IT Management

Over the last few years, consolidation has assumed new forms, including data center consolidation and server consolidation.

Data center consolidation involves combining many data centers into one. Frequently, the data centers in question are located in different countries. Colgate-Palmolive, for example, has successfully consolidated 50 data centers worldwide into one. (For a detailed report, see www-935.ibm.com/services/us/cio/ciostudy/pdf/colgate01.pdf.)

You can correct x86 server sprawl by consolidating x86 servers. Servers running Windows can be virtualized, thus allowing each Windows application to have its own copy of the operating system. This eliminates the problems that can occur when several applications attempt to share one copy of Windows.

In the past, consolidating x86 servers on the mainframe required that either the workload be converted to z/OS or to Linux. It’s relatively easy to convert UNIX servers to Linux servers and then consolidate them on a mainframe. Consolidating Windows servers onto the mainframe is more difficult because the conversion to Linux may be harder or even impractical. 

Now, new technology on the mainframe has come to the rescue. By using the zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX), Windows servers can be consolidated onto a mainframe with no changes.

Here are some benefits of consolidation on the mainframe:

• Reduced hardware maintenance. Fewer physical servers lower the cost of hardware maintenance. System z also has an outstanding reputation for reliability, so there are fewer hardware-related problems to disrupt normal processing.
• Reduced environmental costs. Fewer servers in the data center lowers power requirements. Also, less heat is generated, lowering the amount of air-conditioning required.
• Reduced software costs. System z software costs are much lower than for distributed systems. Often, the biggest consolidation savings result from reduced software costs.
• Fewer system administrators are needed. Since it’s possible to consolidate hundreds of x86 servers into a single mainframe, fewer system administrators are needed. One customer said that one system administrator can handle 100 virtual servers.
• Better hardware utilization. Hardware utilization increases even before virtualization. In addition, workloads are assigned to the most suitable (efficient) platform.
• Improved Reliability, Ability, and Serviceability (RAS). Mainframes have significantly better RAS characteristics than the typical distributed system.
• Better data center space utilization. This can be the most important savings of all. Having fewer servers reduces the square footage needed for the data center.
• Creates a standard “virtual server.” It’s possible to define a “golden image” of a virtual server, facilitating fast, new server deployment. The case studies included here show the enormous savings that can be achieved in this way as compared with the time needed to deploy a distributed system server. 
• zBX. zBX lets you easily consolidate Windows servers that previously couldn’t be consolidated into the mainframe. (For a good introduction to IBM’s zBX, visit http://entsys.me/ybmk1.) IBM POWER7 systems such as AIX can also be consolidated into the mainframe. Now, customers can keep workloads on the platforms best suited for them without changing the workload or the operating system on which it runs.  
• Easier automation possibilities. zBX and Unified Resource Manager (zManager) offer a single point of control, making software automation more feasible.
• Availability of private networks. The built-in networks in the System z support simplification and increased security. Firewalls are eliminated and the simplicity leads to greater reliability.
• Storage consolidation. Server consolidation is usually accompanied by consolidating storage into a large shared pool. This allows elimination of private storage in each distributed system, which will provide greater efficiencies in storage allocation.

Case Studies

The following case studies illustrate the savings that can be realized from consolidation. The studies are simplified to focus on consolidation benefits; to learn more, see www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/maxpress/realworld_ibm_systemz/. 

Baldor Electric

Baldor Electric of Fort Smith, AR, acquired another company with 200 servers of various types, including Intel and high-end UNIX. Baldor was unhappy with the complexity of maintaining required service levels. They converted to all Linux servers running under z/VM on the mainframe.

Their mainframe system consists of:

• Six central processors
• 70 z/VM partitions
• Three System z Integrated Information Processors (zIIPs)
• 16 Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL).

Baldor reduced the data center size by 50 percent, freeing up 3,000 square feet. Electricity costs were cut by 60 percent, while overall IT costs were reduced by 50 percent as a percentage of sales. Forty percent of the company’s DB2 work is done on the zIIPs. DB2 licensing costs went down more than 90 percent compared with Intel or UNIX.

Bank of New Zealand

The Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) had a z10 and a z9. They consolidated a mix of 131 Sun servers onto Red Hat Linux running under z/VM. Power usage dropped nearly 40 percent. They need only one system administrator for every 100 virtual servers. BNZ reduced the front-end footprint by 30 percent. They believe they will achieve a 20 percent Return on Investment (ROI) over the life of the platform. Finally, deploying a new server takes minutes, not days.

Conclusion

Anyone contemplating or planning for a data center consolidation should consider the benefits of consolidation on the System z mainframe. Naturally, they need to carefully examine the potential benefits to assess how they apply to their situation. For example, the reduction in software licensing can amount to a significant savings. Savings on square footage in the data center may be critical in some cases such as where further expansion of the data center is impractical or too expensive. Often, mainframe consolidation may prove the most attractive solution.