IBM Brings Windows to the Mainframe

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-11-07

IBM Brings Windows to the Mainframe

IBM has made good on its promise to deliver Windows integration with the IBM mainframe via the zEnterprise System.

When IBM introduced the zEnterprise in July 2010, the company also announced plans to deliver additional general-purpose blades for the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension including IBM System x-based blades running Linux in 2011. IBM also suggested it would support Windows, and in April 2011 it confirmed its plans to deliver Windows support on z/Enterprise.

IBM says this capability is a first of its kind and is a strategic, demand-driven move by Big Blue. As of Dec. 16, this new technology enabling IBM zEnterprise System users to integrate Windows applications into the mainframe environment will become available.

The new capability allows enterprises with multitier applications-for example, Windows applications connected to mainframe data-to be integrated and consolidated on the same system. In an interview with eWEEK, Greg Lotko, vice president of marketing for System z, said this bringing together of the mainframe and distributed computing worlds is designed to ease the cost and complexity of large corporate data centers and improve management of workloads spanning mainframe and distributed environments.

"We GA'd [made the system generally available] in the third quarter of 2010," Lotko said. "In Q4 of last year we put out the zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension with support for IBM Power7 blades running AIX and the IBM Smart Analytics Optimizer. In Q1 of 2011 we made the DataPower blades available. In Q2 clients asked for Windows so we listened to our clients and modified our plans and said we would deliver it by the end of the year. In Q3 we delivered Linux integration, and in Q4 we're delivering Windows."

By bringing Windows and the mainframe together, IBM is helping clients innovate more freely in multiple environments across z/OS, Linux and Unix, and now Windows.

IBM's System z support for Windows means that mainframe users can gain more choice in choosing the best platform for a particular application-from ERP to business analytics to transaction processing. Users also can have their front-end Windows applications integrate with applications or data on the mainframe. And they can consolidate more workloads onto the mainframe as part of their efforts to maximize technology investments. The financial impact of consolidation onto System z can be substantial, with savings of up to 70 percent in total cost of ownership compared with distributed platforms, IBM officials said.

"The effort we had to do here was largely a testing effort," Lotko said, indicating that the core technology already was in place but the new integration had to be tested.

Lotko said the new technology provides centralized management-the new capability of consolidating and centralizing management of Windows applications on x86-based IBM System x servers will be available for either of the zEnterprise systems: the z196 or z114, he said.

Through a hybrid computing approach, IBM System x blades and System x applications can be installed in a zEnterprise. No changes are required for the application, and integration and management of blades and applications are handled by the zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager, via a single console, IBM officials said. The benefit is that the application servers can be physically and logically close to the data running on the mainframe. 

The hybrid capability already had been available for managing IBM Power-based workloads with operating system support for AIX- and System x-based workloads with Linux as well as a business analytics solution-the IBM Data Analytics Accelerator-and a multifunctional appliance for System z-IBM Websphere DataPower XI50 for zEnterprise. With these capabilities, IBM's zEnterprise System is pushing a "system of systems" approach that allows disparate workloads spread across multiple systems to be managed as a single environment.

IBM also is helping enterprise data center customers better manage their arsenal of disparate technologies added over time to run specific applications. These systems typically operate in individual silos, requiring separate staff and software tools to manage, with the additional complexity of interacting and communicating with each other in real time.

"The new heterogeneous virtual IT infrastructure will give us greater flexibility and scalability," Huub Meertens, head of the Support Engineering Section at Eurocontrol, the European air traffic management organization in the Netherlands, said in a statement. "On our existing servers, the various applications operate independently on diverse platforms, based upon the one-server-one-application model. The combination of IBM System z with Intel servers in an ensemble configuration turns out to be the best solution for modernization of our IT infrastructure. Given our complex IT infrastructure with high safety and security requirements, reliability, scalability and management at a competitive price are very important. It is for these reasons that Eurocontrol has opted for the IBM zEnterprise with zBX environment."

Mainframes Continued Vitality


IBM officials said this announcement represents another example of the mainframe's continued vitality. Indeed, the mainframe remains a source of value for banks, insurance companies, governments, major retailers and other IBM clients who benefit from its high levels of security and reliability. Backed by $1.5 billion in research and development and years of direct client input, IBM's newest zEnterprise demonstrates the company's ongoing mission to innovate and address key challenges.

"We did hear from quite a few clients who said they had Windows applications and they wanted to take advantage of this technology," Lotko said. Asked whether he expected this demand to translate to more mainframe sales, Lotko responded, "We're expecting an uptick."

IBM has continued to see mainframe momentum since shipping its new System zEnterprise 196 last July, with new clients and system upgrades in mature and growth markets. Sample mainframe clients from growth markets include PKO Bank Polski (Poland), Garanti Bank (Turkey) and Nova Ljubljanska Banka (Slovenia). Since July 2010, IBM has added more than 80 new mainframe clients worldwide, with more than 30 percent of these in emerging markets around the world. China recently announced its selection of System z to build a cloud computing platform that will improve the life of more than 300 million citizens in China via an online portal for a variety of social services, IBM said.

With the capability, IBM customers can now run z/OS and Linux on System z along with IBM AIX, x86 Linux and Microsoft Windows on the zEnterprise System.

"The IBM DB2 for z/OS is a secure and highly available repository for the bank's data," Ales Levstek, chief information officer of NLB (Nova Ljubljanska Bank), a large bank in Slovenia, said in a statement. "High-performance specialty processors have significantly improved query response times as compared to our previous solution. The new zEnterprise hybrid technology is highly scalable and flexible, which means that our users are now able to access the information they need more quickly."

"Eurocontrol has the z architecture as well as Linux systems, and they wanted to continue on a strategy of using heterogeneous systems," Doris Conti, director of System z marketing at IBM, told eWEEK. "So with the hybrid technology they are able to maintain their heterogeneity and also have flexibility to add other workloads, like Windows. Meanwhile, NLB was looking at the hybrid technology to help increase the performance of its DB2 queries. We continue to see clients looking at the technology for all of these different kinds of uses."

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