After looking through IBM’s announcements and others’ reactions to them, let’s take a look at some of the “hidden technical gems” that might not yet be receiving fair attention. In no particular order:

  • IBM and Splunk are working together more closely so that Splunk shops can easily incorporate mainframe-generated data into their operational analytics. The key enabler is IBM’s Common Data Provider for Z.
  • It’s now possible to license z/VM and related products one engine at a time, in sub-capacity form. For example, you can add one z/VM engine and create a z/OS private cloud so developers (among others) can spin up/down their own z/OS instances. Sub-capacity z/VM licensing also applies to Linux and IFLs, of course, and that offers some greater flexibility if you want to have “anchor tenant” Linux LPARs alongside Linux guests on z/VM. z/VM sub-capacity licensing is also useful if you’ve still got some lagging operating system that starts up in ESA/390 mode. The IBM z14 doesn’t support ESA/390 IPL, but z/VM offers a possible workaround (SET MACH ESA) in certain cases, notably for unsupported z/VSE Version 4.
  • IBM instantly released open source patches to support the IBM z14, including patches for the LLVM Clang compiler stack.
  • IBM’s redbook, IBM z14 Technical Introduction, contains a lot of useful details. (A special shout out to Esra Ufacik, one of the authors and a teammate, for her hard work on that book.)
  • There’s been plenty of buzz about the pervasive encryption capabilities in the IBM z14, and rightly so. However, there are lots of other security improvements that are well worth implementing. As a notable example, the Hardware Management Console (HMC) has some beefed up security attributes, including support for multi-factor authentication. The HMC has been available in 1U rack mount form for a while, and that’s handy. If you’re placing a z14 order this’d be a good time to get some new HMCs to pick up the security improvements, too. I believe you can also order new HMCs separately for z13, z13s, and LinuxONE machines if you wish, perhaps in anticipation of a machine order or model upgrade, since the updated HMC works with those models, too.
  • IBM has taken a couple steps to make the z14 at home in a wider variety of data centers. The z14 now shares the z13s’s environmental rating, to tolerate a wider temperature range and potentially save even more on cooling costs. You can also order a z14 with flat doors if you prefer a slimmer machine profile, although the acoustic doors are still preferable if anybody will be in earshot for extended periods and if the rest of the data center is relatively quiet.
  • The IBM z14 is the last “high end” machine to support 100BASE-T Ethernet. Try to get all your physical network connections up to at least 1000BASE-T as soon as you reasonably can. The IBM z14 drops support for 2 Gb/s FICON and FCP storage device connections unless you upgrade (“MES”) a machine to z14 and carry forward FICONExpress8S adapters. And the z14 will be the last “high end” server to allow FICONExpress8S carry forward. The retirement of 2 Gb/s storage links is probably OK. IBM DS6000 (DS6800) Disk Storage supports a maximum of 2 Gb/s, but that particular combination (z14 plus DS6800) probably isn’t too common. The IBM 3592-J70 Tape Controller also tops out at 2 Gb/s, but I don’t think that’ll be common either. Anyway, it’s something to be aware of if you’ve got some now ancient storage devices lying about. You’re OK for now if you upgrade (MES), but it’s “last call” for these slower links.
  • There’s a tantalizing analytics-related “Statement of Direction” in IBM’s z14 announcement suggesting future delivery of a DB2 Analytics Accelerator “onboard,” on the IBM Z machine itself. IBM is careful to characterize this future option as a third option, in addition to the IDAA appliance (PureData System for Analytics) and cloud options.

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