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New IBM Mainframe Can Manage 100,000 Virtual Machines Simultaneously

Big Blue's zEnterprise, a "data center in a box," pools RISC and x86-based blades.

IBM has launched what it described its most significant advance in data center infrastructure over the last two decades. The new zEnterprise is a mainframe noteworthy not just because of its increased processing capacity but because it is the first to provide integration with its Power7 blade infrastructure and x86-based blade racks.

Big Blue launched the new zEnterprise Thursday in New York. IBM said the new mainframe is 60 percent faster and equally more efficient from a power utilization perspective than the model it replaces, the z10.

The mainframe has a 5.2 GHz processor with up to 96 cores, houses 3 TB of RAM, and can process 50  billion instructions per second (BIPS). In addition to the boost in capacity, it allows the x86 and Power7 processor-based systems to run as a common virtualized platform, sharing network, storage, and power components.

"This is the most powerful announcement we have ever made in the history of the IBM company in terms of customer economics," said Steve Mills, senior vice president of IBM's software and hardware divisions. "We have never in our history done anything that has put more money back in the hands of the customer than this announcement. We have solved a massive business problem that almost any business of reasonable size has today, and that's bringing down that cost of IT operation."

Mills, who called this new system a "data center in a box," extolled its new integrated platform for its shared infrastructure across various processors. The system can manage 100,000 virtual machines simultaneously, a threshold Mills said will be hard to duplicate. "During this decade, nobody will deliver deeper, more profound, fully mobile, fully portable virtualization the way this system provides full virtualization for workloads," Mills said.

At the core of this new virtualized capability is the combination of IBM's new zEnterprise Blade Center Extension (xBX) and the zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager, which allow for the sharing of workloads between the core mainframe and IBM's Power7 and x86 processor blades.

The Universal Resource Manager is made up of software and embedded hardware, said IBM Distinguished Engineer Donna Dillenberger, in an interview at launch event. "It's on both sides. It's on the mainframe side and the blade side, so you can get a coherent view of what's running, and you can get a coherent management actions between both, and it comes with zEnterprise," Dillenberger said.

In the past IBM had individual technologies that managed various clusters, but the Universal Resource Manager provides a much tighter association, added David Gelardi, IBM's vice president of sales, support, and education. "It's a very broad pipe between the blade environment and the mainframe environment," Gelardi said in an interview. "That is very important from an application perspective, that's where the integration comes from."

While IBM talked up its ability to run Linux-based x86 blades, it talked down its ability to run Windows workloads. It's "about lack of visibility into source code, not wanting to support an OS that 'drag[s] in primitives from DOS,'  and generally not being able to shape Windows to the management IBM would want," noted Redmonk analyst Michael Cote in a blog posting.

But Gelardi said organizations still could opt to run Windows workloads. "There's no reason you can't use it to run Windows because Tivoli's provisioning capabilities is operating systems agnostic," he said. "Windows would run on an outboard blade and ultimately would run on an xBlade inside zBX."

 

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