Posts Tagged PureSystems

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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Achieving the Private Cloud Business Payoff Fast

Nationwide Insurance eliminated both capital and operational expenditures through a private cloud and expects to save about $15 million over three years. In addition, it expects the more compact and efficient private cloud landscape to mean lower costs in the future.

The City of Honolulu turned to a private cloud and reduced application deployment time from one week to only hours. It also reduced the licensing cost of one database by 68%. Better still; a new property tax appraisal system resulted in $1.4 million of increased tax revenue in just three months.

The private cloud market, especially among larger enterprises, is strong and is expected to show a CAGR of 21.5% through 2015, according to research distributed by ReportLinker.com. Another report from Renub Research quotes analysts saving security is a big concern for enterprises that may be considering the use of public cloud. For such organizations, the private cloud represents an alternative with a tighter security model that would enable their IT managers to control the building, deployment and management of those privately owned, internal clouds.

Nationwide and Honolulu each built their private clouds on the IBM mainframe. From its introduction last August, IBM has aimed the zEC12 at cloud use cases, especially private clouds. The zEC12’s massive virtualization capabilities make it possible to handle private cloud environments consisting of thousands of distributed systems running Linux on zEC12.

One zEC12, notes IBM, can encompass the capacity of an entire multi-platform data center in a single system. The newest z also enables organizations to run conventional IT workloads and private cloud applications on one system.  Furthermore, if you are looking at a zEC12 coupled with the zBX (extension cabinet) you can have a multi-platform private cloud running Linux, Windows, and AIX workloads.  On a somewhat smaller scale, you can build a multi-platform private cloud using the IBM PureSystems machines.

Organizations everywhere are adopting private clouds.  The Open Data Center Alliance reports faster private cloud adoption than originally predicted. Over half its survey respondents will be running more than 40% of their IT operations in private clouds by 2015.

Mainframes make a particularly good private clouds choice.  Nationwide, the insurance company, initially planned to consolidate 3000 distributed servers to Linux virtual servers running on several z mainframes, creating a multi-platform private mainframe cloud optimized for its different workloads. The goal was to improve efficiency.

The key benefit: higher utilization and better economies of scale, effectively making the mainframes into a unified private cloud—a single set of resources, managed with the same tools but optimized for a variety of workloads. This eliminated both capital and operational expenditures and is expected to save about $15 million over three years. The more compact and efficient zEnterprise landscape also means low costs in the future too. Specifically, Nationwide is realizing an 80% reduction in power, cooling and floor space despite an application workload that is growing 30% annually, and practically all of it handled through the provisioning of new virtual servers on the existing mainframe footprint.

The City and County of Honolulu needed to increase government transparency by providing useful, timely data to its citizens. The goal was to boost citizen involvement, improve delivery of services, and increase the efficiency of city operations.

Honolulu built its cloud using an IFL engine running Linux on the city’s z10 EC machine. Between Linux and IBM z/VM the city created a customized cloud environment. This provided a scalable self-service platform on which city employees could develop open source applications, and it empowered the general public to create and deploy citizen-centric applications.

The results: reduction in application deployment time from one week to only hours and 68% lower licensing costs for one database. The resulting new property tax appraisal system increased tax revenue by $1.4 million in just three months.

You can do a similar multi-platform private cloud with IBM PureSystems. In either case the machines arrive ready for private cloud computing. Or else you can piece together x86 servers and components and do it yourself, which entails a lot more work, time, and risk.

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A Choice of Hybrid Systems

No enterprise data center today runs just one platform. They have Intel/Windows or some flavor(s) of UNIX/Linux as their main production systems, but they generally run a mix of platforms and operating systems, even throwing Apple, VMware, and mainframes into the mix.

Organizations end up with this mix of platforms for perfectly understandable reasons, such as acquisitions or to meet special software requirements, but it results in a certain amount of inefficiency and added cost. For example, you need to hire and retain people with multiple skill sets.

Recognizing that situation—even contributing to it with its array of platforms and operating systems—IBM introduced the concept of hybrid computing in 2010 with the zEnterprise-zBX. Through hybrid computing, an organization could run workloads concurrently on multiple hardware platforms and operating systems while managing them as a single logical system. The benefit: simplified operation and management efficiency.

IBM currently offers two hybrid platforms: the zEnterprise-zBX combination and IBM PureSystems appliances starting with PureFlex and PureApplication. Both hybrid platforms are tightly integrated, highly optimized systems that accept a variety of blades. Although there is platform overlap the two hybrid environments do not support exactly the same operating environments.

For example, PureFlex, an IaaS offering, and PureApplication, a PaaS offering brings IBM System i to the hybrid party along with Power and System x, which are supported by the zBX too, but skips the mainframe’s z/OS and z/VM operating environments. You manage the PureSystems hybrid environment with the Flex System Manager (FSM). The zEnterprise-zBX has its own hybrid management tool, the Unified Resource Manager, which looks very similar to FSM.

Despite the similarities bringing both FSM and the Unified Resource Manager together is not going to happen in any foreseeable future. That is the definitive word from Jeff Frey, IBM Fellow and CTO for System z: “Flex Manager and the Unified Resource Manager will not come together,” he told BottomlineIT.

That does not mean the zEnterprise-zBX and PureSystems won’t play nicely together, but they will do so higher up in the IT stack. “We will federate the management at a higher level,” he said. Today, that pretty much means organizations using both platforms, zEnterprise and PureSystems, will have to rely on tools like Tivoli to tie the pieces together and manage them.  At the lower levels in the stack where the hardware lives each platform will still require its own management tooling.

In effect, Tivoli will provide the federation layer and enable higher level, logical management across both systems. When you need to manage some physical aspect of the underlying hardware you still will need platform-specific tools.

IBM has two potential rivals in the hybrid computing space. Oracle/Sun offers a variety of Sun servers that run either Solaris or Windows/Linux x86 operating systems but it has offered no evidence of any interest to tightly integrate and optimize them as IBM has. Similarly, HP could couple HP-UX and Windows/Linux on both its Intel x86 and Itanium servers, but again it has given no evidence of intending to do this.  Instead, both vendors direct hybrid computing discussions to the cloud, where the different systems can play together at an even higher level of abstraction. (IBM also offers a multi-platform cloud environment.)

Meanwhile, IBM is moving forward with the next advances to its hybrid environments. For example, expect some IBM improvements incorporated into PureSystems hardware to make it into the zBX. Similarly, IBM is planning to push zBX scalability beyond the 112 blades the box supports today as well as adding clustering capabilities. The blade count expansion combined with the technology enhancements brought over from PureSystems, Frey hopes, should make clear IBM’s long term commitment to both its hybrid computing platforms.

At the same time, IBM is enhancing PureSystems for the purpose of scaling it beyond its current four appliance limit. This will give it something more like the ensemble approach used with the System z. A System z ensemble is a collection of two to eight mainframes where at least one has a zBX attached. The resources of a zEnterprise ensemble are managed and virtualized as a single pool of resources integrating system and workload management across the multi-system, multi-tier, multi-architecture environment.

With two IBM hybrid computing platforms the hybrid approach is here for real at IBM. The challenge becomes choosing the one best for your shop. Or you can seek to satisfy your hybrid computing needs through the cloud, where you will find IBM along with Oracle, HP, and a slew of others.

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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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IBM PureSystems Change the IT Cost-Value Equation

How much of your IT budget goes to keeping the systems up and running versus how much you can devote to new business building projects? If yours is like most you probably spend more than 70% of your IT budget keeping the systems running, and most of that gets sucked up by labor. That leaves, at best, about 30% to spend on new initiatives, which is where the company’s next competitive advantage is likely to come from.

To flip the situation around, IBM this week unveiled a family of what it describes as expert integrated systems called PureSystems. The first two are PureFlex and PureApplication. IBM calls these expert systems because it has baked into the system large amounts of automated best practices around the majority of the processes for which most organizations need systems, whether web applications, database applications, or almost anything else a company might do.

These are, according to Rod Adkins, senior vice president in charge of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group, “a new category of business computing that combines server, storage and networking resources along with an array of built-in software patterns and business processes into one highly automated and simple-to-manage machine.” Essentially, IBM is introducing a pre-configured hardware/software appliance, which is not new.

The difference is what IBM added. Beyond the usual middleware and integration it baked in deep expertise. This expertise greatly expertise simplifies the process of setting up and deploying new systems combined with automated operation and workload optimization that leverages the expertise to determine the best ways to configure and deploy each workload. This reduces the labor and time entailed in designing, deploying, configuring, and administering the new systems, which lowers cost and speeds time to value. This is how the new systems change the IT cost-value equation.  Optimization also lowers costs by saving on license fees and conserving IT resources through higher utilization.

IBM estimates that a PureSystems machine can be running in four hours versus weeks if IT wanted to do it itself. IBM calculates PureSystems requires 47% less deployment labor hours and 73% fewer management hours compared to conventional systems.

This isn’t as costly a product as you probably imagine.  The entry PureFlex System starts at $100,000. A recent report put competing integrated hardware/software appliances at $750,000 or more. The entry level PureFlex can handle a midsize organization, and it painlessly scales as the organization grows.

It also changes the way you can think about IT staffing. You will need fewer system administrators. With so much of the IT process automated your people can focus on using IT to support new initiatives, which they can deploy in hours, not days, weeks, or months.

Maybe the most innovative part of PureSystems is the idea of patterns. Patterns are a staple of software development but PureSystems take the idea further.  These patterns are built-in software that encapsulates systems expertise so that the systems can automatically handle basic, time-consuming tasks such as configuration, upgrades, and application requirements. ISVs will offer specialized patterns and there is a toolkit any organization can use to build a custom pattern encapsulating a special process.

PureSystems also builds cloud computing right into the machine, enabling it to be a private cloud out of the box. Organizations can quickly create private, self-service, multi-platform cloud offerings that can scale up and down automatically.

Noted Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president of software and systems: “By tightening the connections between hardware and software, and adding invaluable software know-how, PureSystems is designed to help organizations free up time and money to focus on innovation.”

Other vendors offer specialized combo hardware and software bundles: Oracle has Exadata and Exalogic; NetApp and Cisco offer FlexPod; EMC, Cisco, and VMware collaborated to create VCE, which offers VBlock; and HP offers its converged infrastructure. Each vendor has its supporters. PureSystems, however, delivers expert yet customizable patterns, broad cross-platform capabilities, and the ability to handle whatever new technologies come out in the next decade through an unusually flexible virtualized architecture.

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