On Thursday 22 July 2010, IBM announced not just their latest mainframe – the zEnterprise – but also a roadmap of how data centres should be – unified, in a single box, and controlled by the best equipped platform in that box. Once code-named Gryphon (you know, the mythical creature with an eagle’s head and lion’s body), IBM’s new hybrid machine (although in the UK you might hear it referred to as a coalition!) brings together the latest mainframe technology with POWER7 and x86 IBM blade systems, giving potential users z/OS, AIX, and Linux all on the one box. And all this is controlled from the mainframe console by the new Unified Resource Manager. You might like to think of this new mainframe as a virtualization hub that manages other workloads in the data centre. Three platforms in one box.
IBM’s view is that data centres are running more than one lot of hardware, and sites are experiencing problems with space for the hardware, keeping control of these different systems, and even communicating between them – so integrating them seems like the obvious answer. And that’s what they’ve done.
But more has come out of the $1.5 billion spent on research and development. The zEnterprise 196 (IBM's name for the two-rack mainframe) includes 96 5.2GHz (up from 4.4GHz on the z10) quad processors (80 of which are used by the client, and the rest are used by the machine itself) and up to 3TB of memory (double the z10s). The new microprocessors offer 100 new mainframe machine code instructions.
In terms of performance, the zEnterprise can handle 50 billion instructions per second, providing a 40-60% performance increase over the z10 without using any more power. A water cooling option, could help reduce energy consumption by up to 12 percent by removing air heat. It also includes the first implementation of RAID memory, which is like RAID for disks, and could be used to increase uptime to beyond the 99.999 availability of current mainframe technology.
The zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX) operates as a tightly-coupled extension to the mainframe through a high-performance private network. The users then add POWER7 or System x blades to four racks. IBM says that POWER7 blades will be available by the end of this year, with System x blades scheduled to ship in the first half of 2011. The new Unified Resource Manager will allow users to install, monitor, manage, optimize, diagnose, and service resources and workloads from a single console across the entire infrastructure.
The new machine includes a DB2 accelerator, called the Smart Analytics Optimzer, which is able to routes database queries either to the mainframe DB2 system or a specialist blade server optimized for smart analytics. IBM estimates that complex database queries can experience up to a ten-fold performance improvement in this environment.
Can you afford it? IBM suggests using zEnterprise will reduce cost of ownership by 55% – but didn’t disclose the actual price. They did say that its price relative to capacity would be lower than for the z10!