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BMC MainView, zIIP processors boost functionality at The Principal

The Principal Financial Group uses BMC MainView to monitor and manage CICS, DB2 and z/OS resources. One user discusses how moving Mainview to the zIIP processor has lowered mainframe costs.

BMC has touted its leadership position in "creative exploitation" of the IBM z10's specialty processors since it revised its products to help users move mainframe workloads to these processors. What does this mean for the average customer? To help us find out, BMC arranged for us to speak with a BMC MainView user about his experiences with this kind of workload shifting.

The Principal Financial Group, a global company that provides financial services and products, uses BMC MainView to monitor and manage CICS, DB2 and z/OS resources for legacy systems and distributed workloads on its mainframes. MainView keeps watch over batch-initiated report processing, business transactions, accounting and other functions critical to providing the 401(k) products and services in which The Principal specializes.

Michael Hirsch, technical engineer at The Principal, said the company chose BMC MainView for these tasks in 2008, after a very competitive process involving requests for proposals, demos and proofs of concept. The key reason the company chose MainView was its ability to move a greater percentage of the processing consumed by the monitor (according to BMC, an average of 20-60%) onto zIIP specialty processors. After some modifications, MainView resulted in a significant decrease in usage of scarce general-purpose processor resources and a reduction in software costs, estimated at $75,000 a year. This, in turn, has led to decreased overall costs and increased functionality, or processing performed.

Drilling down into the details, Hirsch said, "We find zIIP processors effective up to about 82% of their capacity. The workloads moved don't have much 'footprint' on the zIIP processor, so we don't reach that limit. Meanwhile, our business units like the decrease in general-purpose processor usage very much," as it allows IT to assign additional workloads to the general-purpose processors, and therefore the units can get more done in the same amount of time.

The Principal has found that BMC MainView has delivered additional benefits, according to Hirsch. The browser-based version of MainView, which offers "lots of charts and graphs," is well-suited to the needs of second-tier IT people, who would like to solve problems quickly by "self-serving" rather than coordinating with a central administrator. Although the quality of information provided by MainView is not necessarily superior to that of the previously used monitor -- MainView uses the CMF data format rather than IBM's RMF -- conversion has proven straightforward, and, Hirsch said, "The data is very accurate." BMC support has been competitive with that of similar vendors, and Hirsch noted that "BMC has been very flexible in making difficult changes to the product" as needed by The Principal.

The most important part of BMC MainView to The Principal, however, is that it's a lead-in to more general movement of workloads to zIIP or other specialty processors. "We need to make the price point more cost-effective," Hirsch said. "Kudos to BMC for being forward-looking."

If, as The Principal believes, BMC will continue to drive zIIP-enablement through its mainframe product line, and other vendors move in the same direction with their administrative tools, then the cost savings and increased functionality from the present version of MainView are a small fraction of what The Principal will achieve two to three years from now.

To mainframe users in general, the experiences of The Principal make two other points:

  1. The total cost of ownership advantages of specialty processors that IBM touts continue to be proven, and to increase, in the real world.
  2. The benefits of zIIP enablement are as much about increased flexibility in workload placement and balancing as they are about saving software license costs. After all, only IT sees the cost savings immediately. What the rest of the business sees right now is its increased productivity.

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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