Sitting Butt Flat on a Concrete Slab—Finally
New features and capabilities of the zEC12 have been widely discussed—and lauded—in many forums and venues. One feature that we anxiously awaited has been little mentioned or celebrated: the ability for the first time in the life of the big muscle mainframe to install on a concrete slab without benefit of raised floor. In bygone days of water-cooled bipolar engines, this feat was inconceivable. Since the advent of CMOS in the 1990s, however, the question was not so much whether but when.
We got a teaser preview in the z114, but the limited prowess of that model would have required us to retro-engineer the Hulk-and-Penalty-Box strategy that we converted to several years ago. If, that is, we wished to occupy a corner of a spanking new data center that rose from the California soil over the last couple of years. The decision was made early on, in view the Spartan housing required by open systems architecture, that our new digs would not offer raised flooring to prospective inhabitants. Ouch.
I raised this issue in some closed SHARE discussions to see how others might be coping with the inexorable drift in data center construction. I learned that a few shops had built confined ‘platforms’ of raised flooring to house their mainframe CECs. It seems that IBM was reluctant to publicly endorse such an accommodation but would Code 20 an installation in deference to reality, a sort of common-law blessing of a distasteful but de facto union.
Those of us anxious to step bravely into the new world of data center design wondered what the hang-up was. At first we supposed that it was a cooling problem: mainframe must need to suck in great quantities of chilled air through its nether end in order to avoid meltdown. We began to hear that the modern mainframe gets all the ventilation it needs from above-the-floor openings, that the floor tile cutouts underneath are required for cable access, not for air flow. Raised floor, we heard, was actually needed to shield cables that lacked intrinsic blocking of radio frequency interference. Apparently mainframe data centers from the dawn of IT civilization had provided raised floor, so cables had never needed standalone RFI protection. Visualize all that super heavy-duty steel supporting your beloved behemoth. You could cache a vampire down there without jeopardizing a single neighborhood maiden.
We’re guessing that the z114 was IBM’s foray into the world of self-contained RFI shielding for mainframe. Why start there? It wasn’t about size alone. Modern zEnterprise machines occupy a fraction the real estate gobbled up by endless racks of x86 and other slab-friendly platforms. The z114 was marketed toward mainframe virgins, customers enticed into a realm dominated by big cats who had long since bitten the elephant gun bullet. Beefing up the zEC12 to live in harmony with myriad cousins lower in the food chain was a triumph in ecology, a tweaking the lion’s metabolism to thrive in a meager domain otherwise fit only for the lamb.
There’s a whole new dynamic down at the zoo.