It felt like it's been about six months since the announcement of the z 10, so I took an informal web sampling that reflected the z10 announcement from different points of views. Naturally, I found a couple of excellent articles from Mainframe Executive (one from June entitled: Green Machines: The System z10 Enterprise Class, and the other from April: IBM Unveils New System z10: Vital Signs Remain Strong). I also found a nice entry from an electrical engineers news service in Asia with some comments from IBM z10 designer Charles Web who addressed the design challenges with the increase of speed to 4.4 GHz. Finally, I scanned the spring publication of the z 10 technical Redbooks : IBM System z10 Enterprise Class Technical Introduction SG 24 – 7515 and IBM System z10 Enterprise Class Technical Guide SG24-7516 ( along with loads of consolidation and green related items!).
One of the things that really stood out on the external entries were comments like: ‘The z10 chip is easily the most elegant enhancement in more than a decade’, ‘Rock-Solid Computing for the Next Decade’, and ‘the first ground-up CPU redesign in an IBM mainframe in a decade’. All the articles I read really underscored my initial impressions about how many different areas were changed at once (huge speed increase, buffer structures, infiniband connections, reducing chips from 16 to 7 on the MCM, etc. etc.) but also the commitment to the platform these new capabilities represent.
It's always been fun to see the technical changes, but it seems easier than ever to link them directly to the business behind the workload. Floating-point decimal functions gets moved from millicode (yes, there is a step between microcode and the chip) to the chip for the demands of workloads related to financial institutions. Support is added for growing encryption needs through enhanced cryptographic processor functions. An additional 50 instructions are added aimed at improving compiled code efficiencies for the software (i.e. Java, WebSphere, and Linux )that enables growing Internet and application workloads. These are all good examples of the platform evolving to a changing world.
Besides, seeing that quote: ‘long-time assembler programmers will rejoice’, or the fun fact of 20,000 error checkers on the chip, there seemed to be a lot of discussion about the design effort between the system z and System p teams. I like the phrase “shared DNA" for their collaboration on areas like the design of memory controllers, floating point processors, and I/O bus controllers, but also that the z chip is different due to platform focus on functions like cryptography, compression, and decimal floating point capabilities. (Or the different buffer structures for different workloads, levels of availability mechanisms, and something called local clock gating to reduce power consumption.)
Perhaps the nicest summary I saw was from Bill Carico, president of ACTS (an IBM Premier Business Partner), who wrote at Mainframe Executive: “… and a litany of other advancements, confirming that IBM remains strongly committed to keeping the mainframe on the cutting edge of technology. The one-sentence executive summary of the z10 announcement is simply this: ‘The mainframe still leads the industry in its ability to run mixed workloads, share data, operate consistently at over 90% utilization and near 100% availability at the lowest cost of ownership (TCO) in an impenetrable environment that runs on autopilot.’ No, I’m not saying the mainframe is the best tool for any job. I’m saying it’s the only platform with these unique capabilities”.
Says it pretty well, huh? Let us know what are you hearing about the z10 and its evolving role in the enterprise...