Marist College makes the enterprise computing grade

Supporting learning and research with leading IBM technology

Published on 25-Apr-2013

"With the IBM z114 at the heart of our enterprise computing center, we have the perfect platform for advancing research in all kinds of fields, and for helping educate our students for success." - Dr. Roger Norton, Dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics, Marist College

Marist College


Deployment country:
United States

BA - Business Analytics, BA - Business Intelligence, BA - Predictive Analytics, Big Data, Big Data & Analytics, Big Data & Analytics: Improve IT, System z Software, Virtualization, Workload Optimized Infrastructure Framework


Established in 1929, and located in the Hudson River Valley in New York State, Marist is a liberal arts college which has grown into a nationally ranked institution of higher education, home to more than 5,000 students.

Business need:
To advance its reputation as a technology leader, Marist College needs to provide students, faculty and industry partners with cutting-edge computing systems, capable of supporting diverse needs.

Marist upgraded to the next generation of mainframe technology, deploying the IBM® zEnterprise® 114, featuring an IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter® Extension and powerful virtualization technology.

Hybrid design extends the power and reliability of the mainframe, bringing multiple platforms into a single solution for greater flexibility, helping meet the diverse needs of researchers and students.

Case Study

Established in 1929, and located in the Hudson River Valley in New York State, Marist is a liberal arts college which has grown into a nationally ranked institution of higher education, home to more than 5,000 students.

The college has built a strong reputation as a technology leader, both in and out of the classroom. In 2011, as part of its ongoing effort to place technology at the center of learning, Marist opened the Hancock Technology Center—a $35 million facility dedicated to technology-based research and education.

Satisfying diverse demands

Among the center’s features is the 1,000 square-foot Enterprise Computing Research Lab (ECRL), partially funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Marist wanted to take full advantage of the state-of-the-art data center environment by equipping the space with cutting-edge infrastructure and computing resources. With the opening of the ECRL, Marist saw the perfect opportunity to move to the next generation of mainframe computing.

Dr. Roger Norton, Dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Marist College, explains: “Our objective was to create a truly world-class research environment that would give both students and researchers access to very high-end computing systems, and help to advance Marist’s reputation as a leader in the field. To meet these goals, we needed to equip the lab with powerful technology that also had the flexibility to support the requirements of a very diverse user base.”

Flexible hybrid architecture

With funding from a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant, and additional support from IBM, Marist purchased and installed the IBM zEnterprise 114 (z114) in early 2012. The z114 is configured with a zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX), housing two IBM POWER7® processor-based servers and two IBM System x® blade servers. This revolutionary design enables Marist to combine multiple server technologies in a single, unified system for maximum flexibility.

“The hybrid architecture of the IBM z114 perfectly supports our aim of providing lab users with a versatile platform for both research and learning,” states Norton. “We gain all the strengths of the mainframe, as well as the ability to leverage multiple CPU architectures, and can manage it all from a single interface. This gives users much more freedom when it comes to picking the platform that best supports their needs, so researchers can easily spread their work across multiple platforms.”

World-class research environment

The new enterprise computing environment currently supports 12 research projects utilizing multiple operating system platforms, including AIX®, Linux, Microsoft Windows and z/OS®. To meet the diverse needs of these different projects, Marist is taking full advantage of the powerful virtualization capabilities of the zEnterprise, and has currently configured hundreds of virtual servers in a single physical footprint.

Dr. Scott Frank, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Marist College, explains the advantages that virtualization delivers to his research in underwater acoustics: “This kind of research is highly compute-intensive, so we need to be able to process a lot of computations at once. With virtualization on the zBX, we can spread the work out over several processors, and run a large number of computations at the same time, which helps us to get more done in less time.”

Another research project currently leveraging the zEnterprise platform is the Open Academic Analytics Initiative, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Eitel Lauria, Associate Professor and Graduate Director of Information Systems at Marist College, describes the project aims: “Our goal is to increase college student retention by performing early detection of academic risk using data mining methods. Running a highly virtualized research environment on the z114 gives us the flexibility to dynamically provision resources as requirements change, helping to ensure that our research stays on track no matter what.”

Perfect platform for big data

With its exceptional capacity and performance, the zEnterprise is proving to be an ideal solution for powering new insight into huge volumes of research data. Alan Labouseur, Senior Professional Lecturer at Marist College is using the platform to support his research on graph theory, a fast-emerging branch of big-data analytics:

“Graphs offer a very intuitive way of representing relationships between all kinds of data, and graph theory can be applied to many types of systems, such as social networks. This kind of analytics generates really big data—we work with seriously large graphs, made up of many millions of nodes—that has to be partitioned over several systems so that it can be made available for analysis. The IBM z114 is a great platform for this kind of memory-intensive work—it has the extreme power and scalability that we need to run tens of thousands of partitions in parallel.”

Giving students hands-on experience

Thanks to the partnership between Marist and IBM, students have the opportunity to gain valuable first-hand experience of working with state-of-the-art computing systems. With the next generation of IBM mainframe technology, Marist can better support initiatives such as the Enterprise Computing Community (ECC), whose aim is to revitalize undergraduate education in enterprise computing.

As a founding partner of the ECC, Marist works with more than 1,000 members to reintroduce the mainframe into the undergraduate curriculum, and educate a new generation of talent that will address the national skills shortage in large systems technology.

“Many large companies continue to rely on the mainframe, but as the people who manage and operate these systems start to retire, it’s threatening to open up a huge skills shortage,” notes Norton. “With sophisticated IBM mainframe technology right on campus, we can supplement our theoretical IT courses with vital applied knowledge, and equip students with the real-world experience they need to boost their job prospects. This is why our students administer the z114 system as much as possible—they are the ones who set up the environments for research projects and help maintain them.”

Refining products and techniques

Going beyond education, the zEnterprise platform is also being utilized to help IBM test new computing concepts, and optimize its hardware and software products. One such project, centered around defect analytics for the z/OS System Verification Test, aims to drive greater software testing efficiencies by enabling testers to automatically determine whether a potential defect is valid or invalid.

For Michael Gildein, Software Test Specialist at IBM and Marist College graduate student, having access to the Marist ECRL and the college’s wider research community, is of considerable benefit to his work: “Working with the student community on these kind of projects allows us to get a fresh perspective and objective input on different solutions that help IBM to refine techniques and build better products.”

Sustaining innovation and success

With its world-class enterprise computing center, Marist can continue to advance its technological capabilities, providing leading-edge educational and IT resources that support students, faculty and industry partners.

Dr. Norton concludes: “With the IBM z114 at the heart of our enterprise computing center, we have the perfect platform for advancing research in all kinds of fields, and for helping educate our students for success. This project is just a small example of the huge value that we gain from our partnership with IBM, and we look forward to many more years of supporting similar collaboration and innovation.”

Solution components
● IBM® zEnterprise® 114
● IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter® Extension (zBX)
● IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager
● IBM z/OS®
● IBM z/VM®
● IBM Cognos®
● IBM DB2® for z/OS
● IBM SPSS® Modeler
● SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
● Red Hat Enterprise Linux

For more information

To learn more about the IBM zEnterprise System, contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit us at:

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

System z: zEnterprise 114 (z114), System z: zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX), System z: zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager

DB2 for z/OS, AIX, z/VM, DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows, Linux, z/OS, Cognos Business Intelligence for z/OS, SPSS Modeler

Operating system:
AIX, Linux, z/OS and OS/390, z/VM

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013 IBM Corporation Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America April 2013 IBM, the IBM logo,, AIX, BladeCenter, Cognos, DB2, POWER7, SPSS, System x, System z, z/OS, z/VM, and zEnterprise are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Microsoft, Windows, Windows NT, and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. It is the user’s responsibility to evaluate and verify the operation of any other products or programs with IBM products and programs. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. Actual available storage capacity may be reported for both uncompressed and compressed data and will vary and may be less than stated. ZSC03162-USEN-00