Operating Systems

What’s All the Fuss About zIIP Processors?

2 Pages

The IBM System z9 Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) offers an alternate strategy to data centers held hostage by MIPSbased software pricing. It’s worth exploring this intriguing proposition. How can you determine whether a zIIP is right for your shop?

The zIIP provides significant new technology for redirecting work from Central Processors (CPs) onto processors not subject to IBM or Independent Software Vendor (ISV) licensing charges. IBM first deployed zIIP processors for DB2 in 2006. IBM has since announced additional capabilities in the parsing of XML and other CPUintensive processes. How did we get to zIIPs, and what features and limitations should you consider before you put one in your data center?

Historical Perspective

Over the last dozen years, the large systems platform has evolved with the utilization of Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS)-based technology with an ever-increasing number of faster processors and expanding memories. Price/performance ratios have c o n s i s - tently dropped. That’s a great incentive for the platform, but it’s largely offset by ISV software costs.

CPU-based pricing of ISV software is a constant thorn in the hardware vendor’s side. Often, software upgrade costs are many times the cost of the hardware upgrades.

The evolution of MIPS-based software pricing is a significant moment in the history of software. Early on, software was bundled with hardware, its cost seemingly minor compared to the cost of hardware. Software was seen as aiding hardware sales.

Many in the industry saw bundling as inhibiting to the software industry, since IBM appeared to be giving software away for free. Of course, its cost was priced into the hardware, and the U.S. government sued IBM in federal court. The case never went to trial because the U.S. government and IBM entered into what has become known as the consent decree, which specified (among other issues) that software must be priced separately from hardware. This gave rise to the healthy ISV industry we know today.

It became apparent after several years that software, not hardware, was the most valuable commodity. Good software could save hardware costs, and hardware costs were dropping, too. ISVs provided both application and system software that IBM was unable or unwilling to provide, and the market wasted no time in licensing large numbers of products.

Charging for software was unlike anything the free market had ever dealt with. Unlike cars or DVDs , for wh i c h there’s a cost for manufacturing each copy, software costs a great deal to produce the first copy, and a great deal to ma i n t a i n , b u t almost nothing t o r e p r o d u c e . Ad d i t i ona l l y, i t seemed unfair to charge a small user the same license fee as a large user, so tiered fees were introduced. Although this appeared to be a fair practice, software product monopolies emerged in certain markets, and prices soared. Customers were frustrated because often, there were no alternatives. IBM was frustrated because the high software costs were causing customers to eliminate or defer hardware upgrades.

In response, IBM made several innovative changes, introducing the concept of specialty processors, the first of which was an Integrated Coupling Facility (ICF). Other specialty processors followed, namely Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) and System z Application Assist Processor (zAAP) for the Java virtual machine. The marketplace has been receptive to this idea, and some installations have more than 250 specialty processors installed. Twenty percent of System z shops use IFLs. The zIIP is IBM’s latest innovation.

2 Pages