Posts Tagged ‘Unified Resource Manager’

The zEnterprise as a Hybrid Data Center

November 21, 2013

There is no doubt that the zEnterprise enables hybrid computing. Just attach a zBX to it and start plugging in Linux and x86 blades; presto, you’ve got hybrid computing.  You can manage this entire hybrid infrastructure via the Unified Resource Manager.

The zEnterprise also has a sister hybrid computing platform, IBM PureSystems. Here, too, you can add in System x and Linux or even Power and System i and do hybrid computing. You can also manage the hybrid environment through a single console, albeit a different console—the Flex System Manager—and manage this second IBM hybrid platform as a unified environment.  DancingDinosaur has noted the irony of IBM having two different, incompatible hybrid systems; IBM has reassured this blogger several times that it is trying to converge the two. Whenever it happens DancingDinosaur will be the first to report it.

The zEnterprise or even PureSystems as a hybrid computing platform, however, is not the same as a hybrid data center.  Apparently there is no definition of a hybrid data center despite all the talk about hybrid computing, hybrid clouds, and hybrid systems.  As best DancingDinosaur can piece it together, the hybrid data center is multiplatform like the zEnterprise, but it also is multi-location, often using co-location facilities or factory-built containerized data centers (IBM calls them Portable Modular Data Centers, PMDC). More often, however, hybrid data centers are associated with cloud computing as the third of the three flavors of cloud (private, public, hybrid).

Gartner recently described some architecture options for a hybrid data center. In one case you could have a zEnterprise acting as, say, a private cloud using a co-location facility as a DMZ between the private cloud and a public cloud like Amazon. Not sure, however, you would need the DMZ if your private cloud was running on the highly secure zEnterprise but Gartner included it. Go figure.

Hybrid showed up in numerous Enterprise 2013 sessions this past October. You can catch some video highlights from it here. The conference made frequent mention of hybrid in numerous sessions, some noted in previous DancingDinosaur posts, such as Exploring the World of zEnterprise Hybrid: How Does It Work and What’s the Point? The session introduced the Unified Resource Manager and described how it would allow an IT shop to manage a collection of one or more zEnterprise nodes including any optionally attached zBX cabinets as a single logical virtualized system through a Hardware Management Console (HMC). In short, it was about providing a single point of control through which data center personnel can deploy, configure, monitor, manage and maintain the integrated System z and zBX blades based on heterogeneous architectures in a unified manner. But it wasn’t talking about the hybrid enterprise data center described in the previous paragraph.

Similarly, Application Performance Management and Capacity Planning for the IBM zEnterprise Hybrid Workload focused on extending the Unified Resource Manager to goal-oriented performance management for both traditional System z and BladeCenter applications. It was about applying WLM, RMF, and Platform Performance Management to cross-platform hybrid applications. Again, this really wasn’t about the hybrid data center described above.

BTW, plans apparently already are underway for Enterprise 2014. Looks like it will be Oct. 6-10 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. It should be quite an event given that IBM will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the mainframe in 2014.

And there is much more on z hybrid computing and hybrid clouds. The zEnterprise has its own page on cloud computing here, and last month the zEnterprise zBC12 won CRN Tech Innovator Award for the most Innovative cloud solution.  You can also click here to see how a dozen IBM customers used various IBM platforms to build hybrid clouds.

IBM has already used the zEnterprise to consolidate over 30,000 servers around the world for an 84% improvement in data center efficiency and a 50% reduction in power and cooling. This effectively freed $1 billion to spend on innovative new projects that drive business growth across the company. And IBM is about as hybrid a data center as you can find.

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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?

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Enterprise 2013—System z Storage, Hybrid Computing, Social and More

October 10, 2013

The abstract for the Enterprise 2013 System z program runs 43 pages. Haven’t tallied the number of sessions offered but there certainly are enough to keep you busy for the entire conference (Oct. 20-25, in Orlando, register now) and longer.

Just the storage-related sessions are wide ranging, from  DFSM, which DancingDinosaur covered a few weeks back following the SHARE Boston event here, to the IBM Flash portfolio, System z Flash Express, dynamically provisioning Linux on z storage, capacity management, and more. For storage newcomers, there even is a two-part session on System z Storage Basics.

A storage session titled the Evolution of Space Management looks interesting.  After the advent of System Managed Storage (SMS), the mainframe went decades without much change in the landscape of space management processing. Space management consisted of the standard three-tier hierarchy of Primary Level 0 and the two Migration tiers, Migration Level 1 (disk) and Migration Level 2 (tape).This session examines recent advances in both tape and disk technologies that have dramatically changed that landscape and provided new opportunities for managing data on the z. Maybe they will add a level above primary called flash next year. This session will cover how the advances are evolving the space management hierarchy and what to consider when determining which solutions are best for your environment.

IBM has been going hog-wild with flash, the TMS acquisition playing no small part no doubt. Any number of sessions deal with flash storage. This one, IBM’s Flash Portfolio and Futures, seems particularly appealing. It takes a look at how IBM has acquired and improved upon flash technology over what amounts to eight generations technology refinements.  The session will look at how flash will play a major role across not only IBM’s storage products but IBM’s overall solution portfolio. Flash technology is changing the way companies are managing their data today and it is changing the way they understand and manage the economics of technology. This session also will cover how IBM plans to leverage flash in its roadmap moving forward.

Hybrid computing is another phenomenon that has swept over the z in recent years. For that reason this session looks especially interesting, Exploring the World of zEnterprise Hybrid: How Does It Work and What’s the Point? The IBM zEnterprise hybrid system introduces the Unified Resource Manager, allowing an IT shop to manage a collection of one or more zEnterprise nodes, including an optionally attached zBX loaded with blades for different platforms, as a single logical virtualized system through a single mainframe console. The mainframe can now act as the primary point of control through which data center personnel can deploy, configure, monitor, manage, and maintain the integrated System z and zBX blades based on heterogeneous architectures but in a unified manner. It amounts to a new world of blades and virtual servers with the z at the center of it.

Maybe one of the hardest things for traditional z data center managers to get their heads around is social business on the mainframe. But here it is: IBM DevOps Solution: Accelerating the Delivery of Multiplatform Applications looks at social business and mobile along with big data, and cloud technologies as driving the demand for faster approaches to software delivery across all platforms, middleware, and devices. The ultimate goal is to push out more features in each release and get more releases out the door with confidence, while maintaining compliance and quality. To succeed, some cultural, process, and technology gaps must be addressed through tools from Rational.

IBM has even set itself up as a poster child for social business in another session, Social Business and Collaboration at IBM, which features the current deployment within IBM of its social business and collaboration environments. Major core components are currently deployed on System z. The session will look at what IBM is doing and how they do it and the advantages and benefits it experiences.

Next week, the last DancingDinosaur posting before Enterprise 2013 begins will look at some other sessions, including software defined everything and Linux on z.

When DancingDinosaur first started writing about the mainframe over 20 years ago it was a big, powerful (for the time), solid performer that handled a few core tasks, did them remarkably well, and still does so today. At that time even the mainframe’s most ardent supporters didn’t imagine the wide variety of things it does now as can be found at Enterprise 2013.

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20% Price/Performance Boost for IBM Hybrid Computing

September 20, 2012

Hybrid computing promises to boost IT flexibility and efficiency in a significant way. The zEnterprise EC12 (zEC12) continues IBM’s hybrid computing initiative by connecting to it through a new zBX, the model 003. The zBX, a robust blade cabinet, is where the multiplatform blades reside.

As with previous new machines, IBM gave the EC12 an approximately 20% MIPS price/performance kick. There also are savings on software and maintenance.

For hybrid computing, the zEC12/zBX combination support x86 blades, including Windows, and Power blades, which can run AIX or Linux. It also supports the DataPower blade. The Smart Analytics Optimizer blade has been discontinued in favor of the Netezza appliance that connects directly to the zEC12. Connecting the zEC12 and the zBX is a dedicated 10Gb link, far faster than the usual link. The Canadian Dept. of National Defense turned to the zEnterprise/zBX combination to execute its strategy of multi-platform enterprise hosting.

The z196 and z114, also hybrid systems, connect to the zBX model  002. Although the zBX model 003 connection is specific to the zEC12, everything else about the zBX is the same, the same total number of blades in the system (112), and the same option for single or doublewide blades as needed. Doublewide blades, of course, reduce the total number of blades.

This hybrid environment is managed as a virtual system through the zEC12 using the Unified Resource Manager. Additional management capabilities and higher level management automation is provided through Tivoli.

Hybrid computing actually isn’t new. Mainframe data centers typically support numerous platforms, including Windows, Linux, AIX, Solaris, HP-UX, and more. The problem is that these are deployed and operated as separate platforms, which substantially increases the management overhead. A few skilled IT data centers can cobble together the appearance of a unified hybrid environment through technologies like SOA. This requires considerable skill to set up and maintaining it as things inevitably change becomes a challenge. The zEnterprise/zBX hybrid environment streamlines all this through the Unified Resource Manager and Tivoli.

IBM offers a second hybrid platform call PureSystems. DancingDinosaur wrote about it here. The Flex System Manager provides similar unified hybrid management for PureSystems as the Unified Resource Manager does for the zEC12/zBX.

Watch for an upcoming white paper on zBX adoption trends from Independent Assessment, the publisher of DancingDinosaur and BottomlineIT.

The zEC12 alone is an impressive machine. A departure from the previous quad core chip architecture, the zEC12 uses a 5.5 GHz six (hexa) core, out-of-order CISC processor architecture, which enables IBM to pack significantly more power into what is essentially the same footprint.  The zEZ12 handles a maximum of 36 processors, for a total of 120 cores, 101 of which are directly available to run operating systems and applications. The rest are used by the system to manage its own operations.

The number of cores available in a particular model of the zEC12 is embedded in the model name. The H20 has 20 cores available for direct customer use, plus spare and service processor cores. The HA1 brings 101 cores. Any combination of configurable cores can be designated as an assist processor; either a zIIP, zAAP, IFL, Internal Coupling Facility (ICF), or a System Assist Processor.

Find all the pertinent specs directly from IBM here.

zEnterprise EC12: the Next Hybrid Mainframe

August 30, 2012

On Tuesday, IBM launched the zEnterprise EC12 (zEC12), a machine it had been hinting at for months as zNext, the next hybrid mainframe. As you would expect from the latest release of the top-of-the-line mainframe, the zEC12 delivers faster speed and better price/performance. With a 5.5 GHz core processor, up from 5.2 GHz in the z196, and an increase in the number of cores per chip (from 4 to 6) IBM calculates it delivers 50% more total capacity in the same footprint. The vEC12 won’t come cheap but on a cost per MIPS basis it’s probably the best value around.

More than just performance, it adds two major new capabilities, IBM zAware and Flash Express, and a slew of other hardware and software optimizations. The two new features, IBM zAware and Flash Express, both promise to be useful, but neither is a game changer. IBM zAware is an analytics capability embedded in firmware. It is intended to monitor the entire zEnterprise system for the purpose of identifying problems before they impact operations.

Flash Express consists of a pair of memory cards installed in the zEC12; what amounts to a new tier of memory. Flash Express is designed to streamline memory paging when transitioning between workloads. It will moderate workload spikes and eliminate the need to page to disk, which should boost performance.

Unless you are finding it difficult to keep your z machines running or are experiencing paging problems these capabilities won’t be immediately helpful.  They really are intended for shops with the most demanding workloads and no margin for error. The zEC12 also continues IBM’s hybrid computing thrust by including the zBX and new capabilities from System Director to be delivered through Unified Resource Manager APIs. You’ll need a zBX mod 3 to connect to the zEC12.

This is a stunningly powerful machine, especially coming just 25 months after the z196 introduction. The zEC12 is intended for optimized corporate data serving. Its 101 configurable cores deliver a performance boost for all workloads. The zEC12 also comes with the usual array of assist processors, which are just configurable cores with the assist personality loaded on. Since they are EC12 cores, they bring a 20% MIPS price/performance boost.

The processor has been optimized for better software performance, particularly for Java, PL/1, and DB2 workloads.  As with the z196, it handles out of order instruction processing and multi-level branch prediction for complex workloads. The new machine’s larger L2, L3, and L4 caches deliver almost 2x more on the chip to speed data to the processor. In addition, Flash Express provides 1.6 TB of usable capacity (packaged in pairs for redundancy, 3.2 TB total).

IBM estimates up to a 45% improvement in Java workloads, up to a 27% improvement in CPU-intensive integer and floating point C/C++ applications, up to 30% improvement in throughput for DB2 for z/OS operational analytics, and more than 30% improvement in throughput for SAP workloads. IBM has, in effect, optimized the zEC12 from top to bottom of the stack. DB2 applications are certain to benefit as will WebSphere and SAP.

IBM characterizes zEC12 pricing as follows:

  • Hardware—20% MIPS price/performance improvement for standard engines and specialty engines , Flash Express runs $125,000 per pair of cards (3.2 TB)
  • Software—update pricing will provide 2%-7% MLC price/performance for flat-capacity upgrades from z196, and IFLs will maintain PVU rating of 120 for software  yet deliver more 20% MIPS
  • Maintenance—no less than 2% price performance improvement for standard MIPS and 20% on IFL MIPS

IBM is signaling price aggressiveness and flexibility to attract new shops to the mainframe and stimulate new workloads. The deeply discounted Solution Edition program will include the new machine. IBM also is offering financing with deferred payments through the end of the year in a coordinated effort to move these machines now.

As impressive as the zEC12 specifications and price/performance is DancingDinosaur is most impressed by the speed at which IBM delivered the machine. It broke with its with its historic 3-year release cycle to deliver this potent hybrid machine just two years after the z196 first introduced hybrid computing.

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.

IBM Hybrid Computing Choices

June 18, 2012

Enterprises now have a choice of IBM hybrid computing options, the zEnterprise/zBX and IBM PureSystems. Since the introduction of the zEnterprise in 2010 along with the zBX there is a zEnterprise option that now encompasses z/OS, Linux on z, z/VM, Power blades, AIX, Linux, System x blades, Windows, and specialty blades.  You can manage the resulting hybrid platform as one hybrid virtualized system through the Unified Resource Manager. About the only thing missing is i.

Today there are two PureSystems options: PureFlex, an IaaS offering, and PureApplication, a PaaS offering. IBM implies that more PureSystems will be coming. PureSystems brings System i to the hybrid party along with Power and System x but skips z/OS and z/VM. You manage this hybrid environment with the Flex System Manager (FSM), which looks very similar to the zEnterprise’s Unified Resource Manager. DancingDinosaur previously covered the PureSystems introduction here.

The challenge becomes choosing between two IBM hybrid computing environments that look very similar but aren’t quite the same.  So, which do you use?

Obviously, if you need z/OS, you go with the zEnterprise. It provides the optimum platform for enterprise computing with its extreme scalability and leading security and resiliency. It supports tens of thousands of users while new offerings expand the z role in BI and real time analytics, especially if much of the data reside on the z.

If you must include i you go with the PureFlex. Or, if you find you have a hybrid workload but don’t require the governance and tight integration with the z, you can choose IBM PureFlex and connect it to the zEnterprise via your existing network. Tivoli products can provide the integration of business processes.

If you look at your choice of hybrid computing environments in terms of cost, PureSystems probably will cost less, how much less depends on how it is configured. The entry PureFlex starts at $156k; the standard version, which includes storage and networking, starts at $217k; and the Enterprise version, intended for scalable cloud deployment and included redundancy for resilient operation, starts at $312k. Plus there is the cost of the O/S and hypervisor (open source KVM is free).

The zEnterprise option will cost more but maybe not all that much more depending on how you configure it, whether you can take advantage of the System z Solution Edition packages, and how well you negotiate. The lowest cost zEnterprise-zBX hybrid environment includes the z114 ($75k base price but expect to pay more once it is configured), about $200k or more for a zBX, depending on the type and number of blades, plus whatever you need for storage.

The payback from hybrid computing comes mainly from the operational efficiency and labor savings it allows. PureSystems especially come pre-integrated and optimized for the workload and is packed with built-in management expertise and automation that allow fewer, less skilled people to handle the hybrid computing environment. (Watch for an upcoming white paper on hybrid computing from Independent Assessment, the developer and publisher of DancingDinosaur.)

Right now the wrinkle in the hybrid computing management efficiency story comes from organizations that want both the zEnterprise and PureSystems. This would not be an odd pairing at all, but it will require two different management tools, Flex System Manager for the PureSystems environment and the Unified Resource Manager for the zEnterprise-zBX. At a recent briefing an IBM manager noted that discussions already were underway to bring the two management schemes together although when and how that actually might happen he couldn’t say. Let’s hope it is sooner rather than later.

PureSystems Joins zEnterprise Hybrid Family

May 8, 2012

A few weeks ago, DancingDinosaur noted that IBM’s new PureSystems was a natural fit for the zEnterprise and hybrid computing, click here. In a later briefing, IBM essentially said as much: Clients can connect IBM zEnterprise and IBM PureSystems (via Ethernet) to gain benefits of simplified management and lower IT infrastructure costs for all workloads. That’s the hybrid computing promise.

The zEnterprise with the zBX runs z/OS, AIX, Linux, and Windows. PureSystems runs AIX, i/OS, Linux and Windows. Between the two, you cover IBM’s primary platforms. The question becomes which workload to run where.

IBM’s simple answer: when data or applications exist on System z and you desire zEnterprise governance go with the zEnterprise-zBX environment populated with the appropriate blades. However, when data and applications run on a combination of Power and System x platforms, go with PureSystems.

On its website, IBM explains the choice between zBX or the new IBM PureSystems for hybrid computing: If you have a workload that traditionally ran on a distributed system, and the work spans System z and AIX, Linux, or Windows, then the zEnterprise with zBX is still the best choice. The zBX delivers the value proposition of tight integration for these hybrid workloads using the management functions of the Unified Resource Manager (zManager).

Or you can opt for PureSystems if you find you have a hybrid workload and don’t desire the governance and tight integration with System z. You still can connect the PureSystems device to the zEnterprise via your existing Ethernet network. Tivoli products can provide the integration of business processes.

Of course, if you have the zEnterprise and add PureSystems, you end up with two hybrid management tools, the Unified Resource Manager for zEnterprise and the Flex System Manager with PureSystems, for what should be one hybrid environment. Ooops, this undermines the promised management efficiency of hybrid computing. IBM promises to address this in the future through tighter integration of both systems.

The choice of a hybrid computing environment, given that most z shops already have multiple platforms, is not straightforward.  Pricing and workload performance have to be considered. For example, does a PowerLinux blade as a PureSystems component deliver better price/performance than Linux running as an IFL on z?  Similarly, where should Windows workloads run, on an Hx5 blade in the zBX or on a PureSystems device? At this point, there’s not enough pricing and performance data to decide. It may come down to scalability.

IBM, however, has been steadily improving hybrid computing on the z. It has enabled programmatic access to the zManager, expanded internal network communication between the zEnterprise and the zBX, and added support for virtual storage management.  Looking ahead, IBM already is planning zBX support for the next generation z and promises to more tightly integrate the zEnterprise with PureSystems. The zEnterprise, zBX, and hybrid computing apparently will be around for a while.

Finally, take note: on April 9, DancingDinosaur covered mainframe storage sessions being planned for the upcoming IBM Edge conference (June 4-8, Orlando).  Now there is the chance to win a free pass (value $2000). This giveaway is for one pass and is sponsored by The Storage Community. The giveaway is only open to US residents. State, local and federal government employees are not eligible.  To access the IBM Technical Edge2012 Conference Sweepstakes: click here for a chance to enter the raffle for a free conference pass.

IBM z196/zBX Backup

February 28, 2011

One of the hallmarks of the System z and the mainframes before it has been their rock solid backup and recovery. The arrival of the hybrid System zEnterprise (z196/zBX) combining different operating systems and platforms, both virtual and physical machines, has the potential to make the backup and recovery process a little messy.

In a presentation titled zEnterprise System 196 Overview IBM takes up the question of backup and recovery in just one slide, #23. Its recommendation: a parallel sysplex or geographically dispersed parallel sysplex (GDPS).  That’s basically buying a second system and replicating between them. It is a good solution but it isn’t inexpensive.

Bill Reeder, who handles enterprise sales and strategy for Linux on z at IBM, confirmed the parallel sysplex and GDPS recommendation and went on to note that tape backup, once the mainframe backup mainstay, remained a commonly used option. High availability clusters provide yet another option for Linux on z, he noted, especially when operating stateful servers. If you are running stateless, you don’t even need high availability to resume operations.

Much also depends on what level of backup and recovery you are concerned about. IBM already offers a number of data management products that provide recovery capabilities and are not affected by the presence of the zEnterprise. As software tools these products apply to a zEnterprise configuration just as they do to loosely coupled distributed systems. If the backup concerns revolve around the backup and restoration of server hardware configurations and firmware recovery then the zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager (referred to a zManager) handles it.

JD Williams, an early adopter of the z196, runs the machine primarily for Java and WebSphere applications and image and video serving. Check out the JD Williams case study here. In terms of backup and recovery, the company takes a traditional approach using an ATL to handle regular backups to cartridge. In addition, copies of the tapes are sent off site to a 3rd party storage company. Should it need to recover the z, the cartridges are sent to its DR site (another 3rd party) to begin the recovery process.

However, the company also runs a z10 as well as a z196. This opens new backup and recovery opportunities. “We will be looking at the role of both the z196 and z10 with a view to a failover capability,” says Jeff Cattle, head of the company’s computer service. This probably will begin take shape later this year and into next year when the company reviews its third party DR contracts.

The z196/zBX backup issue recently flared up on a LinkedIn discussion. At one point David Boyes, key developer of the openSolaris on z project, now IllumOS on z, weighed in with a completely different take on the zEnterprise DR issue. His suggestion is to leverage the zEnterprise, especially the zBX, by tapping a hypervisor like VSphere 4 (or even Xen) and take advantage of mobility to move external virtual machine systems to a zBX for DR. “In one stroke, that gets you supported Linux, Solaris x86, and Windows workloads that can be Vmotioned directly into the zBX box (plus the Power workloads). Now you’ve got a very flexible DR platform.”  Sure, simple as pie.

For years companies opted for the mainframe because of its extremely high resiliency and its rock solid backup and recovery. With the zEnterprise that hasn’t changed except that it does open some new DR possibilities to think about.


IBM System z Wins in Emerging Markets

February 15, 2011

The System z is doing very well in emerging markets these days. In Senegal, the Customs Directorate of the Ministry of Finance  purchased a pair of z10 machines configured as a high availability sysplex along with comparable DS8000 storage.

At the end of 2010, HeiTech,  a leading IT and communications provider in Malaysia, opted for a z196 to run a wide mix of workloads. Don’t be surprised if, down the road, the company ends up with a zBX too.

It still surprises some people that the mainframe is doing well in emerging markets. Their assumption is that these are places where cheap commodity servers and kluged systems running lightweight applications would be the rule. DancingDinosaur, however, has been in touch with people at both these organizations and each has a long history of running serious workloads on true enterprise systems.

In Senegal, for example, the first application will run the customs operation at the airport, its main port, and at 30 border crossings around the country. HeiTech expects to run workloads for customers across a range of industries including banking, finance, and public sector and intends to take full advantage of the ability of the z196 to manage across different operating systems and platforms.

The Ministry of Finance in Senegal was looking to upgrade and modernize its systems built around a pair of System z890 machines. After looking at competing enterprise UNIX systems it opted for the better price/performance of the z10 sysplex.

In Malaysia, it was the sheer power and versatility of the zEnterprise that won the deal. The company initially was considering a z10 but the power and capabilities of the z196 won out. In particular, the Unified Resource Manager should provide a significant benefit when managing HeiTech’s diverse workloads and infrastructure consisting on z/OS, Linux on z, Linux on System x, and AIX on Power. This sounds made to order for a z196. It also isn’t surprising that a zBX will be a consideration moving forward.

Back in Senegal the new z will enable customs officers across the country, not just at the airport and the main port of Dakar as is the case now, to better manage the customs processes, such as levying import and export duty and checking to see if the correct duty has been paid on shipments of goods coming into the country.

In Malaysia, the new z196 will be used to manage very large databases for HeiTech’s existing public sector customers.  HeiTech further intends to expand its services to other Asian countries, especially customers in Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

In Senegal the performance and energy specs of the z10 proved particularly appealing. The z10 will enable the Ministry to increase system performance by 70%, reduce power consumption by 20%, and cut operating costs by 30%. And as a high availability sysplex it brings advanced recovery capabilities that will allow the Ministry to safeguard and recover critical information and minimize downtime in the event of a systems failure.

Specifically, Senegal’s system relies on two z10 mainframes running z/OS and linked in a high availability sysplex situated in a data center in Dakar. Software will include IBM WebSphere, DB2, and Tivoli System Automation. For high available storage the Ministry will use a pair of IBM DS8000 Storage Servers with permanent replication. The entire system is expected to be up and running by the end of February.

Emerging markets aren’t exactly emerging anymore; they have been involved in serious IT for several decades at least. IBM has taken to referring to them as growth markets instead. And they sure are growing in terms of IT. DancingDinosaur, which has already reported on mainframe adoption in Russia and Korea, expects to report in more detail on the HeiTech experience with the zEnterprise in the coming months.


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