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IBM z13 Family Is Right for Today’s Needs

These days, every business is responding to new opportunities brought on by mobile, Web and cloud. These technologies have set expectations within end-users to demand information at their fingertips whenever/wherever. The role of IT is to harness the value (data) delivered by these new technologies and merge them with existing client data. This combination allows for better responses to end-user inquiries due to the business having an understanding of each unique customer based on the data, and then enabling a customized experience on every interaction. And we know, happy customers help build loyalty and encourage repeat business.

To create a customized experience, each business is reviewing the traditional and digital interactions between consumers, the business and employees to determine how to enable new kinds of business models and mobile applications. Creating powerful and useful mobile apps requires the use of APIs, and if the APIs are easy to consume they can also allow a business to quickly create innovative new services. APIs empower the developers within a business to continuously build, refine and deploy apps at top speed.

IBM z Systems has opened the mainframe and z/OS to be conversant with Representation State Transfer (REST) APIs, the de facto standard for creating mobile and cloud apps. Combine this with the fact that Linux on z Systems is optimized for open-source software, enhanced scalability, sharing and security brings additional value to the platform. Linux on z Systems supports a wealth of new products, familiar to application developers, such as Python, Scala, Spark, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, etc. This has put z Systems at the heart of the new API economy.

Recent Announcements

In February, IBM introduced a new entry point to the IBM z13 (z13) family, the IBM z13s (z13s). The z13s is built on the same technology as the z13 with enhanced chip technology delivering performance, simultaneous multi-threading (SMT), vector processing for accelerated analytics processing, and improved instructions for compilers and languages. In a single footprint, the z13s, running traditional workloads, can scale up to 1.4x more total capacity than its predecessor the IBM zEnterprise BC12 (zBC12). When running a dedicated Linux environment, the z13s offers up to 20 Linux cores for a total capacity that’s 2.1x the zBC12.

Every new z13s or z13 comes with entitlement to a non-production license of Rocket Data Virtualization Server (DVS) Version 2.1. DVS will change the way you use data structures. Instead of moving data to the application, it allows moving the application and analytics closer to your data—with the advantage that no z Systems skills are required. You’re able to access all data using popular APIs—likely one or two that your application developer knows, understands and prefers. Best of all, it runs on z/OS as a started task and being a Java application means it’s 90 percent eligible for exploitation on the z Integrated Information Process (zIIP) specialty engine. The zIIP is optimized for Java and XML processing and helps the economics of running these types of workloads.

IBM announced Spark on z/OS, a development environment with standard interfaces for multiple types of workloads. This allows developers to focus on what they need to ask and let the system figure out how to do it. Unlike other technologies that require data to be consolidated into a specific file system for analysis, Spark operates on data in memory, which allows all data to be analyzed in place on its system of origin—there’s no movement of data. Spark for z/OS is zIIP eligible, so the cost of running Spark on z/OS is expected to be quite low.

IBM also introduced z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition (EE) V2.0, which extends the value of applications that run on z/OS allowing efficient and scalable APIs for contemporary mobile and cloud applications to be easily created. z/OS Connect EE V2.0 can help to deliver benefits by providing intuitive tooling that enables a developer, with or without z/OS skills, to create RESTful APIs from traditional z/OS-based assets. It also allows mobile and cloud application developers to incorporate z/OS data and transactions into their applications without the need to understand z/OS subsystems.

IBM recently announced API Connect V5.0, a new product based on the merger of IBM StrongLoop and IBM API Management (APIM) 4.0. APIM provides ways to manage and secure enterprise APIs—both REST and Web Services technologies.

The acquisition of IBM StrongLoop—announced in September 2015—brought new ways to create and run APIs. StrongLoop provides additional flexibility for API creation using either with Java or Node.js. StrongLoop’s Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform runtime environment for developing server-side Web applications. StrongLoop is popular because it uses asynchronous I/O, cutting out I/O bottlenecks to improve performance, and it’s scalable, simple to code—you end up with about 50 percent less code—and offers a lightweight stack that promotes rapid prototyping and continuous delivery. Node.js is event driven so it’s well suited for mobile and offers one of the largest ecosystem communities. With StrongLoop you can connect front-end apps with back-end z Systems through APIs in an open hybrid cloud environment. Node.js on the z13 family runs 2x faster compared with distributed competition. There are also benefits of colocation of Node.js on Linux with z/OS as it can cut response time by 60 percent while improving throughput by 2.6x.

z/OS Connect EE works in combination with API Connect to provide an enterprise solution to the creation, execution, management and security of REST APIs.

IBM also introduced a significant amount of available memory on the z13s—up to 4 TB—which is 8x more than the zBC12. The benefits of more memory include the ability to run data-in-memory applications such as Spark for z/OS, reducing CPU usage by I/O avoidance, improving transaction response time and potential cost reductions. Another big benefit is less time spent tuning your z Systems environment to work with a limited amount of memory.

Improved Deployment

There are some capabilities on the z13s and z13 that should help to improve deploy new software in a secure and simple way, help make the server easier to use for non-z Systems personnel and improve the speed of internal communications.

The first of these capabilities is the z Appliance Container Infrastructure (zACI). zACI is a new framework to deploy ready-to-use solutions on the z13s/z13 in a few minutes. The solutions consist of the OS, middleware and the needed application software built into a pre-configured and tested bundle saving build and test time. Since the solutions are created with a common framework they have the same look and feel.

The solutions are protected when running in the new zACI partition mode to provide peace-of-mind when putting data there. The appliance disks are all encrypted and no one is able look at the memory, including the system administrator.

Currently zACI only supports the IBM zAware firmware solution, used to detect unusual activities on the z/OS and Linux servers and the new z/VSE Network Appliance delivering a modern TCP/IP stack for z/VSE LPARs.

IBM Dynamic Partition Manager (DPM) standardizes configuration and management of all system resources from a single management endpoint. When you consider the skills needed to set up partitions today, administrators need to understand a large number of IBM z-centric terms. The administrators must be able to build an I/O configuration to properly connect the associated data, processors and memory into the correct LPAR definition. DPM was developed for servers with KVM on z and/or Linux on z Systems as a partition-hosted OS. It allows administrators that are new to the environment to be able to quickly preform tasks such as:

  • Create a new partition
  • Non-disruptively modify system resources
  • Monitor conditions or events, which might lead to workload degradation
  • Create alarms
  • Make resource adjustments to individual partitions.

DPM isn’t a replacement for PR/SM, IBM’s premier hardware hypervisor technology, rather you’ll be offered either “classic” PR/SM or DPM. At this time, DPM doesn’t support z/OS, z/VM, z/VSE or z/TPF.

A new connectivity protocol, Shared Memory Communications-Direct Memory Access (SMC-D) for z13s and z13, is designed to provide application transparent communications within the server. An example would be transferring files from online (e.g., CICS) to a database server within the same z13. SMC-D uses the same network topology as HiperSockets but offers substantial improvements in CPU consumption and decreased response time for file transfers that execute memory-to-memory versus standard TCP/IP over HiperSockets or OSA. Other workloads that see a benefit are streaming or interactive workloads that use HiperSockets or OSA. SMC-D is valuable for multi-tiered work co-located onto a single z Systems server without requiring extra hardware. Any z/OS TCP sockets based workload can seamlessly use SMC-D without requiring any application changes. SMC-D is supported by z/OS V2.2 and z/VM V6.3 for z/OS guest exploitation.

The z13s continues IBM’s focus on security from the infrastructure to the endpoint. IBM Multi-Factor Authentication for z/OS raises the level of assurance of IBM z/OS systems by requiring multiple authentication factors for privileged users to authenticate during the logon process. New capabilities monitor users and govern their access and privileges in both z Systems and distributed environments. A built-in cryptographic hardware processor and the new Crypto Express5S feature help the ability to move and manage encrypted data in z Systems. Finally, an IBM z Systems Cyber Security Analytics beta will allow IBM research to apply cognitive, behavior-based analytics on customer data to identify anomalies that indicate security threats. This equips businesses to take action on threats that would have otherwise been unnoticed.

Business Impact

Built on z Systems core strengths the z13s also delivers new innovations, software and partner relationships to enable real-time digital business. It’s designed to handle the explosive growth of increasingly mobile clients and employees, leverage new and vast amounts of data by embracing APIs as a common language in the world, and provide deeper real-time insight at the point of greatest business impact, and provide a scalable cloud with speed and agility. The z13s provides the ability to move from the back office to the front lines of innovation and cyberdefense a system expressly built for the hybrid cloud.

Ellen Carbarnes is a worldwide marketing manager for z Systems who started her mainframe career at IBM in 1981.

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