IBM zSystem and Power Score in IDC 4Q 2015 Rankings

March 18, 2016

IBM retained the number 3 spot with 14.1% share for the quarter as revenue increased 8.9% year-over-year to $2.2 billion in 4Q15. More impressively, IBM experienced strong growth for POWER Systems and double-digit growth for its z System mainframes in the quarter, according to IDC. You can check out the IDC announcement here. IDC credits z and POWER for IBM’s strong platform finish in 2015.

Primary_LinuxONE_LeftAngle-1 (1) zSystem-based LinuxONE

DancingDinosaur has expected these results and been reporting IBM’s z System and POWER System successes for the past year. You can check it out here (z13s) and here (LinuxOne) and here (Power Systems LC).

Along with deservedly crowing about its latest IDC ranking IBM added:  z Systems saw double digit growth due to a number of new portfolio enhancements. The next-generation z13 mainframe, optimized for digital businesses and hybrid cloud environments, is designed to handle mobile transactions securely and at scale, while enabling clients to run analytics on the system and in real time. IBM expanded its commitment to offering open-source on the mainframe by launching a line of Linux-only systems in August of 2015. LinuxONE is based on the latest generation of z Systems technology and enables popular open-source tools and software on the mainframe. IBM also added what amounts to a Business Class z with the z13s to go along with a Business Class dedicated Linux z, the LinuxONE Rockhopper.

Meanwhile, IBM has started to get some uptake for its Open Mainframe Project. In addition to announcing support from the usual mainframe suspects—IBM, CA, Compuware, SUSE, BMC, and others—it also announced its first projects. These include an effort to find ways to leverage new software and tools in the Linux environment that can better take advantage of the mainframe’s speed, security, scalability, and availability. DancingDinosaur is hoping that in time the Open Mainframe Project will produce the kind of results the Open POWER Foundation has recently generated for the POWER Platform

IBM attributes the growing traction of Linux running on POWER Systems in large part to optimized solutions such as DB2 BLU, SAP HANA, and other industry big data software, built on POWER Systems running Linux. In October 2015, IBM expanded its Linux on Power Systems portfolio with the LC line of servers. These servers are infused with OpenPOWER Foundation technology and bring the higher performance of the POWER CPU to the broad Linux community. The POWER-based LC line along with the z-based LinuxONE Rockhopper should give any data center manager looking to run a large, efficient Linux server farm a highly cost-competitive option that can rival or even beat the x86 option. And given that both platforms will handle Docker containers and microservices and support all of today’s popular development tools there is no reason to stick with x86.

From a platform standpoint, IBM appears to be in sync with what IDC is reporting: Datacenter buildout continues, and the main beneficiary this quarter is the density-optimized segment of the market, where growth easily outpaced the overall server market. Density-optimized servers achieved a 30.2% revenue growth rate this quarter, contributing a full 2 percentage points to the overall 5.2% revenue growth in the market.

“The fourth quarter (of 2015) was a solid close to a strong year of growth in the server market, driven by on premise refresh deployments as well as continued hyperscale cloud deployments,” said Kuba Stolarski, Research Director, Servers and Emerging Technologies at IDC. “As the cyclical refresh of 2015 comes to an end, the market focus has begun to shift towards software-defined infrastructure and hybrid environment management, as organizations begin to transform their IT infrastructure as well as prepare for the compute demands expected over the next few years from next-gen IT domains such as IoT and cognitive analytics. In the short term, 2016 looks to be a year of accelerated cloud infrastructure expansion with existing footprints filling out and new cloud datacenter buildouts across the globe.”

After a seemingly endless string of dismal quarters DancingDinosaur is encouraged by what IBM is doing now with the z, POWER Systems, and its strategic initiatives. With its strategic focus on cloud, mobile, big data analytics, cognitive computing, and IoT as well as its support for the latest approaches to software development, tools, and languages, IBM should be well positioned to continue its platform success in 2016.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

2016 State of OpenStack Adoption Shows Continued Progress

March 10, 2016

Sixty-one percent of over 600 survey respondents are adopting OpenStack to combat the expense of public cloud alternatives, reports Talligent, provider of cost and capacity management solutions for OpenStack and hybrid clouds, which conducted most recent study of OpenStack adoption. Almost as many respondents, 59%, have opted for OpenStack to improve the responsiveness of IT service delivery.

openstack-logo

OpenStack is a cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter, all managed through a dashboard that gives administrators control while empowering their users to provision resources through a web interface. As OpenStack puts it: A key part of the OpenStack Foundation mission is to inform, and with the ever expanding ecosystem, we felt it was a good time to cut through the noise to give our members the facts needed to make sound decisions.

In that spirit, make the OpenStack Marketplace one of your first steps in planning an OpenStack effort. There you will find the technology broken down into digestible chunks with details like which components are included, the versions used, and the APIs exposed. The community has also implemented interoperability testing to validate products displaying OpenStack logos. The results are now available in the Marketplace for public clouds, hosted private clouds, distributions & appliances.

DancingDinosaur has covered OpenStack numerous times; for example here and here, IBM fully committed to OpenStack. Late last spring it announced an expanded suite of OpenStack services that allow organizations to integrate applications and data across hybrid clouds including public, dedicated and local cloud environments without the fear of vendor lock-in or costly customization.

IBM may be a bit in front of the market on this. The Talligent survey found private clouds will not be replaced by public clouds very soon, with 54% of respondents still expecting their cloud use to be ALL or mostly private five years from now.

But whether this will occur in two years or five years developers and enterprises using the IBM Cloud OpenStack Services will be able to launch applications on local, on-premises installations and public clouds hosted on the SoftLayer infrastructure, VMware, or the IBM Cloud. This can all be done without changing code or configurations. As a result, developers can build and test an application in a public cloud and use the interoperability of OpenStack to seamlessly deploy that same application and data across any combination of clouds; public, dedicated and local/private.

The Talligent survey also found OpenStack deployments, once in place, are expected to expand quickly beyond development environments, growing from 43% to 89% within 12 months. For QA/Test the expected growth will be a tad stronger, from 47% to 91% within 12 months.

Other interesting tidbits from the survey: the top three workloads currently delivered on OpenStack include: new green field applications (69%); containers (61%), web applications (58%). No surprise there.  Also, as noted above, private clouds should continue to thrive as OpenStack users expect high levels of private cloud use within the next 5 years. Fourteen percent, however, are expecting to deploy across a balanced mix of private and public clouds. At the same time, the survey suggests that PaaS, Containers, and privately managed OpenStack are expected to grow in use while proprietary public clouds and legacy virtualization are likely to decline.

Finally, the survey respondents voiced their opinions on the OpenStack providers. Although industry vendors like VMware, IBM, HPE, Cisco and more are exploring ways to support customers in a hybrid cloud mix, the respondents, as previously noted, are not quite ready to move to a hybrid model. Still, the respondents voiced a clear desire for more operational tools.

Similarly, a majority of respondents currently using OpenStack are still prepared to maintain most of their environment on-premises, with 54% saying they will continue to be more than 80% private over the next 5 years. This may reflect ongoing concerns of corporate management about security in the public cloud. The survey, however, picked up some ambivalence on this point: 30% of the respondents using OpenStack report planning to move more than 80% of their environments to the public cloud over the next 5 years. Could this be a signal that security concerns may be fading?

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

Mainframe Cloud Storage Attracts Renewed Interest at Share

March 4, 2016

Maybe it was Share 2016, which runs through today in San Antonio that attracted both EMC and Oracle to introduce updated products that specifically target mainframe storage. Given that IBM has been struggling in the storage area, who would have guessed the newfound interest in mainframe storage. Or maybe these vendors sense a vulnerability.

EMC-VMAX_AllFlash

Courtesy of EMC

EMC Corporation, for instance, announced new capabilities for its EMC VMAX and EMC Disk Library for mainframe storage products. With VMAX support for mainframe, in both the VMAX3 and the new VMAX All Flash products, mainframe shops can modernize, automate and consolidate disparate data center technologies within a simplified, high-performance data services platform. The additional capabilities of VMAX3 extend its automated performance tiering functionality to the mainframe.

The VMAX family, according to EMC, now offers twice the processing power in a third of the footprint for mainframe customers. Furthermore, in modernizing data protection for the mainframe, the company also announced what it refers to as the first-to-market scale-out automated snapshot solution for mainframe storage, called zDP (Data Protector for z Systems). It also announced updates to its EMC Disk Library for mainframe (DLm) technology that gives two virtual tape systems the ability to read from, write to, and update the

Not to be ignored at Share, Oracle announced its new StorageTek Virtual Storage Manager (VSM) 7 System, calling it the most secure and scalable data protection solution for mainframe and heterogeneous systems with the additional capability to provide fully automated tiering directly to the public cloud. Specifically, Oracle reports the StorageTek VSM 7 System delivers, 34x more capacity, significantly higher scalability to 256 StorageTek VSM 7 Systems, data deduplication, and native cloud tiering that provides mainframe and heterogeneous storage users the ability to access additional capacity on demand. Furthermore, Oracle’s StorageTek VSM 7 System has been architected to integrate with Oracle Storage Cloud Service—Object Storage and Oracle Storage Cloud Service – Archive Service to provide storage administrators with a built-in cloud strategy, making cloud storage as accessible as on-premises storage.

BTW, DancingDinosaur has not independently validated the specifications of either the new EMC or Oracle products. Links to their announcements are provided above should you want to perform further due diligence. Still, what we’re seeing here is that all enterprise data center systems vendors are sensing that with the growing embrace of cloud computing there is money to be made in modifying or augmenting their mainframe storage systems to accommodate cloud storage in a variety of ways. “Data center managers are starting to realize the storage potential of cloud, and the vendors are starting to connect the dots,” says Greg Schulz, principal of StorageIO.

Until recently cloud storage was not a first tier option for mainframe shops, in large part because cloud computing didn’t support FICON and still doesn’t.  “Mainframe data shops would have to piece together the cloud storage. Now, with so much intelligence built into the storage devices the necessary smart gateways, controllers, and bridges can be built in,” noted Schulz. Mainframe storage managers can put their FICON data in the cloud without the cloud specifically supporting FICON. What makes this possible is that all these capabilities are abstracted, same as  any software defined storage. Nobody on the mainframe side has to worry about anything; the vendors will take care of it through software or sometimes through firmware either in the data center storage device or in the cloud gateway or controller.

Along with cloud storage comes all the other goodies of the latest, most advanced storage, namely automated tiering and fast flash storage. For a mainframe data center, the cloud can simply be just one more storage tier, cheaper in some cases, faster but maybe a bit pricier (flash storage) in others. And flash, in terms of IOPS price/performance, shouldn’t be significantly more expensive if storage managers are using it appropriately.

IBM initially staked out the mainframe storage space decades ago, first on premises and later in the cloud. StorageTek and EMC certainly are not newcomers to mainframe storage. DancingDinosaur expects to see similar announcements from HDS any day now.

It’s telling that both vendors above–EMC, Oracle– specifically cited the mainframe storage although their announcements were primarily cloud focused. The strategy for mainframe storage managers at this point should be to leverage this rekindled interest in mainframe storage, especially mainframe storage in the cloud, to get the very best deals possible.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

IBM InterCONNECT 2016 as Cloud Fest for App Dev

February 29, 2016

IBM spent the last week of February announcing a constant stream of Cloud deals that focused mostly on various aspects of App Dev. All IBM software is now enabled for private, public and hybrid cloud.  It announced expansion of Bluemix public, dedicated, and local services, IoT and the Weather Company, a growing suite of cognitive APIs for Watson, and hybrid object storage. These should be no surprise to DancingDinosaur readers who have seen a steady trickle of IBM Cloud announcements for months. Let’s sample just a few:

IBM/vmware execs (Alan M Rosenberg/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM senior VP Robert LeBlanc and VMware COO Carl Eschenbach

For DancingDinsosaur, this announcement: IBM and VMware Announce Strategic Partnership to Accelerate Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Adoption, was the most eyebrow raising. IBM and VMware have jointly designed an architecture and cloud offering that will enable customers to automatically provision pre-configured VMware SDDC environments, consisting of VMware vSphere, NSX and Virtual SAN on the IBM Cloud. With this SDDC environment in place, customers will be able to deploy workloads in this hybrid cloud environment without modification, due to common security and networking models based on VMware. This appears intended to encompass SoftLayer too as just another new application environment.

Apple’s Swift development language adds more developer news: IBM to Bring Swift to the Cloud to Radically Simplify End-to-End Development of Apps. IBM has become the first cloud provider to enable the development of applications in native Swift, unlocking its full potential in radically simplifying the development of end-to-end apps on the IBM Cloud. This announcement is the next phase of its roadmap to bring Swift to the Cloud with a preview of a Swift runtime and a Swift Package Catalog to help enable developers to create apps for the enterprise.  DancingDinosaur, a former wannabe developer, is a fan of Swift as well as node.js and Go. Where were all these nifty tools when I was younger?

Watson is another longtime favorite of DancingDinosaur: IBM Announces New and Advanced Watson APIs on the Cloud. New and expanded cognitive APIs for developers that enhance Watson’s emotional and visual senses will further extend the capabilities of the industry’s largest and most diverse set of cognitive technologies and tools.  IBM is also adding tooling capabilities and enhancing its SDKs (Node, Java, Python, and the newly introduced iOS Swift and Unity) across the Watson portfolio and adding Application Starter Kits to make it easy for developers to customize and build with Watson. All APIs are available through the IBM Watson Developer Cloud on Bluemix.

And just in case you didn’t think these weren’t enterprise-class announcements: IBM and GitHub Form Strategic Partnership to Offer First GitHub Enterprise Service in Dedicated and Local Hybrid. IBM and GitHub plan to deliver GitHub Enterprise as a dedicated service on Bluemix to customers across private and hybrid cloud environments. By working with IBM Cloud, developers can expect to learn, code and work with GitHub’s collaborative development tools in a private, environment with robust security capabilities. GitHub and IBM, through this strategic partnership, aim to advance the development of next generation cloud applications for enterprise customers.

IBM WebSphere Blockchain Connect – A new service available to all WebSphere clients is designed to provide a safe and encrypted passage from their blockchain cloud to their enterprise. Starting immediately, enterprises currently using IBM’s on-premises software can tap these new offerings as an on ramp to hybrid cloud, realizing immediate benefits and new value from their existing investments. Blockchain is just one part of a series of tools intended to make it easier for developers to unlock the valuable data, knowledge and transaction systems. Also coming is fully integrated DevOps tools for creating, deploying, running and monitoring Blockchain applications on IBM Cloud that enables the applications to be deployed on IBM z Systems.

Blockchain still may be unfamiliar to many. Recognized most as the technology behind bitcoins, it should prove particularly valuable for IoT systems by providing a mechanism to securely track any of the various things. It enables what amounts to trustless transactions by eliminating the need for an intermediary between buyers and sellers or things and things. For those who want open trustworthy IoT communications without relying on intermediaries blockchain could provide the answer, facilitating the kind of IoT exchanges people have barely begun to imagine could be possible.

Finally, IBM Unveils Fast, Open Alternative to Event-Driven Programming through the Bluemix OpenWhisk platform, which enables developers to quickly build and link microservices that execute software code in response to events such as mouse clicks or receipt of sensor data from an IOT device. Developers won’t to need worry about things like pre-provisioning infrastructure or operations. Instead, they can simply focus on code, dramatically speeding the process.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

New IBM z13s Brings Built-in Encrypted Security to Entry Level

February 19, 2016

Earlier this week IBM introduced the z13s, what it calls World’s most secure server, built for hybrid cloud, and sized for mid-sized organizations.  The z13s promises better business outcomes, faster decision making, less regulatory exposure, greater scale, and better fraud protection. And at the low end it is accessible to smaller enterprises, maybe those who have never tried a z before.

Advanced Security New z13s

z13s features embedded cryptography that brings the benefits of the mainframe to mid-sized organizations . Courtesy IBM

A machine like the low end z13s used to be referred to as a business class (BC) mainframe.  IBM declined to quote a price, except to say z13s will go “for about the same price as previous generations for the equivalent capacity.”  OK, back in July 2013 IBM published the base price of the zEC12 BC machine at $75,000. IBM made a big deal of that pricing at the time.

The key weasel phrase in IBM’s statement is: “for the equivalent capacity.”  Two and a half years ago the $75k zEC12 BC offered significantly more power than its predecessor. Figuring out equivalent capacity today given all the goodies IBM is packing into the new machine, like built-in chip-based cryptography and more, is anybody’s guess. However, given the plummeting costs of IT components over the past two years, you should get it at a base price of $100k or less. If not, call Intel. Adds IBM: The infrastructure costs of z13s are comparable to the Public Cloud infrastructure costs with enterprise support; significant software savings result from core consolidation on the z13s.

But the z13s is not just about price. As digital business becomes a standard practice and transaction volumes increase, especially mobile transaction volumes, the need for increased security becomes paramount. Cybercrime today has shifted. Rather than stealing data criminals are compromising data accuracy and reliability. This is where the z13s’ bolstered built-in security and access to APIs and microservices in a hybrid cloud setting can pay off by keeping data integrity intact.

IBM’s z13s, described as the new entry point to the z Systems portfolio for enterprises of all sizes, is packed with a number of security innovations. (DancingDinosaur considered the IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper as the current z entry point but it is a Linux-only machine.) For zOS the z13s will be the entry point. The security innovations include:

  • Ability to encrypt sensitive data without compromising transactional throughput and response time through its updated cryptographic and tamper-resistant hardware-accelerated cryptographic coprocessor cards with faster processors and more memory. In short: encryption at twice the speed equates to processing twice as many online or mobile device purchases in the same time, effectively helping to lower the cost per transaction.
  • Leverage the z Systems Cyber Security Analytics offering, which delivers an advanced level of threat monitoring based on behavior analytics. Also part of the package, IBM® Security QRadar® security software correlates data from more than 500 sources to help organizations determine if security-related events are simply anomalies or potential threats, This z Systems Cyber Security Analytics service will be available at no-charge, as a beta offering for z13 and z13s customers.
  • IBM Multi-factor Authentication for z/OS (MFA) is now available on z/OS. The solution adds another layer of security by requiring privileged users to enter a second form of identification, such as a PIN or randomly generated token, to gain access to the system. This is the first time MFA has been tightly integrated in the operating system, rather than through an add-on software solution. This level of integration is expected to deliver more streamlined configuration and better stability and performance.

Hybrid computing and hybrid cloud also play a big part in IBM’s thinking latest around z Systems. As IBM explains, hybrid cloud infrastructure offers advantages in flexibility but can also present new vulnerabilities. When paired with z Systems, IBM’s new security solutions can allow clients to establish end-to-end security in their hybrid cloud environment.

Specifically, IBM Security Identity Governance and Intelligence can help prevent inadvertent or malicious internal data loss by governing and auditing access based on known policies while granting access to those who have been cleared as need-to-know users. IBM Security Guardium uses analytics to help ensure data integrity by providing intelligent data monitoring, which tracks users as they access specific data and help to identify threat sources quickly in the event of a breach. IBM Security zSecure and QRadar use real-time alerts to focus on the identified critical security threats that matter the most.

Conventional z System data centers should have no difficulty migrating to the z13 or even the z13s.  IBM told DancingDinosaur it will continue to protect a client’s investment in technology with serial number preservation on the IBM z13s.  The company also is offering upgrades from the zEnterprise BC12 (zBC12) and from the zEnterprise 114 (z114) to the z13s.   Of course, it supports upgradeability within the IBM z13 family; a z13s N20 model can be upgraded to the z13 N30 model. And once the z13s is installed it allows on demand offerings to access temporary or permanent capacity as needed.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

IBM Gets Serious about Linux on z Systems

February 12, 2016

 

It has taken the cloud, open source, and mobile for IBM to finally, after more than a decade of Linux on z, for the company to turn it into the agile development machine it should have been all along. Maybe z data centers weren’t ready back then, maybe they aren’t all that ready now, but it is starting to happen.

Primary_LinuxONE_LeftAngle-1 (1)

LinuxONE Rockhopper, Refreshed for Hybrid Cloud Innovation

In March, IBM will make its IBM Open Platform available for the IBM LinuxONE (IOP) portfolio available at no cost. IOP includes a broad set of industry standard Apache-based capabilities for analytics and big data. The components supported include Apache Spark, Apache HBase and more, as well as Apache Hadoop 2.7.1. Continuing its commitment to contributing back to the open source community, IBM has optimized the Open Managed Runtime project (OMR) for LinuxONE. Now IBM innovations in virtual machine technology for new dynamic scripting languages will be brought to enterprise-grade strength.

It doesn’t stop there. IBM has ported the Go programming language to LinuxOne too. Go was developed by Google and is designed for building simple, reliable and efficient software, making it easier for developers to combine the software tools they know with the speed, security and scale offered by LinuxONE. IBM expects to begin contributing code to the Go community this summer.

Back in December IBM brought Apple’s Swift programming to the party, first to the IBM Watson iOS SDK, which gives developers a Swift API to simplify integration with many of the Watson Developer Cloud services, including the Watson Dialog, Language Translation, Natural Language Classifier, Personality Insights, Speech To Text, Text to Speech, Alchemy Language, or Alchemy Vision services – all of which are available today, and can now be integrated with just a few lines of code.

Following Apple’s introduction of Swift as the new language for OS X and iOS application development. IBM began partnering with Apple to bring the power of Swift open source programming to the z. This will be closely tied to Canonical’s Ubuntu port to the z expected this summer.

Also, through new work by SUSE to collaborate on technologies in the OpenStack space, SUSE tools will be employed to manage public, private, and hybrid clouds running on LinuxONE.  Open source, OpenStack, open-just-about-everything appears to be the way IBM is pushing the z.

At a presentation last August on Open Source & ISV Ecosystem Enablement for LinuxONE and IBM z, Dale Hoffman, Program Director, IBM’s Linux SW Ecosystem & Innovation Lab, introduced the three ages of mainframe development; our current stage being the third.

  1. Traditional mainframe data center, 1964–2014 includes • Batch • General Ledger • Transaction Systems • Client Databases • Accounts payable / receivable • Inventory, CRM, ERP Linux & Java
  2. Internet Age, 1999–2014 includes–• Server Consolidation • Oracle Consolidation • Early Private Clouds • Email • Java®, Web & eCommerce
  3. Cloud/Mobile/Analytics (CAMSS2) Age, 2015–2020 includes– • On/Off Premise, Hybrid Cloud • Big Data & Analytics • Enterprise Mobile Apps • Security solutions • Open Source LinuxONE and IBM z ecosystem enablement

Hoffman didn’t suggest what comes after 2020 but we can probably imagine: Cognitive Computing, Internet of Things, Blockchain. At least those are trends starting to ramp up now.

He does, however, draw a picture of the state of Linux on the mainframe today:

  • 27% of total installed capacity run Linux
  • Linux core capacity increased 16% from 2Q14 to 2Q15
  • 40% of customers have Linux cores
  • 80% of the top 100 customers (in terms of installed MIPS) run Linux on the mainframe
  • 67% of new accounts run Linux

To DancingDinosaur, this last point about the high percentage of new z accounts running Linux speaks to where the future of the z is heading.

Maybe as telling are the following:

  • 64% of companies participate in Open Source projects
  • 78% of companies run on open source
  • 88% of companies to increase open source contributions in the next 2-3 year
  • 47% to release internal tools & projects as OSS
  • 53% expect to reduce barriers to employee participation in open source
  • 50% report that more than half of their engineers are working on open source projects
  • 66% of companies build software on open source

Remember when open source and Linux first appeared for z, data center managers were shocked at the very concept. It was anti-capitalist at the very least, maybe even socialist or communist. Look at the above percentages; open source has gotten about as mainstream as it gets.

It will be interesting to see how quickly developers move to LinuxONE for their CAMSS projects. IBM hasn’t said anything about the pricing of the refreshed Rockhopper model or about the look and feel of the tools. Until the developers know, DancingDinosaur expects they will continue to work on the familiar x86 tools they are using now.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

Exploiting the IBM z13 for Maximum Price/Performance Advantage

February 4, 2016

The z13 is the most powerful general purpose computer IBM has ever made. The key to capturing the maximum value from the z13, however, lies in how you plan, design, configure, and optimize your systems and software for everything from COBOL and Java to process parallelization and analytics. What you do in this regard will have significant impact on not only the price/performance you experience but on your success at achieving the business outcomes you are expecting.

z13-under the covers

IBM System z13

This really becomes a software configuration challenge. By tapping approximately 600 internal processors IBM already has optimized the hardware, input, output, memory, and networking/communications about as much as it can be. Your job is to optimize the software you are running, which will require working closely with your ISV.

The place to start is by leveraging the z13’s new compiler technology, parallelism, zIIP and assist processors. This will enable you to save significant money while boosting workload performance. You will literally be doing more for less.

Similarly, in the not too distant past Moore’s Law would virtually guarantee a 15-20% price/performance gain automatically just by taking a new machine out of the box and plugging it in. That’s no longer the case. Now you will have to partner with your ISV to exploit advanced software to maximize the hardware payback and continue the ride along the favorable Moore’s Law price/performance slope.

Then look at the latest COBOL V5.x and its compiler on the z13. Out of the box it is better optimized than previous compilers. In general, the strategic value of COBOL V5.x comes from migrating high CPU usage programs as quickly as possible, effectively saving organizations considerable money by running optimized code.

Some organizations report a 15% on average reduction of CPU time, which adds up to significant savings in monthly CPU charges. How significant? Up to $150k less on a $1 million bill, with some reporting even higher percentage reductions producing even greater savings. Just migrate to COBOL V5.2 (or at least V5.1) to achieve the savings. In general, staying on the software curve with the latest releases of the OS, languages, and compilers with applications optimized for them is the best way to ensure your workloads are achieving top performance in the most cost-effective way.

For example, the new z13 processor leverages a new Vector Facility for certain COBOL statements and expands the use of Decimal Floating Point Facility for packed decimal calculations. Well-structured, compute-intensive batch applications running on z13 and compiled with the Enterprise COBOL V5.2  compiler have shown CPU reduction usage of up to 14% over the same applications running on zEC12 (compiled with the GA release of Enterprise COBOL V5.1), according to IBM. The result: improved workload price/performance.

Enterprise COBOL V5.2 also includes new features to improve programmability, developer productivity, and application modernization. Supporting JSON, for instance, will provide mobile applications easy access to data and the processing they need from business critical production applications written in COBOL.

The z13 and its z sister, the latest LinuxONE dedicated Linux models, were designed and optimized from the start for cloud, mobile, and analytics. They were intended to run alongside traditional mainframe workloads with z/OS or Linux running on the appropriate models.

Finally, plan to take advantage of the new assist processors and expanded memory capacity to further boost performance and lower cost. With the z13, there is a mandatory migration of all zAAP-enabled applications to zIIP. Expect the usage of the zIIP assist processors to surge when all those Java applications move from the zAAP.  ISVs like Compuware should be able to help with this.  In addition, if you enable SMT on the z13, you’ll immediately get more Java capacity.  Applications that run under IBM WebSphere (WAS) on z/OS will benefit too.

The z13 and especially the LinuxONE are breaking new ground. IBM has established, in conjunction with the Linux Foundation, an Open Mainframe Project to support and advance ongoing open source Linux innovation on the mainframe. IBM also is breaking with its traditional mainframe pricing model by offering a pay-per-use option in the form of a fixed monthly payment with costs scaling up or down based on usage. It also offers per-core pricing with software licenses for designated cores. See DancingDinosaur here.

An upcoming DancingDinosaur will look at more of the enhancements being added to these machines, including some of the latest LinuxOne enhancements like support for Google’s Go language and Cloudant’s NoSQL services. The message: the new z System can take you to the places you will want to be in this emerging cloud-mobile-analytics era.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

 

Spectrum Suite Returns IBM to the Storage Game

January 29, 2016

The past four quarters haven’t been kind to IBM storage as the storage group racked up consecutive quarterly revenue losses. The Spectrum Suite V 1.0 is IBM’s latest software defined storage (SDS) initiative, one of the hottest trends in storage. The product release promises to start turning things around for IBM storage.

IBM Mobile Storage (Jared Lazarus/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM Mobile Storage, Jamie,Thomas, GM Storage (Jared Lazarus/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

Driving interest in SDS is the continuing rapid adoption on new workload, new application, and new ways of storing and consuming data. The best thing about the Spectrum Suite is the way IBM is now delivering it—as a broad set of storage software capabilities that touch every type of storage operation. It doesn’t much matter which workloads or applications are driving it or what kind of storage you need.  Seventy percent of clients report deploying object storage, and 60% already are committed to SDS.  Over three-quarters of storage device interface (SDI) adopters also indicated a strong preference for single-vendor storage solutions.  This all bodes well for IBM’s Spectrum Suite.

Also working in IBM’s favor is the way storage has traditionally been delivered. Even within one enterprise there can be multiple point solutions from different vendors or even incompatible solutions from the same vendor. Companies need to transition among storage software offerings as business needs change, which entails adding and removing software licenses. This always is complex and may even lead to dramatic cost gyrations due to different licensing metrics and different vendor policies.  On top of that, procurement may not play along so quickly, leaving the organization with a gap in functionality.  Then there are the typical inconsistent user interfaces among offerings, which invariably reduces productivity and may increase errors.

Add to that the usual hassles of learning different products with different interfaces and different ways to run new storage processes. As a result, a switch to SDS may not be as smooth or efficient as you hoped, and it probably won’t be cheap.

IBM is counting on these storage complications, outlined above, and more to give it a distinct advantage in the SDS market  IBM should know; the company has been one of the offenders creating similar complications as they cobbled together a wide array of storage products with different interfaces and management processes over the years.

With the new Spectrum Storage Suite IBM finally appears to have gotten it right. IBM is offering a simplified and predictable licensing model for entire Spectrum Storage family. Pricing is pegged to the capacity being used, regardless of what that capacity is and how it is being used. Block, file, object—doesn’t matter; the same per-terabyte pricing applies. IBM estimates that alone can save up to 40% compared to licensing different software capabilities separately. Similarly, there are no software licensing hassles when migrating from one form of storage or data type to another. Even the cost won’t change unless you add capacity. Then, you pay the same per-terabyte cost for the additional capacity.

The Spectrum Suite and its licensing model work for mainframe shops running Linux on z and LinuxONE. Sorry, no z/OS yet.

The new Spectrum Storage approach has advantages when running a storage shop. There are no unexpected charges when using new capabilities and IBM isn’t charging for non-production uses like dev and test.

Finally, you will find a consistent user interface across all storage components in the Spectrum suite. That was never the case with IBM’s underlying storage hardware products but Spectrum SDS makes those difference irrelevant. The underlying hardware array doesn’t really matter; admins will rarely ever have to touch it.

The storage capabilities included in IBM Spectrum Storage Suite V1.0 should be very familiar to you from the traditional IBM storage products you probably are currently using. They include:

  • IBM Spectrum Accelerate, Version 11.5.3
  • IBM Spectrum Archive Enterprise Edition, Version 1.2 (Linux edition)
  • IBM Spectrum Control Advanced Edition 5.2
  • IBM Spectrum Protect Suite 7.1
  • IBM Spectrum Scale Advanced and Standard Editions (Protocols) V4.2
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software for SAN Volume Controller, Version 7.6
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software for SAN Volume Controller, Version 7.6 – Real-time Compression
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software for SAN Volume Controller, Version 7.6 – Encryption Software

With Spectrum Storage you can, for example, run SAN storage, storage rich servers, and a tape library. Add up the storage capacity for each and pay the per-terabyte licensing cost. Re-allocate the existing capacity between the different types of storage and your charges don’t change. Pretty nifty, huh? To DancingDinosaur, who has sat through painful discussions of complicated IBM software pricing slopes, this is how you spell relief. Maybe there really is a new IBM coming that actually gets it.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

IBM zSystem Continues Surge in 4Q15

January 22, 2016

DancingDinosaur follows technology, not financial investments, so you’d be an idiot if you considered what follows as investment advice. It is not.  Still, as one who has built a chunk of his career around the mainframe, it is good to see the z System continuing to remain in the black and beating the sexier Power lineup although I do follow both closely. See the latest IBM financials here.

  ibm-z13

The IBM z13 System

 Specifically, as IBM reported on Tuesday, revenues from z Systems mainframe server products increased 16 percent compared with the year-ago period (up 21 percent adjusting for currency).  Total delivery of z Systems computing power, as measured in MIPS (millions of instructions per second), increased 28 percent.  Revenues from Power Systems were up 4 percent compared with the 2014 period (up 8 percent adjusting for currency).

Almost as good, revenues from Power Systems were up 4 percent compared with the 2014 period (up 8 percent adjusting for currency). Power revenues have been up most of the year although they got a little blurry in the accounting.

In the storage market, which is getting battered by software defined storage (SDS) on one hand and cloud-based storage on the other, IBM reported revenues from System Storage decreased 11 percent (down 7 percent adjusting for currency). The storage revenues probably won’t bounce back fast, at least not without IBM bringing out radically new storage products. That storage rival EMC got acquired by Dell should be some kind of signal that the storage market as the traditional enterprise players knew it is drastically different. For now object storage, SDS, and even Flash won’t replace the kind of revenue IBM used to see from DS8000 disk systems or TS enterprise tape libraries loaded with mechanical robotics.

Getting more prominence is IBM’s strategic initiative. This has been a company priority all year. Strategic initiatives include cloud, mobile, analytics, security, IoT, and cognitive computing. Q4 revenues, as reported by IBM, from these strategic imperatives — cloud, analytics, and engagement — increased 10 percent year-to-year (up 16 percent adjusting for currency).  For the full year, revenues from strategic imperatives increased 17 percent (up 26 percent adjusting for currency and the divested System x business) to $28.9 billion and now represents 35 percent of total IBM consolidated revenue.

For the full year, total cloud revenues (public, private and hybrid) increased 43 percent (up 57 percent adjusting for currency and the divested System x business) to $10.2 billion.  Revenues for cloud delivered as a service — a subset of the total cloud revenue — increased 50 percent to $4.5 billion; and the annual as-a-service run rate increased to $5.3 billion from $3.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Meanwhile, revenues from business analytics increased 7 percent (up 16 percent adjusting for currency) to $17.9 billion.  Revenues from mobile more than tripled and from security increased 5 percent (up 12 percent adjusting for currency).

Commenting on IBM latest financial was Timothy Prickett Morgan, who frequently writes on IBM’s platforms. Citing Martin Schroeter, IBM’s chief financial officer, statements to analyst, Morgan suggested that low profit margins, which other financial analysts complained about, put pressure on the System z13 product line that launched early in the year. After a fast start, apparently, the z13 is now experiencing a slowdown in the upgrade cycle. It’s at this point that DancingDinosaur usually expects to see a new z, typically a business class version of the latest mainframe, the z13 in this case, but that does not appear to be in the offing. About the closest IBM got to that was the RockHopper model of the LinuxOne, a z optimized only for Linux, cloud, mobile, and analytics.

Morgan also noted that IBM added about 50 new mainframe customers for the year on an installed base of about 6,000 active customers. DancingDinosaur has been tracking that figure for years and it has not fluctuated much in recent years. And am never sure how to count the handful of IT shops that run a z in the IBM cloud.  But 5000-6000 active z shops still sounds about right.

Power Systems, which has also grown four quarters in a row, and was up 8 percent at constant currency. This has to be a relief to the company, which has committed over $1 billion to Power. IBM attributes some of this growth to its enthusiastic embrace of Linux on Power8, but Morgan complains of having no sense of how much of the Power Systems pie is driven by scale-out Linux machines intended to compete against Intel Xeon servers. Power also is starting to get some boost from the OpenPOWER Foundation, members that started to ship products in the past few months. It’s probably minimal revenue now but over time it should grow.

For those of us who are counting on z and Power to be around for a while longer, the latest financials should be encouraging.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

Mobile Financial App Security Appears Shaky

January 15, 2016

IBM has made mobile a key strategic imperative going forward, even discounting mobile software license charges on z. However, a recent study suggests that mobile apps may be less secure than app users think. For example, 83% of the app users surveyed felt their applications were adequately secure. Yet, 90% of the applications Arxan Technologies tested were vulnerable to at least two of the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Mobile Top 10 Risks.

dino Arxan_SOAS_Title_Image

The OWASP Top Ten is an awareness document for web application security. The OWASP Top Ten represents a broad consensus about what the most critical web application security flaws are. Security experts will use the list as a first step in changing the security awareness and software development culture around security in organizations around the world. You can find the Arxan report here.

In the latest study, 41% of mobile finance app users expect their finance apps to be hacked within the next six months. That’s not exactly a vote of confidence. Even worse, 42% of executive IT decision makers, those who have oversight or insight into the security of the mobile finance apps they produce, feel the same way.  Does this bother you?

It should. The researchers found that 81% of app users would change providers if apps offered by similar providers were more secure. While millennials are driving the adoption of mobile apps, their views on the importance of app security were equally as strong as the older non-millennials. Overall, survey results showed very little geographical discrepancies across the US, UK, Germany, and Japan.

This sentiment makes it sound like mobile finance applications are at a hopeless state of security where, despite Herculean efforts to thwart attackers, adversaries are expected to prevail. But the situation is not hopeless; it’s careless. Half the organizations aren’t even trying. Fully 50% of organizations have zero budget allocated for mobile app security—0, nothing, nada—according to the researchers.  By failing to step up their mobile security game organizations risk losing customers to competitors who offer alternative apps that are more secure.

How bad is the mobile security situation? When put to the test, the majority of mobile apps failed critical security tests and could easily be hacked, according to the researchers.  Among 55 popular mobile finance apps tested for security vulnerabilities, 92% were shown to have at least two OWASP Mobile Top 10 Risks. Such vulnerabilities could allow the apps to be tampered and reverse-engineered, which could clearly put sensitive financial information in the wrong hands or, even worse, potentially redirect the flow of money. Ouch!

Think about all the banks and insurance companies that are scrambling to deploy new mobile apps. As it turns out, financial services organizations, the researchers report, also are among the top targets of hackers seeking high-value payment data, intellectual property (IP), and other sensitive information. Specifically, employee, customer, and soft IP data are the top three targets of cyber-attacks in the financial services market; while at the same time theft of hard IP soared 183% in 2015, according to PwC, another firm researching the segment.

With the vast majority of cyber-attacks happening at the application layer, one would think that robust application security would be a fundamental security measure being aggressively implemented and increasingly required by regulators, particularly given the financial services industry’s rapid embrace of mobile financial apps. But apparently it is not.

So where does the financial mobile app industry stand? Among the most prevalent OWASP Mobile Top 10 Risks identified among the mobile finance apps tested the top 2 risks were:

1) Lack of binary protection (98%) – this was the most prevalent vulnerability

2) Insufficient transport layer protection (91%).

A distant third, at 58%, was unintended data leakage. All these vulnerabilities, the top two especially, make the mobile financial applications susceptible to reverse-engineering and tampering in addition to privacy violations and identity theft.

Says Arxan CTO Sam Rehman: “The impact for financial institutions and mobile finance app users can be devastating. Imagine having your mobile finance app leak your personal financial information and identity, or your app maliciously redirecting your money.” The customer outrage and bad press that followed wouldn’t be pretty, not to mention the costly lawsuits.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.


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