IT Management

Several months ago, I was flying home from an IT conference in Asia. For the flight home, I happened to sit next to a marketing executive for a cell phone manufacturer. We got to talking, and as these conversations go, she asked what I do at IBM. “I lead our mainframe organization.” Her response wasn’t that new to me from folks outside the IT industry: “Oh, is that still around?”

Seeing that I’m in the heart of the System z organization, and while it still surprises me, I admittedly do face this question from time to time. I’ve come up with a response that’s fun for me and easier for those across industries to relate to.

So, that’s when the conversation changes a little. Those who know me know that I’m a car guy, so I redirect: “Are you familiar with the Corvette? It was introduced in 1953. Almost 60 years and six generations later, it’s still coveted as one of the best sports cars—or, I’d argue, the best sports car—in the world.”

Then I tie it back to System z.

In my opinion, the Corvette and System z have a lot in common—performance and speed—but also years of customer trust and loyalty, billions of dollars in research and development, and most important, innovation that has been directly influenced by feedback from their users in the marketplace. Quite frankly, I see both of them as the best bang for the buck, dollar for dollar, in their respective markets: high-performance sports cars and enterprise-level computing.

Today’s mainframe is so much more than what it used to be. It’s a platform on which to consolidate multiple disparate workloads. It’s a secure environment in which to implement cloud computing. It’s a system built for data and analysis of that data. It’s a vehicle to drive down (pun intended) IT costs while increasing services.

When we System z zealots share the facts on the value of running these types of workloads on a zEnterprise system, it’s hard to argue.

First, we can help dramatically reduce operating costs (and simplify management) through the large-scale consolidation of multiple workloads. This type of solution can offer clients the benefits of a Linux platform, with huge savings from environmentals such as reduced energy usage and less real estate as well as third-party software licenses costs. We deliver the best total economics with a consolidation ratio of 6:1 or greater. 

Second, when it comes to private clouds, there’s no competition. A zEnterprise system is the ideal private enterprise cloud, bringing together the qualities of service of the enterprise data center with the flexibility of cloud computing. It can offer clients the highest levels of utilization, multi-tenancy, fine-grained usage and accounting, workload automation, and security. We ran an internal study and found that zEnterprise can save users up to 60 percent in their Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over a competitive public cloud environment.

Next, analytics. When the OLTP or operational data is already housed on a mainframe, we can help clients access it and analyze it much more quickly. We estimate that 50 percent of data being analyzed is sourced from System z. So, when businesses need to analyze real-time operational data, they can use a zEnterprise system to centrally manage the data and create new insights to grow their business opportunities. Again, when we compared ourselves to a competitive UNIX environment and consider the additional benefits the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator can offer to a zEnterprise environment, the value can be up to five times faster results at one-fourth the unit cost based on reports delivered per hour.

Last, there’s a growing opportunity to use zEnterprise for business applications. When a client wants to deploy a new business application, they must consider the end goal. If they’re required to do any or all of the following—support thousands of users or process thousands of transactions or perform high-intensity batch processing—they need continuous application availability. zEnterprise can centrally manage heterogeneous and multi-tier workloads with five-nines availability (not to mention some of the highest levels of security). 

It’s all these qualities—and so many more—that differentiate us against the competition. System z is truly an amazing piece of technology. Call me biased, but it’s time for folks to open their minds to the reality of today’s mainframe. Just like the Corvette, we’ve continued to improve and innovate, while preserving the qualities and values that make the mainframe unique.