Monday, January 20, 2014
"Zed's Dead Baby"- The relevance of the mainframe to modern computing and IT trends.
“Zed’s dead, baby.” These may be the immortal words of a motorbike wielding Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction, but also some of the first words uttered to me when I made the decision to move into the System z software team. The perception of mainframe is simple: it’s a dinosaur. In a world where companies like Apple render their previous generations of hardware ‘vintage’ or ‘obsolete’ after 5 years, and release software upgrades annually and free of charge, how can a product that is celebrating it’s 50th birthday this April still be relevant? Equally, as the current IT landscape evolves towards mega trends such as Cloud, Mobile and Big Data, how can this ‘vintage’ platform keep up?
In 1969, IBM and the mainframe helped NASA put the first men on the moon, and now, 45 years later, focus is still skywards for putting work in the Cloud (tenuous link). Cloud has always been part of the mainframe, since its inception VMs have been a basic component of the mainframe hardware. Despite this, for many x86 seems the natural choice for Cloud workloads: cheap and simple. However, while x86 serves the commodity workloads, System z is undeniably the most suitable choice for high complexity and high criticality Cloud workloads. The mainframe is famed for unmatched reliability and the ultimate security choice, something other platforms simply cannot contend with. What’s more, in the market where IBM System z Cloud mainly operates (private, in-house), Cloud computing costs less per virtual machine on IBM mainframe vs x86* and therefore the power usage per VM is significantly lower on z, in turn improving OpEx costs.
Cloud is a huge part of the System z strategy, with a focus on orchestration choices for our customers- in order to automate deployment and lifestyle management which results in a reduced time to market and improved productivity.
With the average System z box standing at 2 metres tall, how can it possibly be described as mobile? With many believing the mainframe can only be a solution for banking giants and top secret agencies, System z is often pushed aside in customer mobile strategy. But mobile is no simple task. With over 200 million employees bring their own devices who, on average, are checking their mobiles 30 times per hour, and never being more than an arm’s reach away from their beloved smart phone; demand for a powerful, secure platform is high. Enterprise mobile strategy plays into this ideally: from seamless building and development of applications from Rational; to word class security and management, preventing costly breaches in Tivoli; and extending capability and user flexibility. While mobile can generate billions of transactions; System z can handle more than 30 billion transactions a day. While the billions of mobile users globally expect real time data; System z on average has less than 6 minutes of downtime a year. So despite not being pocket-sized, System z is the clear choice for business transformation into the mobile world.
We now generate more data in two days than we did in total up until 2003. This data can either be wasted, sit on tapes and disks and hard drives until the day when the auditors finally tell us we can destroy it. Or it could become an incredibly powerful business tool. Businesses who implement analytics tools outperform their competitors by over two times. Which CIO wouldn’t want that? But there are hurdles. Many companies grow through acquisition, and even if they don’t, they can develop a large server sprawl, which in turn creates siloed workloads and no single repository of data for companies. System z can provide that. By making sure your data is available, consolidated, and secure, System z can form the basis of your analytics and data management strategy. Additionally, creating a new analytics environment can take up to 6 months at a cost of approximately $250,000. However, with the simplicity of the System z architecture, companies can have deployed analytics environment in 2 days at $25,000. Not bad for an out of date, dinosaur platform.
So is z still relevant? Well, if you want an incredibly powerful infrastructure, which boasts maximum security and unmatched reliability: yes. If you want to be able to keep ahead of the latest IT trends, with value and strategy plans spanning mobile, cloud and data analytics: you bet it is.
Zed’s back, baby.
*based on 275 VMs