Mainframe still 'cutting data centre costs'

IBM's zSeries mainframe has stood firm at the heart of enterprise data centres through the global recession, and is poised to expand and take on new workloads created by growth in interactive and Web-based applications.

According to the BMC 2010 mainframe survey, enterprises remained under strong pressure to minimise growth in their total number of MIPS (millions of instructions per second), a measure of total capacity, and actually reduce overall IT operating costs. BMC Software remains one of the big systems management software vendors alongside CA Technologies, HP (Hewlett Packard) and IBM itself.

The survey indicated strong growth for virtualisation, which is driving convergence between the mainframe and distributed computing to create hybrid data centres in which the distinction between the two might decrease. But mainframe platforms remained indomitable at the data centre heart, with IBM responding to demands to lower costs through increased deployment of its so-called ‘specialty engines’ – dedicated components within the mainframe designed to offload processing of new workloads such as Java-based interactive Web applications without affecting the main CPU. This can delay the need for a main CPU upgrade, and offset incurring extra software licensing charges for those extra MIPS.

"The priority for enterprises around the globe is to reduce the cost of IT, but at the same time enable it to adapt and provide new service capabilities such as mobile clients and interactive applications," says BMC Software VP of marketing John McKenny, VP of marketing at BMC. "We’ve designed our monitoring and systems management software to take advantage of these specialty engines."

More than 50 per cent of large enterprises say they will expand their use of specialty engines in the next 18 months, BMC Software claims, and they are especially popular in the UK. IBM currently offers three kinds of specialty engine, the IBM System z Application Assist Processors (zAAPs) for Java execution, the Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) dedicated to Linux workloads, and the System Assist Processor (SAP) for heavy duty I/O processing. 

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