Mainframe > Trends > Cloud Computing

Build Your Cloud With IBM zEnterprise and SmartCloud


Illustration by Jacey

The attention given to cloud computing technologies today might seem ironic to those who work with mainframes on a daily basis. Clearly, people are recognizing the value of cloud in terms of delivering workload flexibility, high availability and scalability. They’re discovering its potential for service delivery, performance and cost benefits.

Sure, cloud offers impressive virtualization, multitenancy capabilities and efficient resource pooling. And yes, it can provide reliable security with simplified, centralized management; dynamic self-service resource provisioning; and the capability to meet stringent service-level agreements (SLAs). People are finally getting it. But mainframes have been delivering—not just promising—these same benefits for decades.

So where’s the love for mainframes?

Actually, it’s coming. More organizations are seeing that a successful cloud isn’t going to live on just one type of iron. They see that mainframe technologies—including the IBM zEnterprise* System, part of the System z* product family—can play a significant role in delivering cloud efficiencies to a broad audience. And they see that although the ultimate potential of the cloud may be genuine, at the moment, it remains just that—potential.

Determining where the mainframe fits within the overall cloud infrastructure will depend on an organization’s needs and existing environment. Whatever role they ultimately play, System z and zEnterprise mainframes will be strong contributors to the evolution and development of a successful cloud for many organizations.

zEnterprise Makes Sense for Cloud

As organizations strive for increased efficiency and lower costs, building cloud environments on massively scaled out x86-based processors has been a primary focus. Although x86 platforms can perform well in this role, introducing today’s more open and cost-effective mainframes into the cloud environment allows you to scale up through virtualization rather than continuing to scale out with x86. This can deliver dramatic improvements over a purely x86-based infrastructure in reducing server sprawl and the associated costs for energy and management.

The zEnterprise System brings together mainframe and non-mainframe technologies under unified, centralized management while delivering extremely high availability and reliability. Consider that mainframes can deliver “six nines” (99.9999 percent availability) versus the “five nines” (99.999 percent availability) quoted for x86-based cloud environments. Although both are impressive, that difference means x86-based clouds have five minutes of unplanned downtime a year, compared to less than 32 seconds for mainframes.

Security is another key pillar of the mainframe value proposition. With mounting pressures surrounding auditability and compliance, security remains a core part of the mainframe’s appeal for the cloud. Through zEnterprise, hardware encryption can deliver consistent protection for data in motion and at rest, with tamper-proof encryption devices delivering a security-rich environment for the most sensitive data.

Multitenancy is a long-standing mainframe capability directly applicable to the cloud. In multitenant cloud architectures, tenants must be unaware that they share the various layers—server, hypervisor, network, storage, middleware and databases—which brings challenges to security and resource sharing. In addition to the layered security features inherent in mainframes, zEnterprise technology offers superior resource sharing and efficient virtualization, which helps reduce costs and can streamline management activities for many workloads.

Mike Baskey is the lead technologist for IBM Software Group defining the Service Management strategy for zEnterprise.


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