Posts Tagged ‘RISC’

Syncsort’s 2015 State of the Mainframe: Little Has Changed

November 30, 2015

Syncsort’s annual survey of almost 200 mainframe shops found that 83 percent of respondents cited security and availability as key strengths of the mainframe. Are you surprised? You can view the detailed results here for yourself.

synsort mainframes Role Big Data Ecosystem

Courtesy; Syncsort

Security and availability have been hallmarks of the z for decades. Even Syncsort’s top mainframe executive, Harvey Tessler, could point to little unexpected in the latest results “Nothing surprising. At least no big surprises. Expect the usual reliability, security,” he noted. BTW, in mid-November Clearlake Capital Group, L.P. (Clearlake) announced that it had completed the acquisition of Syncsort Incorporated. Apparently no immediate changes are being planned.

The 2015 study also confirmed a few more recent trends that DancingDinosaur has long suspected. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents cited integration with other standalone computing platforms such as Linux, UNIX, or Windows as a key strength of mainframe.

Similarly, the majority (79 percent) analyze real-time transactional data from the mainframe with a tool that resides directly on the mainframe. That, in fact, may be the most surprising response. Mainframe shops (or more likely the line-of-business managers they work with) are notorious for moving data off the mainframe for analytics, usually to distributed x86 platforms. The study showed respondents are also turning to platforms such as Splunk (11.8 percent), Hadoop (8.6 percent), and Spark (1.6 percent) to supplement their real-time data analysis.

Many of the respondents no doubt will continue to do so, but it makes little sense in 2015 with a modern z System running a current configuration. In truth, it makes little sense from either a performance or a cost standpoint to move data off the z to perform analytics elsewhere. The z runs Hadoop and Spark natively. With your data and key analytics apps already on the z, why bother incurring both the high overhead and high latency entailed in moving data back and forth to run on what is probably a slower platform anyway.

The only possible reason might be that the mainframe shop doesn’t run Linux on the mainframe at all. That can be easily remedied, however, especially now with the introduction of Ubuntu Linux for the z. C’mon, it’s late 2015; modernize your z for the cloud-mobile-analytics world and stop wasting time and resources jumping back and forth to distributed systems that will run natively on the z today.

More encouraging is the interest of the respondents in big data and analytics. “The survey demonstrates that many big companies are using the mainframe as the back-end transaction hub for their Big Data strategies, grappling with the same data, cost, and management challenges they used it to tackle before, but applying it to more complex use cases with more and dauntingly large and diverse amounts of data,” said Denny Yost, associate publisher and editor-in-chief for Enterprise Systems Media, which partnered with Syncsort on the survey. The results show the respondents’ interest in mainframe’s ability to be a hub for emerging big data analytics platforms also is growing.

On other issues, almost one-quarter of respondents ranked as very important the ability of the mainframe to run other computing platforms such as Linux on an LPAR or z/VM virtual machines as a key strength of the mainframe at their company. Over one-third of respondents ranked as very important the ability of the mainframe to integrate with other standalone computing platforms such as Linux, UNIX, or Windows as a key strength of the mainframe at their company.

Maybe more surprising; only 70% on the respondents ranked as very important their organizations use of the mainframe for performing large-scale transaction processing or use of the mainframe for hosting mission-critical applications. Given that the respondents appeared to come from large, traditional mainframe shops you might have expected those numbers to be closer to 85-90%. Go figure.

When asked to rank their organization’s use of the mainframe to supplement or replace non-mainframe servers (i.e. RISC or x86-based servers) just 10% of the respondents considered it important. Clearly the hybrid mainframe-based data center is not a priority with these respondents.

So, what are they looking to improve in the next 12 months? The respondents’ top three initiatives are:

  1. Meeting Security and Compliance Requirements
  2. Reducing CPU usage and related costs
  3. Meeting Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

These aren’t the most ambitious goals DancingDinosaur has ever encountered but they should be quite achievable in 2016.

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

IBM Builds Out POWER8 Systems

October 3, 2014

Just in time for IBM Enterprise 2014, which starts on Monday in Las Vegas, IBM announced some new Power8 systems and a slew of new capabilities. Much of this actually was first telegraphed earlier in September here, but now it is official. Expect the full unveiling at IBM Enterprise2014.

The new systems are the Power E870 and the Power E880. The E870 includes up to 80 POWER8 cores in 32-40 nodes and as much as 4TB of memory. The Power 880 will scale up to 128 POWER8 cores and promises even more in the next rev. It also sports up to 16TB of memory, again with more coming. This should be more than sufficient to perform analytics on significant workloads and deliver insights in real time. The E880 offers also enterprise storage pools to absorb varying shifts in workloads and handle up to 20 virtual machines per core.

Back in December, DancingDinosaur referred to the Power System 795 as a RISC mainframe.  It clearly has been superseded by the POWER8 E880 in terms for sheer performance although the E880 is architected primarily for data analytics. There has been no hint of a refresh of the Power 795, which hasn’t even gotten the Power7 + chip yet. Only two sessions at Enterprise2014 address the Power System 795. Hmmm.

The new POWER8 machines boast some impressive benchmarks as of Sept. 12, 2014: AP SD 2-tier, SPECjbb2013, SPECint_rate2006 and SPECfp_rate2006).  Specifically, IBM is boasting of the fastest performing core in the industry: 1.96x or better than the best Intel Xeon Ivy Bridge and 2.29x better than the best Oracle SPARC. In each test the new POWER8 machine ran less than 2/3 of the cores of the competing machine, 10 vs. 15 or 16 respectively.

In terms of value, IBM says the new POWER8 machines cost less than competing systems, delivering 1000 users per core, double its nearest competitor. When pressed by DancingDinosaur on its cost analysis, IBM experts explained they set up new Linux apps on an enterprise class POWER8 system and priced out a comparably configured system from HP based on its published prices. For the new POWER8 systems IBM was able to hold the same price point, which turned out to be 30% less expensive for comparable power given the chip’s increased performance. By factoring in the increase in POWER8 performance and the unchanged price IBM calculated it had the lowest cost for comparable performance. Recommend you run your actual numbers.

The recent announcement also included the first fruits of the OpenPower Foundation, an accelerator from NVIDIA.  The new GPU accelerator, integrated directly into the server, is aimed at larger users of big data analytics, especially those using NoSQL databases.  The accelerator is incorporated into a new server, the Power System S824L, which includes up to 24 POWER8 cores, 1 TB of memory and up to 2 NVIDIA K40 GPU accelerators.  It also includes a bare metal version of Ubuntu Linux. IBM reports it runs extracting patterns for a variety of analytics, big data, and technical computing workloads involving large amounts of data 8x faster.

Another new goodie, one based on OpenStack, is IBM Power Virtualization Center (PowerVC), billed as new advanced virtualization management that promises to simplify the creation and management of virtual machines on IBM Power Systems servers using PowerVM or PowerKVM hypervisors. By leveraging OpenStack, it should enable IBM Power System servers to integrate into a Software Defined Environment (SDE) and provide the necessary foundation required for the delivery of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) within the Cloud.

Finally, as part of the Power8 announcements, IBM unveiled Power Enterprise Pools, a slick capacity-on-demand technology also called Power Systems Pools.  It offers a highly resilient and flexible IT environment to support of large-scale server consolidation and meet demanding business applications requirements. Power Enterprise Pools allow for the aggregation of compute resources, including processors and memory, across a number of Power systems. Previously available for the Power 780 and 795, it is now available on large POWER8 machines.

Am off to IBM Enterprise2014 this weekend. Hope to see you there. When not in sessions look for me wherever the bloggers hang out (usually where there are ample power outlets to recharge laptops and smartphones). Also find me at the three evenings of live performances: 2 country rock groups, Delta Rae and The Wild Feathers and then, Rock of Ages. Check out all three here.

Alan Radding is DancingDinosaur. You can follow this blog and more on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Also, find me at Technologywriter.com.

Meet the Power 795—the RISC Mainframe

December 16, 2013

The IBM POWER 795 could be considered a RISC mainframe. A deep dive session on the Power 795 at Enterprise 2013 in early October presented by Patrick O’Rourke didn’t call the machine a mainframe. But when he walked attendees through the specifications, features, capabilities, architecture, and design of the machine it certainly looked like what amounted to a RISC mainframe.

Start with the latest enhancements to the POWER7 chip:

  • Eight processor cores with:

12 execution units per core

4 Way SMT per core – up to 4 threads per core

32 Threads per chip

L1: 32 KB I Cache / 32 KB D Cache

 L2: 256 KB per core

 L3: Shared 32MB on chip eDRAM

  • Dual DDR3 Memory Controllers

100 GB/s Memory bandwidth per chip

  • Scalability up to 32 Sockets

360 GB/s SMP bandwidth/chip

20,000 coherent operations in flight

Built on POWER7 and slated to be upgraded to POWER8 by the end of 2014 the Power 795 boasts a number of new features:

  • New Memory Options
  • New 64GB DIMM enable up to 16TB of memory
  • New hybrid I/O adapters will deliver Gen2 I/O connections
  • No-charge Elastic processor and memory days
  • PowerVM will enable up an 20 LPARs per core

And running at 4.2 GHz, the Power 795 clock speed starts to approach the zEC12 at 5.5 GHz while matching the clock speed of the zBC12.

IBM has also built increased flexibility into the Power 795, starting with turbo mode which allows users to turn on and off cores as they manage power consumption and performance. IBM also has enhanced the concept of Power pools, which allows users to group systems into compute clusters by setting up and moving processor and memory activations within a defined pool of systems, at the user’s convenience. With the Power 795 pool activations can be moved at any time by the user without contacting IBM, and the movement of the activations is instant, dynamic, and non-disruptive. Finally, there is no limit to the number of times activations can be moved. Enterprise pools can include the Power 795, 780, and 770 and systems with different clock speeds can coexist in the same pool. The activation assignment and movement is controlled by the HMC, which also determines the maximum number of system in any given pool.

The Power 795 provides three flavors of capacity of demand (CoD). One flavor for organizations that know they will need the extra capacity that can be turned on through easy activation over time. Another is intended for organizations that know they will need extra capacity at predictable times, such as the end of the quarter, and want to pay for the added capacity on a daily basis. Finally, there is a flavor for organizations that experience unpredictable short bursts of activity and prefer to pay for the additional capacity by the minute. Actually, there are more than the three basic flavors of CoD above but these three will cover the needs of most organizations.

And like a mainframe, the Power 795 comes with extensive hardware redundancy.  OK, the Power 795 isn’t a mainframe. It doesn’t run z/OS and it doesn’t do hybrid computing. But if you don’t run z/OS workloads and you’re not planning on running hybrid workloads yet still want the scalability, flexibility, reliability, and performance of a System z the Power 795 might prove very interesting indeed. And when the POWER8 processor is added to the mix the performance should go off the charts. This is a worthy candidate for enterprise systems consolidation.


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