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Mainframe savings with zIIP, zAAP could go beyond DB2 and Java

By using mainframe specialty engines for more than just DB2 and Java workloads, mainframe users could save millions of dollars a year.

Two mainframe specialty processors designed to absorb DB2 and Java workloads have drawn interest because of the potential to offload more work to them.

For more on zIIP and zAAP:
IBM mainframe zIIP and zAAP adoption still lags IFL processor

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The z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) and z Application Assist Processor (zAAP) have been around a few years and, for about $100,000 a pop, allow mainframe users to move compute cycles off the central processors. The benefits are twofold: IBM and other major mainframe vendors don't charge software licensing costs for compute cycles on zIIP and zAAP. Second, freeing space on a mainframe's central processors can delay a new mainframe purchase, which can run into the millions of dollars.

Offloading more than just DB2 and Java to zIIP and the zAAP could change how software licensing deals are structured.

But adoption of the zIIP and zAAP engines has been slow compared with the mainframe specialty processor, the Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL), which as the name implies is targeted for Linux workloads. There are estimates that half of the new mainframe workloads are Linux-based, and as a result, IFL has become more popular. But zIIP and zAAP have not made similar gains.

More workloads for zIIP and zAAP
That could be about to change. Mainframe software vendors have explored the possibility of users offloading more than just DB2 and Java to zIIP and the zAAP. That development would reverberate across the mainframe vendor world and could change how software licensing deals are structured.

"It has the potential to significantly alter how mainframe software is being priced," said Rich Ptak, an analyst at Ptak, Noel & Associates LLc. "There is the opportunity, depending on application and workload profile, to cut the costs of your software payment to IBM by as much as 20% per month or more."

Neon Enterprise Software, a mainframe software vendor, has taken this approach with its zPrime software. One large end user testing zPrime told other users and analysts -- including one from Ptak -- at a meeting in Southern California recently that they could save at least $10 million a year in software costs. Meanwhile, an online calculator from mainframe software vendor DataDirect Techologies and analyst firm WinterGreen Research estimates that offloading DataDirect's software onto zIIP could create savings of as high as $9 million over five years..

IBM waits and sees
How have IBM -- and other large mainframe software vendors -- reacted to this idea? With caution, it seems, at least at first. A spokesman for IBM said the company "does not have sufficient information for which to provide comment at this time" on Neon's zPrime product. Even Neon is being coy, declining to release pricing on zPrime.

For his part, Ptak foresees great potential for IBM if it works to accept the technology -- and drawbacks if it doesn't.

"It could provide [IBM with] the significant opportunity to reinforce the message that the mainframe can be a very attractive workload platform," he said. "It could really go to the heart of the challenge today that HP and Microsoft and distributed folks make about moving off the mainframe."

Then there is the flipside.

"They could also just as easily decide that they'll just start including MIPS [million instructions per second] on the specialty engines in their pricing. To me, in many ways, that would be self-defeating."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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