Posts Tagged ‘SUSE Linux’

Best System z TCO in Cloud and Virtualization

May 1, 2014

IBM recently analyzed various likely customer workload scenarios and found that the System z as an enterprise Linux server could consistently beat x86 machines in terms of TCO.  The analysis, which DancingDinosaur will dig into below, was reasonably evenhanded although, like automobile mileage ratings, your actual results may vary.

DancingDinosaur has long contended that the z Enterprise Linux Server acquired under the deeply discounted IBM System z Solution Edition program could beat comparable x86 based systems not only in terms of TCO but even TCA. Algar, a Brazilian telecom, acquired its initial z Enterprise Linux server to consolidate a slew of x86 systems and lay a foundation for scalable growth. It reports cutting data center costs by 70%. Nationwide Insurance, no newcomer to mainframe computing, used the zEnterprise to consolidate Linux servers, achieving $46 million in savings.

The point: the latest IBM TCO analyses confirm what IBM and the few IT analysts who talk to z customers have been saying for some time. TCO advantage, IBM found, switches to the z Enterprise Linux Server at around 200 virtual machines compared to the public cloud and a bit more VMs compared to x86 machines.

IBM further advanced its cause in the TCO/TCA battle with the recent introduction of the IBM Enterprise Cloud System. This is a factory-built and integrated system—processor, memory, network, IFLs, virtualization management, cloud management, hypervisor, disk orchestration, Linux OS—priced (discounted) as a single solution. IBM promises to deliver it in 45 days and have it production ready within hours of hitting the organization’s loading dock. Of course, it comes with the scalability, availability, security, manageability, etc. long associated with the z, and IBM reports it can scale to 6000 VMs. Not sure how this compares in price to a Solution Edition Enterprise Linux Server.

The IBM TCO analysis compared the public cloud, x86 cloud, and the Enterprise Cloud System in terms power and space, labor, software/middleware, and hardware costs when running 48 diverse (a range of low, medium, and high I/O) workloads. In general it found an advantage for the z Enterprise Cloud System of 34-73%.  The z cost considerably more in terms of hardware but it more than made up for it in terms of software, labor, and power. Overall, the TCO examined more than 30 cost variables, ranging from blade/IFL/memory/storage amounts to hypervisor/cloud management/middleware maintenance. View the IBM z TCO presentation here.

In terms of hardware, the z included the Enterprise Linux Server, storage, z/VM, and IBM Wave for z/VM. Software included WebSphere Application Server middleware, Cloud Management Suite for z, and Tivoli for z/VM. The x86 cloud included HP hardware with a hypervisor, WebSphere Application Server, SmartCloud Orchestrator, SmartCloud Monitoring, and Tivoli Storage Manager EE. Both analyses included labor to manage both hardware and VMs, power and space costs, and SUSE Linux.

The public cloud assumptions were a little different. Each workload was deployed as a separate instance. The pricing model was for AWS reserved instances. Hardware costs were based on instances in east US region with SUSE, EBS volume, data in/out, support (enterprise), free and reserved tier discounts applied. Software costs included WebSphere Application Server ND (middleware) costs for instances. A labor cost was included for managing instances.

When IBM applied its analysis to 398 I/O diverse workloads the results were similar, 49-75% lower cost with the Cloud System on z. Again, z hardware was considerably more costly than either x86 or the public cloud. But z software and labor was far less than the others. In terms of 3-year TCO, the cloud was the highest at $37 M, x86 came in at $18.3 M, and the Cloud on z cost $9.4 M. With 48 workloads, the z again came in with lowest TCO at $1 M compared to $1.6 M for x86 systems, and $3.9 M for the public cloud.

IBM kept the assumptions equivalent across the platforms. If you make different software and middleware choices or a different mix of high-mid-low I/O workloads your results will be different but the overall comparative rankings probably won’t change all that much.

Still time to register for IBM Edge2014 in Las Vegas, May 19-23. This blogger will be there hanging around the bloggers lounge when not attending sessions. Please join me there.

Follow Alan Radding/DancingDinosaur on Twitter: @mainframeblog

Linux on System z Update

August 27, 2012

It has taken a decade but Linux has finally firmly established itself in the mainframe world. As recently as 2Q 2012, IBM was reporting two-thirds of its top 100 customers had deployed IFLs, the assist processor for running Linux on the mainframe. Overall, one-third of its System z customers have deployed IFLs. Regardless of whether you are running Linux on the z today or not, Linux on z along with Java saved the mainframe from becoming just another niche technology instead of the versatile core enterprise platform it is today.

SUSE Linux Enterprise is the dominant version on Linux on the mainframe.  SUSE now is owned by Attachmate, which says it will runs it as an independent business unit to ensure it continues to focus on the benefits of open source.  SUSE has about 65% of the mainframe Linux market. Ubuntu and Fedora have negligible presence among mainframe Linux.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) holds most of the remainder on the mainframe Linux market.  Red Hat also offers Fedora, another Linux distribution intended primarily for individuals. After making steady inroads into SUSE’s mainframe Linux market share, progress appears to have slowed in recent months. At its annual Red Hat Summit last June the company celebrated crossing the $1 billion annual revenue threshold, a major achievement for any organization but especially for one built around an open source product.  The Red Hat event returns to Boston in 2013, June 11-14.

The Red Hat gathering  focused on the current hot IT issues—cloud, mobility, and cloud storage—but the mainframe was noticeably  absent. There has been some shifting of responsibilities among Red Hat personnel regarding the mainframe, but DancingDinosaur has been told it remains an active initiative. DancingDinosaur believes RHEL on the mainframe can certainly play an integral role in driving RHEL adoption throughout the enterprise, especially as it spreads through IBM’s various hybrid computing and cloud initiatives. And having two active Linux on z providers is good for mainframe computing.

This coming fall marks the first SUSECon event, something SUSE intends to make into an annual event. Planned for Orlando FL, Sept. 18-21, the event already is promoting Doug Balog, general manager, IBM System z, as a keynote. Balog is responsible for IBM’s worldwide System z server business. The conference promises to address enterprise Linux in the data center, cloud technology and infrastructure, and Linux systems management; basically what you’d expect.

In the meantime, SUSE released the second Service Pack for SUSE Linux Enterprise 11, which includes advanced exploitation of the latest IBM zEnterprise hardware, improved systems management, increased performance, and better problem analysis and resolution.  For example, new support for SSD makes it transparent to the DASD device driver, meaning no change required to use SSD

In terms of Linux functionality on the mainframe users see little differentiation between SUSE and RHEL from a product functionality standpoint. Makes sense since both are based on the Linux open source kernel. DancingDinosaur has profiled mainframe shops using each distribution. The choice often comes down to familiarity, services, and vendor attention to the customer. As hybrid computing gains traction among mainframe and Power shops and eventually PureSystems shops, however, the vendor—SUSE or Red Hat—that best addresses these new optimized multi-platform environments may gain an advantage.

For now, distinctions are minimal. A leading insurance company reports that it ended up using both distributions on its mainframe, starting first with Red Hat and then switching to SUSE and, a few years later, switching back to Red Hat.  As the project manager noted: “Either one works fine; you simply have to consider if your company already has a relationship with one of the vendors, your workload requirements, and any cost differences for code and support.” You also need to consider vendor readiness to support future initiatives like cloud, hybrid computing, mobile, and social business.

But changes are coming fast. IBM is inviting the industry to tomorrow’s virtual announcement of what it bills as the next generation zEnterprise system. Check it out.  DancingDinosaur will cover it in the next post.

SUSE zBX Promo Saves $39K

November 14, 2011

A few months back SUSE launched a promotion to drive adoption of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on zBX blades. If you are a new or existing SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z user, you can get a free Basic subscription for x86 blades in your zBX. Full details here.

Ordinarily, the x86 subscription costs $349. With the zBX able to take 112 x86 blades that comes to $39,088 in subscription charges avoided if you load the maximum number of x86 blades and use them all to run SUSE. By comparison, the cost of a basic subscription for the System z is $11,999. The Basic subscription allows unlimited use of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with all your zBX hardware and includes code maintenance for patches, fixes and security updates, but it does not include any active support services.

This promotion has generated surprisingly little buzz. In part it got lost in the acquisition by Attachmate. It also got ignored due to the generally slow adoption of the zBX. At last count, IBM reported over 80 zBX customers. Nice but given the number of active System z shops that is not exactly a big percentage of mainframe users jumping on the zBX bandwagon. To be fair, hybrid computing, of which the zBX is a key component, is both new and radically different; adoption will take time. The SUSE promotion is only good for the combination of System z and zBX.

The SUSE free subscription is a cute gesture, but it is a gimmick of minimal value. Any System z shop that wants more support won’t be interested in a Basic subscription; rather a higher level of support is available at an additional fee. Few shops are likely to deploy a zBX with 112 x86-blades running SUSE Linux, which is what it would take to capture the full $39,000 value of the promotion.

SUSE insists that some customers have picked up on the offer although they do not identify them. SUSE’s Basic subscription is the entry-level offering. System z shops are more likely to opt for the Standard offering, 12hr x Mon-Fri (5 day) support, or Priority, 24×7 support. No free subscription with these.

SUSE’s promo actually turns out to be a pretty expensive way to deploy free Linux.  A popular third party discount reseller offers IBM Hx5 blades starting at just under $5000 (Server – blade – 2-way – 1 x Xeon E7-4807 / 1.86 GHz – RAM 8 GB – no HDD). The purchase of 112 blades at $4500 each comes to $504,000, maybe less if you wrangle a discount.

You still will need to buy multiple zBX cabinets to house the blades. Figuring a maximum of 28 x5 blades per rack, you need 4 racks to accommodate 112 blades. That’s going to run close to $1 million. And that’s not all the costs.

So, to capture the full savings of $349 on each of 112 x86 blade SUSE Linux subscription you’ll probably end up spending close to $2 million. And why would you need to run that many instances of x86 Linux in the first place if you already have a zEnterprise? A more realistic use case might be 8-12 x86 blades running Linux in the zBX. The couple of thousand dollars in savings won’t be dramatic, but you probably won’t want the Basic subscription anyway.

If you already have a zEnterprise and want to run many instances of Linux use z/VM with IFLs to run hundreds, if not thousands of Linux instances just on the z. Then, if you really want a good deal take advantage of the IBM System z Enterprise Linux Solution Edition package. (You’ll have to qualify it as a new workload but with a little creativity that shouldn’t be too difficult.)

The combination of the zEnterprise and zBX and the resulting hybrid computing represents the future of enterprise computing. Linux certainly will play a big role. However, deploying SUSE on 112 x86 blades in a zBX, even with the promotion, may not be the best way to get there.

SUSE Linux Reemerges for zEnterprise

July 25, 2011

SUSE Linux, the leading Linux distribution on the System z, seemingly went AWOL following the acquisition of Novell by Attachmate. It shouldn’t have been that way; Attachmate said almost all the right things.

But there was this one little thing about Microsoft buying in. Since IBM has announced Windows will be supported in upcoming x86 blades on the zEnterprise, people can rest easier. Meanwhile, SUSE apparently went dark while Red Hat, following a successful spring user conference in Boston, suddenly was everywhere with exciting tools to put Linux applications, including z-based Linux applications, in public and private clouds.

With last week’s announcement of the SUSE Studio Version 1.2 SUSE Linux has returned. The latest SUSE Studio promises to help organizations more easily build, update, and manage application images across x86, public cloud, and IBM System z deployments, significantly reducing the overhead associated with managing a heterogeneous IT environment. With the announcement, SUSE becomes a full-fledged zEnterprise hybrid computing player.

As importantly, SUSE’s effort dovetails with industry efforts to expedite the movement of applications to the cloud and goes far to eliminate doubts about its intentions. Says Brett Waldman, senior research analyst at IDC: “With the recent acquisition of Novell by Attachmate, there has been some uncertainty around the future of the SUSE Appliance program. However, with the announcement of  SUSE Studio v1.2, the newly formed SUSE group has put that uncertainty to rest.”

Cloud computing helps organizations improve IT efficiency by switching IT delivery to a demand-driven service consumption model.  With SUSE Studio’s support for System z, enterprises can use the same tool to deploy versions of the same application across x86, public cloud, and System z private cloud deployments; thereby reducing the overhead associated with managing a heterogeneous environment. It also allows organizations to take advantage of the on-demand nature of the cloud by providing the ability to scale up or down as needed.  One way to do this is through virtual software appliances.

With SUSE Studio’s support for System Z, enterprises can use the same tool to deploy versions of the same application across x86, public cloud, and System z private cloud deployments. Furthermore, SUSE Studio establishes a bridge between x86 microprocessor architectures and mainframes by simplifying the creation, testing, maintenance and deployment of software applications on the mainframe.  Now, customers running hundreds of mission-critical Linux images on mainframes can save time by leveraging an easy-to-use interface for building mainframe workloads.

Mono, the last piece of the SUSE Linux on z puzzle, also seems to be falling into place. DancingDinosaur has written previously about Mono, the open source .NET app server that comes with SUSE Enterprise Linux on System z, most recently here  and here

 A few System z shops experimented with Mono on z but nothing ever came of it. Apparently, it was not quite ready for prime time. In the Attachmate acquisition, Mono seemed to be falling through the cracks. However, it resurfaced in May as the Mono team, laid off by Attachmate, set up shop at

Xamarin,  which licensed the Mono code from Attachmate and is now the official developer and maintainer of Mono.  The company’s focus is Mono for the smartphone market, but Sine Nomine Associates, known for leading the efforts to port openSolaris to z,  has been given the OK to revive work on the System z port of Mono.   At least one company, reportedly, has .NET-based systems they want mainframe-enabled. DancingDinosaur will continue to follow the Mono on z saga.

Please note: DancingDinosaur will be closed July 27-Aug. 10.  New posts will appear the week of Aug. 15.

SUSE Linux future on the IBM System z

December 21, 2010

As noted in earlier posts, IBM’s decision to bring Linux to the mainframe a decade ago saved the mainframe from becoming a niche platform. Linux on the System z along with the mainframe’s unmatched virtualization capabilities will propel it into the future as a cloud-capable platform and for whatever comes next.

That’s why Attachmate’s acquisition of Novell for $2.2 billion late in November raises some concerns. Part of Novell is SUSE Linux, one of the two Linux distributions certified for System z. For many years SUSE, essentially, had 100% of the mainframe Linux market while Red Hat focused on the distributed systems market. That dynamic, however, is changing.

Red Hat has steadily chipped away at the SUSE mainframe share. Today Red Hat, according to some market analysts, has 25% share to Novell’s 75%. Red Hat clearly has demonstrated market momentum in the past two years.

If Attachmate follows what it has done with previous acquisitions, such as NetIQ, Novell will be run as its own business unit. That means, presumably, it will continue to pursue strategies to build SUSE in the mainframe market.

In announcing the acquisition the Attachmate CEO said: “This acquisition will add significant assets to our current portfolio holdings, and the Novell and SUSE brands will allow us to deliver even more value to customers… Moreover, we look forward to maintaining and further strengthening Novell and SUSE solutions to meet market demands.”

If you are a SUSE Linux mainframe customer that sounds pretty encouraging. However, high up in a slightly different acquisition announcement from Novell was this:  Novell also announced it has entered into a definitive agreement for the concurrent sale of certain intellectual property assets to CPTN Holdings LLC, a consortium of technology companies organized by Microsoft Corporation.

So Microsoft and some partners are buying a chunk of Novell’s intellectual property. That shouldn’t raise any concerns except for one thing; SUSE includes Mono, a .NET application server. In theory SUSE Linux on the z running Mono would allow an organization to run .NET applications (essentially Windows apps) on the mainframe.

DancingDinosaur has not found any SUSE on z user that has successfully implemented .NET apps on the mainframe. A few have tried but reported that Mono on z wasn’t ready for prime time.

This raises two questions:

  1. Will Mono on z be improved so it, indeed, is ready for production deployment?
  2. If Mono on z is part of the intellectual property Microsoft purchased, would it be interested in improving Mono performance on the z?

If Mono is not part of what Microsoft purchased, question #2 is moot. In any case, as a Novell spokesman pointed out, Mono is open source so Microsoft shouldn’t be calling the shots anyway. The Mono community can be found here and Mono for the z (s390) here.

It would be nice if Mono worked as promised on the System z, giving mainframe users another avenue for expanding mainframe workloads; this time for Windows workloads. If you know anyone who has tried it successfully on the z, please let me know.


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