z13 WLC Software Pricing Updates: Are You Ready?

Along with the z13 hardware announcement were several very obvious WLC pricing announcements, but more importantly, two hidden Statements Of Direction (SOD) or pre-announcements.

I guess we can all remember the “zSeries Technology Dividend” where put simply, when upgrading zSeries servers, users would benefit from a ~10%+ software price versus performance benefit.  Does anybody still remember the IBM Mainframe Charter from 2003?  That was the document that first referenced this price/performance benefit, which became known as the “technology dividend”.  Specifically, this document stated:

IBM lowered MSU values incorporated in the z990 microcode by approximately 10 percent, resulting in IBM software savings for IBM zSeries software products with MSU-based pricing.  These reduced MSUs do not indicate a change in machine performance. Superior performance and technology within the z990 has allowed IBM to provide improved software prices for key IBM zSeries operating system and middleware software products.

Put really simply, for z990, z9 and z10 server upgrades, IBM delivered this ~10% benefit with faster CPU chips.  Therefore, no noticeable impact on Software Pricing, Capacity Planning or Performance Measurement processes.  However, with the z196/z114, this ~10% benefit could no longer be delivered by CPU chip hardware speed enhancements.  To compensate, IBM introduced the Advanced Workload License Charges (AWLC) pricing regime.  AWLC is an evolution of the Variable (VWLC) pricing regime, lowering per MSU costs for WLC eligible products (E.g. z/OS, CICS, DB2, IMS, WebSphere/MQ, et al).  Hence delivering the ~10% price/performance benefit when upgrading from a z10 to a z196 or z114 (AEWLC) server.

Of course, when upgrading to the zEC12 or zBC12, further refinement of AWLC pricing was required, to deliver this the ~10% price/performance benefit.  Hence, IBM introduced the AWLC Technology Transition Offerings (TTO), lowering AWLC prices for zXC12 and now z13 zSeries servers.

For z13, IBM announced the following z13 AWLC Technology Transition Offerings:

  • Technology Update Pricing for the IBM z13 (TU3): When stand-alone z13 servers are priced with AWLC, or when all the servers in an aggregated Sysplex or Complex are z13 servers priced with AWLC, these servers receive a reduction to AWLC pricing which is called.  Quantity of z13 Full Capacity MSUs for a stand-alone server, or the sum of Full Capacity MSUs in an actively coupled Parallel Sysplex or Loosely Coupled Complex made up entirely of z13 servers.  AWLC discounts range from 4% (4-45 MSU) to 14% (5477+ MSU).
  • AWLC Sysplex Transition Charges (TC2): When two or more machines exist in an aggregated Sysplex or Complex & at z13, zEC12, or zBC12 server & at least one is a z196 or z114 server, with no older technology machines included, they will receive a reduction to AWLC pricing across the aggregated Sysplex or Complex. This reduction provides a portion of the benefit related to the Technology Update Pricing for AWLC (TU1) based upon the proportion of zEC12 or zBC12 server capacity in the Sysplex or Complex.  AWLC discounts range from 0.5% (0-20% z13/zXC12 MSU) to 4.5% (81%-<100% z13/zXC12 MSU).
  • AWLC Sysplex Transition Charges (TC3): When two or more machines exist in an aggregated Sysplex or Complex & at least one is a z13 server & at least one is a zEC12 or zBC12 server, with no older technology machines included, they will receive a reduction to AWLC pricing across the aggregated Sysplex or Complex. This reduction provides a portion of the benefit related to the IBM z13 TU3 offering, based on the total Full Capacity MSU of all z13, zEC12, & zBC12 Machines in the Sysplex or Complex.  AWLC discounts range from 2.8% (4-45 MSU) to 9.8% (5477+ MSU).

These AWLC software pricing announcements are Business As Usual (BAU) and to be expected, but if we dig slightly deeper into the z13 announcements, we will find two other pre-announcements of interest!

Since introducing sub-capacity and WLC pricing regimes, IBM have continually evolved zSeries software sub-capacity pricing mechanisms, with zNALC, AWLC, IWP and more recently MWP offerings.  From a generic viewpoint, with the exception of zNALC, a niche new workload price offering, these pricing announcements did not challenge the “status quo”, where aggregated MSU and large LPAR structures were the ideal.  So why might the upcoming z13 (E.g. Q2 2015) pricing announcements be of note?  Primarily because they challenge the notion of having separate structural entities (I.E. Sysplex Coupled zSeries Servers & LPARS) for existing and new workloads.

Country Multiplex Pricing (CMP): A major evolution, essentially eliminating prior Sysplex pricing rules, requiring that systems be interconnected and/or sharing the same data in order to be eligible for aggregation of MLC software pricing charges.  A Multiplex is defined as the collection of all z Systems within a country.  Therefore, sub-capacity usage will be measured & reported as a single machine, regardless of the connectivity or data sharing configurations.  A new sub-capacity reporting tool is being implemented & clients should expect a transition period as the new pricing model is implemented.  This should allow flexibility to move & run work anywhere, eradicating multiple workload peaks when workloads move between machines.  Ultimately the cost of growth is reduced with one price per product based on MLC capacity growth anywhere in the country.CMP should facilitate for flexible deployment and movement of business workloads between all zSeries Servers located within a country, without impacting MLC billing.  For the avoidance of doubt, this will assist the customer in safeguarding they don’t encounter duplicate MLC peaks as a result of moving an LPAR workload from one zSeries Server to another.  It also removes all Sysplex aggregation considerations, Single Version Charging (SVC) time limits and Cross Systems Waivers (CSW).  Most notably, the cost per MSU for additional capacity will be optimized, being based upon total Multiplex MSU capacity.

IBM Collocated Application Pricing (ICAP): Previously, new applications (zNALC) required a separate LPAR to avoid increases in other MLC software charges.  ICAP facilitates new eligible applications be charged as if they are running in a dedicated environment.  Technically they are integrated with other (non-eligible) workloads.  Software supporting the new application will not impact the charges for other MLC software collocated in the same LPAR.  ICAP appears as an evolution of the Mobile Workload Pricing (MWP) for z/OS pricing mechanism.  ICAP will use an enhanced MWRT, implemented as a z/OS application.  ICAP applies to z13, zXC12, z196/z114 servers.  IBM anticipates that ICAP will deliver zNALC type price benefit, discounting ~50% of ICAP eligible software MSU.

Seemingly IBM have learned from the lessons of IWP, where at first glance, software discounts were attractive, but not at the cost of a separate LPAR.  From a reporting viewpoint, there are similarities to Mobile Workload Pricing for z/OS (MWP), but most notably, pricing is largely zNALC based.  Therefore collocating new workloads in the same LPAR as existing workloads, but with the best price performance of any pricing regime, except zNALC, which is a niche and special edition software pricing metric.

In conclusion, CMP and ICAP are notable WLC pricing regime updates, because they do challenge the status quo of MSU aggregation via Sysplex coupled servers and the ability to collocate new and existing workloads in the same LPAR.  On the one hand, simplified pricing considerations from a granular per MSU cost viewpoint.  However, to optimize price versus performance, arguably the savvy Data Centre will now require a higher level of workload management, safeguarding optimum MSU capacity usage and associated performance.

zPrice Manager is an evolution of the typical soft-capping approach, which can be IBM function based, namely Defined Capacity (DC) or Group Capacity Limit (GCL), or ISV product based.  ISV products typically allow MSU management with dynamic MSU capacity resource management between LPAR, LPAR Group & CPC structures, ideally with Workload Manager (WLM) interaction.  If plug & play simple MSU management is required, these traditional IBM or 3rd party ISV approaches will still work with CMP and ICAP, but will they maximize WLC TCO?

The simple answer is no, because CMP allows the movement of workloads between zSeries Servers.  Therefore if WLC product (I.E. z/OS, CICS, DB2, IMS, WebSphere/MQ) pricing is to be country wide, and optimum WLM performance is to be maintained, a low level granularity of MSU management is required.

zPrice Manager from zIT Consulting allows this level of WLC software product management, with a High Level REXX programmatic interface, and the ability to store real life MSU profile data as callable REXX variables.  Similar benefits apply to ICAP workloads, where different WLM policies might be required for the same WLC product, deployed on the same collocated workload LPAR.  Therefore the savvy data centre will safeguard they optimize MSU TCO via MWP and/or ICAP pricing regimes, without impacting business application performance.

In conclusion, the typical z13 AWLC software pricing updates are Business As Usual (BAU) and can be implemented, as and when required and without consideration.  Conversely, CMP and ICAP can deliver significant future benefit and should be considered in zSeries Server capacity planning forecasts.

Bottom Line Recommendation: Each and every zSeries Server user, whether large or small, should initiate contact with their IBM account teams, for CMP and ICAP briefings, allowing them to consider how they might benefit from these new WLC software pricing regimes.

Flash Express – Back To The Future

It’s just not science fiction films that get rebooted or reimagined, the same thing happens in the technology world, although not always as obviously.  Over the years we have seen Star Trek, Star Wars, and numerous superhero stories be updated for current day audiences, some better than others, and similarly, flash memory or Solid State Drives (SSD) is not a new concept in the Mainframe world.  For me, I wonder whether the Back To The Future films might be rebooted, and if they do, hopefully it’s done well!  Anyway, I digress, so back to the Mainframe flash memory observations… 

Flash Express is a new feature for the zEC12 server, designed to help drive System availability and performance to even higher levels. 

Flash Express cards are delivered as a RAID 10 mirrored pair for superior resiliency and reliability.  In the unlikely event of device failure, Flash Express cards can also be concurrently replaced.  The cards are designed for superior wear levelling and have a long expected lifetime.  From a security perspective, Flash Express stored data remains protected.  Data is encrypted on the Flash Express adapter with 128-bit AES encryption.  Encryption keys are stored on smart cards that are plugged into the SE.  Removing the smart cards renders the data on the card inaccessible. 

In the first instance, IBM seems to be targeting Systems Paging (I.E. Auxiliary Storage Manager – ASM) and System Dumps (E.g. SVC, Standalone) as an introduction to this new level of storage hierarchy. 

Flash Express reduces latency for critical system paging that might otherwise impact the availability and performance.  For system paging flexibility and efficiency, Flash Express is a higher performance option when compared with traditional auxiliary storage (I.E. Disk).  z/OS uses both Flash Express and page data sets for auxiliary storage by paging data to the preferred storage medium first, based on response times, data set characteristics, and other parameters.  Wherever possible, the system will page first to Flash Express resulting in faster performance.  Especially for data intensive applications the use of Pageable Large Pages with Flash Express enables the transfer of large amounts of data at faster speeds, which can result in improved performance for DB2 analytic workloads.

NB. Because Flash Express is not persistent across IPL events, it cannot be used for Virtual I/O or PLPA data used in warm starts.  VIO and PLPA datasets must still be defined on DASD.

During diagnostic collection, as in SVC or standalone dumps, IBM states that systems can become sluggish effectively rendering key systems unavailable.  When data is transferred into main memory as part of a dump event, the fast I/O rates and low latency associated with Flash Express provide decreased first failure data capture time, and faster page-ins of the critical pages needed for dump creation.  This allows the system to return to normal workload performance faster, without incurring extra delays.

So clearly, adding a flash memory layer to the Mainframe storage hierarchy can only deliver benefit, and over time, seemingly Flash Express can be used for other I/O intensive applications, further improving response times and decreasing associated CPU cycles.

No doubt the non-Mainframe technician might say “so what, we’ve been doing flash and SSD for nearly 20 years.  Typical Mainframe, always behind the rest of the IT world”!

Hmmm, perhaps not, hence the Back To The Future reference.  Depending on your viewpoint, and perhaps urban myth, from a release date viewpoint, but in the mid-to-late 1980’s, StorageTek introduced a device called the 4080, AKA Control Data Set Manager (CDSM) for their Host Software Component (HSC) product.  You will still see this 4080 device referenced in the HSC Systems Programmer’s Guide technical manual.  The 4080 is a Solid State Device, utilizing memory storage, emulating 3380 and 3390 device types, allowing z/OS (MVS) data sets to be created and accessed, as and if required.  Arguably if not certainly, this was the first instance of logical and physical device separation for Mainframe disks, and urban myth might dictate that this StorageTek 4080 technology was used or at least borrowed for the first EMC Symmetrix disk subsystem…

StorageTek typically packaged this 4080 device within a NearLine (ATL) solution sale and customers used this SSD device for HSC Control Data Sets, but also other high I/O files, such as the IMS Write-Ahead Data Set (WADS).  Therefore, Flash Express isn’t the first SSD solution for the Mainframe, and similarly, Flash Memory/Cards, USB Sticks, et al, aren’t the first SSD type technology in the IT world.

As somebody (Machiavelli) far wiser than I once said “whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past”.  The longevity of the Mainframe, nearly 50 Years of technical innovation, largely dictates that technological ideas are at least borrowed from the Mainframe, whether System Paging, Fibre Channels, Storage Area Networking (SAN), Virtual Storage, Flash/SSD Memory, naming but a few.

Should today’s zEC12 Mainframe customer deploy Flash Express?  Without doubt, but to deliver maximum ROI and benefit, it should be considered as more than a faster paging and dump solution, and we look forward to how IBM will further enhance this product offering.