IBM revamps mainframe for cloud, launches zEnterprise EC12

IBM revamps mainframe for cloud, launches zEnterprise EC12

Summary: According to IBM, the new mainframe can deliver 25 percent more performance and 50 percent more capacity with the same energy footprint as its predecessor, which started at $1 million.

TOPICS: Hardware, Cloud, IBM

IBM on Tuesday launched the zEnterprise EC12 mainframe, which serves as a blueprint for the evolution of Big Blue's 48-year-old high-end system, with security, solid state storage enhancements, built-in analytics and the ability to be installed in a data center without a raised floor.

Photo_zEnterprise EC12_external

According to IBM, the new mainframe can deliver 25 percent more performance and 50 percent more capacity with the same energy footprint as its predecessor, which was pitched as a data center consolidation building block. The price of the new mainframe is consistent with its predecessor z196, which starts at $1 million or so.

Among the key features:

  • A cryptographic co-processor and firmware via IBM Research designed to beef up security and meet the European Union's digital signing standards. The co-processor is called Crypto Express4S, which supports numerous standards around the world.
  • Automated information technology analytics embedded to learn from internal system messages. The analytics technology, called zAware, recognizes internal message patterns and spots unusual behavior. In many respects, zAware is a first step to self-healing systems. Jeff Frey, CTO of System z mainframes at IBM, said:

We've embedded technology to make it (zEnterprise EC12) a high performance resiliency analytics device. The system swallows up data from operational images and chews on it to provide insight on whether the system is behaving normally. We're taking analytics and applying it inward. We haven't yet introduced the ability for the system to make policy driven automatic recovery processes based on what it's learning. But this is the first step.

  • Solid state technology to handle bursts of activity at peak times.
  • The ability to be installed without a raised data center floor. That feature is critical in emerging markets and allows the zEnterprise EC12 to offer more flexible layouts in a data center. Cabling and power supplies can be installed overhead.
  • Transaction memory technology. IBM said it adapted the transaction memory model from its IBM Blue Gene/Q-based "Sequoia" system at Lawrence Livermore National Lab. The general idea is that EC12 can use that supercomputer technology to run applications concurrently and crunch multiple data sets. According to Frey, transaction memory technology allows a machine to create more throughput by committing memory, keeping track of all threads on a core and minimizing software interference.

IBM said it has spent more than $1 billion in research and development to enhance the mainframe, which is a staple at many large enterprises. IBM has been trying to position the mainframe as a cloud building block in key verticals such as e-commerce players and retailers.

Specifically, IBM is aiming the mainframe at the "hybrid cloud," which combines both internal systems and private and public clouds. The zEnterprise EC12 connects into IBM's Power7 and System x servers to distribute computing power as one virtualized system.

"The mainframe is a good foundation for cloud delivery because it has all the base characteristics such as efficient consolidation, virtualization and the ability to host multiple tenants," said Frey. As a result, large enterprises can deliver cloud services internally, he added.

Topics: Hardware, Cloud, IBM

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  • Instruction Set?

    Wonder if it keeps the old System/370 instruction set and can run MVS/XA in a partition, with EBCDIC character code, to keep legacy applications running? The last mainframe shop I worked in before retirement had no plans for mass rewrites, and that was only six years ago.
    • Re: Instruction Set?

      Yes, the existing System/360 instructions (and from there forward) are still there, along with hundreds of new instructions, including the processor equivalent of "wash and wax my car" single instructions that do very complex things. Today's z/OS (operating system) can still run those older applications right alongside -- and optionally interacting with, trading data with, etc. -- 64-bit Java 7 code in Unicode someone wrote 5 minutes ago, for example. Nothing breaks. Everything just runs a heck of a lot faster and better. If the particular application (or part of application, more likely) is obsolete, that's entirely up to *you* to decide -- not the (expletive deleted) vendor.

      All servers should do this, and to this degree. Only one does.
      • only two does...

        Unisys mainframe - actually two different lines of products - also evolved keeping old code compatible while adding support for new state of the art stuff....
  • First Cabin Top of the Line Advanced Technology

    IBM has done a magnificent job.

    Unfortunately, even though I am iminently qualified to install, upgrade and maintain such a system, my career has ended, and, in missing the opportunity to work on a truly advanced system because no one is hiring, I will take my premiertechnologist brand into other areas of expertise.

    If anyone is interested, I have a subroutine which uses 64 bit addressing (callable from COBOL) which maintains a a Keyed Isam / ordered list in main memory for table lookups (and other things like writing in core compilers -- it is very flexible and useful). I used it to write the interface for parameter updates embedded in the production scheduling system.

    So it is a magnificent stride forward for IBM advancing technology with a world class processing system.


    I will miss the Share meetings.
  • zEnterprise EC12

    It is amazing how IBM keeps increasing the price performance ratio for the mainframe. 25% increase in speed with 50% increase in "same-footprint" capacity, is fantastic. I have not seen the MSU ratings, but hopefully, they will also improve there as well. I was a little dissappointed to NOT see improvements in the zBX, but was told in the IBM chat room for today's annoucement to expect enhancements before year-end. The other obvious non-announcement was a BC version to replace the z114.

    One interesting aspect of today's announcement was the degree to which IBM pushed the concept of the new zEC12 as a "Cloud" host. This seems so obvious to me with it's ability to run traditional MF z/OS, z/VM, AIX, Linux, AND Windows. The zEnterprise is the first truly ALL-platform technology in the industry. If the un-announced zBC12 has the price performance ratio vs the z114 that the zEC12 has vs the z196, the Cloud industry will have to stand up and take notice of it's potential as a cloud host.
    Ken Cameron
    • BC12

      These are usually announced around 8 ~ 12 months behind the EC models. Much more interesting to announce the biggest and badest first. I have heard that they use the highest tested chips from the fab to make the big boxes and use the lower tested ones to build the smaller BC systems. I also think there's a little more engineering to kneecap the BC for the very low end of the market.
  • MVS/XA

    It seems hard to imagine that any company would have money to spend on a new machine like this, and still be running MVS/XA. That's about the same as going out and buying a brand new i7-based PC with 16GB of RAM so you can run MS-DOS on it. MVS/XA is from the early 1980s, just like MS-DOS.