IBM has been creating "Big Iron" -- mainframes that act as database platforms for many of the world's biggest businesses -- for decades now. In the modern computing environment, mainframes remain as relevant as ever, even though the old hardware terminals have been replaced with terminal emulation software such as 3270 emulators. In this article, we'll look at the newest member of IBM's mainframe family, the zEnterprise.

What is zEnterprise?

The zEnterprise is a new kind of computing environment that brings together Linux, AIX and z/OS on a brand new server complex which is comprised of mainframe servers, x86, and power7 blades. It is all unified under one set of management software known as the zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager (URM). It's a workload-optimized, multi-architecture system that integrates many workloads together, all managed as a single entity.

zEnterprise is made up of...

  • The z196
  • The z114
  • zBX
  • The zManager

What is the z196?

The z196 is the next generation mainframe which claims the title of the industry's most scalable and quickest enterprise system. It can scale up with more than 52,000 MIPS in one footprint; and it can scale out with 80 configurable cores.

Overall, the z196 can offer up to 40 per cent improvement in performance per core, and a 60 per cent rise in overall capacity for Linux, System Z, z/OS and z/VM workloads when side by side with its antecedent, the z10 EC. Its virtualisation capacities can support up to 47 distributed servers on one core, and thousands on a single system.

What is the z114?

While the z196 is optimized for large businesses and corporations, the z114 is the mainframe of choice for SME's (small to medium enterprises). It offers the scalability, flexibility and overall performance that SME's require while being made available at lower-capacity, lower-priced entry points as necessary.

When the z114 is configured with a zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX -- discussed further below), System Z, UNIX and Intel server technologies can be combined into a unified system, integrating workloads and maintaining it all with the same resources, tools and techniques. As your business grows, your mainframe can therefore be extended in its capabilities...

What is the zBX?

The zBX stands for the zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension, and it's a component of the zEnterprise infrastructure that supports and houses IBM workload optimizers and blade servers. It integrates easily with the z196 and z114 mainframe and is managed by the zEnterprise Unified Resource Manger (see more below).

System z hardware maintenance services support the zBX and the System z strategy of maintenance extends out to the IBM Smart Analytics Optimizer, DataPower X150z, as well as the installed blades. The Manager even allows the zBX to have automatic call home for hardware/firmware issues, concurrent firmware fixes and hardware repair, and driver upgrades.

What is zManager?

The zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager, or zManager for short, is the management software that unifies the zEnterprise as a single entity. It eliminates past problems of poor integration between platforms, creating consistent and reliable service delivery.

Overall, zEnterprise shows that in the modern computing environment, where Windows terminal emulators are required to access mainframes and where distributed systems continue to gain traction, the mainframe still has a long and healthy life ahead of it.