IBM Hybrid Computing Choices

Hybrid computing is a concept IBM introduced almost two years ago with the zEnterprise. The idea is that the enterprise can run a variety of workloads on different hardware platforms and manage it all efficiently as a single virtualized system from one console running on the mainframe. In the case of the zEnterprise, an enterprise can mix workloads running on z/OS, Linux, AIX, and Windows on System z, System p, and System x hardware.  The payoff comes from increased resiliency and greater management efficiency.  The cost savings in labor alone could pay for the hybrid computing investment.

If one hybrid computing platform wasn’t enough, IBM now offers a choice of IBM hybrid computing options, the zEnterprise-zBX combination and the new PureSystems family.

Earlier this year, IBM introduced the PureSystems family. At this time there are two PureSystems options: PureFlex, an IaaS offering, and PureApplication, a PaaS offering. IBM implies that more PureSystems will be coming (BottomlineIT’s guess: PureAnalytics and PureTransaction). PureSystems brings System i to the hybrid party along with Power and System x but skips z/OS and z/VM. You manage this hybrid environment with the Flex System Manager (FSM), which looks very similar to the zEnterprise’s Unified Resource Manager. BottomlineIT covered the PureSystems introduction here.

The zEnterprise- zBX combination now encompasses z/OS, Linux on z, z/VM, Power blades, AIX, Linux, System x blades, Windows, and specialty blades.  You can manage the resulting hybrid platform as one hybrid virtualized system through a management console, the Unified Resource Manager. About the only thing missing is IBM’s System i, which is as part of PureSystems.

So now the challenge becomes choosing between two IBM hybrid computing environments that look very similar but aren’t quite the same, at least not yet.  So, which do you use?

Obviously, if you need z/OS, you go with the zEnterprise. It provides the optimum platform for enterprise cloud computing with its extreme scalability and leading security and resiliency. It supports tens of thousands of users while new offerings expand the z role in BI and real time analytics, especially if much of the data reside on the z.

If you must include i you go with the PureFlex. Or, if you find you have a hybrid workload but don’t require the governance and tight integration with the z, you can choose IBM PureSystems and connect it to the zEnterprise via your existing network. Tivoli products can provide the integration of business processes.

If you look at your choice of hybrid computing environments in terms of cost, PureSystems probably will be the less costly option, how much less depends on how it is configured. The entry PureFlex starts at $156k; the standard version, which includes storage and networking, starts at $217k; and the Enterprise version, intended for scalable cloud deployment and included redundancy for resilient operation, starts at $312k. Plus there is the cost of the O/S and hypervisor (BTW, open source KVM is free).

The zEnterprise option will cost more but not necessarily all that much more depending on how you configure it, whether you can take advantage of the deeply discounted System z Solution Edition packages, and how well you negotiate. The lowest cost zEnterprise-zBX hybrid environment includes the z114 ($75k base price but expect to pay more once it is configured), about $200k or more for a zBX, depending on the type and number of blades, plus whatever you need for storage.

The payback from hybrid computing comes mainly from the operational efficiency and labor savings it allows. PureSystems especially come pre-integrated and optimized for the workload and is packed with built-in management expertise and automation that allow fewer, less skilled people to handle the hybrid computing environment.

Right now the wrinkle in the hybrid computing management efficiency story comes from organizations that want both the zEnterprise and PureSystems. This would not be an odd pairing at all, but it will require two different management tools, Flex System Manager for the PureSystems environment and the Unified Resource Manager for the zEnterprise-zBX. At a recent briefing an IBM manager noted that efforts already were underway to bring the two management schemes together although when that actually might happen he couldn’t predict. Let’s hope it will be sooner rather than later.

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