Somehow I missed the news that Visara announced an itty bitty (2U size) FICON-attached DASD (disk storage) unit: the Visara Vi-8810L. Visara also has a line of virtual tape products. They all seem to tick a lot of boxes for those organizations looking for small physical form factor storage options for z/OS, especially.

IBM discontinued its IBM DS6800 (3U size) DASD some time ago, so it’s nice to see Visara trying to fill this niche. And it’s really a form factor issue, when it exists. The IBM DS8884 is superb, and it has better economics than the DS6800 ever did.

(Updated below.) How would you like to run real, licensed z/OS and various middleware products such as CICS, DB2, MQ, IMS, WebSphere Application Server, plus lots of compilers, tools, etc? You can with the IBM Z Development & Test Environment, and you can do it all on your Linux laptop or PC.

IBM licenses ZD&T (with real z/OS and other software products that accompany z/OS) or demonstrations (such as at a trade show or user group), development, testing (with caveats), and education. Definitely not for production or performance testing. Please read the license “fine print” for details on permitted uses. And ZD&T is not free.

Here are the “secret codes” you’ll need, at this writing. First, you’ll need a USB attached hardware key, affectionately known as a “dongle.” The dongle is IBM Passport Advantage part number BT0PEML, and its current list price is US$144. Then, assuming it’s just you (one user, i.e. ZD&T “Personal Edition”), you’ve got a choice. You can either buy a 12 month fixed term license (part number D0M21LL, US$4,780) or a perpetual license (part number D0M1VLL, US$10,200). When the time comes to renew your term license (and maintenance) for another year you’d use part number E0D6GLL, US$4,780 current list price), or to renew the maintenance on your perpetual license for another year (the first year is included with the license) you’d use part number E0D6CLL, US$2,030 current list price). Maintenance means IBM Subscription and Support. Subscription means you’re able to download new software releases (including new z/OS, middleware, compiler, and tool releases), and Support means you’re able to call up (or electronically contact) IBM for help with ZD&T. (No, you very likely won’t be able to call in a “Severity 1” IMS problem incident, for example.)

If you’ve got a club of mainframe enthusiasts and want to band together to share a Linux server running ZD&T (and real z/OS), you can do that with “Resource Value Unit” (RVU) licensing. License quantity one (one RVU) means that you can configure ZD&T to use one X86 core (on your multi-core X86 machine) to emulate a Z processor. ZD&T is never suitable for performance testing, but one X86 core’s worth of emulation is enough for many purposes, even for a club. So start with that minimum and see how it goes. If the club wants to increase that number, that’s always possible. If you’ve got 5 people or more in your club, the RVU licensing is less expensive, assuming you’re all happy with one RVU.

You can sometimes get selective free access to z/OS via the IBM Z Trial Program and the Master the Mainframe Contest, as examples. But if you’d like your own personal (or club) mainframe, and if you’re OK living within the usage limits, ZD&T is fantastic.

Update: There are at least three other options for getting your own real z/OS environment: ZPDT, ZRDP, and (oddly enough) a real IBM Z machine. ZPDT and ZRDP are available to IBM PartnerWorld members. As for the real IBM Z machine option, to do that you (or a club?) would buy a real system such as an IBM zBC12 or z13s (purchased at auction, perhaps) with some ECKD disk. You’d then license z/OS (Base, DFSMSdsshsm, RMF, SDSF, Security Server, and C/C++ let’s suppose) from IBM under standard ZNALC commercial terms (get approval from IBM first!), and you’d configure your machine with a 3 MSU softcap across all your z/OS LPARs. You’d also send IBM your SCRT reports every month. Do all that and you’d pay about $153/month (2017 U.S. pricing) for z/OS, nicely equipped. If all you need is real z/OS, if your z/OS use qualifies for ZNALC (probably), and if IBM trusts you enough to do business with you (mostly that you’ll pay your monthly bills reliably), yes, you can do this.

Posted in IBM.

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.
Posted in IBM.