Sunday, 2 September 2012

IBM's big baby

IBM has traditionally announced powerful mainframes in alternative years to more affordable models. Last year saw the z114, so this year we were expecting IBM to deliver something big – and that’s what it’s done with the zEnterprise EC (Enterprise Class) 12.

The zEC12 has a hexa-core design that runs at an eye-watering 5.5GHz and is pretty unique in supporting transactional execution. That means it treats system resources in much the same way as a transactional database system and so eliminates the overhead of software locking systems. You can expect to hear more about this Transaction Execution Facility. The z12 chip is implemented in a 32 nanometer high-K metal gate process – its predecessor (z11) used a 45 nanometer process.

The top end machines can take 120 cores, and the processors include an Enhanced DAT2 facility, which allows languages to exploit 2GB page frames. The processors also have a decimal-floating-point zoned conversion facility that will be supported by the next release of PL/I.

The zEC12 also supports Flash Express memory, which is used by systems that anticipate bursts of activity. And IBM claims this is one of the most secure enterprise systems ever with its Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 5+ security classification. It even has a tamper-resistant cryptographic co-processor, which is called the Crypto Express 4s.

IBM said the new mainframe was the product of over $1bn in research and development investment and work was carried out in 18 IBM labs around the world and with IBM’s clients.

And as well as being the mainframe for the cloud computing generation, it also provides hybrid computing support. So not only can it run z/OS, users can consolidate their Linux workloads with Linux on System z (using SUSE Enterprise Server or Red Hat Enterprise Linux), and run other z/ operating systems – z/VM, z/VSE, and z/TPF. And the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX) lets users combine workloads designed for mainframes with those for POWER7 and x86 chips, Microsoft Windows Server.

The zEC12 increases the performance of analytic workloads by 30 percent compared to its predecessor. It seems that support for the DB2 Analytics Accelerator enables clients to run complex business analytics and operational analytics on the same platform. There are also IT systems analytics capabilities. It analyses internal system messages to provide a near real-time view of the system’s health, including any potential problems. Called IBM zAware, the technology learns from the messages to recognize patterns and quickly pinpoint any deviations, using the information to identify unusual system behaviour and minimize its impact.

Unusually, sites will be able to run the zEC12 without a raised data centre floor using new overhead power and cabling support. And for ‘green’ sites, zEC12 can deliver 25 percent more performance and 50 percent more capacity with the same energy footprint as its predecessor.

In a statement of direction, IBM said the zEC12 will be the last high-end System z server to offer support for zAAP specialty engine processors. Although IBM will continue to support running zAAP workloads on zIIP processors (zAAP on zIIP). This is intended to help simplify capacity planning and performance management, while still supporting all the currently eligible workloads.

The new processors should be available from about the end of September. It looks like a very powerful piece of kit with a number of interesting features that should keep mainframe users happy for a year or two.


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Trevor Eddolls said...

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