Talk about mixed messages!
Notice how vendors position features of their distributed systems by terming them, “Mainframe-like.” Then, they publish statements that disparage the Mainframe. Which is true? Do competitors really design their new systems to emulate IBM System z’s best attributes? Or, do they consider the Mainframe to be a relic, an artifact of the beginnings—but not future--of enterprise computing?
This installment in COMMON SENSE aims to stimulate thinking so that your next server purchase, for enterprise-level tasks, hits the sweetspot where IT and Business converge. It’s sometimes challenging to determine if you want the genuine item, a Mainframe, or some “imitation” whose appeal is; “just add another cheap one of these if you run out of capacity.”
Hundreds of articles have been written—and, no doubt, you have read at least a few—about the Mainframe. We trace its origins to around 1964. What is important is that Mainframes began decades ago…and have persevered; modernized, and delivered a rich set of benefits, clear through the moment you read this. With recent IBM System z10 launches, “the Mainframe” got another renewal….one showcasing unprecedented cost-value driven by: enhanced capacity, throughput, security, RAS, and virtualization.…Enough bragging for now.
Back to Mainframe-like. Why do System z’s competitors disparage the Mainframe, then proclaim that their enterprise platform is just like one? Consider parallels to this behavior in other industries. Examples: saying a hybrid car’s acceleration is Ferrari-like; or, promising “Movie-star-like smiles” with an over-the-counter tooth whitener. Does this approach to creating market appeal really help IT decision-makers make the best possible decision about which asset—with most business value--to deploy?
Whether we just asked a rhetorical question or not (we probably did!) is less important than penetrating the marketing fluff and getting down to what system delivers the best for an IT buyer’s pain points. So, let’s quickly profile what sets apart a Mainframe from Mainframe-faint replicas.
- Mainframes capably execute the largest, most complex mixed workloads. Think of your own IT requirements and ask how many servers you use to handle tasks that access hundreds of millions of records, for example, in the same day…or even hour.
- Mainframes consistently demonstrate that they can function at sustained 90% utilization…or more. Utilization varies by architecture. Mainframes, because of their core architecture, should be run hard without undue concern about failure, especially with System z’s MTBF design of greater than three decades.
- Mainframes virtualize complex enterprise environments with unparalleled granularity. Why that’s important denotes the financial necessity of right-sizing workloads to resources. When that happens, task-execution can take place at the lowest cost per transaction.
- Mainframes can execute tasks with incredibly low use of energy per transaction. System z has pioneered “green” in many aspects including: how it cools, how it manages energy use, how it conserves. Ample proof exists to support this statement.
- Mainframes achieve the highest security certifications like EAL 5 and FIPS-4. With the countless attacks on data and intellectual property, only the highest security makes sense. There is no middle ground when privacy and $Billion’s are at risk.
- Mainframes can absorb big, sudden activity spikes without significant scale up of the people supporting them. Mainframes were designed for dynamic businesses. Mainframes distinguish themselves with their automated, on demand capabilities.
- Mainframes provide remarkable availability across vast geographic distances. Global business means globally connected systems, which must collaborate to meet or exceed aggressive service levels. Mainframes, using Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex (GDPS) are designed precisely to do this.
- Mainframes handle more transactions--more quickly--than any alternative. A look at core banking benchmarks (such as Bank of China) attests to this. As premier data and transaction hubs for SOA, Mainframes help ensure astonishing throughput.
- Mainframes provide both flexibility AND control that help ensure Service Level Agreements (SLA) are met. SLAs now include security and disaster recovery metrics. These indicators of system value to business continuity point to Mainframes.
- Mainframes handle enterprise-size workloads within a refrigerator-sized footprint. System z’s early ancestry required rooms, raised floors. No longer. Today’s Mainframe economizes space and delivers stupendous performance in that footprint.
So, there are Mainframe “imitators.” That’s ultimately the most sincere form of praise we believe. It just strikes us as ironic that those same imitators try to profile System z as “the past.” Reality says that essentially all the mission-critical server technologies in use today, whether in the RISC or x86 space, were inspired by the Mainframe! Simply, today’s Mainframe represents the past and provides the innovation—now and beyond—that assures both its own future and that of “Mainframe-like” offspring.
Today: data and regulatory proliferation, data and privacy invasions, space shortage, power availability, and escalating business requirements demand systems that come closest to the “ideal.” Maybe you will buy the “Mainframe-like” alternative, or continue using the one you may have. But, let us show you proof of our attributes, and we believe you will determine that you need the original, not the imitation.
This COMMON SENSE installment started by challenging how Mainframe alternatives can confuse buyers by terming certain system features as “Mainframe-like” or, “Mainframe-inspired.” The real story seems to be this: buy the system that time has tested, that consistently innovates, executes, helps provide long-term investment protection, and can seamlessly adapt to the dynamics of Business Year 2008 and way beyond. Let’s, please, continue this important discussion.[Read More]