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BMC reveals 'free money' mainframe and DB2 tools

Win just one for the zIIPer

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Mainframe shops that are counting their pennies are going to catch a financial break from one of the suppliers of performance monitoring and management tools for the box.

BMC Software has reworked its various mainframe tools so that some of the code underlying them executes on IBM's specialty engines instead of on generic mainframe processors.

This may not sound like a big deal, but to the IBM mainframe shops that shell out billions of dollars a year collectively in software licenses and another couple of billion mainframe hardware, and who have a kind of performance anxiety born out of the high cost of mainframes, every little bit of work that can be shifted off of generic engines can end up saving mainframe shops big bucks. And BMC Software would rather be part of the solution of driving down mainframe costs than part of the problem, driving mainframe shops to abandon mainframes for all but the most entrenched legacy workloads.

And thus, BMC set its programmers the task of recoding its mainframe monitoring and DB2 database tools so they could run in what is called Service Request Block (SRB) mode so the workload manager in the z/OS operating system could dispatch the code to the System z Integrated Information Processor, or zIIP. This zIIP is just a regular mainframe engine that acts like a co-processor to the general-purpose engine in the mainframe complex and it has some unique properties, the two most important being a radically reduced hardware price (rumored to be about a quarter of the price of a regular mainframe engine) and no systems software license fees. This last bit is huge.

Jay Lipovich, director of product management for the mainframe service management business unit at BMC, cites statistics from IT market researcher Gartner that show a zIIP costs about $150 to $200 per MIPS per year, compared to between $2,254 to $3,367 per MIPS per year for a standard mainframe engine. So how likely are you going to be to install system management tools to help your mainframe run better if it costs you a fortune to run the tools?

These tools, such as CMF Monitor and MainView as well as utilities for tuning DB2 and IMS databases, are decades old and written in assembler. You don't just rehost these on an X64 box. But BMC could identify the elements of its tools that could be recoded to work in SRB mode and did that for CMF Master, MainView, 11 DB2 tools, and one IMS tool. And in so doing, somewhere around 20 per cent of the BMC tool load for DB2 can move to the much cheaper engines, and some customers testing MainView are seeing as much as 30 per cent of the workload move over.

This is free money - or as free as it gets in the mainframe world. Generally speaking, BMC is telling customers to expect MIPS savings of between 20 and 60 per cent with the tweaked versions of its tools.

One early tester of the software is a Germany cooperative financial services processor called Fiducia, which does processing for 790 cooperative and private banks supporting 66 million account holders; the organization cranks through more than 16 billion transactions per year on a mainframe cluster rated at over 60,000 aggregate MIPS.

Squeezing every bit of performance out of this cluster is key, so Fiducia uses tools from BMC to wring those engines dry. In testing the new version of BMC MainView, about 30 per cent of that tool's processing moved over to zIIPs. The company estimates that depending on the time of the week, month, or year, the zIIP enablement will allow it to consume 300 to 500 fewer MIPS. That may not seem like a lot, but based on Gartner's figures, that could be anywhere from $675,000 to $1.65m.

Of course, by exploiting the zIIP engines with its tools, that is money out of IBM's pocket, not BMC's. And mainframe shops, according to surveys by BMC, are keen on exploiting the zIIP engines to cut costs, with 57 percent of the customers participating in the mainframe customer council survey saying it was very important for software to make use of zIIPs, and 29 percent saying it was extremely important.

IBM could just drop the price of mainframe hardware and software and compete. But that kind of thing would be too simple - and would not allow IBM to extract so much cash from the 10,000 remaining customers who cannot easily (or even hardly) move workloads off the mainframe. I mean, the money from all those share buybacks has to come from somewhere, after all. ®

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