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Cloud Coverage for the Mainframe

Get a jumpstart on your cloud by using a solution from IBM

7/2/2014 6:25:20 AM | This is part one of a two-part series. Read part two here.

Many in IT are coming around to the value proposition of running a cloud service on System z. System z was not the first place that people thought about for cloud because many of the challenges addressed by cloud are not native to mainframe computing environments. Cloud is an approach that offers new computing value by addressing some of the shortcoming found in distributed computing like underutilized servers and over allocated resources dedicated to applications. It also presents new ways to provision computing resources and to handle workloads.

Cloud and System z

Systems z is in an ideal place to host cloud infrastructures because the environment is a robust and cost-effective environment to run when you spread the costs of many virtual machines over a single centralized server and its resources. On page 9 of the PDF for Cloud on System z: Building the Business Case, presented at CA World ’13, states that modeled unit costs per VM, including hardware, software, licensing, service and support, energy usage, floor space and IT personnel costs were lower for an IBM zEnterprise system as compared to the typical x86 implementation at the level of just a few hundred VMs.

It is not hard to imagine running hundreds of VMs, especially when you consider that there are many different workloads to run in a cloud, like development and test, analytics, storage, collaboration, desktop, simple production, self-service application development environments, webmail, database as a service, middleware as a service and software lifecycle as a service.

A Number of Ways to Deploy a Cloud

There are a number of ways to deploy a cloud service on System z. IBM recently announced its Enterprise Cloud System. The IBM Enterprise Cloud System combines and integrates IBM software, storage and server technologies into a flexible and secure solution that is delivered now integrated by IBM.

This pre-packaged system provides the ability to rapidly deploy a trusted, scalable OpenStack-based Linux cloud environment with mainframe qualities of service. The system has the ability to start small and scale up to as many as 6,000 virtual machines in a single footprint. This solution is attractive to IT organizations planning a service for their companies as well as cloud service providers who want to save money and provide resilient solutions.

Another approach to deploy cloud on Systems z is to add the necessary software to the systems that you are already have deployed. Chances are you are already running Linux so this additional software would be used to make it possible to use cloud as a service with the desired user interface and automation. IBM Cloud Management Suite for System z is used to provision a workload on System z using a self-service portal. This software expands the range of coverage for managing hybrid and private clouds to the System z platform.

Lets explore each of these approaches in more detail.

IBM Enterprise Cloud System

The IBM Enterprise Cloud System is made up of integrated server, storage and software. For servers, two different models are available. The zEnterprise BC12 has a 13-core engine, and the zEnterprise EC12 (zEC12) has 101 cores. The zEC12 provides support for thousands of virtual Linux servers, so it is ideal if you plan to offer a cloud service with many subscribers and uses.

Two storage options are available. One option is the IBM Storwize v7000, which is software-defined system storage with built-in flash that is straightforward to manage with good performance and high availability. The other option, IBM DS8000 System Storage, provides superior resiliency for demanding enterprise storage environments.

The IBM Enterprise Cloud System comes with Virtualization and Cloud Management Software. One component is the IBM Cloud Management Suite for System z. This software is responsible for providing dynamic provisioning and cloud orchestration for workloads using SmartCloud Orchestrator. This bundle of software also handles monitoring, performance and data backup making use of IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, IBM Tivoli Monitoring 6.3 and IBM Tivoli Omegamon XE on z/VM and Linux. Also included in the IBM Enterprise Cloud system is IBM z/VM, a proven hypervisor, and IBM Wave for z/VM that provides an easy-to-use virtualization management platform for managing this solution’s virtualized environment.

IBM Cloud Management Suite for System z

IBM Cloud Management Suite for System z 1.1.0 makes it possible to install, configure and manage a private cloud environment on System z. This environment makes use of Linux and z/VM 6.3. The IBM Cloud Management Suite for System z product includes:

  • IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator 2.3.0.1—This level now has support for z/VM environments
  • IBM Tivoli Monitoring 6.3—This is used to work with OMEGAMON XE monitoring
  • IBM Tivoli OMEGAMON XE on z/VM and Linux 4.3.0—This is used for resource monitoring on the images that are running the application workloads
  • IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Extended Edition 7.1.0—This is used for cloud storage management
The Cloud Management Suite for System z 1.1.0 runs on z/VM 6.3 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Currently, Linux on System x is also required for running the SmartCloud Orchestrator Central Servers.

When discussing functionality of the IBM Cloud Management Suite, it is useful to organize the discussion around functions like provisioning, monitoring and management.

Provisioning

The IBM Cloud Management Suite for Systems z includes a self-service portal. The notion of self-service is a central part of the cloud-computing paradigm. The portal is part of IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator, which has other features supporting automation to make repetitive processes related to provisioning elements of the application infrastructure easier and consistent in quality. In addition, you can deploy multitier applications through graphical composition of virtual patterns. This is important when migrating existing applications to System z, as many follow a multitier convention.

Monitoring and management

With the IBM Cloud Management Suite for System z, you can monitor the health of the cloud environment with visibility to IBM z/VM and all Linux on System z guests.

Performance and capacity management is also included so you can make sure that the infrastructure and the images are performing well and that you understand their capacity needs for the future. For storage, many important processes are handled, like progressive incremental backup, day-to-day storage administration, elimination of redundant files, identification of where deployment packages are to be stored, the storage media on which to store deployment packages and definition of retention policies. These are the main considerations for handling storage in a cloud environment.

There is more to this suite than provisioning, monitoring and management. An exploration of more features of IBM Cloud Management Suite for System z, with a focus on SmartCloud Orchestrator, will be reviewed in an upcoming article.

Plan and Implement With Confidence

Having software elements packaged and assembled can save a lot of time. All the prerequisites and dependencies are researched. As long as you follow the steps and ensure the supported elements are at the right level, you will have a functioning cloud infrastructure.

There are planning questions that you will need to address, like what you will do with your cloud infrastructure and how will the personality of your cloud service reflect the priorities of your organization and company. These questions have been discussed recently in the article "Take Care When Building Your Own Cloud Service."  You should also take a look at "Implementing Cloud Computing Takes a Complete Strategy" for additional planning considerations.

Joseph Gulla is the IT leader of Alazar Press, a publisher of children’s literature.

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