IBM Unites Mainframe, Windows Systems - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers

IBM Unites Mainframe, Windows Systems

IBM opens zEnterprise mainframes to the world of Windows apps. Until now, IBM only supported Linux or AIX-based blades on zEnterprise.

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IBM unveiled Monday what it hailed as an industry first--technology that combines the power of a mainframe computer with the flexibility of industry standard Windows servers.

The offering is an add-on for IBM's z196 or z114 zEnterprise mainframe systems, and will be available starting Dec. 16. It effectively gives IT organizations the ability to install and manage Windows-based System x blades on the mainframe. Until now, IBM only supported Linux or AIX-based blades on zEnterprise.

Who could most benefit from such a setup?

IBM is aiming the technology mostly at companies that run Windows apps that need to access data that's stored and crunched on the big iron. While existing technology already allows for such connections, running Windows blades directly within the zEnterprise environment should mean faster performance and simplified management through the zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager.

Those are keys for Eurocontrol, the European air traffic management agency that's been piloting the technology at its data center in the Netherlands.

"On our existing servers, the various applications operate independently on diverse platforms, based upon the one-server, one-application model," said Huub Meertens, head of support engineering at Eurocontrol. "The combination of System z with Intel servers in an ensemble configuration turns out to be the best solution."

[IBM doesn't think much about Oracle's comparisons of its T4 Servers and SuperCluster product to IBM Power 7 products. Learn why: IBM Calls Out Oracle On Server And Systems Claims.]

Another organization that is kicking the tires on IBM's Windows-zEnterprise hybrid is NLB, one of Slovenia's largest banks. The financial institution stores key data on an IBM DB2 database running on zEnterprise. With the introduction of Windows apps directly into the system, the bank is achieving "significantly improved query response times," said NLB CIO Ales Levstek.

"The new zEnterprise technology is highly scalable and flexible, which means that our users are now able to access the information they need more quickly," said Levstek.

Industry watchers say IBM's move to support rival Microsoft's technology on its mainframes amounts to recognition by Big Blue that Windows remains the dominant OS for distributed computing environments.

"It struck many observers that the issue [Windows support on zEnterprise] absolutely had to have been an option," said Stephen Bartlett, a senior contributing analyst for the Clipper Group.

Beyond performance gains, IBM is pitching the solution as a money saver. Consolidating Windows servers into the zEnterprise can cut total cost of ownership for distributed platforms by as much as 70%, the company said.

The technology is the result of IBM's ongoing efforts to rejuvenate the mainframe as a mainstream platform for business IT organizations, and not just those, like scientific research or financial trading organizations, with high-performance computing (HPC) requirements.

Over the past several years, IBM has invested $1.5 billion into developing mainframe technologies, like the Unified Resource Manager for Windows and Linux, that have everyday application in typical business environments. The move has paid off, to the extent that IBM has added 80 new mainframe customers since it launched the zEnteprise in July 2010.

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User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2011 | 4:56:46 AM
re: IBM Unites Mainframe, Windows Systems
This is not two platforms on the same server (mainframe). It is Windows on x86, as everyone is running it today, and mainframe OSs on the mainframe. The Unified Resource Manager (zManager) connects the x86 and Power based workloads on the zBX chassis to the mainframe and allows you to manage everything from one counsel.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2011 | 4:48:04 AM
re: IBM Unites Mainframe, Windows Systems
You're confused. OSA cards are not and never were Windows PCs on the mainframe. OSA is just an open standards adapter to the mainframe's CPU controller bus. The OSA integrates the control unit and device into the same hardware. It does so by placing it on a single card that directly connects to the central processor complex I/O bus. People use OSA today for connecting mainframes to systems that run open protocols (TCP/IP for instance). Basically, OSA is a NIC on the mainframe.

This is way different. First, Windows is not actually going inside the mainframe. Windows servers are being run on x86 blades (native Windows) in the zBX chassis which is connected to the mainframe on a low latency private network. The mainframe is able to control the Windows workloads from the zManager counsel, as well as Unix, Linux on x86 and other workloads. Second, this is not Windows desktop version. This is Windows Server. You could run thin-client PCs or Exchange or whatever else you want to do on a Windows platform. Third, this has zero to do with z/OS, MVS, MIPS or any other mainframe licenses with the exception of zManager. It does not effect the MIPS count for software licensing.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2011 | 11:39:49 PM
re: IBM Unites Mainframe, Windows Systems
Cool. Dr Lou's comment shows that technology is sometimes too advanced for the current generation of users. DEC also had distributed DOS and Windows platforms served from a central computer in the early 90s. It didn't scale well when PC prices went down with simultaneous increase in application base.
Dr Lou
Dr Lou,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2011 | 5:39:06 PM
re: IBM Unites Mainframe, Windows Systems
IBM has been putting PCs inside mainframes since the late 80s and 90s. They were called OSA or open systems adapters. The problem was always cost and licensing. Mainframe licenses are way more expensive and they go on and on. PC or windows licenses don't. The question was always how to monetize it without ruining the business they already had. IBM had he chance to corner windows in the office environment in the late 90s with OS/2 Workspace On Demand, which would have added unlimited remote boot OS/2 instances with control at the "icon level" for businesses using mainframe resources as the platform. A short sighted executive killed it with the stroke of a pen, calling OS/2 and Albatross, never seeing that windows, which ran on OS/2 at the time, would have been next. Too much time around the executive coffee machine or too much hard hairspray causing atrophy to the little mind...Now they want to put windows on the mainframe (again). One thing for sure, having too big a bank account can lead to some very obfuscated decisions. I guess if it's your money and you want to bet on folks who think themselves so elite that their own whims direct large markets, company fate, and other bone headed long term effects, then go ahead, buy in. One thing for sure, if it was so easy, then it probably would have been done before...sounds like old stuff rehashed by a new line of wannabe thinkers with overgrown egos...if you hang around long enough, you'll see it all, a couple of times over...few new inventions exists, just old thoughts shown to a new group of gullible animals...hey, just one voice...
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