Posts Tagged ‘System z’

BMC MainView for Java Manages Critical Digital Business

May 16, 2016

A large European financial services firm increasingly handles a lot of critical transaction functions with Java running through CICS and WebSphere.  As the firm looks forward, its managers see Java playing a bigger and more critical role in its core business as it shifts more of its business functionality to agile programming in Java. This firm is not even thinking about abandoning its workhorse COBOL code ever, but all new work is being directed to Java.

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With that in mind, BMC last week announced MainView for Java Environments, part of BMC’s MainView integrated systems management suite of tools that provides insight into how Java is consuming resources and affecting application performance on the z System.  It is no surprise, therefore, that the firm became an early beta user for MainView for Java Environments.

According to a BMC survey, 93% of mainframe organizations in a recent BMC survey said Java usage is growing or steady, and Java is the language of choice for writing new or rewriting existing mainframe applications. BMC MainView for Java Environments provides insight into Java resource usage and how it impacts other workloads and applications. For example it automatically discovers all the Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) across z/OS. That alone can help with identifying performance problems in an effort to find and fix problems fast.

Java is the key to both performance and cost savings by running on zIIP assist processors. Java workloads, however, can affect performance and availability on the mainframe, as they consume system resources without regard for the needs of other applications or services, which is another reason why zIIP is essentially. Also, an integrated management approach gives IT operations a holistic view of the environment to quickly and easily discover Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) and to manage the effect of their resource consumption on application performance.

Java was the first object oriented programming language DancingDinosaur tried.  Never got good enough to try it on real production work, but here’s what made it appealing: fully object oriented, produces truly portable write-once, run-anywhere code (mainly because it results in Java virtual machine bytecode) and had automatic garbage collection. For a run-of-the-mill programmer, Java was a joy compared to C or, ugh, COBOL. Some of the new languages becoming popular today, the ones driving mobile and cloud and analytics apps look even easier, but DancingDinosaur would feel too embarrassed to sit in a programming class with twenty-somethings the age of his daughters.

Java usage today, according to the BMC survey, is growing or steady, while Java has become the language of choice for writing new or rewriting existing mainframe applications. The only drawback may be that Java workloads can affect performance and resource availability on the mainframe as JVMs consume system resources oblivious to the needs of other applications or services or the cost of uncontrolled resource consumption, which is what Java unrestrained produces. An integrated management approach that allows for a holistic view of the environment can quickly and easily discover JVMs and manage can constrain the effects on resource consumption on application performance and offset any drawback.

Explained Tim Grieser, program vice president, at IDC’s Enterprise System Management Software: “Since Java manages its own resources it can consume excessive amounts of processor time and memory resources leading to performance or availability problems if not proactively managed.” The key being proactively managed.  BMC’s MainView for Java Environments promises exactly that kind of proactive management by monitoring z/OS Java runtime environments and provides a consolidated view of all resources being consumed. This will enable system admins and operators to identify and manage performance issues before they impact end users.

“Java on the mainframe is being used to develop and deploy new applications faster and more economically to meet dynamically changing digital business needs and to take advantage of widely available programming skills” IDC’s Grieser continued. Something like BMC’s MainView for Java Environments can be used to constrain Java. IBM’s Omegamon can fulfill a similar function.

According to the financial firm beta test manager, with BMC’s MainView for Java Environments tool, Java can be effectively used to unlock Java’s potential on the mainframe  vital in a changing application and systems environment as part of an integrated performance management solution that discovers and monitors JVMs. As such, it provides a single graphical console which enables you  to quickly understand the Java applications impact on resources and its effect on the performance of other applications and transactions. The solution promises to improve application performance and ensure availability while reducing Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) and lowering Monthly License Charges (MLC) by monitoring zIIP offloading, which is the key to both performance and cost management.

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

 

IBM’s Strategic Initiatives Gain New All-Flash Storage

May 6, 2016

Flash storage must be the latest rage among enterprise storage vendors.  Last week IBM introduced three new all-flash storage arrays, driving down latency and price/gigabyte to unheard of levels (minimum latency of 250μs, all-flash storage as low as $1.50 per gigabyte). Earlier this week EMC announced new all-flash arrays for its Unity series at prices under $18,000 (under $10,000 for hybrid arrays.) Flash storage has long beaten hard disk in terms of cost per IOPS, but now it is rivaling hard disk in terms of cost/gigabyte.

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IBM A9000 All-Flash Array

OK, it looks a little—uh—boxy to say the least. But the new FlashSystem A9000 is packed with storage goodies. It comes fully configured, which helps drive down the cost of implementing an all-flash environment. Its sister, the FlashSystem A9000R, brings a grid architecture that provides for easy scaling up to the petabyte range. Both FlashSystems incorporate data reduction features, including pattern removal, deduplication and real-time compression, as well as IBM FlashCore technology to deliver consistent low latency performance. As noted above, they are priced as low as $1.50 per gigabyte.

Driving IBM’s latest interest in flash storage are its strategic initiatives, start with cloud computing. Consumers today, notes IBM, are demanding cloud-based applications that are fast, easy, and intelligent. That means minimal latency. Cloud users are demanding sub-second response times, especially when accessing critical data. They also are demanding cloud providers deliver a unique, personalized, and positive customer experience.

To deliver this, IBM is turning to hardware innovation, specifically its MicroLatency technology, to transfers data within the flash array instead of adding another layer of software. MicroLatency technology inserts FPGAs (hardware) that connects and communicates directly with the flash and RAID controllers, eliminating the latency of software and even firmware. Instead, the FlashSystems lets hardware talk directly with hardware.

In addition, IBM is packing the new FlashSystem arrays with features designed to solve cloud requirements such as quality-of-service (QoS) to prevent the noisy neighbor problems with application performance. The new arrays also feature secure multi-tenancy, thresholding, and easy-to-deploy grid scale-out capabilities.

The z System platform is not being ignored in all of this. IBM is including a new DS model, the all-flash IBM DS 8888 optimized for enterprise-class servers: With the all-flash IBM DS8888, customer databases and data-intensive applications are accelerated, resulting in improved business performance and customer satisfaction.

Specifically, the DS888 brings faster decision making and improve customer serviceability, with 4x performance over previous generations and accelerated response time for mission critical applications. The flash storage delivers up to 2.5 million IOPS, the result of having been built on the Power8 processor. It also enables organizations to streamline operations through the performance of an all flash architected solution aligned to provide the deepest integration with System z environments. For instance, IBM promises the most robust FICON connectivity through an architecture optimized for mainframe’s 4K cache segments.

In addition, the DS8888 promises 24×7 access to data and applications through superior business continuity on high demand transaction processing workloads while delivering top operations performance through its all flash architecture. It goes beyond the usual high end 5-nines availability to deliver 6-nines availability, which translates into a mere 2.59 seconds of downtime per month.  Other availability features include flexible replication (IBM FlashCopy, Metro Mirror, Global Mirror, Metro/Global Mirror, Global Copy & Multiple Target Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy). In the early years of flash reliability and availability were a concern.  With the DS8888 and 6-nines availability it isn’t any more.

Finally, it comes with a smorgasbord of security and efficiency goodies, including self-encrypted flash drives, key interoperability management protocol, syslog protocol, an intuitive GUI (IBM has learned a few tricks from Apple), innovative storage software licensing, RESTful and OpenStack APIs to connect workloads between private and public clouds, and thin provisioning for maximum utilization and reclamation of capacity from deleted data.

All-flash solutions announced last week complement IBM’s existing all-flash portfolio including FlashSystem 900 and V9000 that also leverage IBM’s FlashCore technology. IBM’s midrange all-flash solutions consist of all-flash versions of IBM’s Storwize family, which offers the performance needed for real-time insights from business data combined with advanced management functions. IBM’s Big Data all-flash solution delivers high-density multi-petabyte scale and a low-cost flash option ideal for industries such as media, genomics, and life sciences.

DancingDinosaur used to be hired to write papers around the enterprise cost-performance tradeoffs between hard disk and SSD/flash. No matter how expensive flash was at whatever point, the cost per IOPS always favored flash and cost per gigabytes always favored hard disk. That’s no longer an analysis worth even making today.

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 Drives Platforms to the Cloud

April 29, 2016

IBM hasn’t been shy about its shift of focus from platforms and systems to cloud, mobile, analytics, and cognitive computing. But it didn’t hit home until last week’s release of 1Q2016 financials, which mentioned the z System just once. For the quarter IBM systems hardware and operating systems software revenues (lumped into one category, almost an after-thought) rang up $1.7 billion, down 21.8 percent.

This is ugly, and DancingDinosaur isn’t even a financial analyst. After the z System showed attractive revenue growth through all of 2015 suddenly its part of a loss. You can’t even find the actual numbers for z or Power in the new report format. As IBM notes: the company has revised its financial reporting structure to reflect the transformation of the business and provide investors with increased visibility into the company’s operating model by disclosing additional information on its strategic imperatives revenue by segment. BTW, IBM did introduce new advanced storage this week, which was part of the Systems Hardware loss too. DancingDinosaur will take up the storage story here next week.

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But the 1Q2016 report was last week. To further emphasize its shift IBM this week announced that it was boosting support of OpenStack’s RefStack project, which is intended to advance common language between clouds and facilitate interoperability across clouds. DancingDinosaur applauds that but if you are a z data center manager you better take note that the z along with all the IBM platforms, mainly Power and storage, being pushed to the back of the bus behind IBM’s strategic imperatives.

DancingDinosaur supports the strategic initiatives and you can throw blockchain and IoT in with them too. These initiatives will ultimately save the mainframe data center. All the transactions and data swirling around and through these initiatives eventually need to land in a safe, secure, utterly reliable place where they can be processed in massive volume, kept accessible, highly available, and protected for subsequent use, for compliance, and for a variety of other purposes. That place most likely will be the z data center. It might be on premise or in the cloud but if organizations need rock solid transaction performance, security, availability, scalability, and such they will want the z, which will do it better and be highly price competitive. In short, the z data center provides the ideal back end for all the various activities going on through IBM’s strategic initiative.

The z also has a clear connection to OpenStack. Two years ago IBM announced expanding its support of open technologies by providing advanced OpenStack integration and cloud virtualization and management capabilities across IBM’s entire server portfolio through IBM Cloud Manager with OpenStack. According to IBM, Cloud Manager with OpenStack will provide support for the latest OpenStack release, dubbed Icehouse at that time, and full access to the complete core OpenStack API set to help organizations ensure application portability and avoid vendor lock-in. It also extends cloud management support to the z, in addition to Power Systems, PureFlex/Flex Systems, System x (which was still around then)  or any other x86 environment. It also would provide support for IBM z/VM on the z, and PowerVC for PowerVM on Power Systems to add more scalability and security to its Linux environments.

At the same time IBM also announced it was beta testing a dynamic, hybrid cloud solution on the IBM Cloud Manager with OpenStack platform. That would allow workloads requiring additional infrastructure resources to expand from an on premise cloud to remote cloud infrastructure.  Since that announcement, IBM has only gotten more deeply enamored with hybrid clouds.  Again, the z data center should have a big role as the on premise anchor for hybrid clouds.

With the more recent announcement RefStack, officially launched last year and to which IBM is the lead contributor, becomes a critical pillar of IBM’s commitment to ensuring an open cloud – helping to advance the company’s long-term vision of mitigating vendor lock-in and enabling developers to use the best combination of cloud services and APIs for their needs. The new functionality includes improved usability, stability, and other upgrades, ensuring better cohesion and integration of any cloud workloads running on OpenStack.

RefStack testing ensures core operability across the OpenStack ecosystem, and passing RefStack is a prerequisite for all OpenStack certified cloud platforms. By working on cloud platforms that are OpenStack certified, developers will know their workloads are portable across IBM Cloud and the OpenStack community.  For now RefStack acts as the primary resource for cloud providers to test OpenStack compatibility, RefStack also maintains a central repository and API for test data, allowing community members visibility into interoperability across OpenStack platforms.

One way or another, your z data center will have to coexist with hybrid clouds and the rest of IBM’s strategic imperatives or face being displaced. With RefStack and the other OpenStack tools this should not be too hard. In the meantime, prepare your z data center for new incoming traffic from the strategic imperatives, Blockchain, IoT, Cognitive Computing, and whatever else IBM deems strategic next.

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 Puts Blockchain on the z System for a Disruptive Edge

April 22, 2016

Get ready for Blockchain to alter your z-based transaction environment. Blockchain brings a new class of distributed ledger applications. Bitcoin, the first Blockchain system to grab mainstream data center attention, is rudimentary compared to what the Linux Foundation’s open HyperledgerProject will deliver.

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As reported in CIO Magazine, Blockchain enables a distributed ledger technology with ability to settle transactions in seconds or minutes automatically via computers. This is a faster, potentially more secure settlement process than is used today among financial institutions, where clearing houses and other third-party intermediaries validate accounts and identities over a few days. Financial services, as well as other industries, are exploring blockchain for conducting transactions as diverse as trading stock, buying diamonds, and streaming music.

IBM in conjunction with the Linux Foundation’s HyperledgerProject expects the creation and management of Blockchain network services to power a new class of distributed ledger applications. With the HyperLedger and Blockchain developers could create digital assets and accompanying business logic to more securely and privately transfer assets among members of a permissioned Blockchain network running on IBM LinuxONE or Linux on z.

In addition, IBM will introduce fully integrated DevOps tools for creating, deploying, running and monitoring Blockchain applications on the IBM Cloud and enable applications to be deployed on IBM z Systems. Furthermore, by using Watson as part of an IoT platform IBM intends to make possible information from devices such as RFID-based locations, barcode-scan events, or device-recorded data to be used with IBM Blockchain apps. Clearly, IBM is looking at Blockchain for more than just electronic currency. In fact, Blockchain will enable a wide range of secure transactions between parties without the use of intermediaries, which should speed transaction flow. For starters, the company brought to the effort 44,000 lines of code as a founding member of the Linux Foundation’s HyperledgerProject

The z, with its rock solid reputation for no-fail, extreme high volume and performance, and secure processing, is a natural for Blockchain applications and system. In the process it brings the advanced cryptography, security, and reliability of the z platform. No longer content just to handle traditional backend systems-of-record processing IBM is pushing to bring the z into new areas that leverage the strength and flexibility of today’s mainframe.  As IoT ramps up expect the z to handle escalating volumes of IoT traffic, mobile traffic, and now blockchain distributed ledger traffic.  Says IBM: “We intend to support clients looking to deploy this disruptive technology at scale, with performance, availability and security.” That statement has z written all over it.

Further advancing the z into new areas, IBM reemphasized its advantages through built-in hardware accelerators for hashing and digital signatures, tamper-proof security cards, unlimited random keys to encode transactions, and integration to existing business data with Smart Contract APIs. IBM believes the z could take blockchain performance to new levels with the world’s fastest commercial processor, which is further optimized through the use of hundreds of internal processors. The highly scalable I/O system can handle massive amounts of transactions and the optimized network between virtual systems in a z Systems cloud can speed up blockchain peer communications.

An IBM Blockchain DevOps service will also enable blockchain applications to be deployed on the z, ensuring an additional level of security, availability and performance for handling sensitive and regulated data. Blockchain applications can access existing transactions on distributed servers and z through APIs to support new payment, settlement, supply chain, and business processes.

Use Blockchain on the z to create and manage Blockchain networks to power the emerging new classes of distributed ledger applications.  According to IBM, developers can create digital assets and the accompanying business logic to more securely and privately transfer assets among members of a permissioned Blockchain network. Using fully integrated DevOps tools for creating, deploying, running, and monitoring Blockchain applications on IBM Cloud, data centers can enable applications to be deployed on the z. Through the Watson IoT Platform, IBM will make it possible for information from devices such as RFID-based locations, barcode scans, or device-recorded data to be used with IBM Blockchain.

However, Blockchain remains nascent technology. Although the main use cases already are being developed and deployed many more ideas for blockchain systems and applications are only just being articulated. Nobody, not even the Linux Foundation, knows what ultimately will shake out. Blockchain enables developers to easily build secure distributed ledgers that can be used to exchange most anything of value fast and securely. Now is the time for data center managers at z shops to think what they might want to do with such extremely secure transactions on their z.

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.

 

Play the Cloud-Mobile App Dev Game with z/OS Client Web Enablement

April 15, 2016

Is you z team feeling a little nervous that they are missing an important new game? Are business managers bugging you about running slick Cloud and mobile applications through the z? Worse, are they turning to third party contractors to build apps that will try to connect your z to the cloud and mobile world? If so, it is time to take a close look at IBM’s z/OS Client Web Enablement Toolkit.

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Accessing backend system through a mobile device

If you’re a z shop running Linux on z or a LinuxONE shop you don’t need z/OS Web Enablement. The issue only comes up when you need to connect the z/OS applications to cloud, web, and mobile apps. IBM began talking up z/OS Enablement Toolkit since early this year. Prior to the availability of the toolkit, native z/OS applications had little or no easy options available to participate as a web services client.

You undoubtedly know the z in its role as a no-fail transaction workhorse. More recently you’ve watched as it learned new tricks like managing big data or big data analytics through IBM’s own tools and more recently with Spark. The z absorbed the services wave with SOA and turned CICS into a handler for Web transactions. With Linux it learned an entire new way to relate to the broader distributed world. The z has rolled with all the changes and generally came out ahead.

Now the next change for z data centers has arrived. This is the cloud/web-mobile-analytics execution environment that seemingly is taking over the known world. It almost seems like nobody wants a straight DB2 CICS transaction without a slew of other devices getting involved, usually as clients. Now everything is HTTP REST to handle x86 clients and JSON along with a slew of even newer scripting languages. Heard about Python and Ruby? And they aren’t even the latest.  The problem: no easy way to perform HTTP REST calls or handle JSON parsing on z/OS. This results from the utter lack of native JSON services built into z/OS, according to Steve Warren, IBM’s z/OS Client Web Enablement guru.

Starting, however, with z/OS V2.2 and now available in z/OS V2.1 via a couple of service updates,  Warren reports, the new z/OS Client Web Enablement Toolkit changes the way a z/OS-based data center can think about z/OS applications communicating with another web server. As he explains it, the toolkit provides an easy-to-use, lightweight solution for applications looking to easily participate as a client, in a client/server web application. Isn’t that what all the kids are doing with Bluemix? So why not with the z and z/OS?

Specifically, the z/OS Toolkit provides a built-in protocol enabler using interfaces similar in nature to other industry-standard APIs along with a z/OS JSON parser to parse JSON text coming from any source and the ability to build new or add to existing JSON text, according to Warren.  Suddenly, it puts z/OS shops smack in the middle of this hot new game.

While almost all environments on z/OS can take advantage of these new services, Warren adds, traditional z/OS programs running in a native environment (apart from a z/OS UNIX or JVM environment) stand to benefit the most. Before the toolkit, native z/OS applications, as noted above, had little or no easy options available to them to participate as a web services client. Now they do.

Programs running as a batch job, a started procedure, or in almost any address space on a z/OS system have APIs they can utilize in a similar manner to any standard z/OS APIs provided by the OS. Programs invoke these APIs in the programming language of their choice. Among z languages, C/C++, COBOL, PL/I, and Assembler are fully supported, and the toolkit provides samples for C/C++, COBOL, PL/I initially. Linux on z and LinuxONE shops already can do this.

Businesses with z data centers are being forced by the market to adopt Web applications utilizing published Web APIs that can be used by something as small as the watch you wear, noted Warren. As a result, the proliferation of Web services applications in recent years has been staggering, and it’s not by coincidence. Representational state transfer (REST) applications are simple, use the ubiquitous HTTP protocol—which helps them to be platform-independent—and are easy to organize.  That’s what the young developers—the millennials—have been doing with Bluemix and other cloud-based development environments for their cloud, mobile, and  web-based applications.  With the z/OS web enablement toolkit now any z/OS shop can do the same. As IoT ramps up expect more demands for these kinds of applications and with a variety of new devices and APIs.

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.

Ubuntu Linux (beta) for the z System is Available Now

April 8, 2016

As recently as February, DancingDinosaur has been lauding IBM’s bolstering of the z System for Linux and support for the latest styles of app dev. As part of that it expected Ubuntu Linux for z by the summer. It arrived early.  You can download it for LinuxONE and the z now, hereubuntu-logo-300x225

Of course, the z has run Linux for over a decade. That was a customized version that required a couple of extra steps, mainly recompiling, if x86 Linux apps were to run seamlessly. This time Canonical and the Ubuntu community have committed to work with IBM to ensure that Ubuntu works seamlessly with IBM LinuxONE, z Systems, and Power Systems. The goal is to enable IBM’s enterprise platforms to play nicely with the latest app dev goodies, including NFV, containers, KVM, OpenStack, big data analytics, DevOps, and even IoT. To that end, all three parties (Canonical, the Ubuntu community, and IBM) commit to provide reference architectures, supported solutions, and cloud offerings, now and in the future.

Ubuntu is emerging as the platform of choice for organizations running scale-out, next-generation workloads in the cloud. According to Canonical, Ubuntu dominates public cloud guest volume and production OpenStack deployments with up to 70% market share. Global brands running Ubuntu at scale in the cloud include AT&T, Walmart, Deutsche Telecom, Bloomberg, Cisco and others.

The z and LinuxONE machines play right into this. They can support thousands of Linux images with no-fail high availability, security, and performance. When POWER 9 processors come to market it gets even better. At a recent OpenPOWER gathering the POWER 9 generated tremendous buzz with Google discussing its intentions of building a new data center server  based on an open POWER9 design that conforms to Facebook’s Open Compute Project server.

These systems will be aimed initially at hyperscale data centers. OpenPOWER processors combined with acceleration technology have the potential to fundamentally change server and data center design today and into the future.  OpenPOWER provides a great platform for the speed and flexibility needs of hyperscale operators as they demand ever-increasing levels of scalability.

According to Aaron Sullivan, Open Compute Project Incubation Committee Member and Distinguished Engineer at Rackspace. “OpenPOWER provides a great platform for the speed and flexibility needs of hyperscale operators as they demand ever-increasing levels of scalability.” This is true today and with POWER9, a reportedly 14nm processor coming around 2017, it will be even more so then. This particular roadmap looks out to 2020 when POWER10, a 10nm processor, is expected with the task of delivering extreme analytics optimization.

But for now, what is available for the z isn’t exactly chopped liver. Ubuntu is delivering scale-out capabilities for the latest development approaches to run on the z and LinuxONE. As Canonical promises: Ubuntu offers the best of open source for IBM’s enterprise customers along with unprecedented performance, security and resiliency. The latest Ubuntu version, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, is in beta and available to all IBM LinuxOne and z Systems customers. See the link above. Currently SUSE and Red Hat are the leading Linux distributions among z data centers. SUSE also just announced a new distro of openSUSE Linux for the z to be called openSUSE Factory.

Also this week the OpenPOWER Foundation held its annual meeting where it introduced technology to boost data center infrastructures with more choices, essentially allowing increased data workloads and analytics to drive better business results. Am hoping that the Open Mainframe Project will emulate the Open POWER group and in a year or two by starting to introducing technology to boost mainframe computing along the same lines.

For instance OpenPOWER introduced more than 10 new OpenPOWER servers, offering expanded services for high performance computing and server virtualization. Or this: IBM, in collaboration with NVIDIA and Wistron, revealed plans to release its second-generation OpenPOWER high performance computing server, which includes support for the NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing platform. The server will leverage POWER8 processors connected directly to the new NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPU accelerators via the NVIDIA NVLink, a high-speed interconnect technology.

In the same batch of announcements TYAN announced its GT75-BP012, a 1U, POWER8-based server solution with the ppc64 architecture. The ppc64 architecture is optimized for 64-bit big-endian PowerPC and Power Architecture processors.  Also of interest to DancingDinosaur readers may be the variation of the ppc64 that enables a pure little-endian mode with the POWER8 to enable the porting of x86 Linux-based software with minimal effort. BTW, the OpenPOWER-based platform, reportedly, offers exceptional capability for in-memory computing in a 1U implementation, part of the overall trend toward smaller, denser, and more efficient systems. The latest TYAN offerings will only drive more of it.

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.

Latest New Mainframe puts Apache Spark Native on the z System

April 1, 2016

IBM keeps rolling out new versions of the z System.  The latest is the z/OS Platform for Apache Spark announced earlier this week. The new machine is optimized for marketers, data analysts, and developers eager to apply advanced analytics to the z’s rich, resident data sets for real-time insights.

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z/OS Platform for Apache Spark

Data is everything in the new economy; and the most and best data you can grab and the fastest you can analyze it, the more likely you will win. The z, already the center of a large, expansive data environment, is well positioned to drive winning data-fueled strategies.

IBM z/OS Platform for Apache Spark enables Spark, an open-source analytics framework, to run natively on z/OS. According to IBM, the new system is available now. Its key advantage:  to enable data scientists to analyze data in place on the system of origin. This eliminates the need to perform extract, transform and load (ETL), a cumbersome, slow, and costly process. Instead, with Spark the z breaks the bind between the analytics library and underlying file system.

Apache Spark provides an open-source cluster computing framework with in-memory processing to speed analytic applications up to 100 times faster compared to other technologies on the market today, according to IBM. Apache Spark can help reduce data interaction complexity, increase processing speed, and enhance mission-critical applications by enabling analytics that deliver deep intelligence. Considered highly versatile in many environments, Apache Spark is most regarded for its ease of use in creating algorithms that extract insight from complex data.

IBM’s goal lies not in eliminating the overhead of ETL but in fueling interest in cognitive computing. With cognitive computing, data becomes a fresh natural resource—an almost infinite and forever renewable asset—that can be used by computer systems to understand, reason and learn. To succeed in this cognitive era businesses must be able to develop and capitalize on insights before the insights are no longer relevant. That’s where the z comes in.

With this offering, according to IBM, accelerators from z Systems business partners can help organizations more easily take advantage of z Systems data and capabilities to understand market changes alongside individual client needs. With this kind of insight managers should be able to make the necessary business adjustments in real-time, which will speed time to value and advance cognitive business transformations among IBM customers.

At this point IBM has identified 3 business partners:

  1. Rocket Software, long a mainframe ISV, is bringing its new Rocket Launchpad solution, which allows z shops to try the platform using data on z/OS.
  1. DataFactZ is a new partner working with IBM to develop Spark analytics based on Spark SQL and MLlib for data and transactions processed on the mainframe.
  1. Zementis brings its in-transaction predictive analytics offering for z/OS with a standards-based execution engine for Apache Spark. The product promises to allow users to deploy and execute advanced predictive models that can help them anticipate end users’ needs, compute risk, or detect fraud in real-time at the point of greatest impact, while processing a transaction.

This last point—detecting problems in real time at the point of greatest impact—is really the whole reason for Spark on z/OS.  You have to leverage your insight before the prospect makes the buying decision or the criminal gets away with a fraudulent transaction. After that your chances are slim to none of getting a prospect to reverse the decision or to recover stolen goods. Having the data and logic processing online and in-memory on the z gives you the best chance of getting the right answer fast while you can still do something.

As IBM also notes, the z/OS Platform for Apache Spark includes Spark open source capabilities consisting of the Apache Spark core, Spark SQL, Spark Streaming, Machine Learning Library (MLlib) and Graphx, combined with the industry’s only mainframe-resident Spark data abstraction solution. The new platform helps enterprises derive insights more efficiently and securely. In the processing the platform can streamline development to speed time to insights and decision and simplify data access through familiar data access formats and Apache Spark APIs.

Best of all, however, is the in-memory capabilities as noted above. Apache Spark uses an in-memory approach for processing data to deliver results quickly. The platform includes data abstraction and integration services that enable z/OS analytics applications to leverage standard Spark APIs.  It also allows analysts to collect unstructured data and use their preferred formats and tools to sift through data.

At the same time developers and analysts can take advantage of the familiar tools and programming languages, including Scala, Python, R, and SQL to reduce time to value for actionable insights. Of course all the familiar z/OS data formats are available too: IMS, VSAM, DB2 z/OS, PDSE or SMF along with whatever you get through the Apache Spark APIs.

This year we already have seen the z13s and now the z/OS Platform for Apache Spark. Add to that the z System LinuxOne last year. z-Based data centers suddenly have a handful of radically different new mainframes to consider.  Can Watson, a POWER-based system, be far behind? Your guess is as good as anyone’s.

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.

State of z System CICS in the Modern Enterprise

March 25, 2016

You should be very familiar with the figures describing the continued strength of mainframe computing in the enterprise today. Seventy percent of enterprise data resides on a mainframe, 71 percent of all Fortune 500 companies run their core businesses on the mainframe, and 92 of the top 100 banks rely on the mainframe to provide at-your-fingertip banking services to the customers (many via mobile).  CICS, according to IBM, handles 1.1 million transactions every second, every day. By comparison, Google handles a mere 59,421 searches every second.

cics at-interconnect-2015-1-638

CICS at IBM Interconnect 2015

H&W, a top mainframe ISV recently released its State of CICS in the Modern Enterprise study. Find a copy of the study here.  For starters, it found that nearly two-thirds on respondents run 51-100% their business-critical applications online through CICS. Within government, 32% of respondents reported running 75-100% of business-critical applications through CICS.

A different study suggests that CICS applications handle more than 30 billion transactions per day and process more than $1 trillion dollars’ worth of business each week. Mainframe data also still drives information systems worldwide. Approximately 60 percent of organizations responding to a 2013 Arcati survey said they manage 40 to 100 percent of their enterprise data on the mainframe.

Integrating legacy systems is a strategy mainframe sites continue to adopt. In fact, 74 percent of respondents in that survey said specifically they are web-enabling CICS subsystems. However, as organizations pursue this strategy, challenges can include unlocking the data, keeping the applications and data available to users, and maintaining data integrity in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Nothing new for data center managers about this.

According to the H&W study, online CICS usage has gone up in the last 3 years, from 54% of respondents reporting running over half of their business-crit applications through CICS to 62% in 2015. Hope people will finally stop talking about the mainframe heading toward extinction.

CICS also has carved out a place on the web and with mobile. Sixty-five percent of respondents say at least some of their business-crit applications are available via PC, phone, tablet, and web-based interfaces while 11% more reported plans to mobile- and web-enable their mainframe apps in the future. Thirteen percent reported no plans to do so. Government sector respondents reported that they were significantly more likely to not make the applications available for online access; so much for open government and transparency.

CICS availability proved to raise no concern although a few were concerned with performance. Based on the study results in 2012 some predicted that companies would be moving away from CICS by now. These predictions, apparently, have not come to pass, at least not yet.

In fact, as far as the future of CICS, the technology seems to be facing a remarkably stable outlook for the next 3-5 years. The largest number of respondents, 37%, expected the number of CICS applications to remain the same in that period while 34% said they would be decreasing. More encouragingly, 27% of respondents planned to increase their number of CICS applications accessible online. In the financial services segment, 38% planned to increase the number of online CICS applications while only 10% expected to decrease the number of online applications. Given the demands by banking customers for mobile apps the increase in the number of CICS applications makes perfect sense.

The researchers concluded that CICS continues to play an important role for the majority of mainframe shops surveyed and an increasingly important role for a significant chunk of them.  The respondents also reported that, in general, they were satisfied with CICS performance even in the face of increasingly complex online workloads.

Mainframe CICS may see even more action going forward depending on what companies do with Internet of Things. As with mobile traffic, companies may turn to CICS to handle critical aspects of backend IoT activity, which has the potential to become quite large.

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 zSystem and Power Score in IDC 4Q 2015 Rankings

March 18, 2016

IBM retained the number 3 spot with 14.1% share for the quarter as revenue increased 8.9% year-over-year to $2.2 billion in 4Q15. More impressively, IBM experienced strong growth for POWER Systems and double-digit growth for its z System mainframes in the quarter, according to IDC. You can check out the IDC announcement here. IDC credits z and POWER for IBM’s strong platform finish in 2015.

Primary_LinuxONE_LeftAngle-1 (1) zSystem-based LinuxONE

DancingDinosaur has expected these results and been reporting IBM’s z System and POWER System successes for the past year. You can check it out here (z13s) and here (LinuxOne) and here (Power Systems LC).

Along with deservedly crowing about its latest IDC ranking IBM added:  z Systems saw double digit growth due to a number of new portfolio enhancements. The next-generation z13 mainframe, optimized for digital businesses and hybrid cloud environments, is designed to handle mobile transactions securely and at scale, while enabling clients to run analytics on the system and in real time. IBM expanded its commitment to offering open-source on the mainframe by launching a line of Linux-only systems in August of 2015. LinuxONE is based on the latest generation of z Systems technology and enables popular open-source tools and software on the mainframe. IBM also added what amounts to a Business Class z with the z13s to go along with a Business Class dedicated Linux z, the LinuxONE Rockhopper.

Meanwhile, IBM has started to get some uptake for its Open Mainframe Project. In addition to announcing support from the usual mainframe suspects—IBM, CA, Compuware, SUSE, BMC, and others—it also announced its first projects. These include an effort to find ways to leverage new software and tools in the Linux environment that can better take advantage of the mainframe’s speed, security, scalability, and availability. DancingDinosaur is hoping that in time the Open Mainframe Project will produce the kind of results the Open POWER Foundation has recently generated for the POWER Platform

IBM attributes the growing traction of Linux running on POWER Systems in large part to optimized solutions such as DB2 BLU, SAP HANA, and other industry big data software, built on POWER Systems running Linux. In October 2015, IBM expanded its Linux on Power Systems portfolio with the LC line of servers. These servers are infused with OpenPOWER Foundation technology and bring the higher performance of the POWER CPU to the broad Linux community. The POWER-based LC line along with the z-based LinuxONE Rockhopper should give any data center manager looking to run a large, efficient Linux server farm a highly cost-competitive option that can rival or even beat the x86 option. And given that both platforms will handle Docker containers and microservices and support all of today’s popular development tools there is no reason to stick with x86.

From a platform standpoint, IBM appears to be in sync with what IDC is reporting: Datacenter buildout continues, and the main beneficiary this quarter is the density-optimized segment of the market, where growth easily outpaced the overall server market. Density-optimized servers achieved a 30.2% revenue growth rate this quarter, contributing a full 2 percentage points to the overall 5.2% revenue growth in the market.

“The fourth quarter (of 2015) was a solid close to a strong year of growth in the server market, driven by on premise refresh deployments as well as continued hyperscale cloud deployments,” said Kuba Stolarski, Research Director, Servers and Emerging Technologies at IDC. “As the cyclical refresh of 2015 comes to an end, the market focus has begun to shift towards software-defined infrastructure and hybrid environment management, as organizations begin to transform their IT infrastructure as well as prepare for the compute demands expected over the next few years from next-gen IT domains such as IoT and cognitive analytics. In the short term, 2016 looks to be a year of accelerated cloud infrastructure expansion with existing footprints filling out and new cloud datacenter buildouts across the globe.”

After a seemingly endless string of dismal quarters DancingDinosaur is encouraged by what IBM is doing now with the z, POWER Systems, and its strategic initiatives. With its strategic focus on cloud, mobile, big data analytics, cognitive computing, and IoT as well as its support for the latest approaches to software development, tools, and languages, IBM should be well positioned to continue its platform success 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.

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.

EMC-VMAX_AllFlash

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 technologywriter.com and here.


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