On 14 January 2015, IBM announced the long anticipated “zNext”, which we all know now officially as the IBM z Systems z13. For those of us in the storage and I/O field, the most important part of the z13 launch was the announcement of the latest FICON channel: FICON Express16S. The FICON Express16S channels are intended to address the ever increasing I/O activity being driven in large part by the new and expanding workloads in the mainframe environment. These new workloads are from cloud, analytics, mobility, social media, and security, or as IBM calls them, CAMSS. They come at the same time as traditional Systems of Record OLTP transactions continue to grow.
The growth in CAMSS workloads has driven additional requirements on the z Systems platform to ensure it is able to execute transactions with the same qualities of service mainframe end users have come to expect. How demanding are these CAMSS workloads? In the New York City z13 launch webcast, IBM used an example from the annual busiest U.S. shopping day of the year, AKA “Black Friday”. On “Black Friday” 2014, mobility transactions coming into mainframes for retail purchases outnumbered traditional online (PC based) purchases by over a 3:1 ratio.
While its primary goal is to minimize I/O latency, FICON Express16S is not all about speed. IBM announced several technology enhancements for FICON channels beyond just the faster throughput rates. These new technologies include Forward Error Correction code (FEC), z High Performance FICON (zHPF) Extended Distance II, FICON Dynamic Routing (FIDR), SAN Fabric I/O Priority, and scalability enhancements for FCP channels with NPIV. While the FICON Express16S channels are available for z13 at the z13 general availability (GA) date of 9 March 2015, some of these technology enhancements will be GA at different dates throughout 2015. You should check with IBM for specifics on dates for these features.
With the new FICON Express16S channels, and the z13 itself, it becomes imperative that you have the GEN5 FICON SAN infrastructure in place that will allow you to realize the full benefit of your investment in the z13 and FICON Express16S channels. Please remember my tire analogy: when you buy a new high performance car with the bigger, more powerful engine, you don’t keep your old car’s tires and move them to the new sports car. At least not if you want to realize the performance capabilities of that new car and its engine. The FICON SAN is the tires of your high performance mainframe environment.
Subsequent blog posts will discuss specifics of the new FICON technology features.