IT Management

Nov 10 ’10

The recently announced IBM zEnterprise delivers a game-changing array of performance, security, and flexibility improvements. Its sophisticated technology offers clients a giant step beyond the tried and true strengths of the mainframe and extends those capabilities to a set of fit-for-purpose distributed resources. For the first time, clients can leverage select IBM POWER7 and IBM x86 blades together with IBM System z mainframe assets and manage them as a single pool of resources; this provides a simplified, more robust way to manage multi-tier workloads and multi-platform data centers.

This extension to the IBM System z family enhances a computing platform that has already helped clients achieve better business results. Consider a recent study by Dr. Howard Rubin, CEO, Rubin Worldwide ( Clients that optimized their data center using a fit-for-purpose strategy and leveraged the mainframe where most appropriate saw significantly higher business results (achieving competitive advantage) over counterparts that tended to leverage a heavier than average mix of UNIX and x86 platforms.

So, imagine the extended benefits that come from a centrally managed IT deployment that:

  • Allows all zEnterprise resources to be aligned with business priorities and goals
  • Has few costly moving parts and fewer points of failure
  • Leverages automation to lessen demand on administrative resources
  • Costs less to buy than its predecessors and is competitively priced for new workloads
  • Can offer lower operating costs than its competitors.

Clearly, the zEnterprise offers a new dimension in computing. It offers a new approach to IT deployment and operations while providing a way to significantly alter the economics of data centers.

But this is still a mainframe, right? So, it must be expensive. The technology alone can help reshape and lower data center costs. The IBM zEnterprise 196 (z196) actually costs less than its predecessor. The z196 offers lower-cost software, hardware, specialty engines, and hardware maintenance. There’s something for all enterprises to take advantage of, whether running traditional workloads or looking to add new workloads. Here’s a summary of the changes.

The price of a z196 is designed to be lower than an IBM System z10 Enterprise Class (z10 EC). For standard CICS-based workloads, customers will see lower per-MIPS hardware prices. The z196 also has dramatically lower memory price points. Memory, which had a street price of roughly $6,000 per gigabyte for the z10 EC, should see a reduction of up to 75 percent or $1,500/GB. (This is an approximate U.S. street price; prices will vary by country.) There’s now an upgrade charge when customers move memory from IBM System z9 Enterprise Class (z9 ECs or z10 ECs) to the z196. That charge is 50 percent of the new purchase price, or $750/GB, so faster growing customers will see greater price benefit, as the price decrease easily offsets the upgrade charge.

The z196 also offers lower specialty engine prices. Effective U.S. street prices for the Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) dropped $20,000 to $55,000; prices also dropped $25,000 to $100,000 for the System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) and System z Application Assist Processor (zAAP). The z196 introduces an upgrade charge on specialty engines, defined as 30 percent of the new purchase price when upgrading from a z10 EC and 60 percent of the new purchase price when upgrading from a z9 EC. So, the greater the capacity growth, the greater the dollar savings compared to prior z10 EC pricing. For specialty engines, it’s important to recognize that the upgrade charge roughly equates to the performance increase in the engines.

The z196 introduces the concept of hybrid computing, incorporating POWER7 blades (and later IBM x86 blades) under the System z management umbrella. The IBM Unified Resource Manager (zManager) is the “glue” that manages the POWER and IBM x86 blades. The pricing for zManager is based on:

  • The number of connections (blades)
  • The level of service; Manage (core operational controls, installation, configuration) or Automate (dynamic resource provisioning and optimization)
  • Type of blade (Linux blade, POWER blade, Smart Analytics Optimizer).

Prices range from a zero zManager charge per blade for Linux/Manage to $5,000 for POWER blade/Automate. Migrating from Manage to Automate functions will require an incremental fee. For example, going from Manage to Automate for a POWER7 blade will cost $3,400—the difference between the Automate bundle price of $5,000 and what was charged for the Manage bundle ($1,600). This is a one-time charge with no ongoing support charges. Note that all managed resources must be at the same level of service. Separate from the zManager, the blades themselves are housed in an IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX), at a price equivalent to building it from scratch at the standard price for parts (rack, blade center, and switches), plus a premium of less than 20 percent to account for integration, plant pre-testing, and service.

Hardware maintenance price improvements come in two flavors. First, the z196 offers maintenance for about 5 percent less for equal capacity. Additionally, since maintenance is priced on a slope, customer capacity growth can easily push the maintenance savings per unit of capacity into the double digits. Second, maintenance pricing for the IFL specialty engine was reduced by 48 percent, on top of the fact the z196 IFL offers about a third greater capacity than the z10 EC IFL.

On the software side, IBM has introduced Advanced Workload License Charging (AWLC). This new metric is similar to WLC; it continues to have variable priced products (VWLC) and fixed price products. AWLC offers lower price points for the same tiers and, in the case of middleware such as DB2, new tiers with lower prices. These can lower the cost of software from 2 percent to 10 percent. IBM is also providing a transition pricing model for Parallel Sysplex environments so clients have greater flexibility. AWLC is only available on z196.

Solution Editions (SEs) were announced in July 2009 as packaged solutions targeted at specific z/OS workloads such as SAP, WebSphere, Business Intelligence/Data Warehousing, ACI, and several others, including one for Linux. These are bottom-line priced, multi-year price quotes, typically including IBM hardware, maintenance, and software. Updated SEs have been aggressively priced to reflect current market dynamics and the inclusion of the z196 as the basic building block for the SE offering. SEs will be further adjusted to offer zEnterprise hybrid solutions as they become available. SEs based on zEnterprise will provide a competitively priced solution vs. distributed alternatives while offering the qualities of service, flexibility, and centralized resource management of the z platform.

The bottom line is lower prices for each element of the stack, even more aggressive price performance based on rate of capacity growth and the performance, security, and flexibility improvements the newer technology offers. The result is a solution designed to help simplify information technology, lower costs, and provide business advantage.