Big Blue bundles pound down mainframe prices

New workload push and pull

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The Solution Edition pricing is not just available to customers who buy new System z10 Business Class (BC) or Enterprise Class (EC) mainframes using IBM's quad-core z6 mainframe engines, but is also available for existing users of z10 mainframes and their predecessors, the System z9s. Customers using the z9 and z10 machines can activate engines on their boxes and run the Solution Edition stack in a logical partition and get the same cheap pricing for the stack. Customers do have to be running z/OS 1.9 for a bunch of these bundles, but some have Linux options.

Why hasn't IBM put Solution Editions for the mainframe into the field already? Freund says that IBM has been working feverishly for the past three years to get a broad and deep portfolio of applications running on the System z machinery.

Today, the IBM mainframe has over 5,000 unique applications, and 2,800 of those are running atop Linux inside the z/VM hypervisor. According to IBM, about half of the 1,000 applications that were new to the System z platform or updated to run on modern operating systems in 2008 were for Linux, with the remainder being mostly for z/OS.

The System z SAP Solution Edition was quietly announced last October when the midrange z10 BC mainframes came out. The z10 BC mainframes make use of z6 engines that have only three working cores (one of them is a dud that is electronically isolated), offer from one to five engines for supporting z/OS, and can have up to ten Linux engines and up to ten coupling facility engines for running IBM's Parallel Sysplex clustering software.

Aggregate processing capacity for the z10 BC boxes ranges from 20 to just under 3,000 MIPS. The z10 EC machines, which debuted in February 2008, have top-speed 4.4GHz quad-core z6 engines rated at 920 MIPS with no SMP overhead and span up to 64 engines for running z/OS, with a performance range that spans from about 200 to just under 30,000 MIPS after paying the SMP overhead on a 64-way box.

IBM is particularly excited about the prospect of customers adding more workloads to existing mainframes not just because the boxes can scale, but because mainframes tend to get cheaper per unit of work as they get bigger - and customers are well aware of this.

While IBM didn't say this, you can bet that the steepest discounts it's offering on Solution Edition configurations will be for customers who put the software on an existing box and boost their commitment to the mainframe. This Solution Edition strategy was always as much about preserving footprints as extending them with the AS/400 and its progeny, and it is no different with the mainframe.

Based on the success of the SAP Solution Edition, IBM is cooking up a mainframe bundle for running Oracle's PeopleSoft ERP suite, which runs natively on z/OS. Freund says that IBM is also working on a Solution Edition that makes the mainframe an air traffic controller for cloud-based services.

So what's in the six new System z Solution Editions? IBM is a little vague on the details.

The SAP bundle includes database partitions running DB2, and application partitions as well as IBM's DB2 Connect software for providing encrypted links between the SAP database running on z/OS and application servers running on mainframe Linux if customers want that - and given the price difference, they will. RACF provides security across all the partitions.

The data-warehousing bundle includes its DB2 database as well as Cognos business intelligence tools and the InfoSphere Warehouse layer that rides atop DB2 to add cubing services to the OLAP processing capabilities of DB2.

IBM's spec sheet for the security-hub bundle doesn't itemize the software (which seems odd), while the risk-mitigation bundle is based on the Base24-eps electronic payment software from ACI Worldwide tweaked to run on z/OS and to integrate with DB2 and WebSphere running on the mainframe.

The disaster-recovery bundle turns a mainframe or some of its logical partitions into a geographically dispersed Parallel Sysplex (GDPS) high-availability cluster, which allows mainframes to have hot standbys of running applications in the same metro area (200 kilometers or less).

The WebSphere bundle runs IBM's WebSphere middleware, but more details were not available at press time.

The application-development bundle puts the Rational Developers Toolkit for System z on a cheap z10 BC box or partition that gives each programmer a z/VM slice to play with as they create and test code. This bundle does not have the Windows-based Rational Developer for System z (RDz) client software - RDz is not a part of the bundle yet. But programmers that use RDz can deploy their apps to the images on the mainframe controlled by the z toolkit. IBM could just bundle it all together and make it simpler - and probably will. ®

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