Canonical (Ubuntu) Needs a Mainframe (and zBC12 Post #3)

Canonical's Ubuntu forums have been hacked. Fortunately IBM offers the lovely new zEnterprise BC12 which is a great fit for new, newly security-minded customers like Canonical.

In my previous blog post I wrote "stay tuned," because I'd have a lot to write about the new software solutions IBM is announcing with the new zEnterprise BC12. In this post I'll start with some general observations on important foundational software capabilities that IBM is either improving or introducing for the first time. And as I've written many times (and as Canonical has perhaps realized), the marriage of hardware and all the software layers must be harmonious into order to achieve particular business outcomes and in order to deliver the best qualities of service. I'm also seeing IBM develop and ship new top-to-bottom solution packages which include zEnterprise server hardware and storage, operating systems, middleware, applications, maintenance, and services with simple, competitive, multi-year "no surprises" pricing. Inevitably there's always some customization involved in enterprise computing, but these zEnterprise solution kits greatly simplify the time-to-value.

Here are some examples of the new/improved foundational capabilities and associated solution packages:

  • IBM is introducing new hardware-based/software-exploited cryptographic algorithms, notably elliptic curve cryptography (ECC). IBM is seriously positioning zEnterprise as the enterprise security hub, with solutions for managing digital certificates across the enterprise, for example. The IBM Enterprise Key Management Foundation solution, introduced shortly after last year's zEC12 announcement, has been updated to include a zBC12 option and the new cryptographic algorithms.
  • IBM has formally announced z/OS 2.1. There's a lot to unpack in that announcement, and I might have to do that in a separate blog post, but one of my favorite areas of improvement is in z/OS UNIXTM System Services. As HP-UX and Solaris fade to black, IBM keeps improving z/OS UNIX as a warm and welcoming target environment for those workloads and for other applications. In particular IBM has adopted more of the new GNU conventions, and the z/OS C/C++ compiler picks up more of the latest C/C++ language standards, not to mention deeper exploitation of zEC12/zBC12 processor features for performance and scalability. Relatedly IBM has updated its Cognos business intelligence solutions to the latest version on z/OS so that customers can minimize data movement, keep their information most secure, and access reports from Web and mobile devices directly on zEnterprise. And if you want everything in one simple package, including a zEnterprise server, IBM enterprise storage, z/OS, DB2, the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator — with or without Cognos and SPSS — IBM's updated Smart Analytics System 9710 is perfectly packaged and ready to roll.
  • What about COBOL and PL/I which power, among other things, most of the world's large financial systems? IBM thinks its new Enterprise COBOL Version 5.1 is so attractive that it wants everyone to try it. Thus there's a new "developer trial" edition. You can order V5.1 and kick the tires without starting the 12 month single version charge (SVC) period. Enterprise COBOL V5.1 is the first COBOL compiler that can exploit specific processor models at compile time. IBM had to do a great deal of "plumbing" work to make this happen, and this version is but the opening salvo in a series of new COBOL compiler releases. IBMers on the forums are now openly discussing their COBOL roadmap to a 64-bit compiler, something they were hesitant to do until they got this new compiler technology in place. Go grab it. You'll like it. (And let's not forget the new PL/I V4.4.) But while a new compiler is an important foundational capability, IBM is doing a lot of work above that layer. A good example is IBM's Business Rules for z/OS which, in simple terms, means that application developers don't have to write or modify code to change business rules — those kinds of business changes can now be made much more easily in a graphical, code-free way. If you think the first and only way to solve a particular business problem is to program, think again. To borrow from Strunk and White, omit needless coding.
  • There are lots of new mainframe "freebies" — I'll have to update my list. Perhaps my favorite is the new z/OS Management Facility Version 2.1, and one of the big headlines there is that it's much easier to deploy and even less resource-intensive thanks to the new WebSphere Liberty Profile packaging. IBM is also letting everyone know that it expects to release a new Encryption Facility for z/OS that'll exploit the new zEDC hardware, so both compression and encryption will be turbocharged. zSecure Version 2.1 is also newly announced, to make security administration and auditing simpler and more reliable.
  • IBM is pushing its zEnterprise cloud credentials hard, and rightly so. The mainframe is the original and best cloud platform, particularly for secure private clouds. IBM announced z/VM Version 6.3 which now incorporates integration with the industry standard "OpenStack" initiative. You'll be able to manage z/VM-based cloud environments via OpenStack-compatible solutions. There are new z/VM features to reduce or eliminate planned outages of individual z/VM LPARs, notably "upgrade in place." Previously it was necessary to carve up system memory into 256 GB LPARs for z/VM, but now 1 TB z/VM LPARs are supported. (Memory scalability is often the limiting factor in cloud deployments, so this is an important increase.) Of course IBM has updated its Enterprise Linux Server (ELS) solution and application solutions based on ELS to incorporate these new capabilities.

That's just a sampling of core infrastructure capabilities and how they map to new and updated, packaged zEnterprise solutions. I expect to have more to say about this week's "announcement deluge" as I keep finding more and more gems, and I'll try to provide some more perspective on trends and directions.

Welcome to the future.

by Timothy Sipples July 24, 2013 in Innovation, Linux, Security
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Happy New Mainframe Day! Introducing the zBC12 (Post #1)

We saw some clues that IBM was getting ready to announce a new mainframe today, and here it is: the new zEnterprise BC12. There are a lot of IBM announcements related to the new zBC12, and I'm sifting through all the information. Here are some of the highlights as I see them. I'll provide further updates as I read all the materials IBM has released.

  • First, the hardware itself: processor clock speed increased to 4.2 GHz, core count increased, and both total capacity and per-core capacity up more than I would have expected. A single zBC12 can provide almost 5,000 PCIs for z/OS, z/VSE, and/or z/TPF with its maximum 6 CPs. That still leaves another 7 engines for any mix of specialty cores (zIIPs, IFLs, etc.) Uniprocessor performance is above 1,000 PCIs. Also, the maximum memory is now up to 496 GB of usable RAIM-protected memory, which is another very nice bump. This new zBC12 can soak up a large amount of workload.
  • There's a new "LPAR absolute hardware capacity" setting on the zBC12 which presumably also will now be available on the zEC12. This setting will be mainly of interest to Linux on zEnterprise customers who want to set particular IFL capacity limits mostly for software licensing purposes.
  • IBM is introducing exploitation of 2 GB memory page support in the zBC12 and zEC12 starting with Java 7 for z/OS, to improve Java performance and capacity yet again.
  • There's a new high speed memory-to-memory adapter ("10GbE RoCE Express") which provides something analogous to HiperSocket connections but now between machines, to speed up data transmission and reduce networking overhead. This new adapter is available for both the zBC12 and zEC12.
  • There's another new adapter for both models called the zEDC Express which accelerates data compression.
  • I always wondered why IBM had 101 customer configurable cores on the zEnterprise EC12 machine. It's an odd number, and that's unusual for mainframes. Now we know: IBM reserved one core for a new Internal Firmware Processor (IFP) which is invisible. But this IFP, also included as a standard feature on the zBC12, supports the new RoCE Express and zEDC Express functions. I expect IBM will use this "hidden" processor for progressively more supporting functions, much like how SAPs provide various accounting and support services for I/O. We'll never really deal with the IFP and its control programs, but they'll be there, supporting particular new functions.

Much more information and analysis will follow. Stay tuned.

by Timothy Sipples July 23, 2013 in Innovation, Systems Technology
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Mainframe Computing: What Will the Future Hold?

I do not have any particular insight into IBM's research and development efforts for future mainframe technologies, but I can take some educated guesses. In the process of guessing I am actually making some predictions about the future of all computing. There's been a long history of computing capabilities appearing on mainframes first, often a decade or more ahead of the rest of the computing industry.

Here are three of my predictions, in no particular order:

  1. Fifty-five may be the limit. (Or not?) I'm referring to processor clock speed. For Intel the speed limit is 4.0 GHz, which is only reached with a single active core. Intel hasn't been able to increase the clock speed for nearly 8 years, and that's a long time in microprocessors. IBM's POWER processors did much better, topping out at 5.0 GHz with POWER6 and with all cores active, before backing off the clock a bit. Now IBM's zEC12 sits alone at the top of the clock speed ranking with all cores active at 5.5 GHz continuous. That's simply amazing. But will IBM be able to increase the zEnterprise's clock speed again? If it can be done, I assume it will be, but the physics are tough. That said, I expect IBM zEnterprise will maintain industry clock speed leadership indefinitely because, if it makes sense to solve those tough problems anywhere, it will make sense on zEnterprise.
  2. Hardware collaborative iterative compilation. IBM pioneered microprogramming all the way back in the System/360 first introduced in 1965. However, for the most part hardware is static once shipped. Yes, occasionally IBM (and other vendors) may release microcode updates, generally to fix a misbehaving instruction in a processor (often unavoidably slowing down that instruction for the sake of correctness), but that's about it. When you want new instructions, you buy new processors. At least with mainframes you can upgrade your processors in place. I think the processor improvement cycle is going to accelerate as compilers start to tell the hardware how it can improve, and the hardware will respond. In other words, the compilers and the hardware will jointly figure out how to shave execution time and path length off computing tasks as they operate. The dialog will be something like this: "I see, Ms. Compiler, that you're being particularly demanding of my Level 3 cache today, and it looks like you don't need to be if I understand what you're trying to do. Would you mind terribly if you combine these duplicate memory blocks so you can fit in Level 3 for me?" "That's a good idea you've got, Mr. Hardware. I'll take care of that for you the next time Dr. z/OS tells me there's a lull in high service class processing. By the way, Mr. Hardware, I'm doing a lot of financial calculations that could really use a custom instruction or at least a few better instructions. Have you got a better one that you can put into your microcode or into your FPGA for me? Or ask your mother if she can provide you with a new instruction and delete those 5 other instructions I never use? Thanks a bunch." "Teachable hardware" will have some interesting side effects. For example, if you think capacity planning is difficult now, just wait.
  3. Quantum computing. IBM is spending a lot of effort in this area, and I think we'll see a quantum computing element available for zEnterprise as an option in the not too distant future. That innovation will also have some interesting side effects, like perhaps upending cryptography.

by Timothy Sipples February 10, 2013 in Future, Innovation
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Cool Chips: "IBM's Mainframe Engine Makes Each Clock Count"

The Register's Timothy Prickett Morgan explores the fascinating details of the z12EC's new CPUs.

by Timothy Sipples September 7, 2012 in Innovation, Systems Technology
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Happy New Mainframe Day! Introducing the zEnterprise EC12

Good morning in the Americas, and happy New Mainframe Day! Today IBM is announcing the zEnterprise EC12. You can order one (or more) today, and they start shipping in about three weeks. (IBM is just like Apple that way: no vaporware.) And the world's flagship enterprise server is practically perfect in every way.

I'm still reading through the wealth of information that IBM has revealed today. Every major general press outlet is reporting on this announcement. Here are my quick takeaways:

  • Another giant leap higher in processor clock speed, and another world record. Wow, I am in awe. IBM people tell me they expect to maintain industry clock speed leadership "indefinitely."
  • Hexacore architecture with about double the number of transistors per die compared to the z196. That's a wonderfully nice increase — but it amazes me that IBM's engineers figured out how to run and cool 6 cores per die at mainframe service levels and at such incredible, continuous speeds.
  • About 25% performance improvement per core and 50% performance capacity improvement per server. Those are big jumps. Has anybody else noticed that's with only an amazingly short 25 month product cycle since the z196 debuted?
  • Cache is up big, although the cache mix across levels is slightly different. Where you "spend" your cache real estate matters, so apparently IBM found a better arrangement for spending that much bigger cache budget.
  • New "server class memory," i.e. directly addressable flash storage, another industry first-and-only. Including this server class memory you can have about 9.4 TB of directly addressable memory per machine -- all redundantly protected (RAIM), another industry first-and-only. Right out of the gate z/OS exploits this storage class memory for things like paging, memory dumps, etc. for faster problem determination and recovery. More exploitation to come, of course.
  • New processor instructions and loads of new software that exploits those new, faster instructions, with a particular emphasis on information analytics.
  • zEnterprise is IBM's first and most advanced hybrid computing server, and now IBM has upgraded the zBX to a Model 003 along with the zEC12.
  • A new "zAware" option (which I need to read more about).
  • Up to 101 customer configurable cores per server, up from 80. (N.B. There are scores or even hundreds of other processor cores inside such a zEnterprise server, even excluding the zBX option. Be careful if you count and compare.)
  • IBM held the line on space/power/cooling requirements. Bravo. They've also added a new, even more redundant/more reliable cooling system.

I will probably post some updates a bit later but, in the meantime, let's read on together.

UPDATE #1: I've corrected the total memory figure above. Computerworld has an interesting story about the new zEC12, including these additional highlights:

  • The storage class flash memory is encrypted, presumably because conceivably someone could physically get to it (unlike zEnterprise DRAM). IBM does think of these things. Moreover, IBM zEnterprise CTO Jeff Frey explains that IBM plans DB2 and Java exploitation of this new storage class memory. One example: in the not-too-distant future DB2 will be able to keep extremely large databases in directly addressable nonvolatile memory. Now that would be very interesting and useful.
  • As usual, some workloads do better than others when IBM increases the performance of its mainframe, although all should do very well. Some of the ones that should do particularly well are big multithreaded Java applications, compute-intensive C/C++ code, DB2 (especially in analytics), and SAP.
  • While IBM's z114 (and predecessors) have had the option to install without a raised data center floor, now that's available for the big zEC12 too. Eliminating the raised floor makes it easier to install a zEC12 in a crate, I would point out, so you can have interesting portable data centers.

The IBM announcement also mentions the fact that the zEC12 is the first commercial server to include processor instructions supporting transactional memory, not counting IBM's unique supercomputer for Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Now, I have a bone to pick here: the computer science engineers (presumably) haven't given this feature a good name. The word "memory" is misleading, in my view. But so they've decreed, so that's the name. The new transactional (blank) instructions make it easier and faster to program with concurrency control. And that's a very good thing.

UPDATE #2: Mainframe Watch Belgium has much more information, including these highlights:

  • IBM has introduced 2GB page sizes and supporting instructions in the zEC12, which are great for DB2 and Java, in particular. So now that's 4K, 1MB, and 2GB page sizes. Considering that we've had only 4K forever, and 1MB debuted only recently (in the System z10 in 2008), this is amazingly rapid evolution.
  • IBM is going to eliminate zAAPs in favor of zIIPs. Initially with the zEC12 IBM will provide z/OS PTFs (enhancements) for running all zAAP-eligible workloads on zIIPs, even when zAAPs are installed. But the zEC12 is the last machine to support zAAPs. Translation: your capacity planning just got simpler. I expected this at some point, but I didn't it expect it yet. It's great news.
  • There's a significant software technology dividend across IBM software. Or, said another way, you can do more with less money. Nothing wrong with that.
  • The machine looks really spiffy, even artistic. No, it's not pink or purple, but perhaps IBM will entertain even that request if you want.

UPDATE #3: IBM's Nick Sardino takes us on a guided tour of the new zEnterprise EC12:

by Timothy Sipples August 28, 2012 in Future, Innovation, Systems Technology
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Next Generation zEnterprise: Smart, Secure, Efficient

Here's part of the argument for high-end enterprise servers:

UPDATE: IBM is promoting a major announcement on its zEnterprise home page. To register for the webcast visit this site:

by Timothy Sipples August 21, 2012 in Future, Innovation
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Explosion of New Mainframe Software

I continue to marvel at how much new mainframe software is being introduced, and not just from IBM. Let's take a quick and necessarily incomplete tour:

  • IBM Financial Transaction Manager: Provides new and enhanced, pre-built, ready-to-roll support for financial industry transactions and messaging via SWIFT, as one example.
  • Tivoli System Automation Version 3.4: Extend automation throughout the zEnterprise and beyond, across many types of virtualized environments. A very important ingredient in successful cloud deployments now.
  • WebSphere Operational Decision Management: Add business rules flexibility to your enterprise applications, regardless of programming language. Helps dramatically cut down on the amount of coding you need to do.
  • WebSphere eXtreme Scale Version 8.5 and WebSphere Application Server Version 8.5: Exciting for their performance, support for the latest cutting edge Java Enterprise Edition standards, and the new lightweight Liberty Profile deployment option.
  • Business Process Manager Version 8.0 and Business Monitor Version 8.0: New iPhone/iPad capabilities for viewing, managing, and participating in sophisticated, optimized business processes.
  • CICS Transaction Server Version 5.1: Lots of improvements, including CICS's very own sophisticated, standards-based Web user interface environment (with JSPs, etc.), support for the WebSphere Liberty Profile, a big leap in Java performance and flexibility, pre-configured MQ DPL support for containers (no more 32K limit!), and lots more 64-bit support, among other features. A beta version of CICS TS 5.1 will be publicly available for download.
  • CPLEX Optimizer: Lots of mathematical optimization routines, ready to use right from your core applications on your mainframe.
  • Tivoli OMEGAMON XE Version 5.1: Wow, they dramatically enhanced the 3270 interface and made the graphical interface easier to deploy. I love the new interface!
  • GT.M from FIS Global: This is a very high performance key-value "NoSQL" database, available as open source on PCs for developers but also now available on z/OS and Linux on z with full support from FIS. GT.M is the foundation for FIS PROFILE core banking applications (now available for z/OS as well), but it is also a very popular execution environment for applications written in the M programming language, also known as MUMPS. The healthcare industry is chock full of important MUMPS applications, including the open source VistA software created by the U.S. Veterans Administration. Thus GT.M provides a wonderful new option for consolidating and simplifying thousands of healthcare industry applications onto IBM zEnterprise, some of which are still running on old DEC VMS systems, many of which are mission-critical.

    by Timothy Sipples May 10, 2012 in Application Development, Cloud Computing, Innovation
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STASH: A "Skunkworks" Project for Secure Clients?

Joe Clabby reports on a (formerly) secret project to use IBM mainframes for virtual hosting of secure desktop environments. It's a fascinating read.

by Timothy Sipples April 23, 2012 in Analysts, Future, Innovation, Security
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IBM PureSystems: Simple Is Good

IBM officially unveils its new PureSystems today. With it, simplification takes a big step forward.

Enterprise applications and their interdependencies have become extremely complicated: hard to deploy, hard to manage, hard to scale, and impossible to secure. IBM is really working overtime to tame that complexity. Do take a close look.

Keep in mind that if you've got a zEnterprise server, with its Unified Resource Manager, you're already taming complexity like nothing else. For instance, IBM PureSystems initially support 4 operating environments across 2 processor architectures in harmony, which is a tremendous accomplishment. With zEnterprise you've got 8+ across 3+. (I'm using plus symbols because it depends on how you count, but 8 and 3 are the minimum counts.) In other words, IBM PureSystems are part of a continuum, and your zEnterprise server leads the way. It's extremely likely you'll want some of both in your data center.

So that's my instant reaction, with more comments to follow no doubt. What do you think? What are your most urgent issues?

by Timothy Sipples April 11, 2012 in Cloud Computing, Innovation, Systems Technology
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New WebSphere Application Server Liberty Profile

A large and growing percentage of mainframes run JavaTM code. Even when you license only z/OS, you get Java at no additional charge. CICS Transaction Server, IMS, DB2, WebSphere MQ, Linux on zEnterprise — the list goes on and on — all support Java. If you want to write or run Java on the mainframe, there's nothing stopping you. Go for it!

I'm quite pleased to see that IBM has announced its beta program for WebSphere Application Server Version 8.5. One major new innovation is the WAS Liberty Profile which supports both z/OS and Linux on zEnterprise. The Liberty Profile for z/OS is tiny (by today's and yesterday's standards): the download is only 32 MB. It starts quickly and consumes very little memory. And you can download the beta version now to try yourself. Of course, anything that can run on the Liberty Profile can also run on WebSphere Application Server if/when you're ready. That's because the Liberty Profile is WAS, but with as-needed/where-needed function delivery, depending on your application's requirements. And yes, of course, you can access all the helpful JZOS methods from the Liberty Profile for z/OS.

I expect this new WebSphere Liberty Profile will be extremely attractive to mainframe customers and to mainframe software developers. (Did I mention it's tiny?) Please go give it a try today and let IBM know what you think.

by Timothy Sipples December 21, 2011 in Application Development, Innovation, Web Technology, z/OS
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5 Predictions for the Next 5 Years

In keeping with the season of resolutions and predictions, IBM has gazed into its crystal ball to forecast five innovations that will alter the technology landscape within five years. So let's spend some time considering a couple of these predictions and their impact on mainframe computing.

#2: You will never need a password again. Technically that's no problem whatsoever if you have a mainframe and hasn't been for many years. IBM has done a very good job preserving and extending the mainframe's leadership, positioning the mainframe as the definitive Enterprise Security Hub (or ESH if you like). For example, credit and debit card systems are already getting a lot smarter thanks in large part to the mainframe's security innovations. In an ever more interconnected era (see below) when security is becoming ever more important, more businesses and governments are turning to mainframe-based solutions. The only question in my view is whether mainframe professionals will lead or follow this trend. I vote for the former.

#4: The digital divide will cease to exist. Universal mobile access to computing is going to favor the mainframe. First, there's going to be a direct effect on transaction volumes in existing banking systems, to pick an example. I'm hearing lots of reports that's precisely what's happening, even with only a fraction of the world using smartphones at this point. Second, there will be heightened security requirements (see above). Third, the greater the audience depending on mobile access for services, the greater the cost of service interruptions, thus favoring more resilient systems and solutions. Fourth, the greater the demand, the greater the need for massively scalable systems, i.e. mainframes. That's due to the need for bigger central systems of record as well as worsening data center resource problems in procuring enough space, power, and cooling. The world's telcos, for example, are now seriously rethinking their entire infrastructure which is becoming too costly and unsupportable, after a couple decades of largely unrestrained build-out.

#5: Junk mail will become priority mail. I'm not so sure about e-mail, but the central point here is that transactions are becoming more complex, with more and more heavy information analytics associated with core business processes in order to tailor services much more precisely to customers. That's going to drive the need for massively scalable systems with tight integration. Sound familiar? IBM is right at the vanguard of that trend, with the DB2 Analytics Accelerator as a preeminent example. That technology alone is making whole new analysis-heavy applications possible that were simply never possible before.

What's your forecast? My immediate forecast (or at least wish) is for all of our readers to have a safe, healthy, prosperous, and happy new year.

by Timothy Sipples December 20, 2011 in Future, Innovation, Security
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Japan's NTT Data Is Rock Solid with zEnterprise

NTT Data is the largest system integrator in Japan. In this video a couple of NTT Data's professionals discuss the new banking solution they're building for the Bank of Japan and the exceptional attributes of zEnterprise, z/OS, and WebSphere middleware products on z/OS.

by Timothy Sipples December 13, 2011 in Financial, Innovation, Web Technology, z/OS
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Introducing the zEnterprise 114 (Updated)

It's new mainframe day! IBM has announced the zEnterprise 114, a particularly clever mainframe package which replaces the System z10 BC. The z114 is the little brother to last year's z196 super-mainframe, but keep in mind the z114 is in every way a real mainframe. A single z114 can handle more processing than IBM's fully configured top-of-the-line mainframe from just a few years ago. In no particular order, here's a list of the z114's improvements that I particularly like:

  • For the first time that I can remember, and certainly for the first time since 64-bit z/Architecture debuted, all of IBM's mainframe models feature flexible, modular processor configurations. That is, you can order a z114 with either one or two processor "drawers" installed. I love that flexibility, particularly because it means that IBM has found a very smart way to lower the costs of entry into the mainframe world, so more businesses and governments can buy their first mainframe and enjoy its benefits. You can order an M05 hardware model and then, when/if you need more than 5 configurable cores, you can upgrade to an M10. (And you can still continue upgrading to z196 machines when/if needed.)
  • Processor power and capacity are, of course, improved. That wasn't at all a problem with the System z10 BC, but it's always nice to see more performance in the smaller mainframe package. Uniprocessor performance is up 18%, for example. Clock speed is up to 3.8 GHz, which is a rather high-end number. Maximum z/OS capacity per z114 machine is up well past 3,000 MIPS, not including specialty engines.
  • Coupling facility capacity is up a lot, too. If you need a dedicated coupling facility machine, the z114 is more likely to meet or exceed requirements.
  • The z114 supports more memory than the z10 BC, but most of that increase is allocated to memory protection in the form of RAIM (Redundant Array of Independent Memory). Yes, the "little" mainframe gets exactly the same mainframe-unique memory protection that its big brother got last year — and which no other server has.
  • Likewise, the z114 M10 provides a mandatory minimum of two spare cores, just like its big brother. The M10 also offers processor drawer redundancy. In the incredibly unlikely event a drawer or a core fails, the system stays up and running. If that capability is valuable, you can order the M10. For the rest of us (which is most of us), the M05 is perfectly fine and still better than its predecessors. Adding or replacing a processor drawer requires a planned outage, at least for now. Considering that everyone did perfectly well without that feature for decades, until the System z9 EC in late 2005, I think IBM can be forgiven for not getting that bit of work done just yet. (I think it's a moot issue anyway if you have a physical Sysplex.)
  • You can run the z114 on high-voltage DC power or on AC, with or without a raised floor, and with top or bottom cable exit. In other words, you can put a z114 pretty much anywhere, including inside a mobile data center.
  • Yes, you can add the zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX) to your z114. You can run the IBM Smart Analytics Optimizer, DataPower blades, all the other blade features — all centrally managed by the z114.
  • You can order z114 machines now, and you can take delivery in September. Model upgrades from System z9 BC and z10 BC machines are available at the same time.
  • IBM introduced "Advanced Entry Workload License Charges" (AEWLC) to go with the new z114, aimed specifically at smaller mainframe customers running single, standalone machines (with or without internal Sysplex clusters). Otherwise, AWLC is available for physical z114 Sysplexes, so that's good, too. AEWLC, AWLC, and IWP represent the technology dividends: you can enjoy the same performance and throughput for a substantially lower software license charge, or you can enjoy substantially more performance and throughput for the same software license charge compared to the System z10 BC. All I hear about is that everybody else everywhere else is increasing software license charges and maintenance charges. For well over a decade IBM has been slashing software prices on its mainframes, so you get way more bang for the buck (or euro or yen). I really hope people understand this stuff by now.

All goodness. Nice job, IBM.

UPDATE: IBM has issued a press release highlighting the new z114 mainframe. Indeed, IBM says that the z114 has a U.S. "starting price of under $75,000." That's the lowest price ever for an IBM mainframe and a big 25% reduction from the previous entry price. Also, according to Timothy Prickett Morgan at The Register, on an equal performance comparison IFLs (Linux processors) on the z114 are priced 37.5% lower. There are big price reductions across the board, though, for both hardware and software. It's clear IBM is determined to convince many new customers to buy their first mainframes.

by Timothy Sipples July 12, 2011 in Economics, Innovation, Systems Technology
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IBM Centennial Film: "They Were There"

IBM produced this 30 minute film as part of its centennial year (2011). The film includes some interesting stories about the System/360, Sabre (airline reservations), and the Apollo space program, among others. Enjoy.

by Timothy Sipples April 15, 2011 in History, Innovation
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"Watson": Mankind's Triumph

This past week I was glued to television's Jeopardy quiz show. IBM's Watson computer was one of the contestants and played against Jeopardy's two leading human champions.

Watson won, quite handily. In the process, so did mankind. IBM researchers have successfully moved computing several gigantic steps forward into more natural, more contextual, and more "human scale" problem solving. Computing has just moved much closer to us and to our needs. This new "information concierge" will be incredibly useful in fields as diverse as medical diagnostics, customer service, and scientific research, among others. Watson-like follow-ons will draw upon the vast and fast-growing amount of information that mainframes manage. I can already imagine how tightly-coupled "Watson engines" would be able to answer naturally phrased questions and solve tough business problems, even providing frequently updated answers in near real-time.

As I watched Watson in action, I remembered the 1957 film Desk Set, starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Here's an excerpt from that film in which the new EMERAC computer provides a quick and accurate answer to a tough question:

Even Watson would have some difficulty answering that particular question in quite that way. Hollywood's vision of the future was well ahead of its time, although Watson finally closes much of the gap. Also, as the film later revealed, EMERAC couldn't replace humans. Even EMERAC's owners, the Federal Broadcasting Network, didn't think it could. Transformative technologies like Watson (and like the telephone) seem to promote even more growth and human activity.

Even so, late night comedian Conan O'Brien poked some fun at Watson in this video:

Even without his baseball bat, Conan's sidekick Andy Richter has nothing to worry about. In fact, maybe Watson could help Conan's writing team improve the quality and popular appeal of their jokes. It might take a few more years, but if today's Watson can sift through terabytes of information to identify useful patterns and interrelationships, perhaps tomorrow's Watson can be taught how to look for better puns and for more original jokes, nominating candidates for Conan's monologue. Granted, IBM probably has more immediate applications in mind, but who knows?

by Timothy Sipples February 17, 2011 in Innovation
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IBM's Birthday: "100x100"

As I mentioned previously, IBM is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Here's a new and well-crafted video from IBM which cleverly illustrates just how far we've come and what's coming next:

I hope I'm doing as well as the first speaker in the video when I'm 100 years old!

One of the major changes at IBM that isn't too obvious in the video is the company's transition to software as its major profit generator. Software now accounts for almost half of IBM's total profit. The video mentions some notable software milestones (FORTRAN and relational databases, for example), but it would have been impossible to cover everything within 13 minutes.

by Timothy Sipples February 1, 2011 in History, Innovation
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A Trio of New Videos

Happy Thanksgiving to our readers in the United States!

YouTube has some interesting new mainframe-related videos posted. For example, here's a look at EFiS AG, a financial services company in Germany that's enjoying the greater efficiency and security of System z:

Next up, here's a video about Garanti, in Turkey, and their use of just two System z machines to handle their entire core business and support their fast growth with ever-greater efficiency:

Finally, here's a very short video history of the mainframe and its evolution from the System/360:

by Timothy Sipples November 26, 2010 in Innovation
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The World's Fastest Microprocessor

IBM's zEnterprise z196 contains the world's fastest microprocessor. Yes, you read that correctly: the mainframe contains the fastest cores in the world. Welcome to a new world.

The dirty little secret in microprocessor design is that engineers are increasingly slamming into brick walls. It's getting more and more difficult (and expensive) to continue to enhance processor speed. Intel many years ago gave up on clock speed improvements, stabilizing at 3-point-something Gigahertz. The IBM z196 microprocessor runs at a record 5.2 GHz. (That's continuous clock speed and with all cores active, not some sort of "burst" mode.) A faster clock speed is still quite important — let's not kid ourselves — but there are also several other improvements in the z196 processor. One of them is out-of-order execution, something that IBM figured out how to do while enhancing reliability. IBM also made great improvements in cache sizes and architecture.

Fastest means fastest: the z196 cores are presently the fastest cores in the world. Let's be very clear here: if you double the number of cores you don't double performance. If you're performing one task, adding cores won't help. Sure, mainframes are expressly designed to juggle multiple concurrent workloads, but each task dispatched to a z196 core, even a computationally intense one, can now run faster than it would on any alternative core. This engineering accomplishment only adds to the mainframe's already impressive throughput performance.

Watch some IBM engineers discuss the z196's performance:

by Timothy Sipples September 7, 2010 in Innovation, Systems Technology
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First Major Press Stories on IBM's New Mainframe

Not too many details yet, but there are now stories in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other major outlets. From the Journal:

Martin Kennedy, a managing director at Citigroup who oversees the company's 50 mainframes, says the new machine could help it roll out applications more quickly. "If the promise holds true, we can get some real value out of this," said Mr. Kennedy, who plans to upgrade all of its machines to the new system over the next year or two.

Much more information will be coming, I'm sure. Stay tuned.

UPDATE #1: It looks like there's some sort of press embargo that has been lifted, because the media are starting to carry more details. Here are some examples:

UPDATE #2: I have added some more press articles to the list above. Also, as Patrick Loftus points out in the comments, IBM has just posted several "redbooks" (technical manuals) for the new zEnterprise System:

I'm going to be busy reading.

UPDATE #3: IBM has now issued an official press release: "IBM Unveils zEnterprise System, Ushers in Era of Smarter Data Centers." Here's one section (emphasis mine):

From a performance standpoint, the zEnterprise System is the most powerful IBM system ever. The core server in the zEnterprise System--called zEnterprise 196--contains 96 of the world's fastest, most powerful microprocessors running at 5.2Ghz, capable of executing more than 50 billion instructions per second.

"The world's fastest, most powerful microprocessors." Wow. IBM has also posted a battery of official announcement letters:

IBM has got one heck of a significant set of announcements here.

by Timothy Sipples July 21, 2010 in Innovation, Systems Technology
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New Mainframe Announcement This Week!

IBM's Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge discussed IBM's 2Q2010 earnings and said this:

In the third quarter, we'll have Power7 across our entire UNIX product line, and will introduce and ship our next generation mainframe solution. [....] This week IBM will announce the next generation of System z, the fastest and most scalable enterprise server in the industry. This server provides 40 percent more performance on a mix of workloads than the equivalent z10. Some workloads can achieve greater performance improvements such as Linux which has 60 percent better performance and 35 percent lower cost. This announcement is the foundation for IBM’s first System of Systems, which provides the capability to manage 10 times the virtual machines of VMWare by extending mainframe governance to our other industry leading technologies.

Previously IBM's CFO suggested "second half," which usually means the fourth quarter. Obviously IBM is going to beat those expectations.

Stay tuned to The Mainframe Blog.

by Timothy Sipples July 19, 2010 in Innovation, Systems Technology
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