For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere it’s been another long & cold Winter & for many, a time of pandemic lockdown. As we enter Spring, we often associate this annual season with hope & new life & perhaps opportunity. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote ”If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation would there be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change”! Let’s not carried away, but I have recently worked with an IBM Z customer to finally perform a Pre-Production full workload test via the IBM Z Business Resiliency Stress Test (zBuRST) solution…
In an ideal world, zBuRST would offer a much needed solution for all IBM Z Mainframe users with limited resource or budget to perform Pre-Production full workload testing activities. However, in reality, there are some significant qualification caveats, primarily a minimum of 10,000 MIPS workload capacity & the need for latest generation z14 or newer Mainframe servers. As with anything in business or indeed life, if you don’t ask, you will never know & there is some flexibility from an installed MIPS viewpoint via your local IBM account team.
IBM Z Business Resiliency Stress Test (zBuRST) is a solution that enables the use of spare IBM Z server physical resources to stress test changes at Production workload scale, allowing qualitative & quantitative validation of any Production change to safeguard the performance & resilience profile of IBM Z mission critical workloads. For the avoidance of doubt, a Pre-Production test can be verified with a minimal data subset for qualitative purposes, but only a 100%+ data quantitative stress test will verify the SLA & KPI metrics required for a mission critical workload. zBuRST only supports Pre-Production (DevTest) environments, which could include a GDPS internal environment, or a 3rd party DR supplier. However, zBuRST cannot be used for any DR activity, testing or real-life invocation. Hopefully most IBM Z mainframe users are savvy & have included some flexibility in their 3rd party DR provision contracts, allowing for periodic use of such facilities, not solely DR based. This is not an unusual requirement & if you rely upon a 3rd party provider for IBM Z resilience, work with them to evolve your IBM Z resource provision service contracts accordingly.
From a big picture viewpoint, zBuRST reduces change risk, safeguarding business resiliency by enabling the detection and resolution of abnormalities and defects in a Pre-Production environment, which inevitably manifest business outages, disruptions, or slowdowns:
- For IBM Z users with matching (identical) hardware in a standalone test or DR environment, zBuRST provides the ability to perform load or stress test of new IBM Z hardware features & upgraded functions.
- For IBM Z users whose DR sites do not match their Production environment, the zBuRST objective is to enable critical workload (E.g. use all available resource to test the mission critical workloads) testing.
From an eligibility viewpoint, if your organization is currently testing with constrained IBM Z resources, prohibiting adequate Production workload sized testing, zBuRST improves workload resiliency:
- Can your business scale reliably & conform to SLA & KPI Metrics during seasonal or ad-hoc peak processing demands (E.g. Year End, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, et al)?
- Is your business mission critical application impacted by change aversion, with fear of disrupting Production stability?
- Are your agile DevOps aspirations hampered by the legacy waterfall application development approach, taking too long to adequately test changes, or introduce new features, functions, for Production workloads?
- Do elongated Production outages (I.E. Downtime) come at an excessive or prohibitive business cost?
- Is it too complex to provision adequate local or 3rd party IBM Z resources for large scale volume or integration tests?
The zBuRST solution has a number of prerequisites & the primary considerations are:
- zBuRST is an extension of the IBM Z Application Development and Test Solution (DevTest Solution).
- zBuRST Tokens are discounted at 80% from the cost of On/Off CoD capacity.
- zBuRST can be purchased or for systems with a minimum of 10,000 installed MIPS, for up to 50-100% of Production capacity. All MIPS capacity must reside in the same country.
- zBuRST pre-paid tokens can be purchased up to 100% of the additional capacity needed to support Production scale stress testing.
- zBuRST tokens allow for up to 15 days of testing; tokens can be activated for any 15 calendar days, whether consecutive or not (E.g. Preform n stress tests of n days duration).
- zBuRST tokens expire 5-years from the IBM Z server LICC “Withdrawal from Marketing” date.
- For DevTest Solutions, zBuRST capacity can be purchased to increase the size of the DevTest environment up to the equivalent number of Production MIPS.
- For DR machine usage, zBuRST tokens can be purchased up to the equivalent number of Production MIPS.
- zBuRST tokens can only be installed & exclusively used on IBM Z hardware owned by the IBM Z user (customer); zBuRST is not available to 3rd party IBM Z resource service providers.
- zBuRST tokens are pre-paid On/Off CoD LIC records. There can only be one On/Off CoD record active at a time. Post-paid On/Off CoD LIC records & zBuRST tokens cannot be active at the same time on the same machine. There cannot be mixing of pre-paid & post-paid On/Off CoD LIC records.
zBuRST can deliver greater certainty & benefit for an IBM Z organization via:
- Change risk eradication with Production workload stress testing, increasing business resiliency, customer satisfaction & operational efficiency.
- Faster delivery of new business features & functions at reduced risk, enabling an agile DevOps application change environment.
- Empowering IT personnel to safely test changes, at Production workload scale, in a DevTest environment, identifying problems or anomalies that might or typically only occur at scale.
- Higher ROI for DR resource usage (E.g. Use for stress testing, not just for DR testing).
- Increased & comprehensive application testing capabilities for a lower cost.
When working with my customer over the last few months, the real-life lessons learned were:
- Collaborate with the 3rd party IBM Z resource supplier, to safeguard the use of their IBM Z server based upon a days as opposed to a DR testing usage approach. For the avoidance of doubt, contract for n days, where those n days could be used for any number of Pre-Production testing & DR usage.
- Engage with all ISV organizations from an FYI viewpoint, informing them of this DevTest approach, where their software will be used for Pre-Production testing purposes, allowing them to safely generate temporary software license codes accordingly, as & if required.
- Work really closely with your IBM account team, as this customer was a ~9,000 MIPS user & find a win-win situation for all. That could be the provision of anticipated White Space CPU capacity by IBM or as a committed IBM Z Mainframe user, maybe the 10,000 MIPS watermark is just too high.
- Educate your Operations, Applications & Business units on this zBuRST options. Some IBM Z users might have been restricted for years if not decades, not being able to perform a 100% data & CPU resource Pre-Production workload test. The brainstorming, collaboration & good will that manifests itself, is one of those few occasions in IT where the users of your IT services are happy to be an integral part of the change process!
My final observation is a reflection on the last few months of my day-to-day activities. For 2-3 days per week, I have been combining IT work with being “Captain Clipboard” at a local UK COVID-19 vaccination centre, which in itself, has been so rewarding. To see the relief on people, especially those that are of a mature age, perhaps infirmed, feeling they can be a part of the wider community again. The parallels are obvious, zBuRST can allow those IBM Z users prohibited from performing 100% data & CPU Pre-Production testing activities, the opportunity to advance their business. However, unlike the COVID-19 vaccination, which for the fortunate developed countries, is available to all citizens, zBuRST does have some usage restrictions. Perhaps it’s up to the wider IBM Z user community to encourage IBM to revisit & modify their approach, perhaps reducing the MIPS capacity requirements to 5,000 MIPS. Wherever you’re based globally, if you’re a member of SHARE (USA) or GSE (Europe), et al, maybe reach out to your Large Systems representatives & see if the global collective from the IBM Z user organizations can encourage IBM to evolve their opportunity, enabling zBuRST solution usage to a larger majority if not all IBM Z Mainframe users.