Attention CIOs: Whether or not you’re surrounded by detractors who still claim the mainframe is fading away, it’s imperative for you to focus on what zEnterprise could mean for your business not just today, but over the next few years.
Considering all the technology fanfare surrounding IBM’s announcements on July 22, it’s easy to lose sight of how zEnterprise lays the groundwork for eventual delivery of a sophisticated method of managing multi-platform computing environments as an integrated whole, capable of automating the running of each and every workload where it will best meet the needs of the business.
zEnterprise has introduced and is rolling out important new capabilities for mainframe customers to blend and manage an ensemble of servers of different pedigree. By enabling cross-platform systems management from a single pane of glass on the mainframe, there are immediate benefits for rolling out virtual servers, and eventual benefits as the software matures down the road.
Today’s version of the zEnterprise consists of three main components: a new mainframe, an extension to host blades, and management firmware to streamline, automate, and optimize how the collection of systems is managed. The official equation is:
zEnterprise = (the new z196 mainframe) + (the new z Bladecenter eXtension) + (new firmware)
Consider the integrated “hybrid computing, workload-optimizeable" nature of this new mainframe. The idea is simple enough. Take a complex, multi-tier workload (aka a set of applications that are deployed in part to z/OS and in part to UNIX- or Linux-based distributed servers) and re-deploy it into the zEnterprise (onto the z196 and on the zBX application-server blades). In so doing, the customer code is all but untouched, yet the plausible advantages that may potentially be garnered from the re-deployment are significant: faster deployment, improved performance and reliability, and lower operational costs.
From these somewhat humble beginnings, the management firmware will grow more sophisticated over time, allowing the realization of a long-awaited goal—managing enterprise applications running on other platforms with mainframe quality of service. The rate at which sophistication evolves will be directly proportional to the cooperation of other vendors to work alongside IBM to adapt their systems for zEnterprise. For example, already in the works is a version of KVM for x-blades that will run only in the firmware. Such moves are predicated on IBM’s ability to work with respective vendors on adjustments such as locking down the interfaces so they can be driven only by the management code. Additionally, consider the advantages of delivering a hypervisor as firmware instead of software that has to be acquired and installed. The automatic and controlled installation of the hypervisor on the blade negates the need to have systems personnel involved, and locking down interfaces eliminates a common point of intrusion. Golden images of the firmware and operating system for each server are stored on z and are RACF-protected. Servers are provisioned automatically, according to client workload specifications. Having controls in firmware means the client sysadmins don’t have to deal with the hypervisor layer, so there’s no need for hypervisor skills of any sort to work with the zEnterprise; you just need to know what virtual servers you want and what you want to run in them. For embattled IT shops that are wildly out of control, this framework offers a platform from which to sound a rallying cry for unification among server administrators, to reconcile those fighting technology turf wars.
Particularly noteworthy is that IBM had some 30 clients involved in shaping zEnterprise. These customers were essentially an extension of the z R&D team, providing important guidance as to how best to relieve their pain points.
Imagine never again having endless discussions over whether your company should move all its workloads to the distributed environment, or conversely, to the mainframe environment. You’ll also be able to say goodbye to the lack of synergy among IT professionals due to someone being on the distributed side vs. the mainframe side.
Good riddance to all those other things that for years have caused infighting and curtailed the speed of the IT department from delivering computing solutions to meet business needs, or that caused low morale due to a lack of working together on what’s most important. Make sure to understand these are mainframe-based solutions that can truly provide some relief, greatly improved productivity and cooperation, and the ability to deliver new business opportunities faster than ever before.