IT Management

z/Vendor Watch: Thumbs Up for the z10

Industry watchers have had a few weeks now to digest the System z10 announcements, and the conclusion seems to be pretty much the same no matter who you speak to— this is one exciting piece of technology. Well, we’ve been waiting awhile for this news: Based on previous product cycles, the z10 hit the market somewhat later than expected, and as a result, sales toward the end of 2007 were decidedly lackluster.

If the delay was necessary to get the functionality in place and make sure the latest mainframe family lives up to the platform’s usual reputation, then so be it. It’s all too easy for the competition to point at declining sales figures as a sign the mainframe has finally had its day, but acquisition decisions in the large systems space are all about timing, and there’s no doubt the z10 will soon be catering to the pent-up demand for “growth MIPS” among IBM’s biggest customers.

There won’t be many customers that feel restricted by the top end of the new range, with a 170 percent hike in performance. This level of capacity will, of course, allow IBM to address the requirements of the very largest applications in the commercial world, but it’s not scaling up that interests Blue Big right now so much as scaling out. According to the announcement figures, one z10 yields equivalent horsepower to around 1,500 x86 servers, and it’s the consolidation market that really opens up big opportunities for the mainframe, particularly with the latest improvements in Java and Linux support. Moreover, CIOs are highly sensitive to the financial and environmental implications of “green” computing, and the integrated power and cooling technology in the z10 make it a very attractive option for tomorrow’s energy-efficient data centers, replacing the distributed server farms that, in today’s political climate, are beginning to look like a very resource-hungry way of delivering the world’s information processing needs.

Another bonus for the z10 will be the improved granularity. One of the issues that has limited the appeal of the mainframe in the past has been the lack of flexibility, especially at the lower end of the market where users have often struggled to find a configuration that suited both their computing needs and their pocketbooks. With the z10, IBM has provided 100 different capacity levels, with a number of “slugged” systems below the entry level: This allows for much smaller performance (and price) increments, a clear attraction for the all-important, low-end users with tight budgets.

One intriguing question raised by the z10 is whether IBM also is aiming at a completely new type of customer with its large systems technology. With such an impressive uplift in raw processing power, as well as the focus on CPUintensive computing, hardware support for decimal floatingpoint instructions, four-core chips and a dramatic increase in clock speed to 4.4 GHz, the mainframe may slowly be edging its way into the scientific domain where it has been up to now a rank outsider. What is certain is that the clear distinctions between the types of workload at which mainframes, RISC, and Wintel-based processors excel are rapidly blurring, and there’s undoubtedly more under the covers of the z10 than has been revealed to date. If nothing else, the announcements should act as a wake-up call for those software vendors that have dismissed the mainframe as being too specialized and “niche” to support the massmarket applications of the future. The Open Solaris initiative with Sun, announced some months ago, is just one indicator of the spreading influence of IBM’s most powerful and secure business system way beyond its traditional market.

Around the Vendors

EMC Corp. has extended its Virtual Tape Library (VTL) to the mainframe world. Using 1TB SATA II disk drives with RAID 6 protection, advanced tape emulation, and hardware compression, the EMC Disk Library for Mainframe (EMC DLm) offers a “tapeless” virtual tape system for use with the System z, providing highperformance, disk-based backup and recovery, batch processing and storage.

Disaster recovery specialist OpenTech has unveiled two new products. The first, DR/Xpert for DB2, audits and recovers DB2 tablespaces, eliminating the need to manually create and maintain DB2 image copy and recovery JCL. The product performs intelligent auditing of the DB2 catalog, gathering data about new, changed, and deleted tablespaces and indexes, and automatically generates the backup and recovery JCL to drive IBM, CA, or BMC DB2 utilities. OpenTech also announced DR/Xpert Graphical User Interface, which runs under z/OS; this tool eases the task of gathering and analyzing information on critical and noncritical data sets.

Micro Focus announced version 5.6 of its Enterprise View toolset, part of the company’s Application Portfolio Management solution. Enterprise View 5.6 helps customers make more informed decisions about the management of their enterprise IT assets by providing consolidated business and technical intelligence across an organization’s portfolio of applications. Z