New IBM z114—a Midrange Mainframe

IBM introduced its newest mainframe in the zEnterprise family, the z114, a business class rather than enterprise class machine. With the z114IBM can now deliver a more compelling total cost of acquisition (TCA) case, giving midrange enterprises another option as they consolidate, virtualize, and migrate their sprawling server farms. This will be particularly interesting to shops running HP Itanium or Oracle/Sun servers.

The z114 comes with a $75,000 entry price. At this price, it can begin to compete with commodity high end servers on a TCA basis, especially if it is bundled with discount programs likeIBM’s System z Solution Editions and unpublicized offers from IBM Global Finance (IGF). There should be no doubt, IBM is willing to deal to win midrange workloads from other platforms.

First, the specs, speeds, and feeds:  the z114 is available in two models; a single-drawer model, the M05, and a two-drawer model, the M10, which offers additional capacity for I/O and coupling expansion and/or more specialty engines. It comes with up to 10 configurable cores, which can be designated as general purpose or specialty engine (zIIP, zAAP, IFL, ICF) or used as spares. The M10 also allows two dedicated spares as well, a first for a midrange mainframe.

The z114 uses a superscalar design that runs at 3.8 GHz, an improved cache structure, a new out-of-order execution sequence, and over 100 new hardware instructions that deliver better per-thread performance, especially for database, WebSphere, and Linux workloads. The base z114 starts at 26 MIPS but can scale to over 3100 MIPS across five central processors and the additional horsepower provided by its specialty engines.

The z114 mainly will be a consolidation play. IBM calculates that workloads from as many as 300 competitive servers can be consolidated onto a single z114. IBM figures the machine can handle workloads from 40 Oracle server cores using just three processors running Linux. And compared to the Oracle servers IBM estimates the new z114 will cost 80% less. Similarly, IBM figures that a fully configured z114 running Linux on z can create and maintain a Linux virtual server for approximately $500 per year.

As a consolidation play, the zEnterprise System will get even more interesting later this year when x86 blades supporting Windows become available. Depending on the pricing, the z114 could become a Windows consolidation play too.

Today even midrange enterprises are multi-platform shops. For this, the z114 connects to the zBX, a blade expansion cabinet, where it can integrate and manage workloads running on POWER7-based blades as well as the IBM Smart Analytics Optimizer and WebSphere DataPower blades for integrating web-based workloads. In addition, IBM promises support for Microsoft Windows on select System x server blades soon.

To achieve a low TCA, IBM clearly is ready to make deals. For example, IBM also has lowered software costs to deliver the same capacity for 5-18% less through a revised Advanced Workload License Charges (AWLC) pricing schedule.  A new processor value unit (PVU) rating on IFLs can lower Linux costs as much as 48%.

The best deal, however, usually comes through the System z Solution Edition Program, which BottomlineIT’s sister blog, DancingDinosaur, has covered here and here.  It bundles System z hardware, software, middleware, and three years of maintenance into a deeply discounted package price. Initial System Editions for the z114 will be WebSphere, Linux, and probably SAP.

IFG also can lower costs, starting with a six month payment deferral. You can acquire a z114 now but not begin paying for it until the next year. The group also is offering all IBM middleware products, mainly WebSphere Application Server and Tivoli, interest free (0%) for twelve months. Finally, IFG can lower TCA through leasing. Leasing could further reduce the cost of the z114 by up to 3.5% over three years.

By the time you’ve configured the z114 the way you want it and netted out the various discounts, even with a Solutions Edition package, it will probably cost more than $75,000. Even the most expensive HP Itanium server beats that. As soon as there are multiple servers in a consolidation play, that’s where the z114 payback lies.

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