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IBM’s Latest Mainframe, Another Winner

It’s interesting, but apparently no one has told IBM that the mainframe is dead. (Or, at least they ACT like they haven’t heard that.) The latest IBM mainframe announcement provides the evidence. IBM competitors are continually trying to reassure themselves and convince customers by proclaiming the mainframe is dead. However, it just refuses to die.

Before going further, we should mention that IBM now speaks of the mainframe as the ‘System z’. Don’t ask us the significance of using the last letter of the alphabet, we don’t know. Trying to decode IBM product name protocols is beyond us. Nevertheless, the zEnterprise EC12 is impressive.

Let’s take a closer look at this latest System z addition and the enhancements it includes. IBM built this system from the base of its z196 predecessor. The chip has been stepped up from 5.2 Gigahertz to 5.5 Gigahertz, while the main memory and the I/O capacity are the same as for the z196. (Major enhancements were recently made to these two functions in the z196, therefore the decision to stick with them for this new release makes sense.)
What has changed in a major way is CPU performance. You might think you could reasonably estimate the performance boost based on the frequency change of the chips. Doing the calculation, you would guess the new system might be about 6% faster than the old.

You will be surprised to hear that IBM worked its magic and the new system achieves a CPU performance boost ranging 25% (referring to core performance improvement ) to 50% better overall system capacity (for all 101 cores). IBM tweaked the architecture in a number of very innovative ways to achieve these results. IBM provides the more technical details in their Redbooks here.

A second major source of improvements is what IBM calls IBM zAware. This facility monitors all z/OS messages sent to the System z operator console intelligently searching for patterns which it uses to identify a problem source. This analysis reduces the time it takes to determine and fix the actual problem. This is a very worthwhile goal as any significant System z can generate a very large number of messages. Searching through and detecting a pattern to the messages to clearly identify the problem source is a time-consuming, difficult task. How truly effective IBM zAware is going to be will be known for certain only after customers gain some experience with it.

*Richard Ptak, Managing Partner