Posts Tagged SOA

BMC Mainframe Survey Bolsters z-Hybird Computing

For the seventh year, BMC conducted a survey of mainframe shops worldwide. Clearly the mainframe not only isn’t dead but is growing in the shops where it is deployed.  Find a copy of the study here and a video explaining it here.

Distributed systems shops may be surprised by the results but not those familiar with the mainframe. Key results:

  • 90% of respondents consider the mainframe to be a long-term solution, and 50% expect it will attract new workloads.
  • Keeping IT costs down remains the top priority—not exactly shocking—as 69% report cost as a major focus, up from 60% from 2011.
  • 59% expect MIPS capacity to grow as they modernize and add applications to address expanding business needs.
  • More than 55% reported a need to integrate the mainframe into enterprise IT systems comprised of multiple mainframe and distributed platforms.

The last point suggests IBM is on the right track with hybrid computing. Hybrid computing is IBM’s term for extremely tightly integrated multi-platform computing managed from a single console (on the mainframe) as a single virtualized system. It promises significant operational efficiency over deploying and managing multiple platforms separately.

IBM also is on the right track in terms of keeping costs down.  One mainframe trick is to lower costs by enabling organizations to maximize the use of mainframe specialty engines in an effort to reduce consumption of costly GP MIPS.  Specialty engines are processors optimized for specific workloads, such as Java or Linux or databases. The specialty engine advantage continues with the newest zEC12, incorporating the same 20% price/performance boost, essentially more MIPS bang for the buck.

Two-thirds of the respondents were using at least one specialty engine. Of all respondents, 16% were using five or more engines, a few using dozens.  Not only do specialty engines deliver cheaper MIPS but they often are not considered in calculating software licensing charges, which lowers the cost even more.

About the only change noticeable in responses year-to-year is the jump in the respondent ranking of IT priorities. This year Business/IT alignment jumped from 7th to 4th. Priorities 1, 2, and 3 (Cost Reduction, Disaster Recovery, and Application Modernization respectively) remained the same.  Priorities 5 and 6 (Efficient Use of MIPS and Reduced Impact of Outages respectively) fell from a tie for 4th last year.

The greater emphasis on Business/IT alignment isn’t exactly new. Industry gurus have been harping on it for years.  Greater alignment between business and IT also suggests a strong need for hybrid computing, where varied business workloads can be mixed yet still be treated as a single system from the standpoint of efficiency management and operations. It also suggests IT needs to pay attention to business services management.

Actually, there was another surprise. Despite the mainframe’s reputation for rock solid availability and reliability, the survey noted that 39% of respondents reported unplanned outages. The primary causes for the outages were hardware failure (cited by 31% of respondents), system software failure (30%), in-house app failure (28%), and failed change process (22%). Of the respondents reporting outages, only 10% noted that the outage had significant impact. This was a new survey question this year so there is no comparison to previous years.

Respondents (59%) expect MIPS usage to continue to grow. Of that growth, 31% attribute it to increases in legacy and new apps while 9% attributed it to new apps. Legacy apps were cited by 19% of respondents.

In terms of modernizing apps, 46% of respondents planned to extend legacy code through SOA and web services while 43% wanted to increase the flexibility and agility of core apps.  Thirty-four percent of respondents hoped to reduce legacy app support costs through modernization.

Maybe the most interesting data point came where 60% of the respondents agreed that the mainframe needed to be a good IT citizen supporting varied workloads across the enterprise. That’s really what zEnterprise hybrid computing is about.

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Mainframe Declared Dead Again

Since the early 1990s IT pundits have been declaring the mainframe dead. With almost every IT advance: x86 virtualization, multi-core x86 processors, cloud computing some IT analyst announces the end of the mainframe. Those declarations have slowed since IBM introduced the hybrid zEnterprise 196 in July 2010 and the mainframe experienced a series of impressive quarterly sales gains.

That’s what makes this latest mainframe obituary so surprising. A white paper from Micro Focus reports that “CIOs are increasingly questioning whether the mainframe will continue to be a strategic platform in the future. Written by Standish Group and based on its CIO survey that found 70% of respondents said the mainframe provides a central, strategic role currently. However, none of the CIOs consider the mainframe as a strategic platform in 5-10 years time.

None? Zero? Nada? That’s pretty astonishing. So, what are the CIOs’ complaints? The study isn’t exactly specific, but it seems to do with the cloud.

As Standish puts it: looming large on the CIO agenda is cloud. Cloud creates both challenge and opportunity for CIOs today. The opportunity lies in driving towards more flexible, cost-effective service provision for the business, enabling in-house IT resources to focus on much more strategic initiatives. At the same time, CIOs are managing a host of current technologies and applications, some applications duplicating others, some legacy applications for which there appears no easy modernization solution and entrenched solutions and applications that provide no clear journey to cloud-based services.

Whoa, let’s parse that sentence. As Standish sees it, CIOs will look to the cloud for flexibility and cost-effective service provisioning that frees IT to focus strategically. Based on that, you could just as easily build the case for the zEnterprise, starting with the entry z114 and the Unified Resource Manager.

But that’s not really the issue; IT modernization is.  The researchers note that the need to address legacy mainframe applications effectively is a critical success factor. Furthermore Standish observes: these applications are still used in the organization today [which] emphasizes their business importance, and often there is a high level of intellectual capital embedded within these systems.

OK, so the real complaint is around leveraging legacy applications as valuable software assets. Fortunately CIOs can do this without undertaking a rip-and-replace of the mainframe. SOA is one place to start. SOA provides way to extract business logic from mainframe apps and use it as services. The mainframe does SOA very well. Independent Assessment, the publisher of BottomlineIT, has written a number of case studies on mainframe SOA. Check it out here and here.

Standish digs up a few other complaints about the mainframe, such as the shortage of mainframe skills and the high cost of mainframe computing. These are old complaints and much is being done to address them. With the z114 and the System z Solution Edition Programs IBM even is putting a dent in the cost-of-acquisition issue.

Then the paper offers this intriguing complaint: Being forced into a decision to move from unsupported mainframe environments to continue operations and meet new performance levels. Huh? If you are seeking to meet a variety of new operational and performance levels while efficiently managing and supporting it all the hybrid zEnterprise seems made to order with z/OS, z/VM, Linux on z, specialty engines, AIX on Power blades, and soon x86 on a blade. Standish seems oblivious to all the changes the mainframe has undergone since the introduction of the zEnterprise over a year ago.

This, however, is a Micro Focus paper so Standish isn’t interested in looking at how mainframe shops can leverage what IBM has been building into the mainframe and zEnterprise over the last few years. Yet, to position themselves for cloud computing, private clouds, and to meet the CIOs’ reported  three 2014 top objectives—1) increasing enterprise growth, 2) improving operations, and 3) attracting and retaining new customers—the zEnterprise is exactly what they should be looking at. Instead, Standish recommends rehosting and migrating applications, and how best to do that is with, of course, Micro Focus.

Not every organization or workload should have a mainframe. Many don’t. Similarly, there are situations that can be best dealt with by migrating mainframe applications to a different platform, but cloud computing probably is not one of those because the mainframe can play very well in the cloud. It would have been nice if Standish had focused on those workloads and situations that make sense to rehost and migrate while at least acknowledging the new hybrid mainframe world.

Please note: DancingDinosaur will be unavailable next week and not able to moderate comments until 9/17.

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