Posts Tagged ‘Tivoli’

IBM Edge2014 as Coming out Party for OpenStack

May 7, 2014

IBM didn’t invent OpenStack (Rackspace and NASA did), but IBM’s embrace of OpenStack in March 2013 as its standard for cloud computing made it a legit standard for enterprise computing. Since then IBM has made its intention to enable its product line, from the System z on down, for the OpenStack set of open source technologies.  Judging from the number of sessions at IBM Edge 2014, (Las Vegas, May 19-23 at the Venetian) that address one or another aspect of OpenStack you might think of IBM Edge2014 almost as a coming out celebration for OpenStack and enterprise cloud computing.

OpenStack is a collection of open source technologies. the goal of which is to provide a scalable computing infrastructure for both public and private clouds. As such it has become the foundation of IBM’s cloud strategy, which is another way of saying it has become what IBM sees as its future. An excellent mini-tutorial on OpenStack, IBM, and the System z can be found at mainframe-watch-Belgium here.

At IBM Edge2014 OpenStack is frequently included in sessions on storage, cloud, and storage management.  Let’s take a closer look at a few of those sessions.

IBM Storage and Cloud Technologies

Presenter Christopher Vollmar offers an overview of the IBM storage platforms that contain cloud technologies or provide a foundation for creating a private storage cloud for block and file workloads. This overview includes IBM’s SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center, SmartCloud Storage Access, Active Cloud Engine, and XIV’s Hyper-Scale as well as IBM storage products’ integration with OpenStack.

OpenStack and IBM Storage

Presenters Michael Factor and Funda Eceral explain how OpenStack is rapidly emerging as the de facto platform for Infrastructure as a Service. IBM is working fast to pin down the integration of its storage products with OpenStack. This talk presents a high level overview of OpenStack, with a focus on Cinder, the OpenStack block storage manager. They also will explain how IBM is leading the evolution of Cinder by improving the common base with features such as volume migration and ability to change the SLAs associated with the volume in the OpenStack cloud. Already IBM storage products—Storwize, XIV, DS8000, GPFS and TSM—are integrated with OpenStack, enabling self-provisioning access to features such as EasyTier or Real-time Compression via standard OpenStack interfaces. Eventually, you should expect virtually all IBM products, capabilities, and services to work with and through OpenStack.

IBM XIV and VMware: Best Practices for Your Cloud

Presenters Peter Kisich, Carlos Lizarralde argue that IBM Storage continues to lead in OpenStack integration and development. They then introduce the core services of OpenStack while focusing on how IBM storage provides open source integration with Cinder drivers for Storwize, DS8000 and XIV. They also include key examples and a demonstration of the automation and management IBM Storage offers through the OpenStack cloud platform.

IBM OpenStack Hybrid Cloud on IBM PureFlex and SoftLayer

Presenter Eric Kern explains how IBM’s latest version of OpenStack is used to showcase a hybrid cloud environment. A pair of SoftLayer servers running in IBM’s public cloud are matched with a PureFlex environment locally hosting the OpenStack controller. He covers the architecture used to set up this environment before diving into the details around deploying workloads.

Even if you never get to IBM Edge2014 it should be increasingly clear that OpenStack is quickly gaining traction and destined to emerge as central to Enterprise IT, any style of cloud computing, and IBM. OpenStack will be essential for any private, public, and hybrid cloud deployments. Come to Edge2014 and get up to speed fast on OpenStack.

Alan Radding/DancingDinosaur will be there. Look for me in the bloggers lounge between and after sessions. Also watch for upcoming posts on DancingDinosaur about OpenStack and the System z and on OpenStack on Power Systems.

Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog.

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

Technology Change is Coming for the zBX

November 1, 2013

The zBX hasn’t been subject to much in the way of big new announcements this year.  Maybe the most obvious was a quiet announcement that the zBX would connect to the zBC12, the newest System z machine announced early in the summer. Buried deeply in that July announcement was that starting in Sept. 2013 you could attach the IBM zBX Model 003 to the new machine. Machines older than the zEC12 would need the zBX Model 002.

At Enterprise 2013, however, the zBX managed to grab a little of the spotlight in a session by Harv Emery titled IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension Model 3 and Model 2 Deep Dive Update. OK, it’s not exactly a riveting title, but Emery’s 60 slides were packed with far more detail than can possibly fit here.

To summarize:  a slew of software and firmware updates will be coming through the end of this year and into 2014. Similarly, starting next year and beyond, IBM will begin to stop marketing older zBX hardware and eventually stop supporting the older stuff.  This is standard IBM practice; what makes it surprising is the realization that the zBX no longer is the new kid on the scene. PureSystems in their various iterations are the sexy newcomer.  As of the end of last year somewhat over 200 z hybrid units (zBX cabinets) had been sold along with considerably more blades. Again, PureSystems are IBM’s other hybrid platform.

Still, as Emery pointed out, new zBX functionality continues to roll out. This includes:

  • CPU management for x86 blades
  • Support for Windows 12, and current LDP OS releases
  • GDPS automated site recovery for zBX
  • Ensemble Availability Manager for improved monitoring and reporting
  • Support for Layer 2 communications
  • An IBM statement of direction (SOD) on support for next generation DataPower Virtual Appliance XI52
  • Support for next generation hardware technologies in the zBX
  • zBX firmware currency
  • A stand-alone zBX node to preserve the investment
  • Bolstered networking including a new BNT Virtual Fabric 10 GbE Switch
  • zBX integrated hypervisor for IBM System x blades and running KVM

Emery also did a little crystal balling about future capabilities, relying partly on recent IBM SODs. These include:

  • Support of zBX with the next generation server
  • New technology configuration extensions in the zBX
  • CEC and zBX continued investment in the virtualization and management capabilities for hybrid computing environment
  • Enablement of Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) for Cloud
  • Unified Resource Manager improvements and extensions for guest mobility
  • More monitoring instrumentation
  • Autonomic management functions
  • Integration with the STG Portfolio
  • Continued efforts by zEnterprise and STG to leverage the Tivoli portfolio to deliver enterprise-wide management capabilities across all STG systems

DancingDinosaur periodically has been asked questions about how to handle storage for the zBX and the blades it contains.  Emery tried to address some of those.  Certain blades, DataPower for example, now come with their own storage and don’t need to any outside storage on the host z.  Through the top of the rack switch in the zBX you can connect to a distributed SAN.

Emery also noted the latest supported storage devices.  Supported IBM storage products as of Sept. 2013 include: DS3400, 3500, 3950, 4100, 4200, 4700 4800, 5020, 5100, 5300, 6000, 8100, 8300, 8700, 8800, SVC 2145, XIV, 2105, 2107, and Storwize v7000. Non-IBM storage is possible but you or you’re the OEM storage vendor will have to figure it out.

Finally, Emery made numerous references to Unified Resource Manager (or zManager, although it manages more than z) for the zBX and Flex System Manager for PureSystems.  Right now IBM tries to bridge the two systems with higher level management from Tivoli.  Another possibility, Emery hinted, is OpenStack to unify hybrid management. Sounds very intriguing, especially given IBM’s announced intention to make extensive use of OpenStack. Is there an interoperable OpenStack version of Unified Resource Manager and Flex System Manager in the works?

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog.

EMC World and IBM Edge 2013 Spotlight Mainframe Storage

May 6, 2013

Two major technology conferences this spring are converging on Las Vegas and each offers session tracks on mainframe storage. EMC World runs today through May 9, and IBM Edge 2013, June 10-14; each will bring enough expert material to divert mainframe storage managers from the gaming tables.

At neither show is the mainframe the primary focus, but considerable material still addresses mainframe storage. For example, EMC World, which opens today offers sessions like:

VMAX Performance: Mainframe Performance with Symmetrix VMAX & Enginuity 5876. Here’s how EMC describes it—Symmetrix VMAX 20K and VMAX 40K running Enginuity 5876 introduce several performance improvements and new features for the Mainframe, which can affect how customers deploy. DancingDinosaur reported on the introduction of the VMAX 40K here last year.

VMAX: What’s New for Mainframe Symmetrix Environments Plus an Update on the EMC & IBM Partnership.  Of particular interest to DancingDinosaur readers may be the details on how EMC develops IBM-compatible technology and EMC’s long-standing working relationship with IBM

DancingDinosaur will miss EMC World and be attending IBM Edge 2013 instead. Please join this blogger at Edge 2013; when not attending a session you can find me where bloggers congregate in the Social Media Lounge.

Here are some of the sessions that look particularly interesting:

IBM z/OS Storage Management Ecosystem Update—provides an overview of IBM’s strategy for managing the z/OS storage ecosystems.  Learn how the strategic z/OS storage management product, OMEGAMON XE for Storage, fits into the strategy and how the rest of the Tivoli z/OS Storage management portfolio works together to address common z/OS storage tasks and problem resolution. The session also promises to include a short review of Tivoli z/VM storage products.

IBM z/OS + DS8K Synergy—offers an overview of the IBM DS8000 architecture and its deep integration with IBM z/OS to deliver performance, high availability, optimization, and manageability. No other storage system has the unique integration with the IBM mainframe, according to IBM.  That becomes particularly apparent when you start looking at Flash storage.

Introduction to the TS7700 Virtualization Engine Grid for the Uninitiated or Those Needing a Refresher—intended to introduce attendees to the IBM TS7700 Virtualization Engine, a virtualized tape solution. This basic level discussion will start by explaining why tape virtualization came about, and then cover basic and advanced concepts, up through the latest enhancements.  If you are not already familiar with virtual tape you don’t want to miss this.

Retention management is an increasingly important and tricky topic these days, particularly as it ties in with compliance and even legal ediscovery. Edge 2013 offers two complementary sessions on retention management.

Untangling Retention Management under DFSMSrmm—DFSMS Removable Media Manager (DFSMSrmm) delivers a wide variety of retention controls for the z/OS tape resources it manages. Often the variety of options and the differences in how they behave can be confusing. The session promises to explain how and why DFSMSrmm does what it does so attendees can make the best decisions for their environment.

DFSMSrmm Best Practices, Features and New Stuff—DFSMS Removable Media Manager (DFSMSrmm) is one of the most regularly enhanced tape management systems in the market. Often, however, new features are overlooked. This session offers an overview of key product features that every DFSMSrmm data center should be taking full advantage of to properly safeguard their environments. In addition, it will detail several little-known product capabilities that can streamline administrator efficiency, allowing more time for other management activities.

Overall, IBM Edge 2013 will offer over 140 storage sessions, over 50 PureSystems sessions, more than 50 client case studies, and sessions on big data and analytics along with a full cloud track.

Full disclosure: this blogger’s trip to Edge 2013 and related DancingDinosaur posts are being underwritten by IBM.  However, the choice of content, ideas, and opinions …even the mention of EMC… are my own. Hope to see you at Edge 2013. Find me in  the Social Media Lounge.

New Ways to Lower System z Costs

April 26, 2013

The latest System z capacity offerings offer new ways to boost z usage at  lower cost. The offerings were developed jointly with z users in response to their specific business requirements.

The offerings, reflecting IBM’s willingness to be flexible on pricing, enable z users who typically handle operations like development and testing on cheaper x86 platforms to move those operations to the z while getting the additional capacity they would need at a lower cost. In the process, they eliminate the extra steps involved in deploying the finished production system on the z. You can find more info on IBM System z software here.

With the new capacity offerings and other initiatives, IBM is demonstrating its intention to drive down the cost of mainframe computing in a variety of ways. For example, with the System z capacity offering for Cloud, IBM offers the flexibility to increase capacity, then move portions of that incremental capacity within a 12-18 month period. This enables clients to grow before they know exactly where they’ll want to run the work, a welcome sign of flexibility. 

For System z disaster recovery in the cloud, again users gain more flexibility by moving workloads between systems.  For clients who are working aggressively towards business resiliency and disaster recovery, this can be very valuable and removes the restrictions previously out there on the number of tests than can be run.

Specifically, this allows active capacity mobility between zEnterprise primary servers and disaster recovery servers (mirrored data center) for more than just a one-time test.  IBM also offers comparable deals in the form of active multiplex pricing for GDPS Active/Active workloads.  While the DR offering requires all workload moves to the DR box at one time, the active multiplex offering allows fractional workload movement.

And finally, with the System z Test and Development offering, IBM is now allowing for discounts for clients who want do their testing on the platform. Previously, IBM was willing to lower the cost for development, but now, by doing development and test on the platform, it’s making the mainframe more attractive again.

None of this is exactly new. Last June DancingDinosaur reported that IBM was moving in this direction with its System z capacity offering for the cloud.  For more, click here.

IBM also announced new System z software for development, deployment and automation of workloads, described as simple-to-use tools for mainframe development. They start with a new enterprise COBOL compiler that promises significant performance improvements to meet increasingly narrow batch windows organizations face and a new Rational Developer for System z and Rational Developer for Enterprise.

Given increasing demands for new ways to connect the z to mobile activities, IBM also announced enhancements to CICS; specifically the CICS TS feature pack for mobile extension, the IBM Mobile messaging client, and Cognos Mobile on z/OS among others. Organizations have been connecting mobile applications to the z for years using SOA and gateways in one form or another.  These just provide another, possible more efficient way to do it.

After you build the app you need to deploy it. For this IBM announced a new Business Process Manager for z/OS, the Operational Decision Manager for z/OS, and Integration Bus on z/OS (previously called IBM WebSphere Message Broker for z/OS). Organizations also can rapidly deploy Java workloads with the new CICS Transaction Server for z/OS, Value Unit Edition. Finally, Tivoli System Automation on z/OS can provide automated end-to-end deployment and management.

At the same briefing IBM introduced Algar Telecom, a Brazilian telco that offers other services as well. A new z user, Algar consolidated large numbers of Intel servers on a z196 and zBX, an example of z-based hybrid computing.  It offers an interesting experience DancingDinosaur will take up in a later post here along with the experience of a z196 shop that upgraded to a zEC12 to create a z-based production systems core around a slew of Intel blades. Both organizations report good results.

Finally, please note: the IBM Edge Conference 2013 is coming up in Las Vegas, June 10-14. Last year Edge was primarily a storage event. This year there continues to be a large amount of storage material, including considerable new material around System z storage, but it appears IBM has expanded the program beyond storage. DancingDinosaur covered it last year and will begin covering Edge 2013 in a series of posts leading up to the event. Please join me in Las Vegas.  If you register here by 4/28 you can save a few bucks. Look for me there; I’ll be the blogger wearing the Mainframes Rule t-shirt.

zEC12 Drives Buoyant IBM Results

January 24, 2013

IBM posted strong 4Q 2012 and full year 2012 financials on Tuesday.  So strong that the results beat Wall Street’s expectations, as did the technology bellwether’s guidance for the current year. The results bumped up IBM’s stock and helped fuel a market rally for a couple of days at least.

DancingDinosaur particularly liked the performance of the System z. Q4 2012 revenues from System z increased 56% compared with the year-ago period, reflecting the contribution of the zEC12 introduced in 3Q 2012. System z revenue in the growth markets increased 68%. Total delivery of System z computing power, as measured in MIPS, increased 66% versus the prior year and represented the largest MIPS shipment quarter in the company’s history, according to IBM.  New workload specialty engines, including the Linux IFL, represented one-half of the MIPS shipped, a further sign that Linux on z is finally gaining real traction after a decade.

Revenues from Power Systems decreased 19% compared with the 2011 period. DancingDinosaur expects that to turn around in 2013 as more Power products using the new Power7+ processor catch on and will get a further boost when machines running the POWER8 processor come out, maybe even in late 2013. DancingDinosaur wrote about Power7+ here back in October.

Let’s let IBM’s top boss, Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and chief executive officer gloat a little: “We achieved record profit, earnings per share and free cash flow in 2012.  Our performance in the fourth quarter and for the full year was driven by our strategic growth initiatives—growth markets, analytics, cloud computing, Smarter Planet solutions—which support our continued shift to higher-value businesses. Looking ahead, we continue to invest to deliver innovations for the enterprise in key areas such as big data, mobile solutions, social business and security, while expanding into new markets and reaching new clients.  We are well on track toward our long-term roadmap for operating EPS of at least $20 in 2015. If you are an IBM fan, it doesn’t get much better than this.

DancingDinosaur was surprised that the System z was driving the bus this quarter. It expected the front position to be taken by services or software, not hardware and certainly not the z, which sometimes comes across as a multi-billion dollar afterthought.

Software was another high point. According to IBM, software rang up $7.9 billion, an increase of 3% (up 4%, adjusting for currency) from 4Q 2011. Of more interest to DancingDinosaur was IBM’s key middleware products, which are key to driving new workloads on the z.

The middleware products, which include WebSphere, Information Management, Tivoli, Lotus, and Rational rang up $5.5 billion, an increase of 5% (up 6%, adjusting for currency) versus 4Q 2011. Specifically, revenues from the WebSphere family of software products increased 11% year over year.  Information Management software revenues increased 2% and revenues from Tivoli software increased 4%.  The best performers were Lotus software (including IBM Connections), which increased 9%, and Rational software, up 12%.  It is these products, along with Linux on z and Java that enable the kind of new workloads mainframe shops are likely to run.

So, DancingDinosaur has to conclude that this was a pretty good week for IBM and particularly for those invested in the mainframe.

IBM Edge 2013—Next Year in Las Vegas

August 2, 2012

The IBM storage conference, Edge 2012, stunned this blogger when he walked into the first plenary session and saw over 2000 people.  Pretty impressive for a first-time conference. The sessions were meaty. You can experience some of the best sessions here. This blogger recapped the conference here, on DancingDinosaur’s sister blog, BottomlineIT.

Now IBM has announced plans to do it again next June. IBM Edge 2013 will be at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, June 10-14.  Check the details here. They promise more sessions, more announcements, and more customer presentations.  Expect a dozen or so, maybe more, zEnterprise storage sessions, and more for PureSystems and Power. DancingDinosaur expects to attend but nothing has been firmed up yet.

By now everyone has seen the latest IBM quarterly report (2Q 12), an improvement for sure. Second-quarter net income was $3.9 billion compared with $3.7 billion in the second quarter of 2011, an increase of 6%.

Total revenues for the second quarter of 2012 of $25.8 billion were down 3% (up 1%, adjusting for currency) from the second quarter of 2011.  Said a bullish Ginni Rometty, IBM president and chief executive officer: “Looking ahead, we are well positioned to deliver greater value to a wider range of clients and to our shareholders. Given our performance in the first half and our outlook for the second half, we are raising our full-year operating earnings per share expectations to at least $15.10.” You can check out the IBM 2Q announcement here.

Looking at the hardware and software products, there certainly is reason to expect growth. For hardware revenues from the Systems and Technology segment totaled $4.3 billion for the quarter, down 9% (down 7%, adjusting for currency) from the second quarter of 2011. Total systems revenues decreased 7% (down 5 %, adjusting for currency). Revenues from Power Systems were down 7% compared with the 2011 period but just besting System x where revenues dropped 8%.

Revenues from System z mainframe server products decreased 11% compared with a year earlier. Total delivery of System z computing power, as measured in MIPS, decreased 8%. Revenues from System Storage decreased 4%. The mainframe decline was to be expected. IBM historically refreshes the mainframe every three years so the zEnterprise is due a refresh in 2013, which Jeff Frey confirmed to DancingDinosaur just a few weeks ago.

The new rev, noted Frey, will address some of the current gaps, like partition mobility and live image mobility as well as the usual bigger and faster story. You can see more of DancingDinosaur’s previous discussion with Frey here. At this point, it makes sense for shops to delay refreshing their mainframe hardware unless IBM is offering an incredible deal they cannot refuse.

The picture was better on the software side. Revenues from software were $6.2 billion, flat (up 4%, adjusting for currency) compared with the second quarter of 2011. Revenues from IBM’s key middleware products, which include WebSphere, Information Management, Tivoli, Lotus and Rational products—all products mainframe shops typically use—were $3.9 billion, flat (up 4%, adjusting for currency) versus the second quarter of 2011. Operating systems revenues of $628 million were flat (up 3%, adjusting for currency) compared with the prior-year quarter. The two brightest sports were the WebSphere family of software products where revenues increased 3% year over year and Tivoli, which increased 2%. Information Management software revenues decreased 1%. Revenues from Lotus decreased 8%, and Rational revenue dropped 7%.

As IBM’s CFO Mark Loughridge put it in the announcement: IBM gained market share in its high-end server businesses,  which includes the zEnterprise mainframes. The world needs servers even amidst model cycles and economic challenges so winning the market share battle helps assure future success. IBM’s history is replete with examples of its prospering during lean times. And when the new z arrives, DancingDinosuar expects a pickup to follow.

Postscript to DancingDinosaur’s July 10 piece on the HP Itanium future: HP yesterday won its lawsuit against Oracle, which has been ordered by the court to continue to support its software on the Itanium platform. An appeal will surely follow.

zBX and PureSystems Play Nice Together

July 19, 2012

At a recent analyst briefing an IBM manager implied that the Unified Resource Manager used by the hybrid zEnterprise to manage the zBX would converge with the Flex System Manager used to manage the new PureSystems. “We’re working on it,” he said earnestly. Someone at IBM might be working on it or at least thinking about it or arguing about it, but it is not going to happen in any foreseeable future.

That is the definitive word from Jeff Frey, IBM Fellow and CTO for System z: “Flex Manager and the Unified Resource Manager will not come together,” he told DancingDinosaur.  That does not mean the zEnterprise/zBX and PureSystems won’t play nicely together, but they will do so higher up in the IT stack. “We will federate the management at a higher level,” he said. Today, that pretty much means organizations using both platforms, zEnterprise and PureSystems, will have to rely on Tivoli to tie the pieces together and manage them.  At the lower levels in the stack where the hardware lives each platform will require its own management tooling.

This may be a disappointment to those who mistakenly thought IBM’s idealized vision of efficient hybrid computing meant one administrator working at a single console could manage everything happening across the various platforms, from a misbehaving partition to monitoring the resource consumption of a particular application.  This was never the intent, Frey noted. You still can do it to some extent, but it won’t be through the Unified Resource Manager.

Instead, Tivoli will provide a federation layer to enable higher level, logical management across both systems. When you need to manage some physical aspect of the underlying hardware you still will need platform-specific tools like Systems Director.

This shouldn’t be a surprise; the zEnterprise/zBX and PureSystems start from two different views of control.  The zEnterprise brings the mainframe tradition of disciplined centralized control, and that control point is the z. PureSystems views control from the distributed perspective.  These are not compatible views, which are why it makes sense to federate as much management as possible at the high end of the stack, far above the nitty-gritty of the underlying hardware.

As IBM moves forward with the next advances to the zEnterprise/zBX and to PureSystems the situation may seem even more confusing unless you stay focused on the point of control issues. For example, expect some IBM improvements incorporated into PureSystems hardware to make it into the zBX, but that does not mean the Flex System Manager will be able to manage the zBX.

Similarly, IBM is planning to push zBX scalability beyond the 112 blades the box supports today as well as adding clustering capabilities. The blade count expansion combined with the technology enhancements brought over from PureSystems, Frey hopes, should make clear IBM’s long term commitment to the zBX and zEnterprise hybrid computing.

At the same time, IBM is enhancing PureSystems for the purpose of scaling it beyond its current four units. This will give it something more like the Ensemble approach used with the System z. An ensemble is a collection of one or more zEnterprise system nodes where each node is comprised of a z and its optionally attached zBX. As such an ensemble can consist of a single z with no zBX attached, or two to eight CPCs where at least one has a zBX attached. The resources of a zEnterprise ensemble are managed and virtualized as a single pool of resources integrating system and workload management across the resulting multi-system, multi-tier, multi-architecture environment.

In the end, both the zEnterprise/zBX and PureSystems are poised for scaling. That should become obvious with the next rev of the zEnterprise, which should happen in 2013 if IBM sticks to its historic 3-year mainframe rev cycle. The new rev will address some of the current gaps, like partition mobility and live image mobility as well as the usual bigger and faster story.

With two hybrid computing platforms the hybrid approach is here for real at IBM. Now the question is which workloads can most benefit and on which platform. Expect DancingDinosaur to explore this question in the coming months.

zEnterprise/zBX for VDI Scalability

April 24, 2012

Desktop virtualization, referred to as Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI), has long held great promise, and for specialized situations it has delivered big. For general enterprise desktop computing the need is great but the challenges are formidable and the payback is elusive.

IDC has become bullish on VDI payback in the last year. You can see what it says about VDI here and here. In each case it comes up with a nice ROI. DancingDinosaur isn’t going to quibble with IDC, but in talking with very large enterprises they complain that they simply cannot virtualize enough desktops on each server.  At best they end up replacing desktop sprawl with desktop server sprawl.  An improvement no doubt, but not a big enough gain to undertake what would amount to a massive change management effort if, for instance, you needed to virtualize 40,000 desktops.

Jim Porell, an IBMer familiar to System z people and now Distinguished Engineer, Deputy CTO, IBM Federal Sales, takes a different approach. Using an entry-level z114, a zBX populated with richly configured Hx5 blades, z/VM, and a handful of other components (Raytheon Trusted Computer Solutions’ Trusted Thin Client, CSL-WAVE to manage server instances with a GUI, Virtual Bridges’ VERDE to handle VDI images and provisioning, Intellinx’s zWatch for user activity monitoring, and Vicom Infinity for a variety of simplification software) as well as Tivoli and storage, Porell calculates he can deliver tens of thousands of virtualized desktops for as little as $600 per desktop depending on the mix of user workloads. The user workloads span from minimal browser web surfing to basic MS Office functionality to power users. This is the amortized cost of all the hardware (thin desktop client, z114, zBX, storage), middleware, software, and management across all desktops.

Porell really is talking about a system dubbed Smart Terminal Architecture with Secure Hosts (STASH) and it has been attracting a bit of attention. You can find it here and here (scroll way down to get to the STASH Consortium link). IBM describes it as a new computing environment that offers military grade security from the desktop to the back end. STASH challenges the traditional assumption that greater security and increased performance utilization comes with increased costs. STASH is made up of a multi-functional team across IBM, Raytheon Trusted Computer Solutions, CSL International, Intellinx Software, Virtual Bridges and Vicom Infinity. STASH simplifies the IT environment and saves money while increasing security.

What the zEnterprise brings to this endeavor is massive scalability, reliability, and security. Even the entry level z114 can easily handle dozens of management servers to support the desktops. The zBX packed with 16-core Hx5 blades can handle up to 16 x86 desktops (Windows or Linux) per core and with 28 16-core blades per zBX. When multiplied by four zBX machines per zEnterprise the number of desktops supported really adds up. Porell estimates between 14K and 28K desktops per zEnterprise server.

And if VDI is a new z workload to your data center, which it almost surely would be, you could use the Solution Edition program to buy the z at a deep discount and pick up a zBX also at a discount, although not quite as deep. That should let you drive down the cost per desktop even more.

VMware running View on even the beefiest Intel servers will have trouble matching the scalability, reliability, and security of the zEnterprise/zBX VDI solution with its various STASH piece parts. You would have to engineer in a lot of redundancy just to start.  Porell, meanwhile, is talking with clients about deploying half a million virtual desktops or more using the STASH model.

There are other issues to resolve around VDI mainly having to do with change management, though both CSL and Virtual Bridges work to address those problems. With STASH, zEnterprise shops have a good head start on delivering truly scalable, cost-efficient VDI.

Deep Mainframe Storage Dive at Edge Conference

April 9, 2012

The spring SNW conference held in early April offered 19 program tracks covering everything from cloud backup to VDI.  A new storage conference, IBM Edge 2012  (Orlando, FL, June 4-8), covers a similar breadth of storage topics but includes about 15 sessions focused specifically on various aspects of mainframe storage. You won’t find this depth of mainframe storage coverage anywhere else except possibly at SHARE, which is a larger conference.

With the advent of zEnterprise-zBX hybrid computing it is important to have mainframe-specific information on the exploding amount of detail around every aspect of storage.  Today, a mainframe shop can find itself trying to deploy distributed systems storage alongside System z and zEnterprise storage. With many more choices, including cloud storage, it is not always clear what is the best option and how to make the various pieces work together in an optimal way.

The upcoming IBM Edge conference promises to address this need.  At the same time IBM promises to use the event to make major market-shaking announcements, introduce new storage offerings, and showcase the real business outcomes its customers are achieving.

The conference will have two main tracks, both mainframe-oriented. Executive Edge,  for business and IT executives and leaders, will focus on how leading companies are transforming their storage infrastructures to address such challenges as big data or achieving superior business outcomes. Technical Edge for IT professionals and practitioners, will feature cutting-edge education, hands on labs and on-site certification geared for all levels and taught by IBM distinguished engineers, leading product experts,  and clients and partners. A link to the conference sessions is here.

Here is a sample of what you will find:

Delivering High Availability and Disaster Recovery Using IBM GDPS—DancingDinosaur recently addressed this here, but not in nearly the depth. GDPS is IBM’s premier high availability and recovery solution. This session will go over the different GDPS solutions and explore the underlying technology that is exploited to deliver the different solutions.

z FICON and zHPF Operation and Usage—a more technical discussion, this session examines Fibre Connection (FICON) and high performance FICON (zHPF) usage on System z servers. It will describe FICON I/O operation and usage by the System z channel architecture for a FICON channel command word (CCW) channel program, the newer zHPF channel program, and more.

Using Unified Resource Manager to Provision Storage Resources—a hands-on lab demonstrating how a zEnterprise System ensemble running the Unified Resource Manager can provision resources to the ensemble, hypervisor, and virtual servers. Ensembles and ensemble resources such as virtual networking, storage and virtual servers are created and defined using various HMC tasks to identify and define storage resources to the blade hypervisor and virtual servers.

The Top 10 System z Storage Management Problems and How to Address Them—the session looks at the 10 biggest System z Storage Management issues found in most z shops. It will help you understand what can be done in z Storage Management to address these problems, manage your environment for cost savings and increased productivity, and maximize efficiency and effectiveness of both your z resources and personnel.

IBM hasn’t specified its top 10 mainframe storage management challenges, but since this is a Tivoli session you can bet the problems will include storage optimization, data integrity, disaster recovery and reporting capabilities, as well as management of disk and tape storage devices; the stuff Tivoli does well. As for me, I’d like to see it address public/private cloud storage, mixed platform (hybrid) storage management, storing Big Data for real-time analytics, and the perennial challenges the mainframe data center faces: data protection, archiving, cost containment, and the need for skilled mainframe storage staff.

DancingDinosaur will attend the conference. For a chance to win free admission to the conference, watch for upcoming posts here. And now for the legal stuff:  this post is sponsored, meaning I am being compensated, by the Storage Community for covering IBM’s Edge Conference.  However, the opinions and writing here are my own.

 Hope to see you in Orlando.


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