What is Virtualization?

Virtualization is the process of consolidating physical machines and/or servers onto one physical machine, thus creating “Virtual Machines” that share the central Server’s resources (Processor, Memory, Storage, etc.) virtualization allows the creation of multiple systems, the physical systems that are already in use can have its data and information moved to the mainframe and used as if it was still a “physical” box.  This also will allow that system to be used from virtually anywhere access is allowed.  By being moved to the mainframe system, these existing systems will also become more isolated and secure than it was as an individual system.

Virtualization consolidation

As a Virtual Machine, or VM, the system has more controlled and secure access to its data. With adjusted settings, the VM will be completely isolated from other systems and completely unaffected by other systems on the mainframe, whereas in its physical state, the machine could be intruded or accidentally affected, or crashed, by other systems within that network.  Virtual Machines are impenetrable within a mainframe environment. Virtualization ultimately allows multiple, different operating systems to run on the mainframe at the same time.


Advantages of virtualization


The virtual machine environment is highly flexible and adaptable.  New Linux guests can be added to a VM system quickly and easily without requiring dedicated resources.  This is useful for replicating servers in addition to giving users a highly flexible test environment

Sharing resources

Resources can be shared among multiple Linux images running on the same VM system. These resources include: CPU cycles, memory, storage devices, and network adapters.

Server hardware consolidation

Running tens or hundreds of Linux instances on a single System z server offers customers savings in space and personnel required to manage real hardware.

System z advantages

Running Linux on VM means the Linux guest(s) can transparently take advantage of VM support for System z hardware architecture and features

z/VM Connectivity

z/VM provides high-performance communication among virtual machines running Linux and other operating systems on the same processor.  Simplification of the network by using HiperSockets may provide savings and reduce cabling, hubs, switches, and routers, as well as help to reduce maintenance effort.

Horizontal growth

An effective way to grow your Linux workload capacity is to add more Linux guests to a VM system.  z/VM V5 supports Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processors, the attractively-priced hardware feature for Linux workloads available for System z.   An IFL is an dedicated processor for running Linux on the mainframe, designed to reduce software costs specifically.   

IBM introduced a new engine-based Value Unit pricing announced for z/VM V5, replacing the per-engine pricing model that was available with z/VM V4.  Engine-based Value Unit pricing is designed to provide a decreasing price curve as hardware capacities and workload grow, which may help improve price/performance.

So, why use Linux on the mainframe?

Linux is more secure and also stable than most OS’s.  Since its creation, Linux has been able to remain clear of mass-spread viruses or spyware.  This will disable the need for the organization to purchase any antivirus software and the subscriptions such as it would on Windows.   Also, by Linux being open source, the vast majority of Linux based software is also completely free and available for download at any time.

Mainframe customers just about always buy support.   Annual subscriptions for Red Hat is 15 to 18 thousand per IFL.   Suse is similar.  Linux on z is typically used to run licensed enterprise software rather than free open source, so there are costs as with most servers.  However  there is still cost savings for many workloads due to consolidation.

Some real examples of the benefits of virtualization, specifically Linux, includes Nationwide Insurance.  Nationwide.com runs on WebSphere¸ one of IBM’s lead web application server products, on Linux for System z.  They expect to save $16M over the next 3 years from their initial deployment of the Linux application.  The initial deployment consolidated over 250 Production, Development & Test Servers down to only 6 IFLs, or Integrated Facility for Linux.  

Bank of New Zealand also engaged in a consolidation of its own.  The bank reduced over 200 Sun servers down to one System z10 running Red Hat Enterprise Linux.  They also reduced their datacenter footprint by 30%, reduced the heat output by 33%, and power consumption by very close to 40%.  Also, they saved in human resources by having only one assigned administrator per 200 virtual servers.

As both of these examples show, benefits from virtualization are indeed REAL!



(*** Please follow me at mainframemindedaggie ****)

Greetings fellow Mainframers! My name is Dontrell Harris, a Senior Information Technology Major at NC A&T State University in Greensboro, NC and successful applicant of the Master the Mainframe contest.  I first would like to thank both old and new visitors for visiting the blog, and would like to extend a special thanks to Sean McBride for inviting me to participate in blogging with such an exclusive group of individuals. It is more than an honor to be able to share my experience, ideas, and opinions with you all.


For those unfamiliar with “Master the Mainframe”, it is an annual contest hosted by IBM Academic Initiative System z.  It comprises of 3 separate parts, Easy, Medium, and Hard if you will, with each part consisting of challenges that gain in difficulty and complexity as you progress.  It is typically scheduled to run from early October to late December. The contest is intended to provide students, high school and college, the opportunity to work with mainframes, an opportunity that many are not able to experience. The contest is designed for participants who are both familiar with mainframe technologies and also for those who have never seen or heard about a mainframe at all. This is where my story begins.

My Story

In the Fall of 2012, I began my junior year at North Carolina A&T State University with a goal of obtaining my first internship after starting my collegiate career very shaky. I had GPA issues that I knew I could not and WOULD NOT let define my true character and knowledge level.

That semester, I enrolled into the Intro to Mainframe Operations course, a newly offered course to the program. The course was being offered for only the second time when I took it. My school is very fortunate to have a mainframe, System z9 to be exact, on campus, which was supposed to host much of the curriculum for the course. Unfortunately, the coursework did not start because of network complications until the middle of October, a couple of weeks after I started my “Quest” with the Master the Mainframe (MtM) contest.

On October 1, 2012, IBM opened the contest up to the 4700+ registrants, including myself, and I was immediately HOOKED! 

Part 1 gave the participants an initial walk-through of how to navigate through the mainframe and the ISPF panels with the use of a terminal emulator client. It was all so new to me, but I thought it was extremely COOL from the start.

Part 1 was given the completion time of 1 hour… I did it in 15 minutes. From that point, I spent countless hours working on the contest, despite how difficult some parts were. There were some nights where I would stay up to 5:00 am in the clubhouse of my apartment (I had no internet in my apartment) just to complete as many challenges as possible.

When I arrived to Part 3, most of my sleepless nights were result of me trying to overcome just one individual challenge. By the way, Part 3 of the contest is equivalent to a Real World experience that someone with an actual career would face. There was a particular challenge in Part 3 that had me stumped for over 5 days. Needless to say though, I defeated that pesky challenge. As matter of fact, after all those sleepless nights and countless hours of working on the contest, I finished the contest in its entirety in exactly One Month and a Day (November 2, 2012).

Finishing the contest helped me establish a confidence within myself and abilities that was never there before. I felt proud of my accomplishments, but did not understand the importance or significance of achievement.

Of the 4700+ participants in the contest, I was only 1 of 28 to complete the contest in the entire Nation, and the ONLY and FIRST participant in North Carolina to complete the contest as well.

Those accomplishments helped me grasp my career choices and also began to open major doors for me.  Since then, I have had the opportunity to intern with IBM in RTP, NC as part of the z/OS Communications Server team as a software/network tester and also become a recipient of a System z scholarship.  Though I was not a Top 5 winner this year in the contest, I truly feel that I am still a winner with all of the available opportunities and awards that have been presented to me. It has truly changed my life in many aspects.

Master the Mainframe Tips

Even though no Mainframe experience is necessary for the Master the Mainframe contest, some skills will be needed in order to complete the contest in its entirety.  You will have to have some programming knowledge and maybe even a few networking skills, but nothing too major.

The biggest tip that I can offer is just to have the willingness to DOPatience, and that “DON’T QUIT” attitude! There were plenty of times where I felt that I just could not go on in the contest because something became very hard, but I just kept pushing myself and working towards solving whatever problem it was that I was facing, and surely I defeated the obstacle.

Just like with any problem, there is a solution… you just have to figure it out!

Seize the Opportunity…

 MtM Contest is the perfect opportunity for students who are still searching for their “niche” or just someone who loves technology, but just unsure what direction they want to go with it.  I truly believe that it is more than worthwhile for college students to learn this technology.  The demand for students with mainframe-related knowledge has never been higher and the opportunities for challenging and fulfilling careers have not either.  The beauty of it all, in my opinion, is that no matter what technology based skill-set one may possess, it can be utilized within the mainframe environment.

For those students who love programming or building databases, guess what… There is a Career for YOU within the Mainframe environment!

I personally aspire to one day become a Technical Consultant, particularly in mainframe technologies.  I am fascinated with the endless solutions that the technology is able to provide to business clients…a lot solutions that clients will never realize that they need. I am just grateful that with Master the Mainframe, I am able to NOW have career aspiration to work towards.

(*** Please follow me at mainframemindedaggie ****)
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