Posts Tagged ‘price/performance’

Exploiting the IBM z13 for Maximum Price/Performance Advantage

February 4, 2016

The z13 is the most powerful general purpose computer IBM has ever made. The key to capturing the maximum value from the z13, however, lies in how you plan, design, configure, and optimize your systems and software for everything from COBOL and Java to process parallelization and analytics. What you do in this regard will have significant impact on not only the price/performance you experience but on your success at achieving the business outcomes you are expecting.

z13-under the covers

IBM System z13

This really becomes a software configuration challenge. By tapping approximately 600 internal processors IBM already has optimized the hardware, input, output, memory, and networking/communications about as much as it can be. Your job is to optimize the software you are running, which will require working closely with your ISV.

The place to start is by leveraging the z13’s new compiler technology, parallelism, zIIP and assist processors. This will enable you to save significant money while boosting workload performance. You will literally be doing more for less.

Similarly, in the not too distant past Moore’s Law would virtually guarantee a 15-20% price/performance gain automatically just by taking a new machine out of the box and plugging it in. That’s no longer the case. Now you will have to partner with your ISV to exploit advanced software to maximize the hardware payback and continue the ride along the favorable Moore’s Law price/performance slope.

Then look at the latest COBOL V5.x and its compiler on the z13. Out of the box it is better optimized than previous compilers. In general, the strategic value of COBOL V5.x comes from migrating high CPU usage programs as quickly as possible, effectively saving organizations considerable money by running optimized code.

Some organizations report a 15% on average reduction of CPU time, which adds up to significant savings in monthly CPU charges. How significant? Up to $150k less on a $1 million bill, with some reporting even higher percentage reductions producing even greater savings. Just migrate to COBOL V5.2 (or at least V5.1) to achieve the savings. In general, staying on the software curve with the latest releases of the OS, languages, and compilers with applications optimized for them is the best way to ensure your workloads are achieving top performance in the most cost-effective way.

For example, the new z13 processor leverages a new Vector Facility for certain COBOL statements and expands the use of Decimal Floating Point Facility for packed decimal calculations. Well-structured, compute-intensive batch applications running on z13 and compiled with the Enterprise COBOL V5.2  compiler have shown CPU reduction usage of up to 14% over the same applications running on zEC12 (compiled with the GA release of Enterprise COBOL V5.1), according to IBM. The result: improved workload price/performance.

Enterprise COBOL V5.2 also includes new features to improve programmability, developer productivity, and application modernization. Supporting JSON, for instance, will provide mobile applications easy access to data and the processing they need from business critical production applications written in COBOL.

The z13 and its z sister, the latest LinuxONE dedicated Linux models, were designed and optimized from the start for cloud, mobile, and analytics. They were intended to run alongside traditional mainframe workloads with z/OS or Linux running on the appropriate models.

Finally, plan to take advantage of the new assist processors and expanded memory capacity to further boost performance and lower cost. With the z13, there is a mandatory migration of all zAAP-enabled applications to zIIP. Expect the usage of the zIIP assist processors to surge when all those Java applications move from the zAAP.  ISVs like Compuware should be able to help with this.  In addition, if you enable SMT on the z13, you’ll immediately get more Java capacity.  Applications that run under IBM WebSphere (WAS) on z/OS will benefit too.

The z13 and especially the LinuxONE are breaking new ground. IBM has established, in conjunction with the Linux Foundation, an Open Mainframe Project to support and advance ongoing open source Linux innovation on the mainframe. IBM also is breaking with its traditional mainframe pricing model by 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. See DancingDinosaur here.

An upcoming DancingDinosaur will look at more of the enhancements being added to these machines, including some of the latest LinuxOne enhancements like support for Google’s Go language and Cloudant’s NoSQL services. The message: the new z System can take you to the places you will want to be in this emerging cloud-mobile-analytics era.

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’s z13 Redefines Mainframe Performance, Economics, and Versatility

January 14, 2015

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

 IBM z113

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IBM zEnterprise 196 changes fit-for-purpose

October 6, 2010

In June 2009, an IBM executive delivered a System z presentation that provided a simple prescription for fit-for-purpose decisions. The new hybrid zEnterprise 196, a mainframe that can incorporate blades running x86, POWER7, AIX, and Linux along with the usual System z assist processors (zAAP, zIIP, and IFL) under unified virtual platform management (the Unified Resource Manager) complicates the fit-for-purpose calculation considerably.

Fit-for-purpose refers to the decision process one goes through in determining which workloads should run on which platforms.  In June 2009, the choices as presented were pretty straightforward. You chose mainframes and high end UNIX servers for high volume transaction processing and big databases.  UNIX platforms also were the recommended choice for business critical production applications, analytics, and high performance computing.  Windows servers were left to handle web applications, web infrastructure, and collaboration. Based on the same thinking, Windows servers would take on workgroup productivity applications.

In IBM’s new fit-for-purpose scheme the four basic platform choice categories essentially remain but the application workloads are labeled Type 1, 2, 3, 4.

Type 1—mixed workloads updating shared data or queues

Type 2—highly threaded applications

Type 3—parallel data structures with analytics

Type 4—small discrete applications

As a hybrid machine—one able to cross the different IBM platforms—the  zEnterprise 196 complicates the decision of where to put workloads because some workloads can be run on different platforms and in different ways within the zEnterprise. For example, you can run Linux using an IFL assist processor with or without z/VM or you can run Linux on a POWER7 blade or x86 blade within the zEnterprise extension cabinet, the zBX.

Similarly, you can run Cognos on the z on Linux using any of those platforms. The same goes for WebSphere.  In the usual fit-for-purpose decision you consider data volumes and data proximity, the number of users, the number of transaction, usage patterns, and service and security levels.

But now you especially need to look at price and performance.  At this point, IBM has been coy about talking about the price of the various zEnterprise components. They also have been silent about the real-world performance of the different components. In terms of performance are organizations to assume that Cognos running on Linux on z with data stored in DB2 on the same z will deliver the best performance?

What happens when you consider price/performance rather than performance alone? Will Cognos running on Linux on an x86 blade in the zBX extension deliver slightly less yet still good enough performance but at a considerably lower cost?  Who knows? Until IBM provides more information about both pricing and relative platform performance there is no way to evaluate the tradeoffs involved in each fit-for purpose choice. Same with WebSphere or any other workload. (Further complicating the Cognos decision is the Smart Analytics Optimizer, a special blade for the zBX.)

Since some of the pieces aren’t actually shipping yet, IBM may not yet have settled on specific pricing. As for real world performance, we will have to wait for companies to begin deploying the new zEnterprise 196 in production situations that generate meaningful production and performance metrics. Only then can organizations make good fit-for-purpose decision with the new machine. As has been noted here before, the zEnterprise is a work in progress. Stay tuned.

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