Friday, 10 February 2012

White Paper 1: ‘Doing More with Less’

With the IBM zEnterprise System, IBM is delivering a new dimension in computing. This latest generation of System z servers builds on the formidable capabilities for which previous mainframe systems were renowned, while also extending their reach across the infrastructure through a new heterogeneous extension. Read more…….
Cycles are the most fundamental part of today’s economic life. Discipline of a good management applies in both up and down cycles. In a downturn, where a business is not being flattered by a growing market, only the best leadership can achieve results. Day to day, top leaders are convinced that good leadership in tough markets require them to tread a difficult line between keeping their business afloat in the short term and positioning for long-term growth. They are focusing on keeping their business lean, often consciously taking lessons from the private equity textbooks, and examining novel sources of long term capital to supplement their capital bases. These techniques are applicable to any cyclical downturn. “Doing more with less”, is therefore one of the most prudent mantra of this decade!

erald D. Cohen president and CEO of Information Builders, the leader in Web-based business intelligence (BI) and the largest software manufacturer in New York City reported - “If you have an IBM z/OS mainframe, there may be substantial savings from the new features that dramatically reduces processing costs that you have missed. You may be able to pick up the ultra reliability and high capacity workload of a mainframe for less than it would cost to build a new environment on UNIX or Windows. Business intelligence (BI) applications have the most potential for making this possible.”
Many executives think that Mainframe is a legacy computing environment which has become expensive and obsolete, but they also know that for heavy data processing, mainframe z/OS is unsurpassed. Companies are buying new computers, databases, and software to meet their BI needs. For each BI application, most organizations buy a new Window or UNIX computer. It is not unusual for a large organization to have thousands of these machines, which is one of the main reasons for virtualization to reduce the number of actual machines. With each virtual machine comes a full provisioning of software: an Internet server, a Java™ application server, databases, etc. Each machine also needs a backup in case of failure, and may be larger than needed to handle peak loads.

There is no need for these purchases or to set up new infrastructure for storage or communications. You can run BI applications on the IBM mainframe practically free with the new IBM zIIP chip (the ones that don’t increase the size of the rating of the IBM machine or cause any upgrade fees). The question remains, what are the applications that can use this chip? You might be surprised by the answer. The number one BI product with the largest deployments, as identified by the BI analysts, Gartner, Ventana, and BARC (UK), is the WebFOCUS business intelligence platform from Information Builders. WebFOCUS runs natively on z/OS and can transfer up to 80 percent of its processing to the zIIP chip. That’s how you get the ‘free’ processing. The processing cost on a mainframe is always measured in the amount of MIPS used. With the zIIP, the workload transferred to the chip is not counted in the size of the computer or the cost of processing – in other words, it’s free. Information Builders is one of the only companies in the world that makes software that intelligently switches processing between the general processor chip and the zIIP chip. Think of this chip as a BI accelerator. Once the I/O is taken care of, BI has to provide rich Internet formatting, calculations, analytics, and other CPU-intensive operations, all of which is offloaded to the accelerator. This means that if you want
to deploy a large customer-facing application or a system that needs real-time data from the mainframe, you can do more with what you have.

Once WebFOCUS is installed you manage everything via your browser and WebFOCUS’ dashboard. It’s exactly the same as if you were running on Windows. You can also natively read all the databases on your mainframe (DB2, VSAM, IMS, Adabas, Model204, etc.) and may not even need to build a data warehouse, which leads to yet another monetary savings.

For the last few years the category of business intelligence has been the number one area of interest of CIOs, as measured by Gartner. If we look under the covers at BI, we see that all BI needs and corresponding software products designed to satisfy those needs are not the same. Analysts agree that the pervasive view of business intelligence is focused on the notion that it is about end user empowerment. That is the ability to easily access and manipulate data for the purpose of enabling more informed decisions from the individual or workgroup all the way up to providing useful information to very large numbers of users in a consistent and ubiquitous manner.  Why so many variations in terms of the needs, uses, delivery and presentation of data? Because the usefulness of information within any business enterprise is role based, whereas the ability to produce this useful information is skills based. Data, and its corresponding manipulation for one end user, may not be meaningful to another user. Whereas individual users or a workgroup may possess the skills to produce meaningful information, as the need to produce information scales to larger populations of users, such ubiquitous usage is beyond the skills of larger end user populations. This business intelligence software, in reality, segments into categories of products targeting different information-producing needs and corresponding skill sets in terms of the end user’s ability to produce such information:

The need to produce and manipulate meaningful information for larger user populations continues to grow. Individual or workgroup-oriented BI tools cannot scale to address these needs. At some point in BI usage the need to produce consistent, meaningful information on a scale beyond the skills of the masses introduces another requirement. Very large scale, self-service applications account for Information Builders main business.
Reporting applications have existed for some time, but are only now beginning to be recognized by industry analysts as an important aspect of enterprise BI.

The Economics of Business Intelligence on z/OS

Here is the expenses summary for a new to existing firm preferring to venture into BI activities.

Software (usually by number of users)
Hardware to host the application
New database software or links to data
Provisioning and maintaining the environment
Internal costs for application design
External fees for application design/install assistance
User training



A lot of these costs are nonexistent on a pre-existing z/OS environment:

*       No new computers
*       No new database
*       No new data warehouse in many cases
*       Environmental costs are already in place
*       WebFOCUS doesn’t require user training
*       The software is usually sold for an unlimited number of users, reducing the initial cost

That’s about 60 percent of the cost eliminated. The operational cost of running on the mainframe is often a charge-back based on computer capacity used, or MIPS. WebFOCUS offloads up to 80 percent of its MIPS to the zIIP chip and they do not show up in usage reports because only general processor MIPS are used for this purpose. IBM allows one zIIP chip for each general processor and the price of a zIIP chip is 25 percent of the general processor. The net result is, you get a big discount on your MIPS usage, and all the computer power you need without buying backup or peak-load capacity. The reason the zIIP chip can be called a BI accelerator is that it’s designed to offload the types of CPU operations that are required for BI. For example, considerable processor power can be used in producing and styling information as a report visible to Web-based users (often referred to as Rich Internet Applications or RIA). If you want to view information as an Excel spreadsheet, every cell has to be formatted, and doing this work on the zIIP is a savings. Massaging data in different ways to analyze it may require calculations and sorting of flat extract files, and this is all done on the zIIP. Even when retrieving data from a database, which is often the largest user of computer power, WebFOCUS has special processes. For flat and VSAM files the blocking and buffering is arranged so that much more of the processing is done inside of WebFOCUS, and therefore on the zIIP chip. In the case of DB2, WebFOCUS has a method of processing that moves about 30 percent of the processing to zIIP.

The IBM z/OS mainframe is universally acclaimed for its large-scale transaction processing ability. Large-scale, custom-built transaction processing applications are the source of the massive amount of data that resides on the mainframe. There is a corresponding ability to build another class of application on the mainframe, one that is not oriented toward processing transactions, but rather toward processing information and getting it delivered in a rich visual context to large populations of internal and external users (with no end user training) via a Web browser. The purpose and the business driver is that current information is necessary today to enable people
to make better decisions. Sharing information with our customers, for example, reduces errors, encourages brand loyalty, provides entirely new ways of doing business, and often leads to new revenue opportunities. These information or reporting applications cannot use BI tools per se, but rather, are applications built using BI technology. With the advent of zIIP technology, these applications are now even more economically implemented directly on the mainframe rather than moving the data off of the mainframe and building new environments.

Many companies and organizations are all benefiting from using their Transaction Processing mainframes for intensive information-processing applications.
Some other large WebFOCUS customers on z/OS are listed below. In all cases, the main data comes from transactional systems on the mainframe, but may also come from off-platform systems. In many cases, the low latency of the data is necessary to support the application. In most cases the number of users is substantial. The list has been divided into applications that support external customers or internal operations, although many do both.

External-Facing Applications, some examples

Royal Bank of Canada
Complete day to day processing encompassing millions of end users
U.S. Dept. of the Treasury
Check-verification application at 6,000 banks
Self-service credit card account management and usage for vendors/customers
ACE Insurance
Risk management of customer insurance claims
U.S. Social Security System
Verification of eligibility and more
Credit Mutuel (France
User information system

Large Internal Applications, some examples

General Motors
Just-in-time inventory management and extensive data processing
U.S. Postal Service
Money-laundering monitoring of all postal money orders
Air Canada
Aircraft maintenance tracking and reporting application
Bank of Montreal
Branch bank financial reporting
Chubb Insurance
Finance, sales, claims reporting applications
Customer information system
Independence Blue Cross
Multiple applications
Citizens Bank
Varied applications for different departments
Performance management with KPIs for all banks in system

Some of the ideas and facts given here-in have been reproduced from the White Paper written by Mr. Gerald D. Cohen, president and CEO of Information Builders, New York. It is intended that information borrowed from his paper will help our teams in enhancing their awareness.  

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