IBM is delivering on its promise to support Microsoft Windows Server on its zEnterprise 196 (z196) and 114 (z114) mainframes. That’s welcome news for enterprises with significant investments in IBM’s mainframes and Windows. There have always been many ways to integrate mainframes and Windows, but none that would let us connect the two as closely, albeit not necessarily seamlessly, as we will discuss.
Excitement about the announcement perhaps was premature and contributed to some confusion—specifically that somehow the two diverse worlds of mainframes and Windows were merging, either at the hardware or operating system layer. That’s far from true. While significant for System z customers, the announcement isn’t anything magical or radical if you aren’t trying to build a hybrid IT infrastructure with the mainframe as your centerpiece. The new feature isn’t akin to a “no gas” car; it’s more like a hybrid. Here are a few headlines that, while uplifting, can be misleading:
- “Windows Comes to the Mainframe Mountain”
- “IBM Brings Windows to the Mainframe”
- “IBM Offers Windows on Mainframes for the First Time”
- “Industry First—Technology.”
Now let’s consider the market drivers, the value proposition for IBM and its customers, the intended scope and use cases, the early adopters, and the limitations of this new zPlatform functionality.
Let’s start with an analysis of the demand for servers, virtualization, and hybrid IT.
Server sales grew by 7.2 percent during 3Q 2011, according to Gartner’s estimates. Globally, vendors shipped 2.37 million servers in 3Q 2011, generating $12.97 billion in revenue. IBM’s server revenue went up in this period, but its market share hasn’t grown. IBM is trailing HP and Dell; its market share is 12 percent, compared to HP’s 29 percent (see Figure 1).
Microsoft’s Windows Server continues to enjoy a lion’s share of this growing market. According to IDC’s Server Tracker, from August 2010, Windows Server has had 46.5 percent of total global server revenue. x86 Systems are “clearly outpacing UNIX and mainframe upgrades” per that tracker.
Virtualization is on the rise. A landmark year for virtualization occurred in 2009, when, for the first time, the number of Virtual Machines (VMs) deployed exceeded the number of servers shipped. The trend will continue, with VMs deployed in 2013 expected to reach an estimated 15 million, compared to around 9 million servers, according to a joint IDC and Morgan Stanley Research survey (see Figure 2).