March 7, 2016

Who else wants unforeseen performance for one’s IT?

Esa Sorola

Lead Architect, Tieto Managed Services, Tieto

Business rocks on mainframe 4/6 – Imagine Internet without videos, photographs, graphics and music. Just numbers, letters and code. Think how fast your laptop would be? And how quick your smartphone or tablet would get?

If your business is not revolving around graphical content, why would you reserve most of your computing power for it?  That is what x86 is designed for. Entertainment, graphics, visualization.  As a ‘graphics system’ x86 is therefore probably not a perfect system to handle your critical IT environment at the core of your business. But x86 is a perfect client system for mainframe based applications.

You don’t play Angry Birds on Mainframes (or z Systems as they call them nowadays). z Systems mean business.  They keep the world running by serving the most critical IT environments and businesses in the world. That is what they were designed for and that is why they hide an enormous computing power inside. You can rest assured that your business gets the best possible performance level from your IT, no matter how big your peaks are.

Buying your own monstrous z System straight away may not be the smartest or the most cost efficient option for you to do alone. If you share your z System with other companies, the investment starts to make sense. One way to do this is to approach your chosen service provider and ask them to give a part of their z System for your use.

With this approach you’ll get the best possible performance, but also best availability, security and simplest possible IT architecture to support your business at the lowest possible price tag.

What’s under the hood?

(Warning: If you’re not interested in tech stuff, jump to the final chapter!)

A z System is capable of running multitude of IT environments, each with a multitude of applications for a huge number of people on a minimum footprint and a minimum number of processor cores.

z Systems outperform other systems, because they can use specialized hardware, microcode and even logics installed on the processor core to bypass anticipated bottlenecks and even some, that could not have been imagined by normal users.

They do not have specialized processors for graphical content, but they do have specialized processors for Cryptography, Java, DB2, I/O, and other things that matter the most for your business.

This is what’s under the hood:

  1. Fast and high quality processor (z13 CPU 5,0 GHz)
    x86 world drives for cheaper multiple chips and this is causing the performance to stagnate. z System runs more work on a single chip, so it has a need to drive performance further. And when plenty of workloads rely on a single chip, it is made with higher quality and better materials and methods than any other chip.
  2. Unmatched scalability
    Since z System is completely virtualized (virtualization is built-in in z hardware from the factory, not added later by 3rd party software), capacity upgrades and downgrades can be implemented separately to each environment, without effects to the others. And while running. Only exception is the amount of memory that has to be activated by activating the logical partition (lpar). Another competitive edge, that the built-in virtualization gives to z Systems, is ability to utilize the server up to 100%, while x86 can be utilized only up to 10 – 20% when no virtualization attached, or only up to 50% when 3rd party virtualization software attached. With z System you have more power inside, and you can utilize that enormous power up to 100%! How cool is that?
  3. Lots of high quality memory
    Maximum memory per z13 is 10 Tb!

    It is RAIM (Redundant Array of Independent Memory), which means, it can correct itself. The RAIM design detects and recovers from failures of DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory), sockets, memory channels or DIMM (Dual Inline Memory Module). When properly configured, you can replace physical memory on a fly, not to mention that installing more physical memory happens concurrently. Just remember, that allocating it for a logical partition (lpar), needs activation of the lpar.
  4. Super efficient I/O
    When x86 processor starts I/O, it has to do more work because of the structure of the machine. It has to take care of starting, waiting and checking of the I/Os, since the storage subsystem involved needs someone to talk to.

    On z System, there are separate special processors for I/O. CPU ( Central Processing Unit) taps I/O special processor (SAP, System Assist Processor) on the shoulder and continues with other duties, while I/O is conducted through storage subsystems and results returned to the CPU. During the IO process, each channel to the storage subsystem utilizes its own processors to drive channel commands and data. When I/O is complete SAP taps CPU on a shoulder so it can continue where it left off.

    On 5GHz z System, data travels approximately 5 cm during one processor cycle, so CPU has plenty of time to do other things, while storage subsystem handles the I/O request.

    While x86 waits for the data marathon to end, z System continues to sprint relentlessly.
  5. Excellent workload management

    Low priority work has effect on high priority work on x86 processors.

    On z System it does not happen, since workload characteristics and definitions ensure that low priority really stays where it belongs to. This means that your applications which definitely require the best possible performance really get the best performance, and you don’t need to gamble how it will be going this time…

You choose the game you play

Some people are into computer or mobile games - and some IT environments resemble a big uncontrolled game, where birds are angry and new pigs with new tricks are making the mess even bigger and bigger.

Well, I like to play my game with my own rules. I like that those critical businesses I support with z Systems are extremely happy. There are no ‘surprise pigs’ around the corner. There are no big performance issues, and even the highest peak times can be handled smoothly.

You too can choose the game you play, and how you play it. If you want to be absolutely sure, that your business and IT performance rocks well in each and every situation, then your next move is to change the focus from ‘graphics systems’ to real business systems.

And as I mentioned earlier, you can nowadays run open Linux on z System, which means that you can combine the best parts of the traditional mainframe to the best openness in the world, Linux.

More on that in my next post, stay tuned in!

Previous blogs in this series:  How to minimise IT downtime and maximise customer satisfaction?,  Want to be free from security stress? and For Environment, a hotel is better than thousand cottages

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