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 Post subject: z9...
Unread postPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 2:18 am 
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Greetings to all.

I'm not really sure where else to post this. A while ago I was pinged by a close friend who apparently had a very large system up for grabs from a datacenter he works at. I could have sworn that they had policies for decommissioning this stuff (usually through IBM or some other corporation), but alas- I was informed that strings could be tugged and **if** I can arrange for pickup out of my own pocket, and I'd get a chance to actually own a real IBM z9 Mainframe ("OMFG").

I just got back from a day trip over there to take a peek at the unit, which was unfortunately still running as they've apparently yet to completely replace it with a z10. It's uh, big. I was basically pointed to what looked like a dual-cabnet chassis with a purple/blue stripe down the centre of one of the doors, and informed that was the unit I'd be looking to pick up in about a month. I got a peek behind one of the panels, which basically revealed a laptop running some sort of proprietary OS (OS/2?), some sort of fibre card cage on the bottom, and some peculiar looking components near the top with four very thick insulated "tubes" running to them- I'm assuming the thing has it's own compressor/condenser/evaporator for cooling.

Now, this is where I basically get lost. The expanse of my knowledge is limited to some foolery inside Hercules-390, IPL'ing the z/OS ADCD distribution and poking around in the Unix environment and ISPF.

In other words, I have zero hardware experience with this sort of iron.

I have no idea what sort of power this thing requires (aside from "lots"). I have no idea what sort of capabilities it has (aside from the 4x insulated tubes, which I'm assuming were running to 4 processors, or 4 groups of processors?), what the main storage size is, or what sort of disk drive gear it requires to boot (probably DASD?). Hell, I don't even know what the thing will boot- I'm assuming I sure as heck won't get z/OS with it, and I don't know if these machines boot Linux natively (though I do know Linux runs under z/VM, but again, z/VM isn't exactly torrentable).

So I guess my completely, utterly vague question is...

What could I do with this machine? Could I do anything with it at all?

Is this even something that can be hooked up to residential power? I can easily get a dedicated breaker panel installed, but I'm guessing something like this would run on 3-phase... Is 3-phase power something that can be brought into a residential building? Or would the power company laugh at me for even asking?

I have a feeling the answer is going to be "You should know this stuff, otherwise you're not fit to run a machine like that", but I gotta ask anyways. I'd love to be able to IPL an actual zSeries in my own house (garage), but I'm starting to wonder what sort of league this machine is really in. The largest system I've ever owned && run is a Sun 4800, which is like 1/8th the size of that z9. Likewise, I'd rather not dedicate my entire yearly salary to running said machine for a day, if that is indeed how much power it requires (google says the z9 tops at 18.3kW, minimum 9kW... Frankly, I have no idea what that rating means, since most of what I deal with is the 20A rated C19 server cords and the larger twist-lock wall sockets that most of my workplace UPS's plug into).

-DN

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:34 am 
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Umm. Well. I couldn't find out much about it, other then its compatible with itanium cpus and was used for cryptography. Can I ask you how much they want you to pay? The power bill will likely make the purchase not worth it... :\

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Last edited by zmttoxics on Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:47 am 
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This one?
Attachment:
Z9.jpg
Z9.jpg [ 154.32 KiB | Viewed 1059 times ]


The photo is from flickr - the poster mentions "We are getting ready to decommissioning this guy here. Z10s are taking this sysplex's place." If you'd like to investigate further, that photo came from here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pchow98/2803534867/

If you like a better idea about the power, airflow and cooling requirements, IBM's on-line specifications for the z9 can be found here: http://www-03.ibm.com/systems/z/hardware/

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 6:52 am 
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Your primary issues are going to be with:
1) Licensing/support - IBM charge a very hefty fee to keep their mainframes licensed and supported. You won't be able to afford it, so you'll lose any kind of support.
2) Cooling. They're designed to run in air conditioned datacenters with raised floor. Even if you can power one keeping it cool is a whole new level.
3) Storage. Depending on how the system is configured you'll need an external storage director and some kind of array - you're correct in that you'll need DASD but there are a lot of ways to get DASD attached these days, and most of them are very expensive.

Linux will IPL in an LPAR (Logical PARtition, essentially a virtualized section/container of system resources set up via that OS/2 system, which is the system management controller), but if you've never done it before you'll probably need a lot of help. Docs are sometimes available and sometimes hidden behind IBM's licensing gate, but if you've got a contact who runs mainframes he can probably help you out.

Cool as it would be to own a z9, you're probably not going to get it into a working state - personally, I'd pass.

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 2:51 pm 
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No, it's not that unit from Flickr. The tubing on the cooling system is slightly different, and I think there was only one laptop- but I could be wrong. The cable colors at the bottom were also different.

The machine is a 2094-S28, and though I can't get details on the exact specifications yet, IBM says that machine requires a minimum of 6.8kW and a maximum of 18.3kW of power, depending on the configuration, and dissipates 21.5kBTU of heat/hour to a max of 62.4kBTU/hour.

That's a lot of heat, and a lot of power, even at the low end.

I think bri3d is right on this one. They made it clear today that I would not be getting z/OS or anything that might contain any sort of software with it (probably due to licensing crap), nor am I getting any sort of storage systems or the equipment outside of the z9 EC cabinet. Apparently, my friend was under some pressure to let them format the laptop(s) inside the cabinet too- I'm pretty sure that would have rendered the entire thing useless as I'm guessing those are the HMC's and are required to IPL the entire setup.

So if I did pay to get it back to my house, hookup power, get some sort of cooling system probably installed on the side of the garage, buy some sort of DASD storage unit, I *might* be able to boot Redhat- quite possibly the world's most generic distribution of Linux.

Which really sucks, because I was looking forward to possibly playing with z/OS on real zSeries iron, but it looks like it would be cheaper by several magnitudes to just run out and buy a large HP x86_64 server or build my own if I /really/ felt the need to run Redhat, or run Hercules-390 on that if I really want to play with S/390.

Oh well.

Thanks for all the replies.

-DN

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 4:30 pm 
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What you want to do is poke around on classiccmp or rescue and talk to Sridhar or kjaer here - Sridhar has a home IBM mainframe, and kjaer runs them for work.

I wouldn't get it if you didn't have all the pieces, but if you did it could be fun, and definitely a challenge. First thing - back up that ThinkPad!!!

I don't know what was meant by "Itanium compatibility" - S/360, 370, 390, zWhatever have never run Itaniums.

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 4:46 pm 
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Itanium on an IBM Z? Maybe they meant "POWER" compatible, which indeed they are... although technically it is more like POWER-based than compatible really.

IBM's licensing for their big iron is a complete PITA from a hobbyist point of view. But then again, I don't think they ever assumed anyone would run one of these things at home.

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 2:21 am 
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R-ten-K wrote:
IBM's licensing for their big iron is a complete PITA from a hobbyist point of view. But then again, I don't think they ever assumed anyone would run one of these things at home.

Heck, they assumed no one would run an IBM peecee at home :D


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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 5:20 am 
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A related video just popped up on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytMgyrZm87A

and second part:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrKbh5HwF3Q

It gives a hint to what is needed to get it running.

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 10:43 am 
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R-ten-K wrote:
IBM's licensing for their big iron is a complete PITA from a hobbyist point of view. But then again, I don't think they ever assumed anyone would run one of these things at home.


I have been wondering how they get people who know how to run them. It would be interesting to see if there would be a way to quantify how many more VMS people there are now that the hobbyist program has been around for (what? 12+ years?).

IBM probably wouldn't be interested, though, although you can/could get a limited version of z/VM as a free download. Haven't tried it on Hercules yet, though.

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:31 pm 
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hamei wrote:
R-ten-K wrote:
IBM's licensing for their big iron is a complete PITA from a hobbyist point of view. But then again, I don't think they ever assumed anyone would run one of these things at home.

Heck, they assumed no one would run an IBM peecee at home :D


... well, the original PeeCee had a tape interface, ran BASIC, FCC Class B certification, and the CGA board could output to a normal TeeVee. If indeed IB< hadn't assumed home uses for their PeeCee, they sure took some silly design excursions in the process :P

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:36 pm 
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R-ten-K wrote:
.. well, the original PeeCee had a tape interface, ran BASIC, FCC Class B certification, and the CGA board could output to a normal TeeVee. If indeed IB< hadn't assumed home uses for their PeeCee, they sure took some silly design excursions in the process :P


Yep, they were definitely targeting the S-100 hobbyists as well :)

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2009 1:23 am 
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Woot!

Looks like I'm getting a zSeries after all!

Landed up going down there again to drop off some Sparc gear for my bud, and the "IBM guy" just happened to be sitting in his office twiddling his thumbs (apparently a very rare situation). So I landed up knocking on his door and chatting him up about the z9 EC. Not surprisingly, the unit does run off 3-phase power and requires dual 240VAC/60A circuits to boot. As I wasn't entirely clear what was going on before, the storage units (I think he called them a "shark"?) are being dedicated to the new machine, though it's not like I could have crammed them in the garage- they take up more room then the z9 itself and also require 3-phase power.

Went back down to the machine floor to take a look at a lone pSeries 275 and landed up walking past an already disconnected single cabinet zSeries machine. It had a red metallic stripe on the front rather then the blue/purple on the z9, so I asked about it... Turns out it's a z800/2066, with 16GB of RAM, ESCON/FICON connectivity options, HMC/Support Element (looked like a freestanding tower instead of a laptop), and it's licensed for z/OS (though again, no software included). There were also 4 DS6000 storage units installed in another rack, loaded with disk drives (not sure how many or what the size was- all I know is that it's apparently bootable, I'm guessing they're 36 or 72GB drives).

Turns out they're looking to get rid of this system, *and* the storage units too. Best of all, the z800 runs off single-phase 240VAC (still need a beefy breaker and some thick wiring though), and the DS6000 units run off 120/240 single-phase (dual C13 connectors on the rear).

The gear certainly wasn't free (I question if they were going to give me that z9 for nothing)- landed up paying $3750, plus time and effort to cart two racks, some sort of tape drive/library, two desktops (the p275 and HMC), a monitor, box of cables, and a bunch of documentation home. Got a truck lined up for next weekend, hopefully I'll be able to get a 240VAC line installed in my basement (which is thankfully walk-out) along with a window A/C unit to keep the z800 cool, along with a few ethernet lines up to my office so I can plunk the HMC down on my desk.

Either way, I'm told the machine shouldn't have any issues booting Linux, and apparently it's coming with everything I need to IPL it. Aside from the HMC which is preconfigured, the software is apparently my issue, so I suppose it'll be fun to get this machine up and running. Certainly the largest box I've /ever/ owned, and the fact that it at least boots Linux is nice (though z/OS would be nicer- I'll have to check out the z/VM trial).

The only real downside is that my 4800 got axed as a part of the deal- I don't have the need or desire to keep it around (it sucks up a fair whack of power and throws of enough heat to keep half the basement comfortable in the winter), and my friend said he'd gladly give it a good home... Hell, though, I'd trade a Sun 4800 for a frickin' zSeries 64-bit box any day.

Will try to post pics when I get the box in the basement and IPL'ing.

-DN

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2009 3:25 am 
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The phrase is "ended up", it was a little weird reading "landed up" so often in that...

Do you have the cpu specs? The p series are all POWER cpu based right? That could be a neat machine, I miss my old PMG5 (not nearly the same, though I think POWER and get teary).

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 Post subject: Re: z9...
Unread postPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:40 am 
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Dennis Nedry wrote:
Woot!

Looks like I'm getting a zSeries after all!



Congratulations, you just bought a boat. You have a good start (better than most get), but there's still a long row to hoe, even if you only run Linux on it. Good luck. You're going to need it.

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