On May 24, BMC announced changes to key mainframe administrative tools, including BMC Capacity Management for Mainframes,
to allow parts of them to run on specialty zIIP processors, adding to its list of zIIP-enabled tools such as BMC CMF Monitor and BMC Mainview for z/OS. BMC is not alone in this: Admin-tool vendors like CA have their own zIIP tools, such as CA NetMaster Network Management as well as the tools in CA DATACOM and CA IDMS. BMC positions these new capabilities as bringing straightforward cost savings to customers, since workloads running on a zIIP cost little or nothing to the user. However, for the mainframe user, this story is more likely to be about flexibility than cost.
Software licensing the bulk of mainframe costs?
Consider the specifics of the announcement. BMC has changed 20-30% of the code in BMC Capacity Management and other tools to run on zIIP specialty engines. Thus, up to approximately the same percentage of the license costs of these BMC tools can be saved, everything else being equal. According to IBM's total cost of ownership (TCO) computations, software license costs -- especially those of third-party admin tools -- are a major component of mainframe cost, so anything that reduces admin-tool costs by 20-30% ought to have a major impact, right?
Not necessarily. Closer examination of IBM TCO shows that total software license costs on a per-app basis are highly competitive with, if not well under, those of distributed systems such as Linux and Windows clusters. Moreover, initial indications are that database administration costs for enterprise databases such as Oracle dwarf the license and people costs of IBM or third-party admin tools. Meanwhile, the increasing use of specialty engines by customers has led to a de-facto decrease in non-admin software costs. Considered in this overall context, upgrading one's BMC or CA tool to use zIIP does reduce costs, but not in a major way.
However, that is not the only pain point of IBM mainframe customers. Customer concerns also include the degree of flexibility that they have -- or don't have -- in fine-tuning workloads and "nice-to-have" tool features in order to do quick slashing of costs in response to corporate directives. In distributed systems, this is often simply a matter of mothballing one PC or switching one tool to open source. The mainframe world is much less fine-grained: Although capacity management gives the ability to achieve per-resource dynamic provisioning, fixed software license costs and "insurance" provisioning limit the ability to save costs quickly, in smaller increments.
Thus, the BMC announcements are significant for mainframe users well beyond their immediate cost savings. What they really do is give customers the choice between putting an admin tool (or part of it) on a zIIP or putting something else on the zIIP immediately. So, the next time corporate comes knocking for cost savings, IT can "workload shift" for slightly slower performance but lower costs. And, as more and more admin tools from BMC, CA and IBM adopt this model, the mainframe user's flexibility becomes greater and greater. Mainframe software cost flexibility -- you never thought you'd hear those words, did you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wayne Kernochan is president of Infostructure Associates, an affiliate of Valley View Ventures. Infostructure Associates aims to provide thought leadership and sound advice to vendors and users of information technology. This document is the result of Infostructure Associates-sponsored research. Infostructure Associates believes that its findings are objective and represent the best analysis available at the time of publication.
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