’s growing cloud-ness, most recently here, at the start of this year.

The mainframe has been part of cloud computing for so long that when private clouds were first being talked about data center managers couldn’t understand the fuss. They remarked to DancingDinosaur that they had considered their System z—highly virtualized since the moment it arrived—a private cloud from day one.

Still, it is good to see CSL added to the z product portfolio. CSL provides a simplified management of the virtualization environment. CSL Wave, which is targeted initially for the zEnterprise Linux Server, enables companies to monitor and manage their z/VM and Linux on System z environments using an easy-to-use graphical interface. The software provides drag and drop simplicity to instantly create, discover, visualize and connect virtual servers to resources. Admins can add, move and change virtual servers; connect and rearrange them as needed on the fly; and manage the resulting environment easily and quickly, no big learning curve to climb. In the process, it frees up skilled staff to address other business challenges.

CSL really is intended as a virtualization technology, and virtualization underlies cloud computing. The first step to a private cloud is to consolidate and virtualize the existing IT infrastructure and that is what CSL will enable. The next step is to automate the management, which also is where CSL plays. So, expect CSL Wave to show up immediately in zEnterprise Linux Server-based private clouds.

What comes next for CSL isn’t clear. As IBM puts it, virtualization, a foundation of cloud computing, and has been designed into the fabric of the System z architecture since its inception nearly 50 years ago. The z offers expansive scalability with a shared-everything design for maximum utilization – up to 100 percent – of computing resources. The CSL acquisition simply extends the value of IBM’s current cloud offerings.

In fact, IBM has been bolstering its cloud portfolio all year long. It was obvious at IBM Edge 2013, where nearly every session referenced the cloud in one way or another. It is even more evident in the recent SoftLayer acquisition.  SoftLayer Technologies Inc. was a privately held cloud computing infrastructure company based in Dallas until June when it agreed to be acquired by IBM. The deal was closed earlier this week.

SoftLayer provides what amounts to a cloud on ramp for born-on-the-web companies, government agencies, and the Fortune 500. It offers a fully-automated platform to enable enterprises complete access, control, security, and scalability through SoftLayer’s  functionally independent data centers, which feature redundant resources and are fully integrated through the company’s high performance global network architecture, described as a network-within-a-network topology. The network allows for true out-of-band access, and an easy-to-use customer portal built around a robust API that provides full remote access to all product and service management options.

At the same time, IBM announced that Flow, a real-time data platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and content curation platform, will stream its real-time data analytics based on IBM SmartCloud and the SoftLayer technology platform. Flow, a New York City-based company with Fortune 500 partnerships, transforms the way companies process, publish and consume real-time information, enabling it to be accessed and viewed from mobile devices. IBM will offer integrated solutions combining Flow, the high performance SoftLayer technology, and IBM SmartCloud. This streamed, integrated real-time data will enable clients to send and receive data from any mobile device, ensuring that it is integrated with enterprise data, thereby facilitating the collaboration essential to social business.

In short, the combination of Flow and SoftLayer will deliver the ability to intelligently connect, process, and route real-time data to and from any number of enterprise applications, analytics and mobile services. The result: real-time information dashboards and mobile apps can be deployed in minutes without any IT support.

The financial analyst community has been nervous about IBM at least since the last quarterly earnings report. (IBM’s key competitors fared worse.) The financial analysts want to see IBM mixing it up with everyone from established cloud players to low margin hot cloud upstarts and still make money. Of course, some of those same cloud players haven’t ever made money, and even if IBM has a bad year (which is not a given based on one quarter) it will still do $100 billion. That’s not exactly shabby.

Red Hat Summit Challenges IBM and zEnterprise

June 29, 2012

The Red Hat Summit in Boston this week showed off a slew of new products, some of which are sure to challenge IBM although none included hardware. As for the zEnterprise there was little beyond RHEL specifically aimed its way.

Although IBM has a long relationship with Red Hat, it is becoming clear that in some cases the two companies compete.  Despite moments of discomfort, IBM managers still are generally amenable to working closely with Red Hat. Coopetition, a mix of cooperation and competition, increasingly is the norm for all technology companies, not just IBM and Red Hat.  Both companies, for instance, have a strong interest in promoting KVM, which provides a low price hypervisor option. But as one IBM manager noted, price is only a door opener for a bigger discussion.  From that bigger discussion, IBM still holds more and stronger cards when it comes to delivering a complete customer solution.

The centerpiece of the conference was Red Hat’s announcement of four open hybrid solutions; hybrid here refers to the blend of public and private clouds. Find the announcement here. The four open hybrid cloud solutions consist of:

  • OpenShift Enterprise PaaS Solution combines Red Hat CloudForms, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and JBoss Enterprise Middleware. It aims to deliver the speed and agility of PaaS desired by enterprise developers while addressing the governance and operational requirements of enterprise IT in an open and hybrid cloud.
  • Red Hat Hybrid Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Solution, described by Red Hat as the industry’s first open hybrid cloud solution for enterprises, it includes the software needed to deploy and manage a hybrid cloud, including virtualization management with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization; cloud management, governed self-service and systems management with Red Hat CloudForms; and guest operating system with Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
  • Red Hat Cloud with Virtualization Bundle, promises to move enterprises to the cloud for the price of virtualization and consists of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and Red Hat CloudForms, effectively combining virtualization and cloud management into the same project cycle.
  • Red Hat Storage, a software-only offering provides open source scale-out storage software for the management of unstructured data.  It is generally available with Red Hat Storage Server 2.0 today but the company has big ambitions for this.

All the above are software-only solutions. Red Hat is not getting into either the server or storage hardware business. Of these, the OpenShift PaaS product, which promises an easy on-ramp to open hybrid cloud computing with reduced complexity, sounds a little like IBM PureSystems and particularly the IBM PureSystems PureApplication System, which provides a fully integrated  hardware/software PaaS offering in a box.

Red Hat Storage, which is built around Red Hat’s recent Gluster acquisition, an open source software company that maintained GlusterFS, an open source, distributed file system capable of scaling to petabytes and beyond while handling thousands of clients. GlusterFS brings together storage building blocks over an Infiniband, RDMA, or TCP/IP interconnects to aggregate disk and memory resources and manage data within a single global namespace.

GlusterFS supports standard clients running standard applications over any standard IP network.  Red Hat’s GlusterFS gives users the ability to deploy scale-out, virtualized storage through a centrally managed and commoditized pool of storage while freeing them from monolithic legacy storage platforms.

The poster child for Red Hat Storage today is Pandora, which delivers music on demand over the net. Pandora put Red Hat Storage across 100 NAS nodes, producing what amounts to NAS in the cloud.  Where organizations have IBM storage, Red Hat Storage will virtualize and manage it as it does any other storage.

The most interesting discussion DancingDinosaur had revolved around Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). RHEL has experienced generally steady growth, and the RHEL team is cocky enough to target selected Microsoft workloads to drive further growth.  RHEL appears to be a dominant Linux distribution everywhere but on the z. Among z shops running Linux,  RHEL is treading water at around 33% share. SUSE is the dominant Linux distribution on z.  Given the upheaval SUSE has experienced you’d expect the zEnterprise to be a RHEL growth opportunity, especially with growing interest in multi-platform hybrid computing involving the z. Red Hat clearly needs to pay more attention to the z.

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.

SaaS and the IBM System z

May 10, 2010

A year ago Mac Devine, IBM Distinguished Engineer, extolled the virtues of the mainframe as the foundation for a SaaS strategy. Since then a slew of z cloud initiatives by IBM along with enhancements to WebSphere and the System z and the growing embrace of SaaS by ever more vendors only reinforce Devine’s message. The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Showplace, an independent online directory of SaaS products, reports over 1300 organizations now have SaaS offerings.

Devine outlined the case for SaaS on the z in a presentation at SHARE last year, the SaaS-y Mainframe—Cloud Computing with System z.  The core of the System z SaaS pitch, as stated at SHARE a year ago: Mainframes, as consolidation engines, are uniquely designed to virtualize and share everything—hardware, network, I/O, you name it—taking on the equivalent of hundreds or even thousands of servers workloads. Multi-tenancy, a core SaaS requirement, is baked into the DNA of the mainframe by default, which makes it particularly valuable for organizations re-architecting existing applications to deliver as a service.

Veteran mainframe data center managers were baffled when SaaS, ASPs (application service providers) and MSPs (managed service providers) first appeared on the scene years ago. That’s what they had been doing for years, for decades, they would tell me. Only, it wasn’t called that then. How is it any different from time sharing, they would ask.

Conceptually it isn’t very different. However, three things make it different enough: 1) the emergence of the Internet as a ubiquitous connecting fabric that everyone can use; 2) the browser as the universal client; and 3) the advent of services and service orientation. Previously monolithic code is now extracted as identifiable services and made accessible over the Internet via the browser following a requester-responder model.

Transzap, an online financial processor, remains IBM’s System z poster child for SaaS. The company handles payables, invoicing, and spend analysis through an Oracle database running as a service in a virtualized Linux on z environment. In 2009, the company handled 58 million customer transactions that way. You can check out their story here.

CA also has jumped into the mainframe SaaS game but from a completely different angle. CA wants to sell outsourced mainframe management to z shops as a contracted service. Their pitch is here.  CA really is offering not SaaS but managed services more like MSPs offered a decade or more ago.  Good luck.

IBM’s mainframe SaaS strategy envisions the mainframe as the center of SaaS offerings based on mainframe functionality delivered as sets of services. The goal is to enable IT to provide selected mainframe capabilities as online services and generate new revenue for the company. In effect, IT becomes what IBM refers to as rainmakers, using mainframe assets delivered as SaaS.

Are mainframe managers ready to think this way? Some certainly are. What mainframe data or functionality will your organization’s customers or new customers be willing to pay for?

In truth, the System z is well positioned to capitalize on the as-a-service phenomenon. The System z is multi-tenant to the max, which is critical to play the as-a-service game. Not only can it deliver SaaS data and functionality but also PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service). And it doesn’t take much to do this if you already have a z in place. Linux on z, WebSphere on z, and z/VM get you started.


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