Posts Tagged ‘blockchain’

Meet the new IBM LinuxONE Emperor II

September 15, 2017

Early this week IBM introduced the newest generation of the LinuxONE, the IBM LinuxONE Emperor II, built on the same technology as the IBM z14, which DancingDinosaur covered on July 19. The key feature of the new LinuxONE Emperor II, is IBM Secure Service Container, presented as an exclusive LinuxONE technology representing a significant leap forward in data privacy and security capabilities. With the z14 the key capability was pervasive encryption. This time the Emperor II promises very high levels of security and data privacy assurance while rapidly addressing unpredictable data and transaction growth. Didn’t we just hear a story like this a few weeks ago?

IBM LinuxONE Emperor (not II)

Through the IBM Secure Service Container, for the first time data can be protected against internal threats at the system level from users with elevated credentials or hackers who obtain a user’s credentials, as well as external threats. Software developers will benefit by not having to create proprietary dependencies in their code to take advantage of these security capabilities. An application only needs to be put into a Docker container to be ready for Secure Service Container deployment. The application can be managed using the Docker and Kubernetes tools that are included to make Secure Service Container environments easy to deploy and use.

The Emperor II and the LinuxONE are being positioned as the premier Linux system for highly secured data serving. To that end, it promises:

  • Ultimate workload isolation and pervasive encryption through Secure Service Containers (SoD)
  • Encryption of data at rest without application change and with better performance than x86
  • Protection of data in flight over the network with full end-to-end network security
  • Use of Protected Keys to secure data without giving up performance
  • Industry-leading secure Java performance via TLS (2-3x faster than Intel)

With the z14 you got this too, maybe worded slightly differently.

In terms of performance and scalability, IBM promises:

  • Industry-leading performance of Java workloads, up to 50% faster than Intel
  • Vertical scale to 170 cores, equivalent to hundreds of x86 cores
  • Simplification to make the most of your Linux skill base and speed time to value
  • SIMD to accelerate analytics workloads & decimal compute (critical to financial applications)
  • Pause-less garbage collection to enable vertical scaling while maintaining predictable performance

Like the z14, the Emperor II also lays a foundation for data serving and next gen apps, specifically:

  • Adds performance and security to new open source DBaaS deployments
  • Develops new blockchain applications based on the proven IBM Blockchain Platform—in terms of security, blockchain may prove more valuable than even secure containers or pervasive encryption
  • Support for data-in-memory applications and new workloads using 32 TB of memory—that’s enough to run production databases entirely in memory (of course, you’ll have to figure out if the increased performance, which should be significant, is worth the extra memory cost)
  • A build-your-cloud approach for providers wanting a secure, scalable, open source platform

If you haven’t figured it out yet, IBM sees itself in a titanic struggle with Intel’s x86 platform.  With the LinuxONE Emperor II IBM senses it can gain the upper hand with certain workloads. Specifically:

  • EAL 5+ isolation, best in class crypto key protection, and Secure Service Containers
  • 640 Power cores in its I/O channels (that aren’t included in the core count) giving the platform the best I/O capacity and performance in the industry
  • Its shared memory, vertical scale architecture delivers a measurably better architecture for stateful workloads like databases and systems of record
  • The LinuxONE/z14 hardware designed to still give good response time at up to 100% utilization, which simplifies the solution and reduces the extra costs many data centers assume are necessary because they’re used to 50% utilization
  • The Emperor II can be ordered designed and tested for earthquake resistance
  • The z-based LinuxONE infrastructure has survived fire and flood scenarios where all other server infrastructures have failed

That doesn’t mean, however, the Emperor II is a Linux no brainer, even for shops facing pressure around security compliance, never-fail mission critical performance, high capacity, and high performance. Change is hard and there remains a cultural mindset based on the lingering myth of the cheap PC of decades ago.

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

 

IBM Blockchain Platform Aims for Immutable Accuracy

August 25, 2017

Earlier this week IBM announced a major blockchain collaboration among group of leading companies across the global food supply chain. The goal is to reduce the number of people falling ill or even dying from eating contaminated food. IBM’s solution is its blockchain platform, which it believes is ideally suited to help address these challenges because it establishes a trusted environment that tracks all transactions, an accurate, consistent, immutable version.

Blockchain can improve food traceability

The food segment is just one of many industries IBM will target for its blockchain platform. It describes the platform as ideally suited to help address varied industry challenges because it establishes a trusted environment for all transactions. IBM claims it as the only fully integrated enterprise-ready blockchain platform designed to accelerate the development, governance and operation of a multi-institution business network. Rival vendors, like Accenture, may disagree.  In the case of the global food supply chain, all participants -growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators and consumers – can gain permissioned access to known and trusted information regarding the origin and state of food. In December 2016 DancingDinosaur reported on IBM and Walmart using blockchain for food safety.

IBM’s blockchain platform is built around Hyperledger Composer, integrated with popular development environments using open developer tools, and accepted business terms to generate blockchain code and smart contracts. It also includes sample industry use cases.  Using IBM’s platform, developers can create standard business language in JavaScript and the APIs help keep development work at the business level, rather than being highly technical. This makes it possible for most any programmer to be a blockchain developer. Additionally, a variety of IBM Developer Journeys for blockchain are available featuring free open source code, documentation, APIs, architecture diagrams, and one-click deployment Git repositories to fast-track building, according to IBM.

For governance and operation it also provides activation tools for new networks, members, smart contracts and transaction channels. It also includes multi-party workflow tool with member activities panel, integrated notifications, and secure signature collection for policy voting. In addition, a new class of democratic governance tools designed to help improve productivity across the organizations uses a voting process that collects signatures from members to govern member invitation distribution of smart contracts and the creation of transactions channels. By enabling the quick onboarding of participants, assigning roles, and managing access, organizations can begin transacting via the blockchain fast.

In operating the network IBM blockchain platform provides always-on, high availability with seamless software and blockchain network updates, a hardened security stack with no privileged access, which blocks malware, and built-in blockchain monitoring for full network visibility. Woven throughout the platform is the Hyperledger Fabric. It also provides the highest-level, commercially available tamper resistant FIPS140-2 level 4 protection for encryption keys.

Along with its blockchain platform, IBM is advancing other blockchain supply chain initiatives by using the platform for an automated billing and invoicing system. Initial work to use blockchain for invoicing also is underway starting with Lenovo. This will provide an audit-ready solution with full traceability of billing and operational data, and help speed on-boarding time for new vendors and new contract requirements, according to IBM.

The platform leverages IBM’s work for more than 400 organizations. It includes insights gained as IBM has built blockchain networks across industries ranging from financial services, supply chain and logistics, retail, government, and healthcare.

Extensively tested and piloted, the IBM’s new blockchain platform addresses a wide range of enterprise pain points, including both business and technical requirements around security, performance, collaboration and privacy. It includes innovation developed through open source collaboration in the Hyperledger community, including the newest Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 framework and Hyperledger Composer blockchain tool, both hosted by the Linux Foundation.

DancingDinosaur has previously noted that the z appears ideal for blockchain. DancingDinosaur based this on the z13’s scalability, security, and performance. The new z14, with its automated, pervasive encryption may be even better.  The Hyperledger Composer capabilities along with the sample use cases promise an easy, simple way to try blockchain among some suppliers and partners.

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

 

New IBM Z Redefines Mainframe and Security and Cloud

July 19, 2017

By now you have certainly heard of IBM’s latest mainframe, the long-awaited z14, which the company refers to as Z. An announcement of a new mainframe usually doesn’t attract much notice, but maybe this announcement should. Even if you are not a mainframe fan this machine offers a solution that helps everybody—pervasive encryption of all data with no impact on operations or performance and with no need to take much action on your part, except to plug the machine in.

10-core z14 chip

At a time when organizations of all types and in every market segment are under attack from hackers, ransomware, data breaches, and more all data center managers should welcome automatic pervasive encryption. Yet 96% don’t. Of the 9 billion records breached since 2013 only 4% were encrypted! You already know why: encryption is a chore, impacts staff, slows system performance, costs money, and more. You know all the complaints better than DancingDinosaur.

The z14 changes everything from this point going forward. IBM has committed a 4x increase in silicon dedicated to cryptographic algorithms for pervasive encryption. In effect the Z encrypts all data associated with an entire application, cloud service, and database, in flight and at rest, automatically. This amounts to bulk encryption at cloud scale made possible by a massive 7x increase in cryptographic performance over the z13. This is 18x faster than comparable x86 systems and at just five percent of the cost of x86-based solutions.

In truth, it’s better than this. You get this encryption automatically virtually for free. IBM insists it will deliver the z14 at the same price/performance of the z13 or less. The encryption is built into the cost of silicon out of the box. DancingDinosaur has not seen any specific prices yet but you are welcome to scream if IBM doesn’t come through.

You immediately get rid of all the encryption headaches; you don’t have to classify data, manage encryption, or do any of the other chores typically associated with encryption. You just get it, automatically. The z14 also relieves you from managing encryption keys; only IBM Z can protect millions of keys (as well as the process of accessing, generating and recycling them) in tamper-responsive hardware that causes keys to be invalidated at any sign of intrusion and then be restored in safety.

When it comes to security, the z14 truly is a game changer. And it finally will get compliance auditors off your back once they realize how extensive z14 protection is.

IBM downplayed speeds and feeds with the z13 but they’re back with the z14. Specifically, a 5.2 GHz (versus 5.0 GHz IBM z13) is still a bit short of z12, which ran 5.5 GHz. But as with the z13, IBM makes up for it with more memory. The z14 can handle 32 TB of memory. It also includes up to 170 configurable cores (up to 10 per chip) for a total of 1832 MIPS. The L1 and L2 cache is on the core.  The L3 cache also sits on chip and is shared by on-chip cores, and communicates with cores, memory, I/O, and system controller as a single chip module.

Maybe not the richest specs but impressive nonetheless. IBM has been tweaking the box from top to bottom to boost performance. And all the while it will take over end-to-end encryption automatically, including encrypted APIs. Surprisingly, IBM has said nothing about Z’s power consumption but constantly on encrpytion/decryption has to draw more power than, say, the z13. Am waiting to hear what IBM has to say.

This is not just for mainframe jocks. Optimized IBM z/OS Connect technologies make it straightforward for cloud developers to discover and call any IBM Z application or data from a cloud service, or for Z developers to call any cloud service. IBM Z now allows organizations to encrypt these APIs and still run nearly 3x faster than alternatives based on comparable x86 systems.  These speeds and feeds have all been thoroughly documented and detailed at the bottom of the IBM Z press release here.

Will the z14 return the mainframe to positive revenue?  Probably for a few quarters, maybe more if non-mainframe shops want the clear payback of pervasive encryption, although it won’t be an easy transition for them without IBM assistance and incentives.

Next week DancingDinosaur will take up the Z’s three new container pricing models intended to make the Z competitive with public clouds and on-premises x86 environments.

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

 

No letup by IBM on Blockchain

April 27, 2017

IBM continues to push blockchain. Its latest announcement on the subject, Three Blockchain Adoption Principles Essential for Every CEO, came early this week. The basic pitch: in certain market segments blockchain could potentially help save billions of dollars annually and significantly reduce delays and spoilage. Citing the World Economic Forum, the company adds: “reducing barriers within the international supply chain could increase worldwide GDP by almost five percent and total trade volume by 15 percent.”  That should be sweet music to any C-suite exec.

Blockchain enables transparent food chain

In a related announcement also this week, IBM Japan, Mizuho Financial Group, and Mizuho Bank are building a blockchain-based trade financing platform for trade financing. With the platform, Mizuho is aiming to streamline trading operations and improve supply chain efficiency. The resulting timely and highly secure exchange of trade documents turns out to be essential for stakeholders in the supply chain ecosystem. Digitizing trade information on a blockchain can help alter the way information is shared, infusing greater trust into transactions, making it easier for parties involved in the supply chain, including exporters, importers, shippers, insurance companies, port operators, and port authorities to share critical shipment data in near real-time.

IBM is emerging as a leader in secure open-source blockchain solutions built for the enterprise. An early member of the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Project, the company has worked with more than 400 clients across multiple business segments to implement blockchain applications delivered via the IBM Cloud.

DancingDinosaur has its own 3 reasons enterprise data center execs should be excited by blockchain. They are different and more z-centric than IBM’s. First, you probably already have a z System, and the z’s legendary security, availability, and scalability make it a natural for blockchain. Second, the z already comes optimized to handle transactions and most of your transaction data already lives on the z, making it very efficient from a processing standpoint.  Third, until or unless your blockchain grows to some enormous size, it will barely consume any system resources or generate overhead. In that sense, blockchain on your z comes virtually free.

The following blockchain principles are based on IBM’s customer experience:

  1. Blockchain has the potential to transform trade, transactions and business processes: The two concepts underpinning blockchain are “business network” and “ledger.” Taken together, these are what make blockchain a smart, tamper-resistant way to conduct trade, transactions and business processes. Network members exchange assets through a ledger that all members can access and share. The ledger syncs across the network with all members needing to confirm a transaction of tangible or intangible assets before it is approved and stored on the blockchain. This shared view helps establish legitimacy and transparency, even when parties are not familiar with one another.
  2. The value, it turns out, resides in the ecosystem as the blockchain network grows: This should be no surprise to an exec who saw the growth, first of LANs and WANs, and later the Internet and Web. So too, as a business network blockchain can include several different types of participants. Depending on the number of participants in a blockchain network, the value of assets being exchanged, and the need to authorize members with varying credentials adopters should observe the difference between “permissioned” and “permission-less” blockchain networks. The real value for blockchain is achieved when these business networks grow. With a strong ecosystem, blockchain networks can more easily reach critical mass, allowing the users to build new business models and reinvent and automate transaction processes.
  3. Blockchain can significantly improve visibility and trust across business: Block chains can reduce transaction settlement times from days or weeks to seconds by providing immediate visibility to all participants. The technology can also be used to cut excess costs by removing intermediary third-parties, those typically required to verify transactions. Because blockchain is built on the concept of trust, it can help reduce risks of illicit practices carried out over payment networks, helping to mitigate fraud and cybercrimes. Speed, cost efficiency, and transparency are among blockchain’s most significant benefits in the enterprise and within ecosystems of companies conducting trade. IBM, Walmart and Tsinghua University, for example, are exploring the use of blockchain to help address the challenges surrounding food safety [see graphic above]. By allowing members within the supply chain to see the same records, blockchain helps narrow down the source of a contamination

“Critical success factors in blockchain engagements require top-down executive support for innovative use cases and bringing key network participants into the dialogue from the start,” according to Marie Wieck, general manager, IBM Blockchain.

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

IBM Spotlights Blockchain and Hyperledger Fabric at IBM InterCONNECT

March 23, 2017

IBM announced earlier this week Hyperledger Fabric v 1.0 beta, with security for regulated industries, governance tools, and over 1,000 transactions per second possible.  This is represents the first enterprise-ready blockchain service based on the Linux Foundation’s open source Hyperledger Fabric version 1.0. The service enables developers to quickly build and host security-rich production blockchain networks on the IBM Cloud and underpinned by IBM LinuxONE.

Maersk and IBM transform global trade with blockchain

LinuxONE, a dedicated z-based Linux system with as much security as any commercial platform is likely to have, should play a central role in blockchain networks. The machine also delivers all the itys the z is renowned for: scalability, availability, flexibility, manageability, and more.

The Linux Foundation’s open source Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 is being developed by members of the Hyperledger consortium alongside other open source blockchain technologies. The Hyperledger consortium’s Technical Steering Committee recently promoted Fabric from incubator to active state, and it is expected to be available in the coming weeks. It is designed to provide a framework for enterprise-grade blockchain networks that can transact at over 1,000 transactions per second.

Safety and security is everything with blockchain, which means blockchain networks are only as safe as the infrastructures on which they reside, hence the underpinning on LinuxONE. In addition, IBM’s High Security Business Network brings an extremely secure Linux infrastructure that, according to IBM, integrates security from the hardware up through the software stack, specifically designed for enterprise blockchains by providing:

  • Protection from insider attacks – helps safeguard entry points on the network and fight insider threats from anyone with system administrator credentials
  • The industry’s highest certified level of isolation for a commercial system- Evaluation Assurance Level certification of EAL5+ is critical in highly regulated industries such as government, financial services and healthcare, to prevent the leakage of information from one party’s environment to another
  • Secure Service Containers – to help protect code throughout the blockchain application and effectively encapsulating the blockchain into a virtual appliance, denying access even to privileged users
  • Tamper-responsive hardware security modules –to protect encrypted data for storage of cryptographic keys. These modules are certified to FIPS 140-2 Level 4, the highest level of security certification available for cryptographic modules
  • A highly auditable operating environment – comprehensive , immutable log data supports forensics, audit, and compliance

IBM also announced today the first commercially available blockchain governance tools, and new open-source developer tools that automate the steps it takes to build with the Hyperledger Fabric, reportedly speeding the process from weeks to days.

The new blockchain governance tools also make it easy to set up a blockchain network and assign roles and levels of visibility from a single dashboard. They help network members set rules, manage membership, and enforce network compliance once the network is up and running.

This seems straightforward enough. Once setup is initiated, members can determine the rules of the blockchain and share consent when new members request to join the network. In addition, the deployment tool assigns each network a Network Trust Rating of 1 to 100. New network members can view this before joining and determine whether or not they can trust the network enough to participate. Organizations can also take steps to improve their Trust Ratings before moving into production.

To make it easier for developers to translate business needs from concept to actual code, IBM Blockchain includes a new open-source developer tools for the Hyperledger Fabric called Fabric Composer. Fabric Composer promises to help users model business networks, create APIs that integrate with the blockchain network and existing systems of record, and quickly build a user interface. Fabric Composer also automates tasks that traditionally could take weeks, allowing developers to complete them in minutes instead.

IBM Blockchain for Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 is now available through a beta program on IBM Bluemix. Hyperledger Fabric also is available on Docker Hub as an IBM-certified image available for download at no cost.

At this point, IBM has over 25 publicly named Blockchain projects underway. They address everything from carbon asset management to consumer digital ID, post trade derivatives processing, last mile shipping, supply chain food safety, provenance, securities lending, and more seemingly are being added nearly weekly.

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

IBM and Northern Trust Collaborate on Blockchain for Private Equity Markets

March 3, 2017

At a briefing for IT analysts, IBM laid out how it sees blockchain working in practice. Surprisingly, the platform for the Hyperledger effort was not x86 but LinuxONE due to its inherent security.  As the initiative grows the z-based LinuxONE can also deliver the performance, scalability, and reliability the effort eventually will need too.

IBM describes its collaboration with Northern Trust and other key stakeholders as the first commercial deployment of blockchain technology for the private equity market. Although as the private equity market stands now the infrastructure supporting private equity has seen little innovation in recent years even as investors seek greater transparency, security, and efficiency. Enter the open LinuxONE platform, the Hyperledger fabric, and Unigestion, a Geneva, Switzerland-based asset manager with $20 billion in assets under management.

IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty discusses how cognitive technology and innovations such as Watson and blockchain have the potential to radically transform the financial services industry at Sibos 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland on Weds., September 28, 2016. (Feature Photo Service)

IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty discusses  blockchain at Sibos

The new initiative, as IBM explains it, promises a new and comprehensive way to access and visualize data.  Blockchain captures and stores information about every transaction and investment as meta data. It also captures details about relevant documents and commitments. Hyperledger itself is a logging tool that creates an immutable record.

The Northern Trust effort connects business logic, legacy technology, and blockchain technology using a combination of Java/JavaScript and IBMs blockchain product. It runs on IBM Bluemix (cloud) using IBM’s Blockchain High Security Business Network. It also relies on key management to ensure record/data isolation and enforce geographic jurisdiction. In the end it facilitates managing the fund lifecycle more efficiently than the previous primarily paper-based process.

More interesting to DancingDinosaur is the selection of the z through LinuxONE and blockchain’s use of storage.  To begin with blockchain is not really a database. It is more like a log file, but even that is not quite accurate because “it is a database you play as a team sport,” explained Arijit Das, Senior Vice President, FinTech Solutions, at the analyst briefing. That means you don’t perform any of the usual database functions; no deletes or updates, just appends.

Since blockchain is an open technology, you actually could do it on any x86 Linux machine, but DancingDinosaur readers probably wouldn’t want to do that. Blockchain essentially ends up being a distributed group activity and LinuxONE is unusually well optimized for the necessary security. It also brings scalability, reliability, and high performance along with the rock-solid security of the latest mainframe. In general LinuxONE can handle 8000 virtual servers in a single system and tens of thousands of containers. Try doing that with an x86 machine or even dozens.   You can read more on LinuxONE that DancingDinosaur wrote when it was introduced here and here.

But you won’t need near that scalability with the private equity application, at least at first. Blockchain gets more interesting when you think about storage. Blockchain has the potential to generate massive numbers of files fast, but that will only happen when it is part of, say, a supply chain with hundreds, or more likely, thousands of participating nodes on the chain and those nodes are very active. More likely for private equity trading, certainly at the start, blockchain will handle gigabytes of data and maybe only megabytes at first. This is not going to generate much revenue for IBM storage. A little bit of flash could probably do the trick.

Today, current legal and administrative processes that support private equity are time consuming and expensive, according to Peter Cherecwich, president of Corporate & Institutional Services at Northern Trust. They lack transparency while inefficient market practices leads to lengthy, duplicative and fragmented investment and administration processes. Northern Trust’s solution based on blockchain and Hyperledger, however, promises to deliver a significantly enhanced and efficient approach to private equity administration.

Just don’t expect to see overnight results. In fact, you can expect more inefficiency since the new blockchain/Hyperledger-based system is running in parallel with the disjointed manual processes. Previous legacy systems remain; they are not yet being replaced. Still, IBM insists that blockchain is an ideal technology to bring innovation to the private equity market, allowing Northern Trust to improve traditional business processes at each stage to deliver greater transparency and efficiency. Guess we’ll just have to wait and watch.

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

 

Arcati 2017 Mainframe Survey—Cognitive a No-Show

February 2, 2017

DancingDinosaur checks into Arcati’s annual mainframe survey every few years. You can access a copy of the 2017 report here.  Some of the data doesn’t change much, a few percentage points here or there. For example, 75% of the respondents consider the mainframe too expensive. OK, people have been saying that for years.

On the other hand, 65% of the respondents’ mainframes are involved with web services. Half also run Java-based mainframe apps, up from 30% last year, while 17% more are planning to run Java with their mainframe this year. Similarly, 35% of respondents report running Linux on the mainframe, up from 22% last year. Again, 13% of the respondents expect to add Linux this year.  Driving this is the advantageous cost and management benefits that result from consolidating distributed Linux workloads on the z. Yes, things are changing.

linuxone-5558_d_ibm_linuxone_social_tile_990_550_4_081515

The biggest surprise for DancingDinosaur, however, revolved around IBM’s latest strategic initiatives, especially cognitive computing and blockchain.  Other strategic initiatives may include, depending on who is briefing you at the moment—security, data analytics, cloud, hybrid cloud, and mobile. These strategic imperatives, especially cognitive computing, are expected to drive IBM’s revenue. In the latest statement, reported last week in DancingDinosaur, strategic imperatives amounted to 41% of revenue.  Cloud revenue and Cloud-as-a-service also rose considerably, 35% and 61% respectively.

When DancingDinosaur searched the accompanying Arcati vendor report (over 120 vendors with brief descriptions) for cognitive only GT Software came up. IBM didn’t even mention cognitive in its vendor listing, which admittedly was skimpy. The case was the same with Blockchain; only one vendor, Atos, mentioned it and nothing about blockchain in the IBM listing. More vendors, however, noted supporting one or some of the other supposed strategic initiatives.

Overall, the Arcati survey is quite positive about the mainframe. The survey found that 50 percent of sites viewed their mainframe as a legacy system (down from last year’s 62 percent). However, 22 percent (up from 16 percent last year) viewed mainframe as strategic, with 28 percent (up from 22 percent) viewing mainframes as both strategic and legacy.

Reinforcing the value of the mainframe, the survey found 78 percent of sites experienced some kind of increase in capacity. With increased demand for mainframe resources (data and processing), it should not be surprising that respondents report an 81 percent an increase in technology costs. Yet, 38 percent of sites report their people costs have decreased or stayed the same.

Unfortunately, the survey also found that 70 percent of respondents thought there were a cultural barrier between mainframe and other IT professionals. That did not discourage respondents from pointing out the mainframe advantages: 100 percent highlighted the benefit of the mainframe’s availability, 83 percent highlighted security, 75 percent identified scalability, and 71 percent picked manageability as a mainframe benefit.

Also, social media runs on the mainframe. Respondents found social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) useful for their work on the mainframe. Twenty-seven percent report using social (up slightly from 25 percent last year) with the rest not using it at all despite IBM offering Facebook pages dedicated to IMS, CICS, and DB2. DancingDinosaur, only an occasional FB visitor, will check it out and report.

In terms of how mainframes are being used, the Arcati survey found that 25 percent of sites are planning to use Big Data; five percent of sites have adopted it for DevOps while 48 percent are planning to use mainframe DevOps going forward. Similarly, 14 percent of respondents already are reusing APIs while another 41 percent are planning to.

Arcati points out another interesting thought: The survey showed a 55:45 percent split in favor of distributed systems. So, you might expect the spend on the two types of platform to be similar. Yet, the survey found that 87 percent of an organization’s IT spend was going to distributed systems! Apparently mainframes aren’t as expensive as people think. Or put it another way, the cost of owning and operating distributed systems with mainframe-caliber QoS amounts to a lot more than people are admitting.

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

 

BMC Mainframe Survey Confirms z System Is Here to Stay

November 11, 2016

No surprise there. BMC’s 11th annual mainframe survey covering 1,200 mainframe executives and tech professionals found 58% of respondents reported usage of the mainframe is increasing as they look to capitalize on every infrastructure advantage it provides and add more workloads. Another 23% consider the mainframe as the best option to run critical work.

ibm_system_z10

IBM z10

Driving the continuing interest in the mainframe are the new demands for data handling, scalable processing, analytics, and more. According to the BMC survey nearly 60% of companies are seeing increased data and transaction volumes. They opt to stay with the mainframe for its highly secure, superior data handling and transaction serving, particularly as digital business adds unpredictability and volatility to workloads.

Overall respondents fell into three primary groups: 1) entrenched mainframe shops, 58% that are on board for the long haul; 2) shops, 23% that intend to maintain a steady amount of work on the mainframe; and 3) the 19% that are moving away from the mainframe.  The first two groups, committed mainframe shops, amount to just over survey 80% of the respondents.

Many companies surveyed are focused on addressing the increased workload demands, especially the rapidly growing demand for new applications. But surprisingly, the survey does not directly touch on hybrid cloud, cognitive computing or any of the latest technologies IBM has been promoting, not even DevOps, which can streamline mainframe application development and deployment. “We are not hearing much about a hybrid cloud environments or blockchain yet. Most companies seem to be in the early tire kicking stage, observed John McKenny, BMC Vice President, Strategy and Operations.

Eighty-eight percent of companies in the first group, entrenched mainframe shops, for example, are looking to increase the workloads they run on Java on the mainframe, primarily to address new application demands. It also doesn’t hurt that Java on the mainframe also can help lower data center costs by directing workloads to lower cost assist processors.

Other interesting BMC survey findings:

  • Half of the respondents report keeping 50% of their data on the mainframe and continue to invest in the platform for reasons you already know—security, availability, data serving capability
  • Continued steady growth of Linux in production on the z: 41% in 2014, 48% in 2015, 52% in 2016
  • Increased use of Java on the mainframe report as 67% of respondents cite need to meet growing application demand

Those looking to reduce mainframe presence cited three reasons: 1) perception of high cost, 2) outdated management understanding, and 3) looking for ways to reduce workloads over time.  DancingDinosaur has spoken with mainframe shops intending to migrate off the z and they cite the usual reasons, especially #1 above.

Top mainframe priorities for 2016 according to the BMC survey:  Cost reduction/optimization (65%); data privacy, compliance, security (50%); application availability (49%); application modernization (41%. Responses indicated the priorities for next year haven’t changed at all.

Surprisingly, many of the latest technologies for the z that IBM has touted recently have not yet shown up in the BMC survey responses, except maybe Java and Linux. This would include hybrid clouds, blockchain, IoT, and cognitive computing. IDC, for example, already is projecting cognitive computing to grow at a CAGR of 55.1% from 2016 to 2020. For z shops, however, cognitive computing appears almost invisible.

In some case with surveys like this you need to read between the lines. Where respondents report changes in activity levels driving application growth or the growth of interest in Java or the frequency of application changes and references to operational analytics they’re making oblique references to mobile or big data or even cognitive computing or other recent technologies for the z.

At its best, the BMC notes that digital technologies are transforming the ways in which mainframe shops conduct business and interact with their customers.  Adds BMC mainframe customer Credit Suisse: “IT departments are moving toward centralized, virtualized, and highly automated environments. This is being pursued to drive cost and processing efficiencies. Many companies realize that the Mainframe has provided these benefits for many years and is a mature and stable environment,” said Frank Cortell, Credit Suisse Director of Information Technology.

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

 

 

IBM 3Q16 Results Telegraph a New z System in 2017

October 27, 2016

DancingDinosaur usually doesn’t like to read too much into the statements of IBM suits at financial briefings. This has been especially true since IBM introduced a new presentation format this year to downplay its platform business and emphasize its strategic imperatives. (Disclaimer: DancingDinosaur is NOT a financial analyst but a technology analyst.)

But this quarter the CFO said flat out: “Our z Systems results reflect a product cycle dynamic, seven quarters into the z13 cycle; revenue was down while margins continue to expand. We continue to add new clients to the platform and we are introducing new technologies like block chain. We announced new services to make it easier to build and test block chain networks in a secure environment as we build our block chain platform it’s been engineered to run on multiple platforms but is optimized for scale, security and resilience on both the IBM mainframe and the IBM cloud.”

linuxone-emperorLinuxONE Emperor

If you parse the first sentence–reflect a product cycle dynamic–he is not too subtly hinting that IBM needs a z System refresh if they want to stop the financial losses with z. You don’t have to be a genius to expect a new z, probably the z14, in 2017. Pictured above is the LinuxONE Emperor, a z optimized to run Linux. The same suit said “We’ve been shifting our platform to address Linux, and in the third quarter Linux grew at a double digit rate, faster than the market.” So based on that we can probably guess that the z14 (or whatever it will be called) will run z/OS, followed shortly by a LinuxONE version to further expand the z System’s Linux footprint.

Timothy Prickett Morgan picked that up too and more. He expects a z14 processor complex will be announced next year around the same time that the Power9 chip ships. In both cases, Power and z customers who can wait will wait, or, if they are smart, will demand very steep discounts on current Power8 hardware to make up for the price/performance improvements that are sure to accompany the upcoming Power9 and z machines.

When it comes to revenue 3Q16 was at best flat, but actually was down again overall. The bright spot again was IBM’s strategic imperatives. As the suit stated: in total, we continue to deliver double-digit revenue growth in our strategic imperatives led by our cloud business. Specifically, cognitive solutions were up 5% and, within that, solution software was up 8%.

Overall, growth in IBM’s strategic imperatives rose 15%. Over the last 12 months, strategic imperatives delivered nearly $32 billion in revenue and now represent 40% of IBM. The suit also emphasized strong performance in IBM’s cloud offerings which increased over 40%, led by the company’s as-a-service offerings. IBM ended the third quarter with an as-a-service run rate of $7.5 billion, up from $6.7 billion last quarter. Most of that was attributed to organic growth, not acquisitions. Also strong was IBM’s revenue performance in security and mobile. In addition, the company experienced growth in its analytic offerings, up 14% this quarter with contributions from the core analytics platform, especially the Watson platform, Watson Health, and Watson IoT.

IBM apparently is convinced that cognitive computing, defined as using data and adding intelligence into products and services to help companies make better decisions, is the wave of the future. As the company sees it, real value lies in providing cognitive capabilities via the IBM cloud. A critical element of its strategy is IBM’s industry focus. Initially industry platforms will address two substantial opportunity areas, financial services and block chain solutions. You can probably add healthcare too.

Blockchain may emerge as the sleeper, although DancingDinosaur has long been convinced that blockchain is ideal for z shops—the z already handles the transactions and delivers the reliability, scalability, availability, and security to do it right.  As IBM puts it, “we believe block chain has the potential to do for trusted transactions what the Internet did for information.” Specifically, IBM is building a complete block chain platform and is now working with over 300 clients to pioneer block chain for business, including CLS, which settles $5 trillion per day in the currency markets, to implement a distributed ledger in support of its payment netting service, and Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, for smart contracts to manage service level agreements and automate multi party transactions.

Says Morgan: “IBM is very enthusiastic about using Blockchain in commercial transaction processing settings, and has 40 clients testing it out on mainframes, but this workload will take a long time to grow. Presumably, IBM will also push Blockchain on Power as well.”  Morgan may be right about blockchain coming to Power, but it is a natural for the z right now, whether as a new z14 or a new z-based LinuxONE machine.

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

 

OpenCAPI, Gen-Z, CCIX Initiate a New Computing Era

October 20, 2016

The next generation data center will be a more open, cooperative, and faster place judging from the remarkably similar makeup of three open consortia, OpenCAPI , Gen-Z, and CCIX. CCIX allows processors based on different instruction set architectures to extend their cache coherency to accelerators, interconnect, and I/O.

OpenCAPI provides a way to attach accelerators and I/O devices with coherence and virtual addressing to eliminate software inefficiency associated with the traditional I/O subsystem, and to attach advanced memory technologies.  The focus of OpenCAPI is on attached devices primarily within a server. Gen-Z, announced around the same time, is a new data access technology that primarily enables read and write operations among disaggregated memory and storage.

open-power-rethink-datacenter

Rethink the Datacenter

It’s quite likely that your next data center will use all three. The OpenCAPI group includes AMD, Dell EMC, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Mellanox Technologies, Micron, NVIDIA and Xilinx. Their new specification promises to enable up to 10X faster server performance with the first products expected in the second half of 2017.

The Gen-Z consortium consists Advanced Micro Devices, Broadcom, Huawei Technologies, Red Hat, Micron, Xilinx, Samsung, IBM, and Cray. Other founding members are Cavium, IDT, Mellanox Technologies, Microsemi, Seagate, SK Hynix, and Western Digital. They plan to develop a scalable computing interconnect and protocol that will enable systems to keep with the rapidly rising tide of data that is being generated and that needs to be analyzed. This will require the rapid movement of high volumes of data between memory and storage.

The CCIX initial members include Amphenol Corp., Arteris Inc., Avery Design Systems, Atos, Cadence Design Systems, Inc., Cavium, Inc., Integrated Device Technology, Inc., Keysight Technologies, Inc., Micron Technology, Inc., NetSpeed Systems, Red Hat Inc., Synopsys, Inc., Teledyne LeCroy, Texas Instruments, and TSMC.

The basic problem all three address revolves around how to make the volume and variety of new hardware forge fast communications and work together. In effect each group, from its own particular perspective, aims to boost the performance and interoperability of data center servers, devices, and components engaged in generating and handling myriad data and tasked with analyzing large amounts of that data. This will only be compounded as IoT, blockchain, and cognitive computing ramp up.

To a large extent, this results from the inability of Moore’s Law to continue to double the number of processors indefinitely. Future advances must rely on different sorts of hardware tweaks and designs to deliver greater price/performance.

Then in Aug. 2016 IBM announced a related chip breakthrough.  It unveiled the industry’s first 7 nm chip that could hold more than 20 billion tiny switches or transistors for improved computing power. The new chips could help meet demands of future cloud computing and Big Data systems, cognitive computing, mobile products and other emerging technologies, according to IBM.

Most chips today in servers and other devices use microprocessors between 14 and 22 nanometers (nm). The 7nm technology represents at least a 50 percent power improvement. IBM intends to apply the new chips to analyze DNA, viruses, and exosomes. IBM expects to test this lab-on-a-chip technology starting with prostate cancer.

The point of this digression into chips and Moore’s Law is to suggest the need for tools and interfaces like Open CAPI, Gen-Z, and CCIX. As the use cases for ultra fast data analytics expands along with the expected proliferation of devices speed becomes critical. How long do you want to wait for an analysis of your prostate or breast cells? If the cells are dear to you, every nanosecond matters.

For instance, OpenCAPI provides an open, high-speed pathway for different types of technology – advanced memory, accelerators, networking and storage – to more tightly integrate their functions within servers. This data-centric approach to server design puts the compute power closer to the data and removes inefficiencies in traditional system architectures to help eliminate system bottlenecks that significantly improve server performance.  In some cases OpenCAPI enables system designers to access memory with sub-500 nanosecond latency.

IBM plans to introduce POWER9-based servers that leverage the OpenCAPI specification in the second half of 2017. Similarly, expect other members of OpenPOWER Foundation to introduce OpenCAPI enabled products in the same time frame. In addition, Google and Rackspace’s new server under development, codenamed Zaius and announced at the OpenPOWER Summit in San Jose, will leverage POWER9 processor technology and plans to provide the OpenCAPI interface in its design. Also, Mellanox plans to enable the new specification capabilities in its future products and Xilinx plans to support OpenCAPI enabled FPGAs

As reported at the Gen-Z announcement, “The formation of these new consortia (CCIX, OpenCAPI, and Gen-Z), backed by more than 30 industry-leading global companies, supports the premise that the datacenter of the future will require open standards. We look forward to collaborating with CCIX and OpenCAPI as this new ecosystem takes shape,” said Kurtis Bowman, Gen-Z Consortium president. Welcome to the 7nm computing era.

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

 


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