IBM would like big enterprise customers to reconsider that whole distributed “private cloud” thing and go back to the original big data solution: mainframes. Today, IBM unveiled the zEC12, its next generation of the System Z mainframe platform. And like the Borg, IBM is hoping that companies will let the zEC12 assimilate their virtualization environments into a big, black cube.
With a new faster generation of CMOS processors and updated “hybrid” computing capabilities, the zEC12 is aimed at financial institutions, large enterprises, and government customers as a high-performance, high-security alternative to the “private cloud” model for performing large-scale analytics applications such as fraud detection. But IBM also has wider ambitions, positioning the zEC12 as a greener, faster alternative for nearly any set of enterprise applications. “When you have a product like System Z with its deep rich virtualization security, it’s possible to not only run traditional workloads but Linux and window workloads or aix workloads,” IBM General Manager for System Z Doug Balog told Ars in an interview. “It’s a fairly broad platform that can grow and handle all the sorts of workloads a client might want to run in a private cloud.”
The zEC12 mainframe server packs 101 CMOS processor cores, up from 80 in the Z196, the most recent IBM mainframe predecessor introduced two years ago. And its cores run at a clock-rate of 5.5GHz, a 25 percent boost in processing speed. Overall, said Balog, “that comes together to make about 50 percent total computing capacity growth.” That capacity, IBM claims, can handle thousands of Linux virtual servers, and makes it cheaper to deploy a load of Linux-based Oracle servers on the zEC12 than on x86-based architectures.
The analytical processing power of the mainframe can also be turned to examine itself. A new feature called zAware uses learning and analysis engines that came out of IBM’s Watson research to detect conditions and patterns in mainframe logs that can detect a problem as much as two months into the future. The software stores millions of records from the mainframe’s logs, including information about the state of virtual machines, and can alert operators well in advance and make recommendations on adjustments.
IBM also introduced a new generation of its zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX) for the zEC12, which provides for the integration of “specialty processor” blade servers into the mainframe’s infrastructure. The zBX Model 003 allows for “appliance” blades running AIX on IBM Power7 processors to integrate into the System Z environment, saving what IBM claims could be up to 55 percent of cost of ownership in comparison to a distributed data center model.