IBM Reinvents the Mainframe Again – IBM z15 Boosts New Features

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As with each IBM Mainframe announcement, the IBM Z15 server is no stranger to innovative features.  This article gives a perspective on two exciting features of IBM’s latest mainframe technology, the IBM Z15.

Compression Acceleration

The first feature is known as Compression Acceleration and made possible by way of a new on-chip accelerator known as the Nest Acceleration Unit or NXU.  The NXU is the functional replacement of a formerly priced feature known as the zEDC (Enterprise Data Compression).  This means the zEDC adapters you may have invested in on prior mainframe servers will not carry forward;  the NXU will become the functional replacement of that capability.  That is actually a good thing!  An image of the NXU is found in Figure 1, complements of IBM.

FIGURE 1: Nest Acceleration Unit on the Z15

Figure 1 reveals the IBM Z15 chip with twelve (12) cores listed; cores are your processor.  That which is circled in red is the NXU, the NXU is shared by all processor cores on the chip.  Unlike the zEDC Feature that was restricted in use by up to 15 LPARs, the NXU can be shared by all LPARs on the server, up to 85.

When you compare the two features, you soon realize the raw compression throughput possible on the zEDC is 1 GB/second per zEDC adapter.  Prior Z System servers allowed you to purchase up to 16 adapters per server, providing an architectural throughput rate of 16 GB/second.  The actual rate on those cards is ½ that value, in that for every card you placed into production, you invested in a backup card just in case the primary card failed.  The raw thruput of the NXU is 26 GB per Z15 core.  Based on IBM benchmarks, the largest IBM Z15 with this integrated compression accelerator compresses up to 260 GB per second1.

Mainframe clients use this feature to compress large files.  Doing so actually reduces the amount of time spent moving data via I/O operations and that, in turn, lowers their IBM Software Costs.  Not a bad trade-off when you think about it and the feature is a no-cost part of the Z15 server now.

System Recovery Boost 

The second feature is known as System Recovery Boost.  This feature offers faster system shutdown, restart and workload catchup.  Instant Recovery is an alternate name for this offering.

System Recovery Boost is where the operating system brings on an additional capacity to speed up OS Shutdown, OS Restart and the catch up of work that may be queued due to the scheduled or unscheduled outage. System Recovery Boost is capable of taking your sub-capacity General Purpose CPs and run them at full speed. This is known as a Speed Boost.

System Recovery Boost is even capable of allowing General Purpose workload to run on zIIP engines.  This is known as a zIIP Boost and provides additional capacity and parallelism to accelerate processing during the boost periods. IBM refers to this as blurring the CPs and zIIPs together.

Find out more about this capacity from IBM at System Recovery Boost and through the IBM z15 Redpiece.

Understanding Sub-capacity CP Speed Boost

IBM’s Speed Boost only applies to sub-capacity Servers, e.g. 4xx, 5xx and 6xx models.  Client LPARs that are running in a boost period access their engines as 7xx models. Other remaining LPARs on the same server run at their sub-capacity setting as purchased by the client.  By way of example, consider Figure 2.

FIGURE 2: Speed Boost example.

Looking at the preceding figure, when LPARs enter a boost period, work that is dispatched from LPiD3 runs at CP7 (full capacity). Other LPARs continue to be dispatched at CP5 (sub-capacity). One boost period is started at LPiD3 shutdown and a new boost period started at re-IPL of LPiD3.

Now, you might be asking “How does the operating system know you are shutting down LPiD3 and the shutdown boost period of thirty (30) minutes should start?”  It’s quite simple. Operations staff will issue a START command against Started Procedure IEASDBS (Shut Down Boost Start).

Upon re-IPL of LPiD3, Boost would be “On by Default” for that image, offering up sixty (60) minutes of boosted capacity to get the operating system and subsystems up along with allowing workload to continue processing at an accelerated pace for the duration of the Boost period.

Understanding zIIP capacity Boost (zIIP Boost)

For those familiar with this platform, you know that zIIPs traditionally only host DRDA, IPSec and IBM Db2 Utility workloads along with Non-IBM Software solutions that have chosen to leverage the zIIP API.  During System Recovery Boost, if you have at least 1 zIIP engine available to the LPAR, it can run both traditional zIIP only eligible workload as well as General Purpose CP Workload.  Earlier in this article, IBM dubbed this capability CP Blurring.  Just like Speed Boost, zIIP Boost will last thirty (30) minutes on shutdown and sixty (60) minutes on restart.

So, What run’s on the zIIP during the Boost Period? The short answer – Any Program!2

Understanding zIIP Turbo Boost

Unlike IBM’s System Recovery Boost, which is a no-charge feature. The zIIP Turbo Boost is a priced feature consisting of:

  • FC 9930 a no charge entitlement feature code.
  • FC 6802, a temporary pre-paid zIIP boost records, effectively providing to you on an annual basis 20 additional zIIP engines that you can activate during Boost Periods. You are allowed to activate this feature up to thirty (30) times per year.

What is vital is you must remember to activate the boost record (FC 6802) before your boost event (shutdown and subsequent restart).  In addition, you must have at least one zIIP already online to the LPAR that will be boosted.

When you are planning out how many physical zIIPs you will add to your server out of the maximum 20, and how many reserved zIIPs you will define, Evolving Solutions recommends that you work with us.  We will use an IBM supplied tool to better understand the impact on your server and the LPAR topology when you add the additional physical zIIPs.

This same tool will even warn you if adding the additional physical zIIPs may cause an LPAR to cross a drawer boundary on a CPC that could lead to performance irregularities. Weights can be adjusted if you know about them in advance to ensure this exposure is mitigated.

Platform Positioning

Platform positioning is pretty straight forward.  First, you must invest in a Z15 processor and you were going to do that anyway.  At the same time, you must be running on either z/OS V2R3 or V2R4 with the following APARs applied: OA57849 (z/OS), OA57552(CPM), OA57478 (CIM), and OA56683(RMF).  The latter can be easily positioned beforehand as you will be installing Device Support maintenance.

For zIIP Boost, you also need to have one or more zIIPs defined in the Image Activation Profile, either as initial or reserved processors, have physical zIIPs installed, have HiperDispatch enabled (defaults “on”), and be running with shared, not dedicated processors.  Pretty straight forward for those that know this platform.

Initial System Setup

As mentioned earlier in this article, System Recovery Boost is enabled by default and can be controlled via the BOOST= parameter in your IEASYSxx parmlib member.  The z/OS V2R4 Initialization and Tuning Reference has been updated to reflect this new keyword, see Figure 3.

FIGURE 3: BOOST keyword in IEASYSxx

You should also review the Image Profile Settings for those LPARs that will be boosted, looking to ensure at least one (2) zIIPs is available and the weights you have specified are reasonable.  Keep in mind that any RESERVED CPs and/or zIIPS that are also physically available on the processor will be brought online automatically as part of the Boost Period and take back offline automatically at the conclusion of the Boost period.

Lastly, you must update your LPAR Shutdown Procedures to include “START IEASDBS” at the start of the shutdown process.

Operational Changes

IBM has introduced a new operator command, “DISPLAY IPLINFO, BOOST”.  This command tells you what the BOOST System Parameter specification for the LPAR.  Also, you can go to the HMC and double-click on the Image Details Panel.  When you do, you see a new value:  System Recovery Boost: On|OFF.

There are also a pair of new Catalog Procedures.  Earlier in this article, we told you about IEASDBS (Shut Down Boost Start).  There is also IEABE (Boost End) if you want to end the boost period early for some reason.  These would be placed in the appropriate PROCLIB concatenation on your system.

Automation Considerations

It comes as no surprise, there are automation considerations.  For example, at this URL: there are several new messages to consider.

Two messages are worth calling out in this article, message IEA676I and IEA678I.  Both signal the end of the Boost period.  What automation changes might you consider?  Consider this shortlist for starters:

  • Activating your purchased zIIP Turbo Boost Temporary Capacity Record before shut down, and then deactivating it after the boost period is complete.
  • Dynamically changing LPAR weights as required during a shutdown or startup boost, to avoid Vertical Low zIIPS.
  • Add the starting of the IEASDBS proc to your existing shutdown automation.
  • Changing the level of parallelism present in the workload at startup and shutdown. The odds are high your automation solution paces these activities today; with Boost, more parallelism will be desired.

Performance Considerations

IBM has also published a very information System Recovery White Paper. When you study the credits on this white paper, you quickly realize the authors are the Who’s Who from IBM Poughkeepsie that genuinely know this platform!

A couple of key takeaways:

  • IBM System Recovery Boost will benefit IPL and those clients that are sub-capacity. Once the Operating System switches, both Speed and zIIP boost will benefit clients.
  • During IPL, remember the boost period is for sixty minutes. You should make sure Boost is focused on meaningful activities.  One example of the wrong activity is known as IPL Device Enumeration.  Excessive time spent on this activity means less time in support of workload catchup.
  • The White Paper goes further by recommending a classic Redbook to reconsider, the publication number is SG24-7816-00 and centers on Z Systems shutdown and restart resiliency.

In closing

  • System Recovery Boost will significantly reduce the time required to shut down z/OS Images. At the same time, your Restart process is greatly improved especially when zIIP engines are present.
  • From an Evolving Solutions perspective, justifying software currency for your enterprise is a bit easier in that rolling IPL’s for maintenance changes complete much faster with this capability.
  • IBM’s zIIP Boost and Turbo Boost are worth evaluating as well. Consider for a moment that a zIIP costs approximately 145K per year with Maintenance. The 3-year cost for the Turbo Boost will be $500K, the 3-year cost of 20 zIIPs is $3M. The odds are high you can find $ ½M USD worth of value by investing in the Turbo Boost feature.

If you are interested in learning more about the IBM Z15 server, or even consider Platform Services that promote software currency, feel free to reach out to the author via LinkedIn or send the author an email at . For more on Evolving Solutions mainframe services here.


1  IBM z15 On Chip Compression

2  See IBM’s zIIP Authorized Use Table for a description on what workload is allowed to run on zIIP processors

Thoughts on IBM Z Systems Off-Platform Migrations

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Have you committed to migrate off your mainframe platform, in favor of alternative solutions?  If you have, you are not alone.  As powerful as this platform is, clients dependent on this technology commonly look for ways to reduce costs and their mainframe is an easy target.  However, many off-platform migrations have been going on for years; and they have yet to be completed.

A typical off-platform migration starts with a directive from senior management to functionally stabilize the platform.  What this means is the IT staff is directed to no longer invest in hardware and software updates.  This results in software stacks that are extremely dated; long since withdrawn from IBM marketing Mainframe Server technology.  Not to mention very real staff challenges over time.

Those familiar with this platform that have embraced a functionally stabilized posture will find themselves supporting their business on older operating system releases such as z/OS 1.9 or z/OS 1.13, hosting transaction and database managers that are decades old.  Even though their platform is “functionally stabilized,” these customers still have the obligation to maintain their monthly license payment to IBM and third-party suppliers.  All the while, they sit on a platform that has not been updated but faithfully serving up data and transactions at rates that cause Google search engine advocates to blush.

Consider for just a moment that Google receives over 63,000 searches per second on any given day. That’s 5.6 billion searches per day1.  Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

Now consider the fact that IBM Mainframes that run CICS handle more than 1.1 million transactions per second worldwide. That’s more than 95 billion transactions per day2.  If you have a mainframe, the odds are high you are running CICS as your transaction manager.

Your mainframe, though functionally stabilized, remains extremely important to your organization, and it’s not serving up YouTube or Funny Cat videos; it’s running your business and our economy.

Are there consequences to your organization when you stabilize such an important platform?  Here at Evolving Solutions, we believe the consequences are very real.  So do the clients that we support.

One consequence is that customers will experience operational challenges as their company attempts to support a platform that is extremely back-level.  What happens if you have a software problem?  How do you obtain service and support for software and/or hardware that is no longer supported?  The short answer is, you can’t.  If you try, it’s going to cost you.

Another example, customers often reach an inflection point where hardware and software currency is no longer possible due to the underlying mainframe server technology that supports their business.  A practical example of this challenge are those clients that have limited resources available on their large system server. For example, IBM z/OS version 2.3 requires a minimum of 8 GB to initialize as well as a server platform that will support the IPL.   Clients with limited real storage or on back-level IBM hardware are impacted by this constraint; preventing them from upgrading and will expose their enterprise to the following challenges:

  • Increased business risk driven by limited hardware currency & flexibility
  • Reduced business agility
  • Increased cost of ownership

Further, IBM’s z/OS Coexistence Policy supports N-2 migrations only. Migration to IBM’s z/OS V2R3 operating system is only possible if you are on V2R2 or V2R1.  What if you are on Version 1 of z/OS, and there are customers out there on that version?  You must do a side by side migration.

Side by side migrations typically lead to two distinct challenges, the first challenge is high services upgrade costs as your enterprise scrambles to move your mainframe platform back into a supported environment.  The second challenge is schedule slippage that further exposes added costs fueled by software migration timelines put forth by vendors.

The preceding discussion represents challenges that are faced by every mainframe client attempting to move away from their platform.  Many of these enterprises recognize that their mainframe is hosting workloads that remain important to their business, even while their migration occurs. Some even reconsider their need to migrate off completely, effectively recommitting to the platform and taking advantage of the strengths this platform naturally offers.

We can help you overcome these challenges and get you on a path to currency! If you are one of those clients that are reconsidering their off-platform migration strategy, please contact Evolving Solutions so we can get to work customizing a solution for you.

Jim Fyffe is a solutions architect, focused on IBM Z, platform security, LinuxOne, Open Source and Geographically Dispersed Parallel SysPlex. Some may say his alter ego is the Flash! Find more from Jim Fyffe on Linkedin.




1 See 63 Fascinating Google Search Statistics at this URL:

2 According to Marc Staimer of Dragon Consulting: “CICS handles more than 1.1 million transactions per second worldwide. That’s more than 95 billion transactions per day.” Sep 21, 2018

Business Partner Advisory Council Sessions did not Disappoint

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I was fortunate enough to represent Evolving Solutions at three IBM Business Partner Advisory Council sessions from June 11-13 in Charleston, SC.  Evolving Solutions is a member of the IBM Z, IBM Power Systems and IBM Storage advisory councils.

IBM’s messaging is clear – Hybrid Multi-cloud is the future of IT. As IT organizations move to Cloud 2.0, they are evaluating the merits of moving mission critical applications to the public cloud against leveraging existing assets on prem to support digital transformation. To quote an IBM Executive: “Cloud is a means to an end; not a strategy”.  Gartner predicts that organizations are likely to have 1/3 of workloads on prem, 1/3 of workloads in the public cloud and 1/3 of workloads in a hosted environment.  Organizations will need a solid Hybrid Multi-cloud strategy to support their business transformation.

IBM Z continues to be a growth platform for IBM and many clients continue to put their trust in the platform.  This is due to the high level of integrated security, automation and the platform’s design for data serving.  IBM’s investments are enabling the platform to become an integral part of any Hybrid Cloud environment through the development of RESTful APIs that allow seamless integration. The platform value of the IBM Z is being extended through open standards and tooling across all cloud consumption models.  In addition, IBM’s Tailored Fit Pricing delivers simplicity, transparency and predictability of pricing. Several options exist but the Enterprise Consumption Solution offers a cloud-like usage-based licensing model.

A highlight of the week was hearing Paul Zikopoulos, Vice President of Big Data and Cognitive Systems, speak on AI and Deep Learning.  Data is the next natural resource for companies – only 20% of the world’s data is accessible today. The real value lies in uncovering the insight from the 80% that is not accessible today. AI and Deep Learning will be the key to uncovering the insights from today’s dark data. A key quote from Paul stated that “There is no AI without IA (Information Architecture”.  Complex workflow can lead to data isolation, which is a key challenge in uncovering the value in the hidden data. A solid Information/Data Architecture enables the true benefit of AI. IBM’s Systems reference architecture for AI spans IBM PowerAI, IBM Spectrum Computing and IBM Storage.

There was big news in the world of SAP.  SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) will soon offer IBM POWER9 as an option.  Why?  SAP HEC executives were looking for a more reliable and flexible architecture that allowed SAP to meet strict SLAs while adapting to highly dynamic environments. The POWER9 platform simplifies and accelerates SAP HANA deployments.  We are also excited to see POWER9 come to both the IBM Cloud and Google Cloud Platform this summer.  More to come in the next few months…

The three days were packed with great information and learning. Of course, we also enjoyed the social time with a great IBM team.  The IBM partnership is one of our longest and most-strategic, and we value the opportunity to provide insight into the company’s future systems strategies.

Jaime Gmach, President and CEO

Jaime Gmach co-founded Evolving Solutions in 1996 and continues to lead the company today as its President and CEO. Together with the extended Evolving Solutions team, Jaime has built the company into a business focused on creating enduring, open and trusted client relationships as a leading technology solution provider to businesses throughout North America.

Jaime has spent the past 30 years serving in various leadership roles within the technology industry. Jaime’s career began as a Systems Engineer with a Minneapolis-based professional services firm where he traveled throughout the world focusing on the implementation and support of mid-range compute and storage solutions. Daily face-to-face interaction with clients early in his professional career served as the inspiration for Jaime’s entrepreneurial passion and for his continued desire to work closely with clients.

Like what you read?  Follow Jaime on LinkedIn.