What? Innovation in Mainframes?

Yes my friends. Innovation in mainframes is happening right here in Silicon Valley at BMC Software. While everyone is chasing the next big, disruptive unicorn like Uber or Airbnb, BMC engineers are quietly disrupting the mainframe industry with new customer-driven innovation.

Curiously, most non-mainframe technology professionals are unaware of opportunities to innovate on mainframe software.  They think mainframes are age-old dinosaurs that occupy entire rooms, use card punch input, and require bits and bytes programming.  Things have changed a lot over the years.  The same mainframes that are now the size of your refrigerator run the most critical work of our top industries today. This includes large financial institutions like banks, insurance companies, health care, utilities, government, military, and a multitude of other public and private enterprises.  Mainframes are a multi-billion dollar industry. Innovations that are achieved have huge positive impacts in the industry and the global economy. BMC engineers have done precisely that – created innovation that moves waves in the mainframe industry

The Challenge

First, let’s take a look at one key challenge that the mainframe industry faces today. Many surveys have revealed that the biggest challenge of companies with mainframes today is the increasing cost. Mainframe costs include several components, but the largest portion involves IBM monthly license charge [MLC] costs stand out (See Figure 1) What’s more, MLC costs increase 4-7% annually. This would give any CFO a nightmare!


For decades, IBM mainframe customers have manually managed mainframe workload capping strategies, constantly shifting workload allocations to manage costs and meet business demand. But these techniques are manual, risky and error prone and often don’t provide desired results.

For starters, mainframe computers are large, multi-processor computing devices able to perform thousands of tasks every second. Work on mainframe computers is often measured in millions of service units (MSUs), which is a measure of the processor (CPU) capacity used to execute the work. Mainframe customers are often charged for their software that runs on a mainframe based on peak MSU usage through a Monthly Software License Charge (MLC). To determine the MLC, the mainframe operating system generates monthly reports that determine the customer’s system usage (in MSUs) during every hour of the previous month using a rolling average (e.g., a 4-hour rolling average) recorded by each LPAR or a capacity group for the customer. The hourly usage metrics are then aggregated together to derive the total monthly, hourly peak utilization for the customer, which is used to calculate the bill for the customer.

To control costs, staff might assign each LPAR or capacity group a consumption limit (Defined Capacity or Group Capacity Limit), and it cannot use more MSUs than allotted in its respective consumption limit. But this may result in some work not receiving the CPU resources it needs, in effect slowing down the execution and completion of that work. This may have very undesirable effects on important workloads. Since meeting performance objectives of high importance work is deemed a necessary part of shifting resources, customers tend to raise capacity limits to meet the demand and avoid outage to their clients. But raising the capacity limit even for as little as an hour can increase MLC costs substantially.

Today’s Solution

When this challenge was presented, five bright engineers from BMC Software (Hemanth Rama, Edward Williams, Phat Tran, Robert Perini and Steven DeGrange) proposed a dynamic solution that automates and reduces the MLC cost while mitigating the risk to critical business workloads.

The solution they proposed was so innovative that a patent was granted for their outstanding work.

GRANTED ON  MAY 17, 2016.

And to add to the excitement, BMC Software President Bill Miller presented awards! Priceless!


BMC President Bill Miller of BMC Software Presenting awards to Hemanth Rama (next to Miller), Steven DeGrange

Let me give you an overview of this innovation first before I explain the details for the inquisitive minds.

An overview of Dynamic workload capping architecture


Innovation solves the problem by dynamically changing LPAR defined capacity and Group capacity limits values by taking into account the dynamic changing of workload importance. This is done by interacting with Workload Manager (WLM) component of operating system that runs on each LPAR, for the breakdown of MSU use by WLM service class, period and importance class, then grouping by importance class and aggregating information across the multiple operating LPARs and across multiple SYSPLEX groupings, whose CPU capacity is being managed.    

The result is a dynamic capping solution that reduces MLC costs while mitigating risk to critical business workloads.

Let’s walk through an example of how this innovation can make a big difference in saving cost while also mitigating risk.


In this example,

  • There LPARS – LPAR1,  LPAR2 and LPAR3
  • the red line represents the Defined Capacity (DC) for each LPAR
  • the orange fill is (low)importance 5 workload and
  • the red-ish fill is (high) importance 1 workload.


Each LPAR has it’s own static DC. LPAR1 has a lot of high importance work and it’s being capped. But LPAR2 and LPAR3 have free capacity, not capped and running  lot of low importance work. The max 4HRA for this scenario is 811 MSU

Today, someone would have to watch these LPARs and manually adjust the DCs to allow the high imp work to run and make decisions about how to balance with other LPARs – 24×7 – impractical!

With innovation:

Now let’s bring in patented solution  to manage these same 3 LPARs with the same amount of work.  You can see that the configuration is monitored constantly and DCs are no longer a static straight line but rather adjusted dynamically to maximize capacity for important workloads. The result – No more capping of high importance work! capacity automatically transferred from LPAR2 and LPAR3 to LPAR 1 to allow high imp work to process at the expense of some low imp work on LPAR2 and LPAR3.

Not only is there no capping of high imp work but the overall MSU usage was lowered to 650 (from 811) by dynamic sharing capacity across the LPARs.   

This innovation solution lead to a innovate product called intelligent capping (iCap)

Intelligent Capping for zEnterprise (iCap) is a mainframe software solution that dynamically automates and optimizes defined capacity settings to lower IBM Monthly License Cost (MLC) costs by 2%-5% or more saving customers millions of dollars, while mitigating risk to the business. After analyzing CPU usage and WLM workload, iCap automatically manages changes to defined capacity settings based on workload profiles, enabling customers to lower costs. BMC Intelligent Capping for zEnterprise removes the manual effort from managing capping limits, while optimizing capacity usage across LPARs or groups of LPARs. The solution dynamically aligns workload allocations based on utilization needs, workload importance, and customer policy profiles

iCap architecture


For more information including a 2 min short video on how iCap works please visit http://www.bmc.com/it-solutions/intelligent-capping-zenterprise.html

Now let’s see what industry and customers are saying about it.


There are many more customers who saw significant savings with iCap.  

Stay tuned!  BMC engineers are saying more to come – disruptive innovation that is!


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