From my perspective there are few things in life better than a tax rebate. When the government sends you money and says you overpaid, everything becomes bright and shiny for a while.
Yesterday I was at a conference run by IBM Software Group, designed to position System z as a service oriented architecture (SOA) hub and spoke. I did some live blogging from the event here, here and here.
So why am I thinking about tax rather than software and systems gorp? We often think of IT infrastructure licensing as a tax. We talk about the Wintel tax, for example. We all dislike taxes. The traditional mainframe environment is kind of like Sweden; great quality of life, but the tax bill is pretty scary at first sight. Never mind all the benefits in education and healthcare, I have to pay what????!
But in the shape of its offload processors (Bob would prefer I call them specialty processors), zIIP, zAAP and IFL, IBM has a mechanism to slash software pricing for its customers and become more like Hong Kong. Java workloads can be consolidated onto zAAP, without paying mainframe fees for the capacity, basically eliminating a major problem for mainframes, which is that the traditional licensing model is based on total system capacity (measured in MIPs). But with IBM’s offload processors "modern" workloads- Java, Linux and in some cases relational data – are not counted towards the MIPs total, but are licensed seperately.
Organisations running WebSphere Application Server on z/OS can easily cut their related mainframe licensing charges by around 30% just by deploying zAAP. An example is Farmers Insurance, which used zAAP to cut its MIPs from 1200 to 700 in this way.
You can’t really argue with economics like that. These offload processors are like beginning to seem like annual tax rebates, and IBM has more in the pipeline.
What does all this mean? Well, if an organisation is thinking about consolidating SOA functions on the mainframe, as many are currently doing, the costs may be significantly lower than expected. Mainframe economics is a poorly understood science, which IBM has done a terrible job of making any clearer over the years. There is a good discussion of some of the issues here, about that expensive mainframe.
Most modern analyses of mainframe costs basically suffer from the problems of autistic economics.
To make SOA on z stick though, IBM will need to speak the language not just of non green-screen geek communities, but also lines of business. And what do lines of business understand? Tax rebates…
standard disclaimer: I am mainframe watcher of long standing so I may be biased. Reporter colleagues used to call me legacy boy. IBM SWG and STG are both clients.