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5 Reasons IBM Z Makes Technical and Financial Sense

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Mainframes have a longstanding reputation for reliably handling complex IT operations. However, as technology continues to advance, many organizations perceive the quality of services to be more or less the same for x86. The misperception exists that mainframes are expensive and don't support open-source software.

Organizations in the know have recognized the technical and financial advantages of the mainframe and are turning to IBM Z* to deliver their IT services. The IBM Z mainframe makes sense for organizations large and small.

A CIO of a top 10 financial institution with which IBM Systems Lab Services worked said that "the most important element of any system I buy is the continuous, uninterrupted operation of my applications. I don't like surprises." This thought is probably similar to those of CIOs, CTOs and other senior managers who have chosen the IBM Z platform for the most critical aspects of their business.

About 80 percent of the world's corporate data resides or originates on mainframes. The IBM Z platform is commonly used in a variety of industries including:

  • 44 out of the top 50 worldwide banks
  • The top 10 insurance organizations
  • 18 of the top 25 retailers

Because clients in these industries can't tolerate disruptions, IBM Z technology continues to be at the heart of their infrastructure. IBM Z technology has evolved over decades, incorporating open-source options like Linux*, and leading the way with groundbreaking technology like pervasive encryption.

Reasons to Use IBM Z

When you consider this, it's easy to understand why many clients are choosing to stay on the platform and why non-mainframe organizations-those without any mainframe experience-are investing in IBM Z for the first time. Five key reasons are highlighted.

1. Reliability
In a recent Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC) newsletter (bit.ly/2kywIsJ), 99.99 percent uptime is declared the minimum required by 79 percent of organizations today. ITIC's 2017 Global Server Hardware, Server OS Reliability Survey states that 88 percent of the 750 companies surveyed said the IBM Z platform delivered the equivalent of 99.999 or 99.9999 percent uptime and availability (ibm.co/2ABoSFk).

2. Security
IBM Z corporate clients, as reported in the 2017 ITIC survey, had the fewest number of successful penetrations of any platform over the last 12 to 24 months-less than one successful penetration in the last two years. Enabling pervasive encryption capabilities of the IBM z14* can enhance the security of this platform.

3. Manageability
It's easier to manage one system than it is to manage 1,000. Given the choice, most IT managers state they would prefer to have a much smaller number of systems to manage to get the work done rather than contending with sprawling server farm environments. Fewer servers and less overall infrastructure to manage helps reduce the size and cost of the entire IT environment. For organizations with "green initiatives," having just a few systems reduces footprint, power and cooling, and helps achieve the goals for the green initiatives.

4. Open-Source Software and Java
A BMC 2017 mainframe survey found that 75 percent of respondents use Java* on IBM Z and 52 percent of them use it in production (bit.ly/2j3MZp4). Consider the following. The ITIC newsletter states that the IBM Z platform can:

  • Run Java workloads 50 percent faster than x86 alternatives
  • Support the world's largest MongoDB instance with 2.5x faster Node.js performance than x86-based platforms
  • Support 1,000 concurrent NoSQL databases
  • Support 2 million Docker containers

5. Cost
Total cost of ownership studies (ibm.com/iteconomics) for clients have repeatedly demonstrated a reduction in IT spending when workloads are deployed on IBM Z versus x86 servers or other distributed server solutions.

While x86 or other distributed server acquisition costs may be lower, the associated software, labor, energy, networking, security and other data center costs could result in a higher TCO than a mainframe environment for most IT organizations. Certainly, each client's IT environment and operating costs are unique, resulting in different costs and savings. However, many organizations employing a holistic view of IT expense analysis find a lower cost run rate in their mainframe environment.

Client Solution and Benefits

Organizations seek ways to improve, enhance and consolidate their IT environments to support new business requirements. In one use case, Vitec AutoData AS, a hosting and managed services provider to importers, wholesalers and retailers of automotive parts in Norway, needed to adapt to changing client expectations and to gain scalability to support ongoing business growth. It looked to refresh its IT architecture, ensuring its ability to continue to provide highly secure, scalable, compatible and reliable services.

The organization approached IBM to explore ways to re-architect its data center. The reliability, flexibility, security and performance of the IBM Z platform provides a perfect fit for the business model and led Vitec AutoData to upgrade from Windows* to Linux on IBM Z.

Geir Erland Fladby, system administrator, Vitec AutoData, explains: "We decided to move away from Windows for two main reasons. First, Linux is much more cost-efficient, as it means that we have very low licensing costs. Second, running Linux enables us to utilize the free, open resources of the Linux community. An added bonus of the Linux system is that it runs incredibly efficiently on the IBM Z platform."

They will use new applications on Linux on Z, such as Apache Tomcat, MariaDB, SQLite, open-source languages, GNU development tools, the optimized Decimal Floating Point Library libdfp and the Concurrent Versioning System.

"What's more, we will be much better equipped to provide our clients with even higher levels of service. With IBM Z, we can ensure 24-7 always-on availability, incredibly high reliability and super-high performance."

The business values Vitec AutoData achieved include:

  • Reduced TCO of IT architecture
  • Strengthened scalability, security and reliability of critical services
  • Easy onboarding of new clients

Learn more about the company and the solution IBM provided (ibm.co/2CC1AAS).

European Bank Rethinks its Linux x86 Strategy

A large European bank had an all Linux x86 strategy for non-z/OS workloads, and Linux on IBM Z wasn't considered. This solution was causing a serious cost issue for the bank as it began to deploy software on x86 servers using a full capacity deployment model.

Rather than rethink the x86 server strategy, the bank began to develop a plan to deploy its software using a sub-capacity model. Even so, the bank's software costs would be high.

The IBM IT Economics team developed multiple cases to analyze costs on x86 and Linux on z for the bank. Data from the TCO studies consistently showed Linux on z provided a more cost-effective platform for the bank's software. After several analysis iterations, the bank declared Linux on z would be its strategic platform for its non-z/OS workloads.

Shortly after, the bank deployed IBM's Business Process Manager (BPM) on Linux on z. The bank projects a savings of $5 million compared to a sub-capacity deployment model on x86 for its BPM workload alone, and a $20 million savings compared to a full-capacity deployment model on x86. The bank is now in the process of evaluating other workloads to place on Linux on z to gain further savings.

A Major Utility Organization

A major utility organization relied on a centralized SAP solution to manage its end-to-end business processes. As the number of transactions on their books increased, the load on the SAP system increased as well. This reduced response times for business users, which in turn had a negative impact on the utility organization operational efficiency and threatened the overall service quality. Solving these issues would require an upgrade to the SAP environment and a fresh IT infrastructure to support the new requirements.

To meet the system requirements of the new SAP applications, the organization needed a platform with higher performance, and greater scalability and availability. Initially, it considered renewing its x86 system-based distributed server and storage environment. IBM helped the organization realize it had the potential to deliver far greater value to the business and reduce the TCO for its IT infrastructure.

After a thorough review of offerings from multiple solution vendors, the organization selected IBM Z, with IBM z/VM, IBM z/OS and Linux on z. Benefits included:

  • Pay slip batch processing dropped from 16 hours/month to 2 hours/month, resulting in an 8x improvement
  • 50 percent decrease in SAP application response times for business users
  • 43 percent reduction in database storage requirements to reduce operational costs
  • Reduced storage requirements, which decreased the quality assurance refresh process from 48 to 12 hours
  • Compact IBM Z footprint, which eliminated server sprawl and decreased power and cooling requirements

Know Workload Needs

Companies, in different industries, share some commonalities. They:

  • Used a variety of applications and distributed systems to run their businesses
  • All had business issues that affected their current operations that had to be resolved
  • Evaluated multiple technology platforms from different vendors
  • Arrived at the same conclusion-the IBM Z mainframe was the platform of choice to address their business challenges

A thorough understanding of current and future workload requirements is critical to selecting the right platform. It can also avoid a solution that may not meet application needs or provide the lowest cost.

TCO analysis of all IT factors enables a holistic view of IT costs. For clients, TCO showed that IBM Z can be very cost effective compared with x86, other distributed server or hosted cloud environments.

The IBM Z platform continues to evolve to meet clients' business-critical needs. The platform's support of modern open-source technology like Java, Node.js, Angular.js, Go and MongoDB provides a software development environment as robust as, and in many areas far better than, x86 and other distributed environments.

Performance, reliability, security, manageability and encryption don't have to be compromised to lower costs. These clients were able to provide these qualities of service for their applications and reduce IT spending when using IBM Z.

Farakh Rafique, is an IT Economics Consultant in the IBM Competitive Project Office and has over 25 years of experience working in Systems Design/Analysis, Systems Programming, Storage Management and Technical Consultancy across multiple IT platforms (mainframes, mid-range and small servers).

Susan Proietti Conti is the WW Program Director for the IBM Competitive Project Office and has over 20 years of experience working in IBM SW and HW development and product management. Susan is a certified IBM Executive Project Manager and PMP®.

Skip Garvin is a Senior Technical Solutions Manager for IBM System Lab Services Migration Factory and has over 45 years of worldwide sales, marketing and technology experience. During Skip's 14 years in the IBM Migration Factory he has worked on thousands of migration projects including Unix, Linux and Legacy operating environments.


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