Archive for February, 2013

Mainframe Workload Economics

IBM never claims that every workload is suitable for the zEnterprise. The company prefers to talk about platform issues in terms of fit-for-purpose or tuned-to-the-task. With the advent of hybrid computing, the low cost z114, and now the expected low cost version of the zEC12 later this year, however, you could make a case for any workload that benefits from the reliability, security, and efficiency of the zEnterprise mainframe is fair game.

John Shedletsky, VP, IBM Competitive Project Office, did not try to make that case. To the contrary, earlier this week he presented the business case for five workloads that are optimum economically and technically on the zEnterprise.  They are:  transaction processing, critical data workloads, batch processing, co-located business analytics, and consolidation-on-one-platform. None of these should be a surprise; possibly with the exception of analytics and consolidated platform they represent traditional mainframe workloads.  BottomlineIT covered Shedletsky’s mainframe cost/workload analysis last year here.

This comes at a time when IBM has started making a lot of noise about new and different workloads on the zEnterprise. Doug Balog, head of IBM System z mainframe group, for example, was quoted widely in the press earlier this month talking about bringing mobile computing workloads to the z. Says Balog in Midsize Insider: “I see there’s a trend in the market we haven’t directly connected to z yet, and that’s this mobile-social platform.”

Actually, this isn’t even all that new either. BottomlineIT’s sister blog, DancingDinosaur, was writing about organizations using SOA to connect CICS apps running on the z to users with mobile devices a few years ago here.

What Shedletsky really demonstrated this week was the cost-efficiency of the zEC12.  In one example he compared a single workload, app production/dev/test running on a 16x, 32-way HP Superdome and an 8x, 48-way Superdome with a zEC12 41-way. The zEC12 delivered the best price/performance by far, $111 million (5yr TCA) for the zEC12 vs. $176 million (5yr TCA) for the two Superdomes.

When running Linux on z workloads with the zEC12 compared to 3 Oracle database workloads (Oracle Enterprise Edition, Oracle RAC, 4 server nodes per cluster) supporting 18K transactions/sec.  running on 12 HP DL580 servers (192 cores) the HP system priced out at $13.2 million (3yr TCA) compared to a zEC12 running 3 Oracle RAC clusters (4 nodes per cluster, each as a Linux guest) with 27 IFLs that priced out at $5.7 million (3yr TCA). The zEC12 came in at less than half the cost.

With analytics such a hot topic these days Shedletsky also presented a comparison of the zEnterprise Analytics System 9700 (zEC12, DB2 v10, z/OS, 1 general processor, 1 zIIP) and an IDAA with a current Teradata machine. The result: the Teradata cost $330K/queries per hour compared to $10K/queries per hour.  Workload time for the Teradata was 1,591 seconds for 9.05 queries per hour compared to 60.98 seconds and 236 queries per hour on the zEC12. The Teradata total cost was $2.9 million compared to $2.3 million for the zEC12.

None of these are what you would consider new workloads, and Shedletsky has yet to apply his cost analysis to mobile or social business workloads. However, the results shouldn’t be much different. Mobile applications, particularly mobile banking and other mobile transaction-oriented applications, will play right into the zEC12 strengths, especially when they are accessing CICS on the back end.

While transaction processing, critical data workloads, batch processing, co-located business analytics, and consolidation-on-one-platform remain the sweet spot for the zEC12, Balog can continue to make his case for mobile and social business on the z. Maybe in the next set of Shedletsky comparative analyses we’ll see some of those workloads come up.

For social business the use cases aren’t quite clear yet. One use case that is emerging, however, is social business big data analytics. Now you can apply the zEC12 to the analytics processing part at least and the efficiencies should be similar.

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Five Questions That Set the Stage for Cloud Deployment

Cloud computing clearly is gaining traction but leaving CIOs a little confused about the role of IT in any cloud strategy. Yet, a September study conducted by the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA), found that organizations are embracing the cloud at a 15% faster rate than previously forecast.

Of course, you expect members of a leading technology group like ODCA to be early adopters. But what if your client isn’t an early adopter? Deloitte offers a cloud readiness survey to identify inhibitors to cloud adoption here. Capgemini also has a cloud readiness approach here.

Even after management understands what it wants to achieve with cloud computing, the organization still may not be ready. Whatever their interest in cloud computing IDC identifies five questions you should ask them that sets the stage for any cloud deployment.

The questions below are intended to help you guide your organization to what is required of it to effectively leverage cloud computing.  Notice how its relationship with IT plays a central role, as it should. BottomlineIT expects cloud options to become just another part of the standard IT capabilities set and will be used to a different extent by almost every organization

1.   To What Extent Are IT Resources Used to Support Company Objectives? This gets to the issue of whether IT is an integral part of the company’s strategic thinking. IDC found that almost 60% of midsize firms agree strongly that advanced technology is an important competitive tool when used as a strategic resource. If IT is integral then cloud computing can become a competitive differentiator. The cloud also represents an attractive option for companies that view technology as a way to save money.  Although the immediate benefit of cloud technology will be tactical cost and deployment advantages, longer term the strategic implications of cloud capabilities will be even more valuable.

2.   How Physically Complicated Is the Company? The number of company locations supported by the current IT infrastructure will be important to consider in any cloud computing implementation. On average, midsize firms have 6.4 locations, with IT staff typically based at headquarters. This can complicate general maintenance and installation of new software and upgrades. With cloud-based software all users run the latest version of hosted applications, simplifying support for multiple locations. In effect, the more locations you have and the more diverse your IT environment, the more the cloud can do for you in coordinating and managing application deployment.

3.  What Is the Company’s Pace of Organizational Evolution? How Much Change Is Under Way? The cloud can provide access across the organization to a central set of rationalized technology offerings. While these are easier to manage than multiple legacy approaches, the real benefits come from improvements in worker cooperation and collaboration. And don’t overlook future M&A activities. The integration of IT resources is not among the top concerns in an acquisition until a deal is completed. But then its impact can emerge in very unpleasant ways. For firms undergoing major change cloud engagements today can set the stage for improved organizational flexibility tomorrow.  Cloud technology, similarly can facilitate change, allowing midsize companies to add or test new applications or processes without having to expand their IT infrastructure. It also can make enterprise applications available to midmarket companies in an affordable way.

4.   How Are Mobile Workers Supported, and Could They Benefit from Access to Cloud-Based Resources? Enhancing worker productivity is a key reason for expanding technology investment and providing access to advanced networking capabilities via the cloud to achieve anytime, anyplace resource access. From an ROI perspective, the mobile worker case for cloud computing can be intuitively compelling, especially if it improves the sales close rate or speeds on-boarding new customers. IDC suggests that even a 5% improvement could translate into an effective financial justification for cloud computing investment.

5.   What External Forces Are Encouraging/Discouraging Cloud Computing Adoption?  A changing competitive landscape as well as the regulatory environment can provide strong incentives or disincentives for the adoption of cloud computing. Note that external forces will continue to be in a state of flux as cloud computing becomes more widespread. If external forces are discouraging cloud adoption, plan to revisit those attitudes regularly because the increasing adoption and evolution of cloud computing changes attitudes fast.

There also are 3 reasons NOT to adopt cloud computing now: security/compliance, latency, availability. A subsequent post will elaborate on these.

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Winning the Coming Talent War Mainframe Style

The next frontier in the ongoing talent war, according to McKinsey, will be deep analytics, a critical weapon required to probe big data in the competition underpinning new waves of productivity, growth, and innovation. Are you ready to compete and win in this technical talent war?

Similarly, Information Week contends that data expertise is called for to take advantage of data mining, text mining, forecasting, and machine learning techniques. As it turns out the mainframe is ideally is ideally positioned to win if you can attract the right talent.

Finding, hiring, and keeping good talent within the technology realm is the number one concern cited by 41% of senior executives, hiring managers, and team leaders responding to the latest Harris Allied Tech Hiring and Retention Survey. Retention of existing talent was the next biggest concern, cited by 19.1%.

This past fall, CA published the results of its latest mainframe survey that came to similar conclusions. It found three major trends on the current and future role of the mainframe:

  1. The mainframe is playing an increasingly strategic role in managing the evolving needs of the enterprise
  2. The mainframe as an enabler of innovation as big data and cloud computing transform the face of enterprise IT
  3. Demand for tech talent with cross-disciplinary skills to fill critical mainframe workforce needs in this new view of enterprise IT

Among the respondents to the CA survey, 76% of global respondents believe their organizations will face a shortage of mainframe skills in the future, yet almost all respondents, 98%, felt their organizations were moderately or highly prepared to ensure the continuity of their mainframe workforce. In contrast, only 8% indicated having great difficulty finding qualified mainframe talent while 61% reported having some difficulty in doing so.

The Harris survey was conducted in September and October 2012. Its message is clear: Don’t be fooled by the national unemployment figures, currently hovering above 8%.  “In the technology space in particular, concerns over the ability to attract game-changing talent has become institutional and are keeping all levels of management awake at night,” notes Harris Allied Managing Director Kathy Harris.

The reason, as suggested in recent IBM studies, is that success with critical new technologies around big data, analytics, cloud computing, social business, virtualization, and mobile increasingly are giving top performing organizations their competitive advantage. The lingering recession, however, has taken its toll; unless your data center has been charged to proactively keep up, it probably is saddled with 5-year old skills at best; 10-year old skills more likely.

The Harris study picked up on this. When asking respondents the primary reason they thought people left their organization, 20% said people left for more exciting job opportunities or the chance to get their hands on some hot new technology.

Some companies recognize the problem and belatedly are trying to get back into the tech talent race. As Harris found when asking about what companies are doing to attract this kind of top talent 38% said they now were offering great opportunities for career growth. Others, 28%, were offering opportunities for professional development to recruit top tech pros. A fewer number, 24.5%, were offering competitive compensation packages while fewer still, 9%, offering competitive benefits packages.

To retain the top tech talent they already had 33.6% were offering opportunities for professional development, the single most important strategy they leveraged to retain employees. Others, 24.5%, offered opportunities for career advancement while 23.6% offered competitive salaries. Still a few hoped a telecommuting option or competitive bonuses would do the trick.

Clearly mainframe shops, like IT in general, are facing a transition as Linux, Java, SOA, cloud computing, analytics, big data, mobile, and social play increasing roles in the organization and the mainframe gains the capabilities to play in all these arenas. Advanced mainframe skills like CICS are great but it’s just a start. You also need Rest, Hadoop, and a slew of mobile, cloud, and data management skill sets.  At the same time, hybrid systems and expert integrated systems like IBM PureSystems and zEnterprise/zBX give shops the ability to tap a broader array of tech talent while baking in much of the expertise required.

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