Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

IBM-Apple Deal Enhanced by New z/OS Pricing Discounts

July 25, 2014

In the spring, IBM announced, almost as an aside, new pricing discounts for z/OS mobile transactions. At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But IBM’s more recent announcement of its exclusive mobile partnership with Apple, covered by DancingDinosaur here, suddenly gives it much bigger potential.

The plan is to create apps that can transform specific aspects of how businesses and employees work using iPhone and iPad, allowing companies to achieve new levels of efficiency, effectiveness and customer satisfaction. At the backend will be the mainframe.

Already zEnterprise shops, especially banks and financial services firms, are reporting growth in the volume of transactions that originate from mobile devices. The volume of these mobile-originated transactions in some cases is getting large enough to impact the four-hour peak loads that are used in calculating monthly costs.

Here’s the problem: you put out a mobile app and want people to use it. They do, but much of the workload being generated does not directly produce revenue. Rather, they are requesting data or checking invoices and balances. Kind of a bummer to drive up monthly charges with non-revenue producing work.

That’s where the new pricing discounts for z/OS mobile workloads come in. The new pricing reduces the impact of these mobile transactions on reported LPAR MSUs. Specifically, the Mobile Workload Pricing Reporting Tool (MWRT) will subtract 60% of the reported Mobile MSUs from a given LPAR in each hour, adjusting the total LPAR MSU value for that hour. Think of this as just a standard SCRT report with a discount built in to adjust for mobile workload impact.

So, what does that translate into in terms of hard dollar savings? DancingDinosaur had a private briefing with two IBMers who helped build the tool and asked that question. They are only in the earliest stages of getting actual numbers from users in the field; the tool only became available June 30.  Clearly the results depend on how many mobile transactions you are handling in each reporting hour and how you are handling the workloads.

There is a little work involved but the process won’t seem intimidating to mainframe shops accustomed to IBM’s monthly reporting process. Simply record mobile program transaction data, including CPU seconds, on an hourly basis per LPAR, load the resulting data file into the new tool, MWRT, each month using the IBM-specified CSV format, and run MWRT, submitting the results to IBM each month. It replaces the SCRT process.

The MWRT will function like a partial off-load from a software pricing perspective. When an LPAR value is adjusted, all software running in the LPAR will benefit from lower MSUs. The tool will calculate the monthly MSU peak for a given machine using the adjusted MSU values.

This brings us back to the hard dollar savings question. The answer: probably not much initially unless your mobile apps already generate a sizeable proportion of your peak transaction volume. But jump ahead six months or a year when the IBM-Apple partnership’s new iOS made-for-business apps are gaining traction your mobile transaction volume could be climbing substantially each month. At that point, savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more seem quite possible.

Of course, the new applications or the entire partnership could be a bust. In that case, you will have burned some admin time for a one-time set up. You’ll still experience whatever normal transaction growth your current mobile apps generate and collect your discounted MSU charges. Unless the big IT analysis firms are dead wrong, however, mobile transactions are not going away. To the contrary, they will only increase. The bottom line: negligible downside risk while the upside gain could be huge.

Hope to see you at IBM Enterprise 2014 in Las Vegas, Oct. 6-10. DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. Follow him on Twitter, @mainframeblog and at Technologywriter.com

 

 

System z Takes BackOffice Role in IBM-Apple Deal

July 21, 2014

DancingDinosaur didn’t have to cut short his vacation and race back last week to cover the IBM-Apple agreement. Yes, it’s a big deal, but as far as System z shops go it won’t have much impact on their data center operations until late this year or 2015 when new mobile enterprise applications apparently will begin to roll out.

The deal, announced last Tuesday, promises “a new class of made-for-business apps targeting specific industry issues or opportunities in retail, healthcare, banking, travel and transportation, telecommunications, and insurance among others,” according to IBM. The mainframe’s role will continue to be what it has been for decades, the backoffice processing workhorse. IBM is not porting iOS to the z or Power or i or any enterprise platform.

Rather, the z will handle transaction processing, security, and data management as it always has. With this deal, however, analytics appears to be assuming a larger role. IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities is one of the jewels it is bringing to the party to be fused with Apple’s legendary consumer experience. IBM expects this combination—big data analytics and consumer experience—to produce apps that can transform specific aspects of how businesses and employees work using iPhone and iPad devices and ultimately, as IBM puts it, enable companies to achieve new levels of efficiency, effectiveness and customer satisfaction—faster and easier than ever before.

In case you missed the point, this deal, or alliance as IBM seems to prefer, is about software and services. If any hardware gets sold as a result, it will be iPhones and iPads. Of course, IBM’s MobileFirst constellation of products and services stand to gain. Mainframe shops have been reporting a steady uptick in transactions originating from mobile devices for several years. This deal won’t slow that trend and might even accelerate it. The IBM-Apple alliance also should streamline and simplify working with and managing Apple’s mobile devices on an enterprise-wide basis.

According to IBM its MobileFirst Platform for iOS will deliver the services required for an end-to-end enterprise capability, from analytics, workflow and cloud storage to enterprise-scale device management, security and integration. Enhanced mobile management includes a private app catalog, data and transaction security services, and a productivity suite for all IBM MobileFirst for iOS offerings. In addition to on premise software solutions, all these services will be available on Bluemix—IBM’s development platform available through the IBM Cloud Marketplace.

One hope from this deal is that IBM will learn from Apple how to design user-friendly software and apply those lessons to the software it subsequently develops for the z and Power Systems. Would be interesting see what Apple software designers might do to simplify using CICS.

Given the increasing acceptance of BYOD when it comes to mobile, data centers will still have to cope with the proliferation of operating systems and devices in the mobile sphere. Nobody is predicting that Android, Amazon, Google, or Microsoft will be exiting the mobile arena as a result, at least not anytime soon.

Finally, a lot of commentators weighed in on who wins or loses in the mobile market. In terms of IBM’s primary enterprise IT competitors Oracle offers the Oracle Mobile Platform. This includes mobile versions of Siebel CRM, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, and a few more. HP offers mobile app development and testing and a set of mobile application services that include planning, architecture, design, build, integration, and testing.

But if you are thinking in terms of enterprise platform winners and losers IBM is the clear winner; the relationship with Apple is an IBM exclusive partnership. No matter how good HP, Oracle, or any of IBM’s other enterprise rivals might be at mobile computing without the tight Apple connection they are at a distinct disadvantage. And that’s before you even consider Bluemix, SoftLayer, MobileFirst, and IBM’s other mobile assets.

BTW, it’s not too early to start planning for IBM Enterprise 2014. Mark your calendar, Oct 6-10 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. This event should be heavily z and Power.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. Follow him on Twitter @mainframeblog or at Technologywriter.com.

IBM Gets Serious About Mobile

February 28, 2013

Just last week IBM announced IBM MobileFirst, a multi-product initiative to pull together a comprehensive mobile computing platform.  There was nothing in the announcement specific to the zEnterprise, but IBM has been telegraphing System z involvement in mobile for over a year.

In November of last year DancingDinosaur wrote of the z and all other platforms going mobile. Over a year earlier, DancingDinosaur was writing about  using the z with smartphones. With SOA, Java, Linux, WebSphere, and Lotus running on the z and with data that mobile apps and users want residing on the machine, the zEnterprise should become over time a prime player in enterprise mobile business.

Doug Balog, general manager of IBM’s System z mainframe business, might have had MobileFirst in mind when he said in Computerworld that the next steps IBM is considering include making it easier for customers to run mobile and social networking applications on mainframes.  Such an approach would, for example, benefit banks that want to offer mobile apps but still want the power and resilience of a mainframe behind those apps.

The first mobile workload you see on the zEnterprise, however, will not be Foursquare or some other funky mobile app.  More likely, it will be an operational analytics app dissecting mobile banking transaction data or analyzing the behavior of anyone making purchases through their smartphone.

MobileFirst boasts what IBM describes as the broadest portfolio of mobile offerings covering platform, management, security, and analytics.  In terms of platform, for instance, it currently offers streamlined deployment for private clouds on the PureApplication System. It provides single sign-on across multiple apps on a device, and supports all four of the latest mobile operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry). It can handle native, web, or hybrid app development, promises easy connectivity to existing data and services for mobile usage, and can be deployed on premise or through managed service delivery.

In terms of management and security MobileFirst offers unified management across all devices, making it suitable for BYOD. Similarly, it can secure sensitive data regardless of the device, including the option to remotely wipe corporate data. It also supports DOD-grade encryption and FIPS 140-2 compliance and will grant or deny email access based on device compliance.  It also provides context-aware risk-based access control through IBM Worklight. More security is delivered through IBM Security Access Manager for Mobile and Cloud and IBM AppScan.

As for analytics, MobileFirst will automatically detect customer issues through user and mobile device data. It offers user behavior drill down through high fidelity replay and reporting to analyze the user experience. Finally, it correlates customer behavior with network and application data to determine conversion and retention rates and quantify business impact. It also can capture all activity on a device and link it to backend resources. Recently acquired Tealeaf will play a key role for user analytics and behavior.

As you would expect, in addition to acquisitions IBM is rapidly assembling an ecosystem of mobile players, carriers, and ISVs to build out a complete MobileFirst offering starting with players like AT&T, IBM as a surprising Apple VAR (US only), working with Nokia Siemens Networks to develop the IBM WebSphere Application Service Platform for Networks to run IT apps at the mobile network edge, and a slew of resources for developers. There even is an IBM Academic Initiative for Mobile patterned after the System z Academic Initiative to increase the availability of skilled mobile developers. IBM also is jump starting Mobile First with about 200 of its own applications; mainly old favorites like Cognos and its key middleware.

But MobileFirst isn’t IBM’s only initiative with a mobile component. IBM Connections has had a mobile component since August 2011. Similarly, Lotus Notes Traveler supports Notes mobile users on all the major smartphones through IBM Lotus Domino or Lotus Domino Express deployments, and in the IBM cloud with IBM SmartCloud Notes.  Although they weren’t specifically called out in the MobileFirst briefing IBM assures DancingDinosaur they are included as part of the initiative’s application layer.

From the standpoint of a zEnterprise data center or any enterprise-class data center MobileFirst shouldn’t present a problem. Yes, it will increase the number and frequency of users accessing data handled through the data center and the number of devices they are using. And you’ll be running more data analytics more often. But IBM clearly has put effort into thinking through the critical security challenges of mobile and is providing a broad set of tools to begin addressing them. Sure, there is no RACF for mobile, at least not yet, but if it is needed you can bet there will be.

Two Mainframe Career Futures

September 20, 2011

From a career standpoint, are these the best of times or the worst of times for mainframe people? If you read the front page of last Sunday’s Boston Globe, it looks terrible. If you listen to IBM, it couldn’t be better, and some job boards appear to back up IBM on this.

Boston Globe writer Katie Johnston started her piece this way: Brewster Smith specialized in mainframe systems for 35 years in the technology industry, recently converting his employer’s mainframe to servers that use newer programming languages. When Smith completed the project in July, his company laid him off because his skills no longer fit the new system. “It will take at least two years to train you to be productive,’’ he recalled his Concord, N.H., employer telling him. “Why do that when we can just hire someone off the street and they’ll be productive immediately because they know the languages.’’

Smith recently got a call from John Hancock Financial Services. The conversation ended quickly when the hiring manager found out he didn’t have experience with the current Microsoft Windows development framework.

IBM takes a decidedly different view. In a recent survey sponsored by the IBM Academic Initiative, it reports customers and business partners placed a high priority on the need for mainframe skills: Over 85% ranked mainframe application development skills as strongly required or required within their organization. These results point to an increasing need for organizations to groom the next generation of mainframe development skills.

As Johnston noted in her piece:  There is a dark side of tech, an industry in which skills and people can quickly become obsolete and some companies, believing high unemployment will give them the pick of ready-to-produce workers, don’t provide training. In fact, many companies demand candidates with skills that perfectly match their requirements.

There are very few jobs anymore where the skills you originally mastered will keep you securely employed for a decade or more. Almost every job skill in the computer industry is fleeting. Just think of all those Symbian programmers who recently had mastered a key mobile technology only to be reduced to near irrelevance by the rapid rise of smartphones with totally different operational attributes.

One high level IT manager in a leading mainframe shop puts it this way: There are some professions– dentistry, the priesthood, psychology, law– which require that members of that profession acquire a vast amount of knowledge and skill early and then can coast along for the next 40 years simply using that knowledge. Or maybe not. You can’t go skiing at Vail or golfing in the Virgin Islands without running into educational seminars for doctors or lawyers.

Then there are other professions, like IT, where everything one learns is obsolete within ten years or sooner.  You have to keep learning new things just to keep abreast of the technology, notes the IT manager.

Both types of professions can be rewarding, he concludes, if you go into them with the proper attitude. And that attitude is that you have to be willing to learn, even if you have to do it on your own nickel and your own time.

Are there programmers out there, asks the IT manager, spending 10 hours a week expanding their skills but learning the wrong things?  Undoubtedly.  Good IT managers not only should encourage their staff to broaden their skills but guide them toward which skills will be most valuable going forward even if they are not given the budget to support it.

The hybrid zEnterprise provides a valuable opportunity for mainframers to expand their skills into Linux, Java, and soon even Windows. The hybrid mainframe can handle SOA and mobile technologies and play in the cloud. Start familiarizing yourself with these technologies.

Today, every mainframer has access to other means to gain leading edge skills. All they need is a smartphone in their pocket. Apple and Droid provide rich SDKs to develop apps and marketplaces to distribute those apps. One mainframer leveraged his mainframe knowledge and rudimentary Java skills to write an iPhone app that sent a photo of he took of a wiring mistake to the trouble ticket system. The wiring got fixed, the company streamlined a process, and he demonstrated a valuable leading edge skill. The lesson: both old and new IT dogs must continually learn new tricks.

Be Cool: Manage the System z from an iPad

September 7, 2010

Command line zealots and green screen aficionados may be appalled, but it is now possible to manage z/OS from an Apple iPad using the ZEN management tools from Williams Data Systems. In the mainframe world, this has to be the ultimate cool. Check out the ZEN tools here.

The iPad made its z/OS management debut at SHARE in Boston this summer. With the iPad and ZEN you can perform System z network management anywhere you find a good WiFi connection; by the pool, from the golf course, even in the bathroom.

Although the mobility of the iPad management tool will appeal to mainframe staff traditionally shackled to beepers or who lug comparatively heavy laptops around, the real payoff may come from the ability to tap the rich touchscreen GUI of the iPad. DancingDinosaur has long encouraged vendors to adopt graphical interfaces for their mainframe management tools to speed the learning curve and boost staff productivity.

Other vendors have rolled out GUI-based management tools. CA even made GUI ease of use part of its multi-year Mainframe 2.0 initiative to upgrade its entire suite of mainframe tools. SEGUS has a GUI job scheduler that lets the operations staff manage schedules and dependencies graphically. Sure the command line interface can do almost anything and do it stunningly fast for those who have mastered it, but a GUI interface brings its own advantages.

With ZEN on the iPad, Williams Data is able to tap Apple’s already legendary touch screen interface for mainframe management. Pricing is the same as for other ZEN products, whether you use a 3270 terminal, PC, laptop, or iPad.

According to Graham Storey, Williams Data VP, the iPad version of ZEN installs and runs right on the mainframe.  The company tweaked ZEN so remote admins can connect directly with ZEN simply by entering the URL to the mainframe. No need for any front end processor or Windows server. Admins can view and manage the mainframe network using the iPad’s browser to navigate to the mainframe. Once logged in securely, you work as you normally do except you have the advantages of the iPad touch screen. You actually can use any mobile device with a browser and an adequate touch screen. For serious work, however, the iPad’s size gives it a distinct advantage for now.

Buoyed by the enthusiasm exhibited at SHARE, Williams Data already is thinking beyond the iPad. Although Storey stops short of announcing anything, he implies that versions for the Blackberry, Android, and iPhone already are in the works.

Williams Data will be back in Boston in October at IBM’s System z Technical University. With luck DancingDinosaur can connect with some customers there who are eager to manage their System z from vacation spots, nice hotels, and especially Starbucks. Did you think that managing a System z would ever be cool?


%d bloggers like this: