Making good on a promise made just over a year ago, IBM today announced that it will deliver an implementation of an x86 server blade running Windows that can be tightly coupled under a common management framework to a zEnterprise-class mainframe.
The zEnterprise BladeCenter Extensions (zBX) are blade servers based on x86 or Power Series processors that IBM developed to better integrate Linux, AIX and now Windows applications running on those platforms with applications running on z/OS or Linux on the mainframe. Like the other zBX blade servers, the Windows implementations are managed as a logical extension of the mainframe systems by relying on a Unified Resource Manager (URM) that allows systems managers to manage mainframes and distributed computing systems under a common framework.
IBM has been positioning zEnterprise as a platform with a more efficient approach to enterprise computing that enables the convergence of mainframe and distributed computing models to not only reduce management costs, but also allow IT organizations to optimize what class of application workloads should be run on the processor platform that is best suited to handle that workload, which IBM generally refers to as "Fit for Purpose" computing.
According to Doris Conti, director of marketing for System z, IBM doesn't necessarily envision all Windows applications shifting towards this converged model. But there are plenty of organizations, she said, that for one reason or another prefer to run Windows application servers that are integrated with mainframe applications on dedicated x86 servers. The zBX approach allows customers to do that without having to deploy a separate management framework for the Windows servers.
In the case of the zBX blade servers running Windows, IBM has elected to deploy Windows on top of a KVM virtual machine, which Conti says made it easier for IBM to integrate zBX blade servers running Windows - scheduled to be available in December - with the rest of the zEnterprise environment.
IT organizations, of course, have had the option of running Windows server software on top of a virtual machine on the mainframe for years. The zBX blade server approach simply gives customers another option for integrating Windows application servers running on x86 processors with mainframe software such as DB2 without having to host that software on the mainframe, said Conti.
To the degree that the zEnterprise platform heralds the end of the platform wars remains to be seen. But a convergence of enterprise computing models that will ultimately change the way IT is managed is definitely well under way.