Tuesday, February 16, 2016

z13s - a new generation of z Systems built for cloud and mobile

General Introduction

A couple of weeks ago IBM announced its new version of the LinuxONE and especially of the smaller version, known as the Rockhopper. As a matter of fact, any one who follows the mainframe market a little bit could guess it was based on the new little brother of the z13. And it was of course. So today IBM announced the new z13s. Allthough LinuxONE was announced via Press Channels, it is now coupled with the z13s in the official announcement : "Expanding the IBM Systems' portfolio with additions to IBM z Systems and IBM LinuxONE (ZG16-0002)". I'm going to give you an introduction to the z13s, but I will also refer from time to time to the LinuxONE Rockhopper of course.

You know I largely concentrate on the technical aspects of the announcement rather than focusing on the strategic importance of the platform. Lots of other sources will give you plenty of information about this. Take e.g. a look at this IBM page covering z13s and its relation with Cloud, Security, Analytics and DevOps. And you can find quite some videos on Youtube as well.

I must immdiately say, I don't like the naming of this new system : z13s. This was my plural for two z13s, oops, I guess that will be two z13's and two z13s's. Any one a better suggestion ?

But let's get to the content of the announcement. I'll give you the usual survey of the new system starting with some technical specifications. Of course the Software Pricing is also always an interesting part. I'll conclude with some key dates and a couple of references to already available documentation. Here's an overview of the z13s.

Click on image for larger version

As usual, along with the announcement of the new 'Business Class' model there's also the GA2 for the 'Enterprise Class' model, the z13. No separate announcement as before though, it's all in the z13s announcement.

Technical specifications

The z13s has machine type 2965. Just like its predecessors it's also a one frame, air-cooled machine. Just like the z114 and the zBC12 it has top-exit I/O cabling and top exit power cabling. Unlike the z13, the processor is, with its 4.3 GHz, just a bit faster than its predecessor, the zBC12 (4.2 GHz). Of course it also has the new hardware features that were introduced with the z13 like Simultaneous Multi Threading (SMT) and Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD). Look for my post of the announcement of the z13 for more details about these. SMT is made available for IFLs and zIIPs, just like on the z13.

Again, we have two models : the N10 and the N20. The N10 has one drawer (13 PUs) and the N20 can have one or two drawers for its 26 PUs. As you can guess the N10 has 10 configurable engines, the N20 has, indeed, 20 of them. The N10 has 2 SAPs and one IFP (Integrated Firmware Processor) resulting in 10 configurable engines The N20 has an IFP, 3 SAPs and 2 spare engines. But what's different from the zBC12 is that the z13s N20 can be a one drawer or a two drawer model. The second drawer is added when more than 2TB of memory is needed. As you can see it has 52 PUs, but only 20, as with the 1-drawer model, are available to the customer. The second drawer is only there for the extra memory from 2TB up to 4TB. Later on I'll tell you more about the memory.

If you go through the announcement, you will notice there are two other models as well : the L10 and the L20. Well, that's the indication for the Rockhopper and it's the same story with the drawers as well as for the configurable engines. Except, you can of course only have IFLs here.

As I already indicated, both models (N10, N20) can have up to 6 traditional CPs ranging from A01 to Z06 giving us 156 capacity settings. The smallest model, the A01 has once again a higher capacity than its predecessor. On the z114 it was 25 mips, on the zBC12 it was 50 mips and now it's become 80 mips. Same story as with the zBC12, allthough it now has 10 MSUs, it still has zELC pricing and the software price for the A01 remains the same as for the zBC12 A01 with its 6 MSUs.

Here's an overview of how the z13s compares to its predecessors.

You know by now what PCI stands for, of course. so a uniprocessor goes up from 1064 PCI on a zBC12 to 1430 PCI on a z13s.

Memory - the first 64GB are for free

I rememeber when I wrote about the announcement of the z13, one of the subtitles was Memory Memory Memory. And I can say, you're in for the same treat on the z13s. The maximum memory is 8 times larger than what we had on the zBC12 resulting in 4TB. Model N10 will be limited to around 1TB. But what's perhaps even more interesting is the minimum capacity you get. The first 64GB are free, you can't start any lower. And as bizarre as it may sound, tripling your memory will cost you less than e.g. adding just some capacity. Let me give you an example. Say you have 48GB on a zBC12. If you ask no additional memory, you'll always start at 64 on the z13s. If you want to double your capacity to 96GB, you're actually better off with 152GB than with 120GB. Here's an overview for the one drawer N20 configurations.

If you're a bit confused about the strange numbers, it's because the capacity needed for HSA and for RAIM is not taken into account in the Client GB. Upgrades within one line are non-dsiruptive, upgrades to a following line are disruptive.

More memory really makes a difference nowadays. On the one hand with 'traditional' workloads like e.g. DB2 but on the other hand definitely with Linux workloads. There's a specific redbook covering this matter : 'Benefits of Configuring More Memory in the IBM z/OS Software Stack'.

Under the covers

Here you see an 'under the covers' illustration of a z13s one drawer N20 model.

As you can see this resembles the zBC12. With new z13s systems you can only have PCIe I/O drawers but you can still carry forward one traditional I/O drawer but then only for FICON Express8 cards. As with the zBC12, empty slots in this I/O drawer cannot be filled after or during the upgrade to the z13s.
As with the z13, you can now have a rack mounted 1U HMC, which is installed in a customer supplied rack. Also similar is the placement of the Support Elements at the top of the frame.

Upgrades are possible from any z114 or zBC12. Upgrades from an N10 to an N20 and from a 1 drawer N20 to a two drawer N20 are disruptive. Only the N20 allows an upgrade to the larger z13 N30.


Here's an overview of the current connectivity features.

As you can see this is all pretty straightforward. There are some improvements on FICON and OSA-Express functions, but do have a look at the announcement for all the details.

New features and z13 GA2

Now we'll have a look at a couple of new things and I can immediately say that these become also available on the z13 (GA2) now. So, an overview of z13 GA2 might be in place here

I'll pick out some of them. I will come back to other features in future posts like LPAR Group Absolute Capping, SMC-D . . .

zACI or z Appliance Container Infrastructure

zACI is a new framework to support new types of virtual software appliances. The goal of this new framework is to simplify the way IBM will install software 'appliances'. Here's the entire definition
"z Appliance Container Infrastructure (zACI) is a new partition type which, along with an appliance installer, enables the secure deployment of software and firmware appliances. zACI will shorten the deployment and implementation of firmware solutions or software solutions delivered as virtual software appliances. The zACI framework enforces a common set of standards and behaviors, and a new zACI partition mode for a virtual appliance -- requiring a new zACI LPAR type."
If that doesn't make sense to you, it kind of reminds me of the concept of containers such as used with Docker. You can read a good introduction on Docker by one of my colleages over here.
His definition of Docker is pretty similar to what IBM seems to be targetting to accomplish with zACI. Well, at least, that's what I think about it for the moment.
"Docker containers wrap up a piece of software in a complete filesystem that contains everything it needs to run: code, runtime, system tools, system libraries – anything you can install on a server. This guarantees that it will always run the same, regardless of the environment it is running in."
I think that an example will make this immediately a lot clearer. One of those virtual software appliances is IBM zAware. IBM zAware is a well-defined virtual appliance that can be installed in a separate LPAR. The zAware partition mode is replaced by the zACI LPAR mode.

One of those appliances that is planned is z/VSE Network Appliance that will also be installed via zACI. It will avoid using a TCP/IP stack of z/VSE and it's a way to directly communicate from a z/VSE LPAR to an external network just using this appliance. or as the announcement states it :
"The z/VSE Network Appliance builds on the z/VSE Linux Fast Path (LFP) function and provides TCP/IP network access without requiring a TCP/IP stack in z/VSE. The appliance utilizes the new z Appliance Container Infrastructure (zACI) introduced on z13 and z13s servers. Compared to a TCP/IP stack in z/VSE, this can support higher TCP/IP traffic throughput while reducing the processing resource consumption in z/VSE."
The first examples of zACI are announced today and more will follow later on.

Dynamic Partition Manager (DPM) for Linux and KVM

This is a new administrative mode for creating partitions for customers that are running Linux and KVM only. It's a way of helping out people who are not familiar with the traditional ways of creating, managing and monitoring LPARs. In other words, this mainly targets new LinuxONE customers that have no mainframe background whatsoever. This means that instead of IMLing a CPC in traditional PR/SM mode customers will be using Dynamic Partition Manager (DPM) Mode. Therefore it only supports Linux partitions. z/OS, z/VM, z/VSE and the likes are not supported. And, it supports FCP storage only. Or as the announcement puts it :
"The new mode, DPM, provides simplified, consumable, and enhanced partition lifecycle and dynamic I/O management capabilities via the Hardware Management Console (HMC) to:
  • Create and provision an environment -- Creation of new partitions, assignment of processors and memory, and configuration of I/O adapters (network, FCP storage, crypto, and accelerators)
  • Manage the environment -- Modification of system resources without disrupting running workloads
  • Monitor and troubleshoot the environment -- Source identification of system failures, conditions, states, or events that may lead to workload degradation"

Software pricing

My story is pretty straightforward here. Similar to what happened with the zBC12 we don't see a new pricing mechanism but, again, a reduction to the AEWLC pricing. This means a reduction for standalone MLC pricing as indicated in this accompanying announcement : 'Technology Transition Offerings for the IBM z13s offer price-performance advantages (ZP16-0012)'. As the title of the announcement states, there are also transition offerings for migrations in a sysplex environment.

Mind you, however, when looking at those reductions : they talk about a reduction of 13% up to 30 MSUs, 10% up to 45 MSUs and 9% for higher MSUs. Keep in mind that this is the reduction as related to the original AEWLC pricing on the z114. As compared to the zBC12, you will have a reduction of approximately 5%.

This reduction does not apply to IPLA (OTC) softwares.

As I already mentioned the A01 has 4 extra MSUs but remains on zELC pricing. This means the price remains the same as on previous A01 models.

Operating Systems

  • z/OS V2.2 with PTFs
  • z/OS V2.1 with PTFs (Exploitation)
  • z/OS V1.13 with PTFs (Limited Exploitation) 
  • z/OS V1.12 with PTFs : be aware that TSS Service Extension will be required
More info can be found in the z/OS support for the z13 and z13s chapter of the announcement.

  • z/VM V6.4 (preview, available 4Q2016)
  • z/VM V6.3 with PTFs  - Exploitation support
  • z/VM V6.2 with PTFs – Compatibility plus Crypto Express5S support
  • z/VM V5.4 - Allthough still supported NOT compatible with z13s
  • z/VSE 6.1 with PTFs
  • z/VSE V5.2 with PTFs – Compatibility + Crypto Express5S
  • z/VSE V5.1 with PTFs – Compatibility (EOS 30/6/2016)
  • SLES 11 SP3+ and SLES 12 SP1+
  • Red Hat RHEL 6.6+ and RHEL 7.1+
  • Canonical Ubuntu 16.04 LTS – GA 2Q2016
  • KVM for IBM z V1.1.1 – GA 18/3/2016
  • KVM for IBM z V1.1.0

Physical planning

Nothing much to discuss here : the z13s has a similar footprint and weight compared to the zBC12. The differences
  • it's ASHRAE Class A3 (40°C and 85% relative humidity operating limits
  • Like the z13, it has door locks : both doors (front/rear) come with the lock installed
  • As already said, you can have a separately rack installed 1U HMC. The rack is supplied by the customer.


Apparantly, it's still a bit early to come with full documentation, but this is what is already available for the moment. I would recommand you have a look at the Publications chapter in the announcement.

Redbooks (drafts) :
Web :
  • IBM z13s Web Page
  • Datasheet
  • FAQ
  • z13s Virtual Tour (Link from z13s web page but at the moment of publication of this post not yet active)
  • z13s Designed to Outcompete video on Youtube gives a good summary of the announcement

    Some key dates for the z13s and z13 GA2

    February 16, 2016
    • Day of announcement
    • First day for GA orders
    • Resource Link support available
    March 10, 2016
    • Features and functions for the IBM z13s (Type number: 2965)
    • IBM z13s Models N10, N20
    • z114 and zBC12 upgrades to z13s Models N10 and N20
    • Features and functions for the IBM LinuxONE Emperor, and Rockhopper
    • IBM LinuxONE Emperor Models L30, L63, L96, LC9, and LE1 (5 models)
    • IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper Models L10 and L20 (2 models)
    June 30, 2016
    • MES features for Models N10, N20
    • z/VSE Network Appliance using the z Appliance Container Infrastructure (zACI) 
    • MES features for LinuxONE Emperor Models L30, L63, L96, LC9, and LE1
    • MES features for LinuxONE Rockhopper Models L10 and L20
    • MES upgrades for IBM LinuxONE Emperor Lxx models to Lxx models
    • MES upgrades for IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper Lxx models to Lxx models
    September 26, 2016
    • MES upgrades for IBM LinuxONE Emperor Lxx models to IBM z13 Nxx models
    • MES upgrades for IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper Lxx models to IBM z13s Nxx models
    As usual, I could only scratch the surface and touch upon the highlights of this new system.
    There's much more to discover about it.
    And along with this announcement, there were other announcements focusing on compilers, a preview of z/VM 6.4 and End Of Support Dates for zEC12 and zBC12.

    So I can only say : Stay Tuned !

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