Enterprise Workloads on the IBM X6 Portfolio: Driving Business Advantages

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1 WHITE PAPER Enterprise Workloads on the IBM X6 Portfolio: Driving Business Advantages Sponsored by: IBM Jed Scaramella January 2014 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Enterprise information technology (IT) leaders are increasingly seeking to leverage IT to create a competitive advantage in their market. In a business environment that is continually increasing in velocity, IT is viewed as a method to speed delivery to market, to connect with customers, and to improve workforce productivity. New trends and technology in social media, mobility, and cloud are presenting additional opportunities for enterprise businesses to engage with clients, to enable ubiquitous access to information and applications, and to provide new sources of data to analyze in business decision making. IT organizations are challenged to transform their IT environments to deliver on the promised capabilities of the new era of cloud, or what IDC refers to as the 3rd Platform. This requires server systems capable of running enterprise workloads and processing growing sets of data, yet still able to deliver within the budget constraints of IT. The IBM X6 portfolio is the sixth generation of IBM Enterprise X-Architecture (EXA), spanning 15 years of server architecture research and development. These platform designs are based on the principle that performance capabilities of large IBM systems can be applied to industry-standard servers, resulting in increased performance, scalability, and availability. The IBM X6 systems leverage numerous innovations and features that are designed to speed response times while lowering operational costs. The IBM X6 systems leverage IBM's exflash memory-channel storage technology that provides the application with an in-server memory-channel-based storage tier that is integrated with the processor and improves latency. This can alleviate problems with bottlenecks associated with external shared storage and speed response times. The IBM X6 systems are modular designs that not only deliver on current IT capacity needs but also provide the ability to easily scale as future growth demands necessitate. IBM X6 customers have the benefit of investment protection from the additional headroom that can host multiple generations of technology in the same server. 1 Specific platform and management features, including self-healing architectures, are designed to ensure maximum application uptime, to provide ease of maintenance, and to integrate into virtual environments. 1 "Multiple generations" refers to the ability to swap out one generation for the next without replacing the server. January 2014, IDC #246008

2 IBM Enterprise X-Architecture is specifically suited for demanding enterprise applications that require greater performance, increased memory and storage capacity, and enhanced management platforms. With IBM X6 systems, customers can deploy an efficient and economical server infrastructure that can run both resilient multiterabyte databases and the capabilities to virtualize large I/O workloads. SITUATION OVERVIEW Business Pressure Drives IT Requirements It has been said and written many times before, but it seems more true now than ever that the business environment is continually moving at a faster and faster pace; so anything that supports business is expected to keep pace. IT organizations are no exception; enterprises are increasingly dependent on IT to create competitive advantage, particularly around areas such as faster delivery of new products and services to market, connecting with customers, and improving the productivity of their own workforces. At the same time, there is a transformation taking place in the market that is driven by new trends in social media, mobile technology, and cloud. These IT trends present new opportunities for business, including new ways to engage with clients and new sources of data to analyze. These new trends also bring unique challenges to the line of business as pressure increases with expectations, so business executives are looking to IT help drive value by ensuring: Fast delivery for new services and applications Ubiquitous access to actionable information The ability to quickly adapt to changes in the business climate The market is transitioning away from an IT model that is PC centric to one that is mobile and cloud based. IDC describes this paradigm shift as the migration from the 2nd Platform to the 3rd Platform, and a critical success factor in the new era will be the close alignment of IT organizations and business units. IT Systems for the Next Generation All of the trends described previously correlate to pressure on the IT organization, which is faced with the challenge of transforming its IT environment to deliver on the promised capabilities of the new era of cloud (or the 3rd Platform). In the face of delivering new capabilities, IT is still grappling with its own challenges. IDC surveyed IT executives on the top challenges facing IT in the next 12 to 18 months, the results of which are displayed in Figure IDC #

3 FIGURE 1 Primary Challenges Facing IT Cost/constrained capital budgets 50.6 Security, compliance, and change control 47.4 Disaster recovery/high-availability capabilities 38.3 Dealing with the impact of mobile devices 35.4 Improving business agility and IT credibility 29.9 Making effective use of cloud 28.9 IT staff productivity, head count, and skills 27.9 Effectively leveraging big data (% of respondents) n = 308 Source: IDC's Converged and Integrated Systems End-User Survey Report (IDC #242461, August 2013) The top-ranked challenges are stagnant budgets and controlling costs, meaning that IT must be able to do more with less. For IT decision makers, this means finding server systems capable of running enterprise workloads and processing growing sets of data. Among the other top challenges are issues associated with uptime and availability, improving IT agility, and making IT staff more efficient. These challenges speak directly to server systems being reliable in terms of application availability, flexible in dealing with future change, and easy to use and manage. As cost is the overriding challenge, these issues must all be met economically, which lends many to look toward x86 architectures IDC #

4 THE SIXTH GENERATION OF IBM EXA TECHNOLOGY (THE IBM X6 PORTFOLIO) The IBM X6 portfolio, including IBM System x3850 X6, IBM System x3950 X6, and planned IBM Flex System x880 X6 Compute Node, represents 15 years of server architecture research and development. These platforms are the sixth generation of IBM's Enterprise X-Architecture. The platform designs are based on the principle that performance capabilities of large IBM systems can be applied to industry-standard servers, resulting in increased performance, scalability, and availability. Faster Access to Information The business demands fast access to actionable data, yet storage is often cited as a costly bottleneck in today's IT infrastructure. Traditionally, applications residing on servers relied on external shared storage for data access. The capacity demand needed large costly SAN/NAS environments to ensure required "hit rates" were met. As the infrastructure transitioned to virtual environments, the problem with bottlenecks grew, with a greater number of virtual machines (VMs) on the same network. IBM's innovation with exflash memory-channel storage technology in these platforms is designed to speed response times while lowering operational costs. The technology provides the application with an in-server memory-channel-based storage tier that is integrated with the processor and improves latency. The performance gain comes from two distinct capabilities with memory-channel storage: First, it not only leverages the memory bus to create the highest data transfer per device but also leverages differentiated IBM WriteNow technology. IBM's WriteNow technology enables the lowest write latency to block I/O storage in the industry by allowing the super-early write commit of data 2 ; second, unlike typical SSD- or PCIe-based storage, memory-channel storage is integrated directly with the processor, not a remote data transaction, thus increasing parallelization of application transactions significantly. Versus traditional spinning disk, memory-channel storage can provide substantially more capacity and performance in the system, which in turn reduces the need for large external SAN and NAS environments. Having significant performance on the server creates opportunities for server consolidation and optimization of external storage. This can significantly decrease capital and operational expenses as well as greatly improve response times by relocating the IOPS closer to the processor. Agile and Scalable Successfully meeting future demand with current technology requires sophisticated capacity planning, yet the result is often insufficient capacity or underutilized systems. The modular design of the IBM X6 portfolio delivers not only the capacity needed today but also the ability to easily scale as future growth demands necessitate. The same server is able to host multiple generations of technology in one server, 3 meaning IT can reduce its acquisition cost and retain the capability to accelerate performance when needed. The benefit of having the right solution with headroom to grow means that datacenter sprawl and operational complexity can be minimized µs write latency for exflash DIMMs in preliminary testing versus 15-19µs latency for PCIe-based flash storage from Fusion-io, Micron, and Virident and 65µs latency for Intel S3500 and S3700 SSDs (Better results are expected when testing is complete.) 3 "Multiple generations" refers to the ability to swap out one generation for the next without replacing the server IDC #

5 In addition to controlling overhead costs, the X6 portfolio of servers enables IT to have more agility through IBM FastSetup and Configuration Patterns. These automated provisioning features reduce the burden on IT administrators and reduce errors associated with manual interventions. IT is always overwhelmed with the increasing complexity and effort to deploy each new generation of technology. These built-in technologies in the X6 portfolio drive simplification and ease of management by enabling IT to deploy large clusters of servers faster and more easily. These technologies give IT the capability to create a common profile for a cluster of servers and automatically provision the cluster using the common profile. Unique IBM Configuration Patterns even allow changes to be made to the profile once on the primary server and then automatically cascaded to the cluster. Resilient for Maximum Availability Now more than ever, when IT goes down, the business goes down as well. IT resiliency is a critical success factor to any enterprise. The IBM X6 portfolio is built on generations of technology designed to deliver business-critical resiliency, a core element of which is the integrated management stack. A number of the IBM X6 platform and management features are designed to ensure maximum application availability, to provide ease of maintenance, and to integrate into virtual environments: Self-healing architectures: IBM X6 platforms will automatically switch over to the second CPU in the event of a primary CPU failure. This is very important because the primary CPU maintains control and access to the network, storage, and security components in the server. Additionally, the management firmware (Integrated Management Module) is automatically backed up if the primary processor fails. Another key capability is the ability to sort pages in memory based on data integrity delivering resources with the highest level of reliability for application and operating system consumption. Page Retire: Page Retire, developed from advanced algorithms from IBM Research, transparently monitors pages in memory and automatically quarantines any corrupt memory pages, protecting the platform from potential fatal failures. This feature drives higher availability and system resiliency. Integration with hypervisors: IBM X6 platforms introduce two more Upward Integrated Modules (UIMs) that fully integrate with standard hypervisors to provide advanced management capabilities. Rolling firmware UIM enables IT to schedule a transparent system firmware update in virtualized environments, while RAS UIM allows IT to set specific policies to proactively respond to predictive failure alerts, thus avoiding downtime and "touch" on the platforms. Built for Business-Critical Workloads IBM's Enterprise X-Architecture is specifically suited for demanding enterprise applications that require greater performance, increased memory and storage capacity, and enhanced management platforms. IBM has a proven track record with EXA in running business-critical workloads stretching back more than a decade. With X6 platforms, IBM is driving client value by optimizing the following key businesscritical workloads: Enterprise resource planning (ERP): The compute performance and scalability of the IBM X6 portfolio are well suited to run business intelligence applications, such as SAP Business Suite. The resiliency of these systems ensures that tier 1 applications can be run on the more economical x86 system IDC #

6 Analytics and database: With validated configurations for Microsoft SQL Data Warehouse, X6 platforms can enable faster provisioning time. The expanded memory capacity and flash technology can significantly improve database performance and reduce latency in query time. Virtualization: The compute and memory in the X6 systems are robust enough to run large VMs for enterprise applications that traditionally could not be run on smaller servers because of processor and memory constraints. IBM exflash memory-channel storage enables the deployment and enablement of virtual machines without dependency on external storage. The management features, including automated provisioning, integration with hypervisors, and automatic firmware updates, improve the efficiency of running a highly virtualized environment. CHALLENGES/OPPORTUNITIES IDC sees challenges and opportunities for IBM X6 platforms to deliver business-critical performance and availability to customers. Challenges Demonstrating the ROI of the systems: IDC places the IBM X6 platforms in the higher end of the x86 systems market, which has been traditionally dominated by lower-cost servers. Some customers still perceive a price premium with four-socket servers, where much of the rationale on x86 server procurement still centers on capital expenditure. IBM will have to demonstrate the operational efficiencies and business benefits that a higher-end x86 system can deliver versus a low-cost volume server. Alternative solutions: With data analytics among the top priorities for enterprises, it is to be expected that there are a range of solutions on the market to address this opportunity. The list of competitors to IBM X6 platforms ranges from other x86 vendors to Unix vendors and even vendors offering data analytics via the cloud. IBM's message will have to communicate how effectively the company competes with all these alternatives. Opportunities For customers: The capabilities of larger x86 systems such as the IBM X6 platforms enable customers to deploy an efficient and economical server infrastructure that can run resilient multiterabyte databases and virtualize large I/O workloads. Consolidating applications on a scale-up x86 architecture can remove complexity in customers' environments and simplify the management of their systems. For IBM: Offering a server platform that effectively and confidently supports large database, analytics, and virtual workloads creates a significant opportunity for IBM. Customers consider these types of workloads vital to the business, and they value technology partners that can deliver on their requirements IDC #

7 CONCLUSION As business and analytical applications grow more sophisticated, the server platform requirements become more complex. This includes all elements of the server system from processor to memory technologies to management modules. It is also critically important how systems can maintain maximum application availability as well as integrate into virtual environments. As the sixth iteration of the Enterprise X-Architecture, IBM's X6 servers are built on a solid foundation of system research and development. The IBM X6 portfolio draws upon the history IBM has in developing large systems and the application of that expertise to industry-standard servers. The result is servers that can deliver mission-critical performance for demanding enterprise applications, easily scale to meet future workload demand, and efficiently run robust virtual environments. This document was developed with IBM funding. Although the document may utilize publicly available material from various vendors, including IBM, it does not necessarily reflect the positions of such vendors on the issues addressed in this document IDC #

8 About IDC International Data Corporation (IDC) is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications and consumer technology markets. IDC helps IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community make factbased decisions on technology purchases and business strategy. More than 1000 IDC analysts provide global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries worldwide. For more than 48 years, IDC has provided strategic insights to help our clients achieve their key business objectives. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world's leading technology media, research, and events company. Global Headquarters 5 Speen Street Framingham, MA USA idc-insights-community.com Copyright Notice External Publication of IDC Information and Data Any IDC information that is to be used in advertising, press releases, or promotional materials requires prior written approval from the appropriate IDC Vice President or Country Manager. A draft of the proposed document should accompany any such request. IDC reserves the right to deny approval of external usage for any reason. Copyright 2014 IDC. Reproduction without written permission is completely forbidden.

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