The largest improvement in aligning IT and the business that users should derive from the new IBM zEnterprise System is the ability to do cloud-like governance of scale-out blade systems in concert with management of scale-up mainframe systems. The key IT/business alignment value-adds from the new governance and administration abilities—assuming the IT department uses smart implementation—will be:
- More rapid, cost-effective adaptation to new business needs because administration is at a higher “service” level and has more choices of workload and capacity change tools
- Better communication of the information technology contribution to the business because cloud-type services are designed and instrumented better to translate information technology operations into business terms.
To determine how and where to apply the new zEnterprise System governance capabilities for maximum benefit, information technology buyers should understand not only the nuts and bolts of the new capabilities but also how they fit into an overall enterprise architecture. Perhaps the best way of summarizing the new governance is that it provides a “middle ground” between data center mainframe scale-up and public cloud scale-out of widely distributed server farms.
Like all middle grounds, the zEnterprise System plus governance isn’t an either/or alternative, but rather an opportunity to create a more fine-grained, optimal combination of all three platform types. Therefore, the smartest implementers will find the best combination of private or public scale-out, cloud-type services; private scale-up, cloud-type services; and middle ground, private cloud-type services for their businesses.
Nuts and Bolts
IBM’s new zEnterprise System story has three main parts:
- An IBM zEnterprise 196 (z196), the fastest/most scalable system. Users can administer a z196 with the same tools as before.
- A blade solution supporting some POWER7, and later System x, blades (zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension, or zBX) that can be physically connected with the z196 and that has common governance tools embedded in firmware. This means that a common administrator interface presents the z196 and zBX to the user as one system and supports governance across both. Combining z196 and zBX results in a system that’s faster than the z10.
- A software/firmware governance solution—the zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager (zManager)—that provides virtual machine networking and administration, energy management, workload and performance management, and system/systems management across the zEnterprise. Embedding parts of zManager in firmware means better administrative performance on both blade-type (zBX) and mainframe/scale-up (z196) systems. Putting parts of the mainframe administrative tools in zManager means the mainframe extends its superlative security, robustness, and energy-sipping characteristics to a blade platform.
Best-Practices Fit Into Existing Architectures
The first key point for IT buyers to understand is that this new middle ground delivers the biggest bang for the buck where IT and the business are headed in the general direction of cloud-type computing, and especially private-cloud implementation. In this case, the services governance tool—zManager—operates on a platform requiring minimal effort and risk to migrate from existing mainframe and blade solutions, while giving the maximum of cloud-type service support and global governance capabilities. Mainframe upgrade is as straightforward as usual; blade support involves copying from existing platforms, which may or may not imply moving applications from a remote site to the data center. In either case, users of both platforms should see relatively little operational effect from the upgrade or migration.
Meanwhile, the new solution will not only improve application performance and scalability, since it will be easier to move applications between platform types and resources across platform types, but also decrease administrative overhead, due to the new firmware and broader load balancing. Above all, the zManager will semi-automatically provide a services interface for some existing applications that had none, and will allow users to stage “servicizing” of groups of applications that aren’t as easy to move to a cloud-type environment.
The next key point is that z196-plus-zBX does best where it can enhance a clearly demarcated set of scale-out enterprise solutions. Specifically, it does particularly well where there’s what IBM calls an “affinity” between, say, mainframe strengths in scale-up data warehousing and scale-out/Linux’s strengths in multiplexing across a global, Web-based order entry and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. Among the criteria that users ought to consider in determining affinity:
- Do the applications on each platform frequently communicate and share data?
- Are they conceptually part of the same business process?
- Will there be a big benefit with minimal implementation risk if the scale-out/blade Linux applications are moved to a single physical data center, with improvements in robustness/performance/scalability/security/energy efficiency, but less benefit and/or greater implementation risk if those applications are moved to Linux VMs on the z196?
If the answer to all of these questions is yes, zEnterprise System is probably the way to go.
The last key point for IT to consider is that cloud-type governance across multiple platform types is a benefit in and of itself. Within a middle ground zEnterprise System architecture, zManager provides a “best of both worlds” combination of mainframe administration strengths and Web-standard/open source administrative tool availability with the added feature of better governance-tool performance. In other words, when it isn’t clear to the IT buyer whether to choose a z196, separate blade solution and mainframe, or a zEnterprise System, then the zEnterprise System may be the best choice, due to the governance strengths of zManager.
Implications for IT/Business Alignment
Over the last few years, a consensus has emerged that several technologies hold the best promise of improving the alignment of IT operations with business needs:
- Governance, or the presentation of IT as a business and applications as “service”-type products, to allow corporate to monitor and manage IT more effectively
- Flexibility, or the ability of IT operations to adapt rapidly as business needs change
- Agility, or the knack for moving proactively to anticipate future needs—including the need for innovative products.
Effective governance is a goal in and of itself; but good administration also improves operational flexibility by translating customer-demand changes into load balancing and capacity planning. In some cases, effective governance also improves IT agility, as monitoring of system-user demand changes can drive new product software or new business process development.
Figure 1 lists some of the benefits of the zEnterprise System and zManager for governance, and therefore for flexibility, agility, and overall IT/business alignment, and also considers some other changes that improve the zEnterprise System. With careful choice of source platforms and smart implementation, a wide range of mainframe-using businesses can achieve similar benefits.