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.

Back in February, 2017, IBM announced “Multi-Version Measurement” for all its z/OS and z/VSE customers. It’s available now. If you are a z/OS or z/VSE licensee, here’s what you should do: order every new release through IBM Shopz.

Why do I recommend an “order everything” strategy? It’s simple. MVM abolishes the infamous “Single Version Charge” (SVC) period. Let’s suppose for example you currently run DB2 Version 11 for z/OS. IBM released DB2 Version 12 not too long ago. Before MVM, if you ordered DB2 Version 12 you would start a 12 month SVC “countdown clock.” You would have 12 months to migrate from DB2 11 to DB2 12, machine by machine, Sysplex by Sysplex, while paying only for the new version. By the 13th month, if you had not completed your migration, IBM had the right to send you a bill for both DB2 versions based on your peak four hour rolling average utilization of each version. A lot of people mistakenly thought that the DB2 bill would double in that event. No, that didn’t happen. Not often, anyway. However, some materially higher charge was likely if you exceeded the SVC period.

I think the original intention behind SVC was a noble one. It’s in everyone’s interest to keep pushing forward, to keep delivering new and better software versions with new and better capabilities. That makes business sense for all concerned, including especially software consumers. In practice (and guessing a bit), SVC might have had the opposite effect to some extent. Migrations take however long they take, even with intense focus and discipline. With a firm deadline, many mainframe software customers understandably did not want to order new versions until they were absolutely sure they were ready. A journey starts with the first step. If you don’t take that first step, you don’t start your journey. If you delay your first step, your at least arrive at your destination later.

Now? No problem! SVC is dead, thank goodness. You can order any/all new versions of IBM mainframe software products right away, and you should. For Monthly License Charge (MLC) products you already license, go right ahead. For One-Time Charge (OTC, a.k.a. IPLA) products, you’ll need to have active Subscription and Support (S&S) to be entitled to new versions. With that understandable caveat, go right ahead. Order every new version that IBM introduces, as soon as IBM introduces it. There’s no additional charge for electronic delivery through IBM Shopz. (There may be an additional charge for ordering on media, so please avoid that. IBM is steadily removing tape media delivery anyway, in favor of DVD media and electronic delivery.)

Once you get your new software releases, install them in at least one development/test LPAR (or z/VM guest) as soon as you can, and start exploring. Your journey can begin without any financial deadline pressure….

….There are still some non-financial deadlines, of course. IBM still has support lifecycles for its products. When there’s a new version, the previous version won’t be IBM supported forever. Please don’t run previous versions forever, or even for very long if you can avoid it. MVM should mean that you move forward faster, not slower, so that you stay at least reasonably current with your software releases. There are also “value deadlines.” The sooner you can put new capabilities to productive use, the sooner you can derive business benefits from them.

Several years ago IBM removed another objection to ordering new software versions: price increases. In the past, IBM sometimes increased the unit prices of new software versions but kept the same unit prices on previous versions. Predictably, perversely, many mainframe customers delayed placing orders for the new versions for that reason alone. They tried to delay version upgrades as long as possible, to delay the corresponding price increases as long as possible. Never mind that the new versions were often more resource efficient than the old versions. Nowadays that doesn’t happen. IBM maintains the same unit price across all software versions of the same product. If there’s a unit price increase or decrease, the price change applies to all versions.

MVM could have been “Double-Version Measurement” (DVM), I suppose. It isn’t. Yes, you can run three, four, or however many software versions you want. Multi means multi. As long as you’re licensed for the product, any number of versions is OK. Sometimes that flexibility makes sense, for a while anyway. For example, if you’re a software vendor then maybe you need to maintain at least one LPAR with all IBM supported releases of WebSphere MQ for z/OS, to support your customers at whatever pace they move forward (hopefully reasonably quickly). With MVM, you can do that.

IBM has extended MVM terms to every z/OS and z/VSE licensee around the world. As far as I know there’s nothing to sign. You can (and should) take full advantage of your new MVM freedoms.

Posted in IBM.