Here is a maxim I’ve long espoused: ―Vendors that make their own platforms and related software have a distinct performance/tuning advantage over vendors that don’t. The reason that I believe this is the case is related to intercompany communications. In successful cases, hardware engineers closely collaborate with software engineers when designing new systems environments and developing product roadmaps. And through this deep collaboration, both groups are able to contribute to the design of high performance systems environments that can be optimized to execute certain tasks.

A case in point is the collaboration that took place when adding new instructions to IBM’s System z processor to expedite the processing of certain workloads. Hardware and soft-ware engineers jointly designed IBM’s zIIP and zAAP specialty processors, writing new instructions for the z processor that enabled Java and DB2 workloads to execute exponential-ly faster. Another example is IBM’s DB2 Analytics Accelerator (IDAA) — a hybrid Netezza/System z environment designed to reduce data warehousing storage costs while executing high volume operational and complex queries. The bottom line when it comes to intercom-pany collaboration is this: deep collaboration creates competitive advantages for vendors that build and integrate their own systems, operating environments, middleware, data-bases, and applications.

IBM’s New System z EC12 — Collaboration in Action
On August 28th, 2012, IBM announced the latest generation of its System z mainframe — the EC12. This new system offers the industry’s fastest microprocessor (delivering 25% more processing power than its predecessor), increased on-chip memory, solid state drive (SSD) technology, improved manageability and stronger security. Plus, the new systems de-liver major improvements in the processing of multi-threaded Java workloads, in the throughput of DB2/operational analytics applications, in the speed of processing compute-intensive C/C++ applications and in the throughput of SAP workloads.

On October 3, 2012, IBM followed its System z platform launch with the announcement of updates to over 30 System z software products, including enhancements to its CICS trans-action processing environment; a new version of its OMEGAMON management suite (new enhancements this quarter coupled with enhancements last quarter comprise an essentially new suite); improvements to its IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator; Cognos business intelligence extensions; DB2 database improvements, and more. And, as was the case with the EC12 platform announcement, IBM also announced dramatic performance improvements in System z software products.

What kind of performance improvements are we talking about? Consider the following:

• In the August announcement, IBM reported up to a 45% improvement when handling multi-threaded Java workloads. IBM also reported up to a 35% performance improvement when executing compute-intensive C/C++ applications. DB2 for z/OS throughput increased by up to 30%, as did SAP workload performance.
• In the October announcement, IBM reported up to 25% better CICS performance; up to 75% improvement in the ability to find and fix performance problems (by using the new V5.1 version of OMEGAMON); up to two-thousand times better performance when handling high-volume operational and complex queries; up to 32% faster performance using Cognos Business Intelligence 10.2 for Linux on System z — and DB2 database performance improvements ranging up to 5% for online transaction processing, up to 10% for TPC-E-like workloads, and up to 30% for various query workloads. Further, IBM reported up to 31% improvement to PL/I-based CPU intensive applications.

All of these improvements mean that enterprises are able to execute more work than ever before on a System z — resulting in an even stronger return-on-investment when using IBM’s mainframe technology.

A Closer Look at the System z Software Announcement
IBM segmented its System z software announcement into four categories:

  • Cloud
  • Data
  • Security
  • Enterprise Modernization.

I’ve long argued that the mainframe is a complete, self-contained cloud-in-a-box architecture see my reports on India’s ELCOT, on how to save a million dollars using an IBM System z as a Linux cloud server, and my blog entitled ―The Mainframe as a Centralized SOA/Cloud/Security Hub‖ for more details on this perspective). In its October 3rd announcement, IBM improved its System z cloud story even further with a new cloud-enabled release of CICS, as well as by providing details about its future Linux cloud development intentions.

IBM’s CICS transaction processing environment now features a cloud-style approach to de-ployment and operations using CICS web application capabilities built onto IBM’s Web-Sphere Application Server Liberty profile. CICS can now be deployed as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud supporting new Software-as-a-Service CICS applications. IBM has also improved CICS manageability with new policy-based facilities — and has made it possible to combine Java Servlets and JSPs with fast local access to CICS applications.

IBM also detailed its Linux on System z Cloud Roadmap, pointing out that it has experienced great success positioning the mainframe as a highly-virtualized Linux consolidation server (virtualization and consolidation are the first two steps enterprises usually take as they build clouds). The next steps in constructing a cloud architecture usually involve automatic provisioning and workload automation (IBM currently offers several mainframe products that enable customers to perform these activities). Further, IBM’s Linux on z roadmap showed that the company is working on making mainframe clouds easier to deploy (focusing on cloud packaging with products such as SmartCloud Provisioning, SmartCloud Entry, and SmartCloud Orchestrator) and has even announced a System z Solution Edition for Cloud Computing, a prepackaged Linux mainframe cloud environment.

Somewhat related to this cloud theme is IBM’s announcement of a new V5.1 version of its OMEGAMON manageability product suite which features improved monitoring, decreased resource usage (by steering certain workloads to IBM’s specialty zIIP processors), and im-proved availability. IBM claims that the improvements in OMEGAMON can reduce the amount of time it takes to find and fix performance problems by up to 75%. OMEGAMON can be used to manage traditional, as well as zCloud mainframe environments.

As I evaluated the new mainframe back in August, the first thing that I noticed was the in-crease in EC12 memory which expands the amount of available on-chip Level 2 cache by 33%, and doubles the cache in Levels 3 and 4 from 24 MB to 48 MB, and from 196 to 392 respectively. This is important because cache serves data directly to the processor — so, with more cache, more data can be served to the processor, resulting in various workloads executing much faster. By adding more on-chip memory, IBM took a great step forward in positioning its new System z as an even more powerful transaction processor/business an-alytics server.

IBM’s software organization has taken advantage of this expanded memory to improve the performance of IDAA (as mentioned earlier, in some cases by as much as 2000X!), to im-prove the performance of the zEnterprise Analytics System 9700/9710, and to speed Cognos business intelligence processing with Cognos BI 10.2. IBM’s software group also added new functionalities to these products, including a new high performance storage saver, an incremental update facility that propagates data changes on active databases such that up-to-date data is included in analyses, and workload management improve-ments for the IDAA environment.

As for Cognos, external data can now be merged into Cognos reports, full-fidelity publish-ing has been added, and a visualization coach has been created to assist users viewing rel-evant information. In databases, IBM enhanced its DB2 and IMS solutions — announcing that its quality partnership program (QPP) products are now available for beta testing (customers can sign up now to be on the beta program).

Somewhat related to this data topic was the announcement that IBM’s Sterling B2B Integra-tor (V5.2.4) and IBM’s Sterling File Gateway (V2.2.4) are available for Linux on System z. These products enable data to be shared more easily among B2B partners.

Along with new security hardware, IBM also announced its IBM Security zSecure Suite and IBM InfoSphere Guardium V9.0. Customers who used these products reported up to 70% savings in time spent in audit and compliance activities; and up to 52% less time spent ad-ministering security. To illustrate how IBM’s software organization successfully collabo-rates across individual product groups, note that IBM’s Security zSecure suite V1.13.1 has been integrated with QRadar, has expanded integration points with DB2, offers enhanced RACF data base cleanup capabilities, and supports CICS Transaction Server V5.1.

Modernizing the Enterprise
IBM software engineers also focused on System z application modernization as part of an effort to improve the performance of older applications that still run on the mainframe. New features that automate unit testing of COBOL, PL/I and CICS application test regions have been added — as have products that facilitate multi-platform code development (unifying code under a z/OS unit test framework). Further, a new Enterprise PL/I for the z/OS compiler has been added, and C/C++ compilers have been updated. These improve-ments are manifest in new products such as IBM Continuous Integration for System z, IBM Integrated Solution for System z development, Enterprise PL/I for z/OS and IBM operational Decision management for z/OS.

Summary Observations
On October 3rd, IBM announced a boatload of software products designed to position the System z EC12 as a cloud server and as an enhanced compute-intensive data processing platform — as well as features designed to improve security and modernize older applica-tions. Most impressive in this announcement was the amount of processing time that can be saved using these products; business analytics and database applications has improved dramatically — as has the processing time for executing CICS transactions and business applications such as SAP.

What IBM’s announcement showed me is that the company’s hardware and software engi-neers are working in lockstep to optimize System z for a wide variety of workloads. And this collaboration between IBM’s engineering groups has resulted in distinct competitive advantages for compute- and data-intensive workloads on System z architecture.