Posts Tagged ‘x86’

IBM Jumps into the Next Gen Server Party with POWER9

February 15, 2018

IBM re-introduced its POWER9 lineup of servers  this week starting with 2-socket and 4-socket systems and more variations coming in the months ahead as IBM, along with the rest of the IT vendor community grapples with how to address changing data center needs. The first, the AC922, arrived last fall. DancingDinosaur covered it here. More, the S922/S914/S924 and H922/H924/L922, are promised later this quarter.

The workloads organizations are running these days are changing, often dramatically and quickly. One processor, no matter how capable or flexible or efficient will be unlikely to do the job going forward. It will take an entire family of chips.  That’s as true for Intel and AMR and the other chip players as IBM.

In some ways, IBM’s challenge is even qwerkier. Its chips will not only need to support Linux and Windows, but also IBMi and AIX. IBM simply cannot abandon its IBMi and AIX customer bases. So chips supporting IBMi and AIX are being built into the POWER9 family.

For IBMi the company is promising POWER9 exploitation for:

  • Expanding the secure-ability of IBMi with TLS, secure APIs, and logs for SIEM solutions
  • Expanded Install options with an installation process using USB 3.0 media
  • Encryption and compression for cloud storage
  • Increasing the productivity of developers and administrators

This may sound trivial to those who have focused on the Linux world and work with x86 systems too, but it is not for a company still mired in productive yet aging IBMi systems.

IBM also is promising POWER9 goodies for AIX, its legacy Unix OS, including:

  • AIX Security: PowerSC and PowerSC MFA updates for malware intrusion prevention and strong authentication
  • New workload acceleration with shared memory communications over RDMA (SMC-R)
  • Improved availability: AIX Live Update enhancements; GDR 1.2; PowerHA 7.2
  • Improved Cloud Mgmt: IBM Cloud PowerVC Manager for SDI; Import/Export;
  • AIX 7.2 native support for POWER9 – e.g. enabling NVMe

Again, if you have been running Linux on z or LinuxONE this may sound antiquated, but AIX has not been considered state-of-the-art for years. NVMe alone gives is a big boost.

But despite all the nice things IBM is doing for IBMi and AIX, DancingDinosaur believes the company clearly is betting POWER9 will cut into Intel x86 sales. But that is not a given. Intel is rolling out its own family of advanced x86 Xeon machines under the Skylake code name. Different versions will be packaged and tuned to different workloads. They are rumored, at the fully configured high end, to be quite expensive. Just don’t expect POWER9 systems to be cheap either.

And the chip market is getting more crowded. As Timothy Prickett Morgan, analyst at The Next Platform noted, various ARM chips –especially ThunderX2 from Cavium and Centriq 2400 from Qualcomm –can boost non-X86 numbers and divert sales from IBM’s POWER9 family. Also, AMD’s Epyc X86 processors have a good chance of stealing some market share from Intel’s Skylake. So the POWER9 will have to fight for every sale IBM wants.

Morgan went on: IBM differentiated the hardware and the pricing with its NVLink versions, depending on the workload and the competition, with its most aggressive pricing and a leaner and cheaper microcode and hypervisor stack reserved for the Linux workloads that the company is chasing. IBM very much wants to sell its Power-Linux combo against Intel’s Xeon-Linux and also keep AMD’s Epyc-Linux at bay. Where the Power8 chip had the advantage over the Intel’s Haswell and Broadwell Xeon E5 processors when it came to memory capacity and memory bandwidth per socket, and could meet or beat the Xeons when it came to performance on some workloads that is not yet apparent with the POWER9.

With the POWER9, however, IBM will likely charge a little less for companies buying its Linux-only variants, observes Morgan, effectively enabling IBM to win Linux deals, particularly where data analytics and open source databases drive the customer’s use case. Similarly, some traditional simulation and modeling workloads in the HPC and machine learning areas are ripe for POWER9.

POWER9 is not one chip. Packed into the chip are next-generation NVIDIA NVLink and OpenCAPI to provide significantly faster performance for attached GPUs. The PCI-Express 4.0 interconnect will be twice the speed of PCI-Express 3.0. The open POWER9 architecture also allows companies to mix a wide range of accelerators to meet various needs. Meanwhile, OpenCAPI can unlock coherent FPGAs to support varied accelerated storage, compute, and networking workloads. IBM also is counting on the 300+ members of the OpenPOWER Foundation and OpenCAPI Consortium to launch innovations for POWER9. Much is happening: Stay tuned to DancingDinosaur

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his work at and here.

Compuware Continues Mainframe GUI Tool Enhancements

July 1, 2016

Early in 2015 Compuware announced the first in what it promised would be a continuing stream of new mainframe tools and tool enhancements. Did anyone really believe them? Mainframe ISVs are not widely regarded for their fast release cycles. DancingDinosaur reported on it then here and has continued to follow up and report its progress through a handful of new releases. This past week, DancingDinosaur received new Compuware mainframe tool announcements. For a mainframe ISV this is almost unheard of. IBM sometimes releases new mainframe products in intense spurts but then quickly resumes its typical languid release pace.

compuware ispw

Screen from Compuware’s ISPW for Continuous Delivery to the Mainframe

Let’s take a look at each of these new releases. First, ISPW Deploy, an advanced mainframe release automation solution that enables large enterprises to bring continuous delivery best practices to their IBM z/OS environments. ISPW Deploy, built on the ISPW technology Compuware acquired in January 2016, facilitates faster and more reliable mainframe software deployment. Specifically, it helps, according to Compuware, in three ways, through:

  1. Automation that rapidly moves code through the deployment process, including test staging and approvals, while also providing greatly simplified full or partial rollbacks.
  1. Visualization that enables DevOps managers to quickly pinpoint deployment issues in order to both solve immediate rollout problems and address persistent bottlenecks in code promotion.
  1. Integrations with both third-party solutions and Compuware’s own industry-leading mainframe toolkit that allow IT to build complete SCM-to-production DevOps pipelines and to quickly launch associated remediation support tools if and when deployment issues occur.

Compuware is further empowering enterprises to achieve mainframe agility by integrating. For instance, its ISPW and XebiaLabs’ cross-platform continuous delivery solutions enable IT organizations to orchestrate and visualize their mainframe DevOps processes in a common manner with their broader cross-platform DevOps automation.

The second announcement focused on Xebial Labs, as noted above. The idea here is to deliver cross-platform continuous releases for the mainframe. As Compuware explained, enterprises using XebiaLabs’ solution suite and Compuware ISPW, can now automate and monitor all phases of mainframe DevOps within the same continuous delivery management environment they use for their distributed, web, and cloud platforms. This automation and monitoring includes test/QA, pre-copy staging, and code promotion. The goal, as with all DevOps, is to speed digital agility for mainframe or distributed systems or both.

The third announcement concerned a partnership between Compuware and ConicIT that aims to help a new generation of IT ops staff proactively resolve emerging mainframe issues before they impact application service levels. It does so by integrating ConicIT’s predictive mainframe analytics with Compuware’s Strobe, which provides visually intuitive troubleshooting intelligence. Together, the two companies promise to enable even IT staff with relatively little hands-on mainframe experience to quickly identify and resolve a wide range of application performance problems.

The key to doing this is a reliance on the adoption of intuitive GUI interfaces. Compuware started this with its Topaz tools and has been continuing along this path for two years. Compuware’s CEO, Chris O’Malley, has been harping on these themes almost since he first arrived there.

Compuware customers apparently have gotten the message. As reported: “Market pressures are making it essential for us to deliver quality products and services to our clients more frequently, and the mainframe plays a critical role in that delivery,” according to Craig Danielson, Assistant Vice President for Commerce Bank. “We leverage ISPW to help in this capacity and its new capabilities will provide us the automation and visibility of our software deployment process to help us continuously improve our internal operations and services.” (note: DancingDinosaur did not validate this customer statement.)

Companies will need all the help modern mainframe tools can deliver. Mainframe data centers are facing unprecedented challenges that require unusual speed and agility. In short, they need DevOps fast. And they will have to respond with an increasingly aging core of experienced mainframe staff supplemented by millennials who have to be coaxed and cajoled onto the mainframe with easy graphical tools. If mainframe data centers can’t respond to these challenges—not just cloud, mobile, Linux, and analytics, but also IoT, blockchain, cognitive computing, and whatever else is coming along next—how are they going to cope. Already their users, the line of business managers, are turning to shadow IT out of frustration with the slow response from the mainframe data centers. And you know what comes 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 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 and here.

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

November 30, 2015

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

synsort mainframes Role Big Data Ecosystem

Courtesy; Syncsort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IBM’s z13 Redefines Mainframe Performance, Economics, and Versatility

January 14, 2015

With the introduction of the new IBM z13, the latest rev of the 50-year old mainframe product line introduced today, it will be hard for IT people to persist in the mistaken belief that the mainframe can’t handle today’s workloads or that it is too expensive. Built around an 8 core, 22nm processor, the IBM z13’s 141 configurable cores (any mix of CP, IFL, zIIP, ICF, SAP) delivers a 40% total capacity improvement over the zEC12.

 IBM z113

The z13 looks like the zEC12 but under the hood it’s far more powerful

The IBM z13 will handle up to 8,000 virtual enterprise-grade Linux servers per system, more than 50 per core.  Remember when Nationwide Insurance consolidated 3000 x86 servers mainly running Linux on a System z and saved $15 million over three years, a figure later revised considerably higher. They got a lot of press out of that, including from DancingDinosaur as recently as last May. With the IBM z13 Nationwide could consolidate more than twice the number of Linux servers at a lower cost and the resulting saving would be higher still.

If you consider Linux VMs synonymous with cloud services, the new machine will enable superior Cloud services at up to 32% lower cost than an x86-based cloud. It also will cost up to 60% less than Public Cloud over three years. In almost every metric, the IBM z13 delivers more capacity or performance at lower cost.

IBM delivered an almost constant stream of innovations that work to optimize performance and reduce cost. For example, it boosted single thread capacity by 10% over the zEC12. It also delivers 3x more memory to help both z/OS and Linux workloads. The more memory combined with a new cache design, improved I/O bandwidth, and compression will boost analytics on the machine. In fact, with the z13 you can do in-memory analytics if you want it.

The one thing it doesn’t do is boast the fastest commercial processor in terms of sheer speed. The zEC12 processor still is the fastest but with all the optimizations and enhancements IBM has built in the z13 should beat the z12 in handling the workloads organizations most want to run. For instance, the z13 performs 2X faster than the most common server processors, 300 percent more memory, 100 percent more bandwidth and delivers vector processing analytics to speed mobile transactions. As a result, the z13 transaction engine is capable of analyzing transactions in real time.

Similarly, simultaneous multi-threading delivers more throughput for Linux and zIIP-eligible workloads while larger caches optimize data serving. It also improved on-chip hardware compression, which saves disk space and cuts data transfer time.  Also, there is new workload container pricing and new multiplex pricing, both of which again will save money.

In addition, IBM optimized this machine for both mobile and analytics, as well as for cloud. This is the new versatility of this redefined mainframe. Last year, IBM discounted the cost of mobile transactions on the z. The new machine continues to optimize for mobile with consolidated REST APIs for all z/OS transactions through z/OS Connect while seamlessly channeling z/OS transactions to mobile devices with the MobileFirst Platform. It also ensures end-to-end security from mobile device to mainframe with z/OS, RACF, and MobileFirst products.

For analytics, IBM continues to optimize Hadoop and expand the analytics portfolio on the z13. Specifically, the massive memory capability, up to 10TB, opens new opportunities for in-memory computing. The ability to perform analytics by combining data from different data sources and do it in-memory and in real-time within the platform drives more efficiencies, such as eliminating the need for ETL and the need to move data between platforms, as had previously often been the case. Now, just use Hadoop on z to explore data there within the secure zone of the mainframe. This opens a wide variety of analytics workloads, anything from fraud prevention to customer retention.

In addition to improved price/performance overall, IBM announced Technology Update Pricing for z13, including AWLC price reductions for z13 that deliver 5% price/performance on average in addition to performance gains in software exploitation of z13. DancingDinosaur will dig deeper into the new z13 software pricing in a subsequent post.

And the list of new and improved capabilities with the z13 just keeps going on and on.  With security IBM has accelerated the speed of encryption up to 2x over the zEC12 to help protect the privacy of data throughout its life cycle.  It also extended enhanced public key support for constrained digital environments using Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC), which helps applications like Chrome, Firefox, and Apple’s iMessage. In addition, the z13 sports a few I/O enhancements, like the first system to use a standards based approach for enabling Forward Error Correction for a complete end-to-end solution.

Finally, IBM has not abandoned hybrid computing, where you can mix a variety of blades, including x86 Windows blades and others in the zBX extension cabinet. With the z13 IBM introduced the new Mod 004 zBX cabinet, an upgrade from the previous Mod 002 and 003.

DancingDinosaur expects the introduction of the z13 along with structural organization changes, will drive System z quarterly financial performance back into the black as soon as deliveries roll. And if IBM stays consistent with past behavior within a year or so you can expect a scaled down, lower cost business class version of the z13 although it may be not be called business class. Stay tuned; it should be an exciting year.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a long-time IT analyst and writer. You can follow him on Twitter, @mainframeblog, or check out more of his writing and analysis at or here.

IBM Ends 2014 with Flurry of Outsourcing, Cloud Activity

January 4, 2015

Happy New Year. There is much to look forward to in 2015. At the least it probably is time for IBM to rev the System z. The zEnterprise EC12 was introduced in Aug. 2012. You should expect a new machine this year.

ibm cloud centers

IBM ended the year with a flurry of deals involving outsourcing in various forms, hybrid clouds, and the expansion its cloud centers globally. The company made it clear throughout this past difficult year that its focus will be on cloud computing, analytics, and mobile, and that’s what they did. DancingDinosaur will leave to the Wall St. analysts the question of whether the deals represent enough action at a sufficient margin.

IBM believes its future rides on the cloud. To that end it writes: Enterprise cloud deployments, specifically hybrid cloud, are growing at a significant rate.  According to Gartner, nearly half of all enterprises will have a hybrid cloud deployed by 2017.  Chief among the driving forces behind the adoption of cloud computing worldwide, including hybrid cloud, are requirements for businesses and governments to store certain data locally to comply with data residency regulations, as well as a growing desire for startups to expand their businesses globally.  IBM estimates about 100 nations and territories have adopted laws that dictate how governments and private enterprises handle personal data.

The expansion of the company’s global footprint of its cloud centers, now up to 40 locations, represents an effort to capitalize on cloud interest. Since the start of November, the company announced more than $4 billion worth of cloud agreements with major enterprises around the world. These include Lufthansa, ABN AMRO, WPP, Woox Innovations, Dow Water, and Thomson Reuters. Some of these, you will notice, are mainframe shops. DancingDinosaur is assuming they are augmenting their z with a hybrid cloud, not replacing it.

In addition, there are new organizations, referred to by IBM as born-on-the-web innovators, which are building their business on the IBM Cloud. Since November, IBM has announced wins with Diabetizer and Preveniomed, Hancom, Musimundo, and Nubity. Collectively these wins reflect IBM’s ability to deliver a full range of services through the cloud. Some of these are analytics-driven wins.

An interesting recently announced win was Westfield Insurance, which began working with IBM to transform their claims operations. To this end, Westfield is looking at business analytics to increase flexibility, operational efficiency, and effectiveness while enabling the company to keep pace with its evolving customer base and business growth. When DancingDinosaur last checked, Westfield was a z196 shop running DB2.

As IBM reports, leading insurers are leveraging cloud, analytics and social technologies to stay ahead of their competition. Specifically, more than 60% of identified leading insurers are focused on advanced analytics to improve their claims handling in order to streamline processes and increase customer satisfaction. Westfield’s multi-year claims handling transformation initiatives, including process, organizational and technology changes, focus on using data and analytics to better serve customers.

For Westfield, IBM developed a new protocol to migrate data for use with predicative models, built simulation models to evaluate bottlenecks in the claims process, and designed a strategy for expedited workflow.  This simulation helped expedite organizational changes. The new claims system will also utilize a suite of IBM counter-fraud capabilities to detect suspicious activity.

In addition, IBM helped Westfield optimize its current claims handling process to provide a seamless, fully-integrated customer experience. Westfield’s claims system with Guidewire is now consolidated to ensure efficient operations across its network.

To further drive its cloud business IBM simplified its cloud contract with a goal of reducing the complexity and speeding the signing of cloud agreements. The result is a standard, two-page agreement that replaces the previous longer, more complex contracts, which typically entailed long negotiations and reviews before a deal was signed. By comparison, its cloud competitors require customers to review and commit to more complex contracts that commonly are at least five times longer and also incorporate terms and conditions from other websites, IBM reports.

Citing leading industry analyst firms, IBM claims global leadership in cloud computing with a diverse portfolio of open cloud solutions designed to enable clients for the hybrid cloud era. IBM has helped more than 30,000 cloud clients around the world. It boasts of over 30,000 cloud clients, invested more than $7 billion since 2007 in 17 acquisitions to accelerate its cloud initiatives, and holds more than 1,560 cloud patents. IBM also processes more than 5.5 million client transactions daily through its public cloud.

IBM’s initiatives in cloud computing will not diminish its interest in the System z enterprise cloud platform. To the contrary a recent IBM analysis shows the z enhancing the economic advantages of the cloud: a business scaling up to about 200 virtual machines (VM) gets far more efficient and economical results by using the Enterprise Linux Server as an enterprise cloud than with a virtualized x86 or public-cloud model. And the deal gets even better if you acquire the Enterprise Linux Server under either the Solution Edition program for Enterprise Linux  or the System z Solution Edition for Cloud Computing.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a longtime IT analyst/writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Check out more of his work at and here.

Compuware Aims for Mainframe Literacy in CIOs

November 13, 2014

Many IT professionals, especially younger ones, are clueless about the mainframe. Chris O’Malley, president of the mainframe business at Compuware, has met CIOs who are versed in everything about IT and have seemingly done everything there is with computers, but “they are not literate about the mainframe.” That means the mainframe never comes to mind. IBM could give away a zEnterprise for free, which it comes close to doing today through the System z Solution Edition program and these CIOs would ignore it. O’Malley wants to address that.

compuware MainframeExcellence2025_cover

In response, Compuware is following the path of the IBM System z Academic Initiative, but without the extensive global involvement of colleges and universities, with a program called Mainframe Excellence 2025, which it describes as a generational call for strategic platform stewardship. “We’re also trying to debunk a lot of issues around the mainframe,” O’Malley continues.

compuware O'Malley headshot

Chris O’Malley, Pres. Mainframe, Compuware

Compuware refers to Mainframe Excellence 2025 as a manifesto, something of a call to arms for millennials to storm the IT gates and liberate IT management from enslavement to x86 computing. Somehow DancingDinosaur doesn’t see it happening exactly that way; it envisions coexistence and synergy.

Most of the Mainframe Excellence document goes over ground DancingDinosaur and many others have covered before. It is delightful, however, to see others refreshing the arguments. And, the document adds some interesting data. For instance, over 1.15 million CICS transactions are executed on System z every second of every day! That’s more than all Google searches, YouTube views, Facebook likes, and Twitter tweets combined.

It also pays homage to what it refers to as the mainframe’s culture of excellence. It characterizes this culture by rigorous adherence to a standard of excellence demonstrably higher than that associated with other platforms, notably x86. IT organizations actually expect, accept, and plan for problems and patches in other platforms (think Microsoft Patch Tuesday). Mainframe professionals, on the other hand, have zero-tolerance for downtime and system failures and the mainframe generally lives up to those high expectations.

Ironically, the document points out that the culture of excellence has created a certain chasm between mainframe professionals and the rest of IT. In fact, this ingrained zero-failure culture of the mainframe community—including both vendors and enterprise IT staffs—can sometimes put it at odds with the very spirit of innovation that allows the mainframe to deliver the repeated advances in price/performance and new capabilities that consistently produce tremendous value.

Compuware concludes its report with an action checklist:

  • Fully inventory existing mainframe data, applications (including business rules), capacity, utilization/MSUs and management tools, a veritable trove a value embedded in mainframe code and business rules.
  • Build a fact-based skills plan with a realistic timeline.
  • Ramp up current and road-mapped mainframe capabilities.
  • Rightsize investments in mainframe application stewardship.
  • Institute an immediate moratorium on short-term cost-cutting that carries long-term negative consequences.
  • Combat denial and hype in regards to non-mainframe platform capabilities, costs and risks.

And Compuware’s final thought should give encouragement to all those who must respond to the mainframe-costs-too-much complaint:  IT has a long history of under-estimating real TCO and marginal costs for new platforms while over-estimating their benefits. A more sober assessment of these platforms will make the strategic value and economic advantages of the mainframe much more evident in comparison.

Compuware certainly is on the right track with Mainframe Excellence 2025. Would like, however, to see the company coordinate its efforts with the System z Academic Initiative, the Master the Mainframe effort, and such.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT writer/analyst. You can follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Also check out my other IT writing at and here.

Software Licensing for IBM System z Distributed Linux Middleware

October 10, 2014

DancingDinosaur can’t attend a mainframe conference without checking out at least one session on mainframe software pricing by David Chase, IBM’s mainframe pricing guru. At IBM Enterprise2014, which wraps up today, the topic of choice was software licensing for Linux middleware. It’s sufficiently complicated to merit an entire session.

In case you think Linux on z is not in your future, maybe you should think again.  Linux is gaining momentum in even the largest z data centers. Start with IBM bringing new apps like InfoSphere, BigInsights (Hadoop), and OpenStack to z. Then there are apps from ISVs that just weren’t going to get their offerings to z/OS. Together it points to a telltale sign something is happening with Linux on z. And, the queasiness managers used to have about the open source nature of Linux has long been put to rest.

At some point, you will need to think about IBM’s software pricing for Linux middleware. Should you find yourself getting too lost in the topic, check out these links recommended by Chase:

To begin, software for Linux on z is treated differently than traditional mainframe software in terms of pricing. With Linux on z you think in terms of IFLs.  The quantity of IFLs represent the number of Linux engines subjected to IBM’s IPLA-based pricing.

Also think in terms of Processor Value Units (PVUs) rather than MSUs. For a pricing purposes, PVUs are analogous to MSUs although the values are different. A key point to keep in mind: distributed PVUs for Linux are not related to System z IPLA value units used for z/VM products. As is typical of IBM, those two different kinds of value units are NOT interchangeable.

Chase, however, provides a few ground rules:

  • Dedicated partition
    • Processors are always allocated in whole increments
    • Resources are only moved between partitions “explicitly” (e.g. by an operator or a scheduled job)
  • Shared pool:
    • Pool of processors shared by partitions (including virtual machines)
    • System automatically dispatches processor resources between partitions as needed
  • Maximum license requirements
  • Customer does not have to purchase more licenses for a product than the number of processors on the machine (e.g. maximum DB2 UDB licenses on a 12-way machine is 12)
    • Customer does not have to purchase more “shared pool” licenses for a product than the number of processors assigned to the shared pool (e.g. maximum of 7 MQSeries licenses for a shared pool with 7 processors). Note: This limit does not affect the additional licenses that might be required for dedicated partitions.

With that, as Chase explains it, Linux middleware pricing turns out to be relatively straightforward, determined by:

  • Processor Value Unit (PVU) rating for each kind of core
  • Any difference for different processor technologies (p, i, x, z, Sun, HP, AMD, etc—notice that the z is just one of many choices, not handled differently from the others
  • Number of processor cores which must be licensed (z calls them IFLs)
  • Price per PVU (constant per product, not different based upon technology)

Then it becomes a case of doing the basic arithmetic. The formula: # of PVUs x the # of cores required x the value ($) per core = your total cost.  Given this formula it is to your advantage to plan your Linux use to minimize IFLs and cores. You can’t do anything about the cost per PVU.

Distributed PVUs are the basis for licensing middleware on IFLs and are determined by the type of machine processor. The zEC12, z196, and z10 are rated at 120 PVUs. All others are rated at 100 PVUs. For example, any distributed middleware running on Linux on z this works out to:

  • z114—1IFL, 100 PVUs
  • z196—4IFLs, 480 PVUs
  • zEC12—8 IFLs, 960 PVUs

Also, distributed systems Linux middleware offerings are eligible for sub-capacity licensing. Specifically, sub-capacity licensing is available for all PVU-priced software offerings that run on:

  • UNIX (AIX, HP-UX, and Sun Solaris
  • i5/OS, OS/400
  • Linux (System i, System p, System z)
  • x86 (VMware ESX Server, VMware GSX Server, Microsoft Virtual Server)

IBM’s virtualization technologies also are included in Passport Advantage sub-capacity licensing offering, including LPAR, z/VM virtual machines in an LPAR, CPU Pooling support introduced in z/VM 6.3 APAR VM65418, and native z/VM (on machines which still support basic mode).

And in true z style, since this can seem more complicated than it should seem, there are tools available to do the job. In fact Chase doesn’t advise doing this without a tool. The current tool is the IBM License Metric Tool V9.0.1. You can find more details on it here.

If you are considering distributed Linux middleware software or are already wrestling with the pricing process, DancingDinosaur recommends you check out Chase’s links at the top of this piece. Good luck.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. You can check out more of my work at

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

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