Are You Ready For z Systems Workload Pricing for Cloud (zWPC) for z/OS?

Recently IBM announced the z Systems Workload Pricing for Cloud (zWPC) for z/OS pricing mechanism, which can minimize the impact of new Public Cloud workload transactions on Sub-Capacity license charges.  Such benefits will be delivered where higher Public Cloud workload transaction volumes may cause a spike in machine utilization.  Of course, if this looks familiar and you have that feeling of déjà vu, this is a very similar mechanism to Mobile Workload Pricing (MWP)…

Put simply, zWPC applies to any organization that has implemented Sub-Capacity pricing via the basic AWLC or AEWLC pricing mechanisms, for the usual MLC software suspects, namely z/OS, CICS, DB2, IMS, MQ and WebSphere Application Server (WAS).  An eligible transaction is one classified as Public Cloud originated, connecting to a z/OS hosted transactional service and/or data source via a REST or SOAP web service.  Public Cloud workloads are defined as transactions processed by named Public Cloud applications transactions identified as originating from a recognized Public Cloud offering, including but not limited to, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, et al.

As per MWP, SCRT calculates the R4HA for Public Cloud transaction GP MSU resource usage, subtracting 60% of those values from the traditional Sub-Capacity software eligible MSU metric, with LPAR granularity, for each and every reporting hour.  The software program values for the same hour are aggregated for all Sub-Capacity eligible LPARs, deriving an adjusted Sub-Capacity value for each reporting hour.  Therefore SCRT determines the billable MSU peak for a given MLC software program on a CPC using the adjusted MSU values.  As per MWP, this will only be of benefit, if the Public Cloud originated transactions generate a spike in the current R4HA.

One of the major challenges for implementing MWP was identifying those transactions eligible for consideration.  Very quickly IBM identified this challenge and offered a WorkLoad Manager (WLM) based solution, to simplify reporting for all concerned.  This WLM SPE (OA47042), introduced a new transaction level attribute in WLM classification, allowing for identification of mobile transactions and associated processor consumption.  These Reporting Attributes were classified as NONE, MOBILE, CATEGORYA and CATEGORYB.  Obviously IBM made allowances for future workload classifications, hence it would seem Public Cloud will supplement Mobile transactions.

In a previous z/OS Workload Manager (WLM): Balancing Cost & Performance blog post, we considered the merits of WLM for optimizing z/OS software costs, while maintaining optimal performance.  One must draw one’s own conclusions, but there seemed to be a strong case for WLM reporting to be included in the z/OS MLC Cost Manager toolkit.  The introduction of zWPC, being analogous to MWP, where reporting can be simplified with supplied and supported WLM function, indicates that intelligent and proactive WLM reporting makes sense.  Certainly for 3rd party Soft-Capping solutions, the ability to identify MWP and zWPC eligible transactions in real-time, proactively implementing MSU optimization activities seems mandatory.

The Workload X-Ray (WLXR) solution from zIT Consulting delivers this WLM reporting function, seamlessly integrating with their zDynaCap and zPrice Manager MSU optimization solutions.  Of course, there is always the possibility to create your own bespoke reports to extract the relevant information from SMF records and subsystem diagnostic data, for input to the SCRT process.  However, such a home-grown process will only work on a monthly reporting basis and not integrate with any Soft-Capping MSU management, which will ultimately control z/OS MLC costs.

In conclusion, from a big picture viewpoint, in the last 2 years or so, IBM have introduced several new Sub-Capacity pricing mechanisms to help System z Mainframe users optimize z/OS MLC costs, namely Mobile Workload Pricing (MWP), Country Multiplex Pricing (CMP) and now z Systems Workload Pricing for Cloud (zWPC).  In theory, at least one of these new pricing mechanisms should deliver benefit to the committed System z user, deploying this server for strategic and Mission Critical workloads.  With the undoubted strategic importance associated with Analytics, Blockchain, Cloud, DevOps, Mobile, Social, et al, the landscape for System z workloads is rapidly evolving and potentially impacting those sacrosanct legacy Mission Critical workloads.  Seemingly the realm of possibility exists that Cloud and Mobile originated transactions will dominate access to System z Mainframe System Of Record (SOR) data repositories, which generates a requirement to optimize associated MLC costs accordingly.  Of course, for some System z users, such Cloud and Mobile access might not be on today’s to-do list, but inevitably it’s on the horizon, and so why not implement the instrumentation ability ASAP!

IBM System z PartnerWorld Solution Development Evolution

Currently there are in excess of 2,300 companies delivering solutions for IBM System z listed in the IBM Global Solutions Directory. Considering the number of global System z customers, currently estimated as ~4,000, this is quite a good ratio! It’s also evidence of the significant ability of this System z ecosystem to deliver innovation and support to said customer base. Maybe we should consider how these System z solution delivery businesses develop and maintain their software, hardware and service offerings…

Obviously to develop, support and enhance an IBM Mainframe software or hardware product, access to an IBM Mainframe is a mandatory requirement. In the 1980’s, procuring an IBM Mainframe was an expensive undertaking, hence the number of IBM Mainframe IHV (Hardware) or ISV (Software) partners was limited. Therefore we should not overlook the evolution that has taken place in the last 25 years or so, delivering the significant, diverse, innovative and global System z ecosystem in place today.

In the early 1990’s the IBM Advanced Workstations Systems Division (AWS) worked on delivering complete compatibility with existing IBM Mainframe operating systems and software, delivering this function in the S/390 Processor Card. Later iterations of this S/390 Processor Card offered plug compatibility with RISC and PC server architectures, packaged as R/390 and P/390 servers respectively. In essence these R/390 and P/390 server solutions delivered “A Mainframe In A Box”. Put another way, the entire IBM Mainframe infrastructure including CPU, Memory, I/O Subsystem, Consoles, Disk, Tape, Networking Interfaces, et al, were all contained within the one PC or RISC based server footprint. Some of the software modules we might be familiar with for delivering this functionality are AWSDISK, AWSPRINT and AWSTAPE, where the respective function is denoted by the module name.

Therefore with the R/390 and P/390, subsequently followed by the S/390 Integrated Server and then MP3000, low cost access to IBM Mainframe servers was possible. However, let’s not forget that in conjunction with hardware compatibility, low cost access to existing IBM Mainframe operating systems and software was also required. This software access was delivered by the Application Developers Controlled Distributions (ADCD), incorporating a package of the majority of IBM Operating System and supporting subsystem program products. Therefore, once a business proved its intentions in developing a software or hardware solution for the IBM Mainframe, they gained very low cost access to said IBM Mainframe software. Without doubt, the innovation of the S/390 Processor Card and Application Developers Controlled Distributions (ADCD) resources, allows the System z community to benefit from the related ecosystem in place today.

This IBM Mainframe emulation capability provided the opportunity for other 3rd party supplier to deliver x86 servers that supported the IBM PartnerWorld for Developers (PWD) ADCD initiative. For example, FLEX-ES from Fundamental Software.

Currently, IBM deliver the System z Personal Development Tool (zPDT) for ADCD access, while many ISV’s and IHV’s now actually deploy an official IBM System z server, for example, zBC12, as the cost of Mainframe servers has reduced substantially in the last decade or so. Optionally, recognizing the virtualization capabilities of System z and higher speed network access, System z development can now be achieved remotely. The System z Remote Development Program (zRDP) for z/OS, z/VM and z/VSE provides qualified partners with remote access to supported generally available and supported operating systems and software products. Additionally, IBM has built a number of Innovation centres globally (I.E. Africa & Middle East, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, North America), facilitating the possibility for System z innovation with local resources.

An example of the diversity and innovation of the System z ecosystem is the SVA zHosting concept, allowing an IBM PartnerWorld for Developers (PWD) member and/or Independent Software Vendor (ISV) the ability to port existing or install new development environments into a local fully certified IBM System z Mainframe data centre, in this case, located in Germany.

In conclusion, as other IT technologies have evolved, IBM have provided a cost-efficient environment, encouraging and maintaining the IBM System z Mainframe ecosystem. Firstly in the 1990’s with full emulation for RISC and PC based servers and more latterly in the 21st Century with remote access. This low cost access to full System z capability, safeguards that the System z ecosystem remains significant, current, diverse, while the realm of possibility for innovation exists.