Posts Tagged ‘blockchain’

IBM Takes Red Hat for $34 Billion

November 2, 2018

“The acquisition of Red Hat is a game-changer. It changes everything about the cloud market,” declared Ginni Rometty, IBM Chairman. At a cost of $34 billion, 10x Red Hat’s gross revenue, it had better be a game changer. See IBM’s announcement earlier this week here.

IBM Multicloud Manager Dashboard

IBM has been hot on the tail of the top three cloud hyperscalers—AWS, Google, and Microsoft/Azure. Will this change the game? Your guess is as good as anyone’s.

The hybrid cloud market appears to be IBM’s primary target. As the company put it: “IBM will become the world’s #1 hybrid cloud provider, offering companies the only open cloud solution that will unlock the full value of the cloud for their businesses.” IBM projects the value of the hybrid cloud market at $1 trillion within a few years!

Most companies today are only 20 percent along their cloud journey, renting compute power to cut costs. The next chapter of the cloud, noted Rometty, requires shifting business applications to hybrid cloud, extracting more data, and optimizing every part of the business.

Nobody has a lock on this market yet. Not IBM, not Red Hat, not VMware, but one thing seems clear; whoever wins will involve open source.  Red Hat, with $3 billion in open source revenue has proven that open source can pay. The only question is how quickly it can pay back IBM’s $34 billion bet.

What’s needed is something that promotes data portability and applications across multiple clouds, data security in a multi-cloud environment, and consistent cloud management. This is the Red Hat and IBM party line.  Both believe they will be well positioned to address these issues to accelerate hybrid multi-cloud adoption. To succeed at this, the new entity will have to tap their leadership in Linux, containers, Kubernetes, multi-cloud management, and automation.

IBM first brought Linux to the Z 20 years ago, making IBM an early advocate of open source, collaborating with Red Hat to help grow enterprise-class Linux.  More recently the two companies worked to bring enterprise Kubernetes and hybrid cloud solutions to the enterprise. These innovations have become core technologies within IBM’s $19 billion hybrid cloud business.

The initial announcement made the point Red Hat will join IBM’s Hybrid Cloud team as a distinct unit, as IBM described, preserving the independence and neutrality of Red Hat’s open source development heritage and commitment, current product portfolio, go-to-market strategy, and unique development culture. Also Red Hat will continue to be led by Jim Whitehurst and Red Hat’s current management team.

That camaraderie lasted until the Q&A following the announcement, when a couple of disagreements arose following different answers on relatively trivial points. Are you surprised? Let’s be clear, nobody spends $34 billion on a $3 billion asset and gives it a completely free hand. You can bet IBM will be calling the shots on everything it is feels is important. Would you do less?

Dharmesh Thakker, a contributor to Forbes, focused more on Red Hat’s OpenShift family of development software. These tools make software developers more productive and are helping transform how software is created and implemented across most enterprises today. So “OpenShift is likely the focus of IBM’s interest in Red Hat” he observes.

A few years ago, he continued, the pendulum seemed to shift from companies deploying more-traditional, on-premises datacenter infrastructure to using public cloud vendors, mostly Amazon. In the last few years, he continued, we’ve seen most mission-critical apps inside companies continue to run on a private cloud but modernized by agile tools and microservices to speed innovation. Private cloud represents 15-20% of datacenter spend, Thakker reports, but the combo of private plus one or more public clouds – hybrid cloud—is here to stay, especially for enterprises. Red Hat’s OpenShift technology enables on-premises, private cloud deployments, giving IBM the ability to play in the hybrid cloud.

IBM isn’t closing this deal until well into 2019; expect to hear more about this in the coming months.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at technologywriter.com.

 

 

 

IBM Continues Cranking Up Blockchain

August 16, 2018

 

 

Somehow between quantum computing, AI, and hybrid clouds IBM is managing to squeeze in blockchain as an active, growing business. For instance, a previously unnamed collaborative effort between the world’s largest shipping company, Maersk, and IBM has now grown to 92 participants and been dubbed TradeLens.

IBM has 92 participants in the TradeLens blockchain network

DancingDinosaur long considered blockchain as a natural for the Z due to its zero downtime reliability and high certified levels of security (EAL4+). The most recent models include IBM’s automated pervasive encryption. No more wasting time making decisions about what to encrypt. The Z just encrypts it all with minimal overhead penalty. Your applications and workloads won’t even notice and compliance audits become a breeze.

TradeLens is emerging from its beta to accept early-adopter applications and announced a new custom contract service for executing complex shipping orders with fewer middlemen. “We have seen a lot of skeptics talk about the validity of blockchain solutions,” said Marie Wieck, IBM general manager and head of blockchain. “And I think with over 90 organizations and more than 150 million events captured on the system, “we really are seeing the proof,” she adds.

The initiative now includes Germany-based Hamburg Sud, which Maersk bought last year for $4 billion, and U.S.-based Pacific International Lines, along with numerous customs authorities, cargo owners and freight forwarders. Collectively, the shipping companies account for more than 20% of the global supply chain market share, with 20 port and terminal operators in Singapore, the U.S., Holland, and more serving 235 marine gateways around the world.

TradeLens, in practice, gives users access to their own blockchain node similar to those on the bitcoin blockchain that lets users send money without the need of banks. In the case of TradeLens a shipper can cut out as many as five middlemen, even for simple queries such as identifying the location of a shipping container.

At stake is what Transparency Market Research expects will be a $32.9 billion global supply-chain software business by 2026. As far back as 2015, the World Trade Organization estimated that simplifying the global supply chain could reduce costs among users by as much as 17.5%, with developing nations expected to see as much as a 35% increase in exports as they leapfrog over legacy technology platforms.

The cooperative effort between Maersk and IBM still needs to make money. To do so, the two companies have shifted the business model from a stand-alone joint-venture to the intellectual property that comprises TradeLens being co-owned and jointly developed.

But the new cooperative structure could unnerve some potential customers. To offset concerns, the CEO of Maersk’s New Jersey-based TradeLens operation, Mike White, says a number of barriers have been put in place, including contractual restrictions on sharing data and technical barriers in the form of the independently managed blockchain nodes.

If successful, TradeLens might literally embody the common refrain among blockchain users that “all ships will rise” when they use a shared, distributed ledger. Facing decreasing global freight rates, Maersk last quarter became just the latest container shipper to cut profit forecasts.

Among competitors aiming to cut those costs and increase profits is the former head of blockchain at accounting firm Deloitte, who earlier this year announced he was raising $100 million to launch a supply chain platform using the ethereum blockchain. Similarly, blockchain startup Fr8 is preparing to raise $60 million via an initial coin offering to build its own blockchain logistics platform.

“The value proposition is for all ecosystem participants,” said White. “The ability to get better access to more real-time data, to have better visibility end-to-end, and to be able to connect one-to-many in a more efficient and effective way, makes the cost of getting that information lower, makes the ability to manage your own business better, and makes the ability to service your customers that much stronger.”

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

 

IBM Eager to Move Blockchain to Next Level

May 24, 2018

Blockchain, as IBM sees it, has moved past the days of proof of concept and is now focused on platform industrialization and best practices. As for industries, financial systems remain its primary target although areas like digital identity, provenance, and asset management are gaining interest fast. To that end the company is offering the IBM Blockchain Platform on a free trial basis. The Platform promises to make any developer a blockchain developer fast. According to IBM, hundreds of companies on dozens of blockchain networks are solving business challenges across varied industries, not just financial services.

Although IBM has been a blockchain pioneer, especially in the enterprise segment, which is getting more crowded.  Specifically, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), which lists over 500 members, recently made available to the public the release of its Enterprise Ethereum Architecture Stack. According to EEA, the stack defines the building blocks needed to drive the Web 3.0 era of decentralized, connective intelligence that will work anywhere and is capable of facilitating smart contracts without intermediaries. The stack, available as a free public document to download here, incorporates components developed by the EEA.

IBM is not saying much about EEA, preferring instead to focus on Hyperledger. This much, however, an IBMer was willing to say: Our main POV is that Hyperledger is the only blockchain platform designed for enterprises from the ground up.  Ethereum is better suited for crypto currencies and ICOs.  But we know they are working to move into the enterprise space. Interestingly, of the 500 companies listed as EEA members, including many of IBM’s consulting and vendor peers but not IBM.

The IBMer continued: we have had many clients start with Ethereum and discover that it does not meet their business needs … and then they move to Hyperledger, which as a permissioned blockchain network does meet enterprise business needs. Permissioned means you have to be approved to join the network, presumably making it more secure.

IBM clearly has locked onto the idea of a permissioned blockchain network as important, at least among enterprise customers. The IBMer continued: we state that you can have a public permissioned blockchain network—and you’ll start to see more of these around payments.

The IBMer noted: it’s unclear what Ethereum’s permissioning method is; what their governance model is.  There is lack of agreement around new types of consensus.

In case you have missed the blockchain buzz of the past few years blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger for recording the history of transactions. Immutable means that once a transaction has been accepted by the other nodes on the blockchain it cannot be removed or deleted. It sits there as a permanent record for the life of the blockchain. Of course, corrections can be made but they are added as another immutable record. As such, depending on the number of nodes in the blockchain, you can end up with a long chain of immutable records, sort of an auditor’s dream or nightmare.

A business blockchain, such as IBM Blockchain and the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Project, provides a permissioned network with known identities. And unlike Bitcoin, there is no need for cryptocurrency exchange. Where any payments are required, you make them as you would in any transaction.  Except with blockchain the transaction exists forever as an immutable record. From initial order to delivery acceptance to payment it all exists as a permanent record. Warning: sleazy business partners should avoid blockchain transactions since you won’t be able to weasel out so easily.

To make blockchain easy, IBM is developing what it describes as enterprise-ready solutions. For example, to address the provenance of diamonds and avoid buying what are called blood diamonds, IBM has backed TrustChain, which tracks six styles of diamond and gold engagement rings on a blockchain network, enabling dealers to know who handled the diamond from the mine to processor to the buyer’s finger.

Similarly, IBM’s Food Trust blockchain includes Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestle, Tyson Foods, Unilever, and Walmart to address food safety. So the next time you eat something and get a stomach ache, just turn to Food Trust to track down the culprit.

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 Grows Quantum Ecosystem

April 27, 2018

It is good that you aren’t dying to deploy quantum computing soon because IBM readily admits that it is not ready for enterprise production now or in several weeks or maybe several months. IBM, however, continues to assemble the building blocks you will eventually need when you finally feel the urge to deploy a quantum application that can address a real problem that you need to resolve.

cryostat with prototype of quantum processor

IBM is surprisingly frank about the state of quantum today. There is nothing you can do at this point that you can’t simulate on a conventional or classical computer system. This situation is unlikely to change anytime soon either. For years to come, we can expect hybrid quantum and conventional compute environments that will somehow work together to solve very demanding problems, although most aren’t sure exactly what those problems will be when the time comes. Still at Think earlier this year IBM predicted quantum computing will be mainstream in 5 years.

Of course, IBM has some ideas of where the likely problems to solve will be found:

  • Chemistry—material design, oil and gas, drug discovery
  • Artificial Intelligence—classification, machine learning, linear algebra
  • Financial Services—portfolio optimization, scenario analysis, pricing

It has been some time since the computer systems industry had to build a radically different kind of compute discipline from scratch. Following the model of the current IT discipline IBM began by launching the IBM Q Network, a collaboration with leading Fortune 500 companies and research institutions with a shared mission. This will form the foundation of a quantum ecosystem.  The Q Network will be comprised of hubs, which are regional centers of quantum computing R&D and ecosystem; partners, who are pioneers of quantum computing in a specific industry or academic field; and most recently, startups, which are expected to rapidly advance early applications.

The most important of these to drive growth of quantum are the startups. To date, IBM reports eight startups and it is on the make for more. Early startups include QC Ware, Q-Ctrl, Cambridge Quantum Computing (UK), which is working on a compiler for quantum computing, 1Qbit based in Canada, Zapata Computing located at Harvard, Strangeworks, an Austin-based tool developer, QxBranch, which is trying to apply classical computing techniques to quantum, and Quantum Benchmark.

Startups get membership in the Q network and can run experiments and algorithms on IBM quantum computers via cloud-based access; provide deeper access to APIs and advanced quantum software tools, libraries, and applications; and have the opportunity to collaborate with IBM researchers and technical SMEs on potential applications, as well as with other IBM Q Network organizations. If it hasn’t become obvious yet, the payoff will come from developing applications that solve recognizable problems. Also check out QISKit, a software development kit for quantum applications available through GitHub.

The last problem to solve is the question around acquiring quantum talent. How many quantum scientists, engineers, or programmers do you have? Do you even know where to find them? The young people excited about computing today are primarily interested in technologies to build sexy apps using Node.js, Python, Jupyter, and such.

To find the people you need to build quantum computing systems you will need to scour the proverbial halls of MIT, Caltech, and other top schools that produce physicists and quantum scientists. A scan of salaries for these people reveals $135,000- $160,000, if they are available at all.

The best guidance from IBM on starting is to start small. The industry is still at the building block stage; not ready to throw specific application at real problems. In that case sign up for IBM’s Q Network and get some of your people engaged in the opportunities to get educated in quantum.

When DancingDinosaur first heard about quantum physics he was in a high school science class decades ago. It was intriguing but he never expected to even be alive to see quantum physics becoming real, but now it is. And he’s still here. Not quite ready to sign up for QISKit and take a small qubit machine for a spin in the cloud, but who knows…

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

IBM Introduces Skinny Z Systems

April 13, 2018

Early this week IBM unveiled two miniaturized mainframe models, dubbed skinny mainframes, it said are easier to deploy in a public or private cloud facility than their more traditional, much bulkier predecessors. Relying on all their design tricks, IBM engineers managed to pack each machine into a standard 19-inch rack with space to spare, which can be used for additional components.

Z14 LinuxONE Rockhopper II, 19-inch rack

The first new mainframe introduced this week, also in a 19-inch rack, is the Z14 model ZR1. You can expect subsequent models to increment the model numbering.  The second new machine is the LinuxONE Rockhopper II, also in a 19-inch rack.

In the past, about a year after IBM introduced a new mainframe, say the z10, it was introduced what it called a Business Class (BC) version. The BC machines were less richly configured, less expandable but delivered comparable performance with lower capacity and a distinctly lower price.

In a Q&A analyst session IBM insisted the new machines would be priced noticeably lower, as were the BC-class machines of the past. These are not comparable to the old BC machines. Instead, they are intended to attract a new group of users who face new challenges. As such, they come cloud-ready. The 19-inch industry standard, single-frame design is intended for easy placement into existing cloud data centers alongside other components and private cloud environments.

The company, said Ross Mauri, General Manager IBM Z, is targeting the new machines toward clients seeking robust security with pervasive encryption, cloud capabilities and powerful analytics through machine learning. Not only, he continued, does this increase security and capability in on-premises and hybrid cloud environments for clients, IBM will also deploy the new systems in IBM public cloud data centers as the company focuses on enhancing security and performance for increasingly intensive data loads.

In terms of security, the new machines will be hard to beat. IBM reports the new machines capable of processing over 850 million fully encrypted transactions a day on a single system. Along the same lines, the new mainframes do not require special space, cooling or energy. They do, however, still provide IBM’s pervasive encryption and Secure Service Container technology, which secures data serving at a massive scale.

Ross continued: The new IBM Z and IBM LinuxONE offerings also bring significant increases in capacity, performance, memory and cache across nearly all aspects of the system. A complete system redesign delivers this capacity growth in 40 percent less space and is standardized to be deployed in any data center. The z14 ZR1 can be the foundation for an IBM Cloud Private solution, creating a data-center-in-a-box by co-locating storage, networking and other elements in the same physical frame as the mainframe server.  This is where you can utilize that extra space, which was included in the 19-inch rack.

The LinuxONE Rockhopper II can also accommodate a Docker-certified infrastructure for Docker EE with integrated management and scale tested up to 330,000 Docker containers –allowing developers to build high-performance applications and embrace a micro-services architecture.

The 19-inch rack, however, comes with tradeoffs, notes Timothy Green writing in The Motley Fool. Yes, it takes up 40% less floor space than the full-size Z14, but accommodates only 30 processor cores, far below the 170 cores supported by a full size Z14, , which fills a 24-inch rack. Both new systems can handle around 850 million fully encrypted transactions per day, a fraction of the Z14’s full capacity. But not every company needs the full performance and capacity of the traditional mainframe. For companies that don’t need the full power of a Z14 mainframe, notes Green, or that have previously balked at the high price or massive footprint of full mainframe systems, these smaller mainframes may be just what it takes to bring them to the Z. Now IBM needs to come through with the advantageous pricing they insisted they would offer.

The new skinny mainframe are just the latest in IBM’s continuing efforts to keep the mainframe relevant. It began over a decade ago with porting Linux to the mainframe. It continued with Hadoop, blockchain, and containers. Machine learning and deep learning are coming right along.  The only question for DancingDinosaur is when IBM engineers will figure out how to put quantum computing on the Z and squeeze it into customers’ public or private cloud environments.

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

IBM Shouldn’t Forget Its Server Platforms

April 5, 2018

The word coming out of IBM brings a steady patter about cognitive, Watson, and quantum computing, for which IBM predicted quantum would be going mainstream within five years. Most DancingDinosaur readers aren’t worrying about what’s coming in 2023 although maybe they should. They have data centers to run now and are wondering where they are going to get the system horsepower they will need to deliver IoT or Blockchain or any number of business initiatives clamoring for system resources today or tomorrow and all they’ve got are the z14 and the latest LinuxONE. As powerful as they were when first announced, do you think that will be enough tomorrow?

IBM’s latest server, the Z

Timothy Prickett Morgan, analyst at The Next Platform, apparently isn’t so sure. He writes in a recent piece how Google and the other hyperscalers need to add serious power to today’s server options. The solution involves “putting systems based on IBM’s Power9 processor into production.” This shouldn’t take anybody by surprise; almost as soon as IBM set up the Open Power consortium Rackspace, Google, and a handful of others started making noises about using Open POWER for a new type of data center server. The most recent announcements around Power9, covered here back in Feb., promise some new options with even more coming.

Writes Morgan: “Google now has seven applications that have more than 1 billion users – adding Android, Maps, Chrome, and Play to the mix – and as the company told us years ago, it is looking for any compute, storage, and networking edge that will allow it to beat Moore’s Law.” Notice that this isn’t about using POWER9 to drive down Intel’s server prices; Google faces a more important nemesis, the constraints of Moore’s Law.

Google has not been secretive about this, at least not recently. To its credit Google is making its frustrations known at appropriate industry events:  “With a technology trend slowdown and growing demand and changing demand, we have a pretty challenging situation, what we call a supply-demand gap, which means the supply on the technology side is not keeping up with this phenomenal demand growth,” explained Maire Mahony, systems hardware engineer at Google and its key representative at the OpenPower Foundation that is steering the Power ecosystem. “That makes it hard to for us to balance that curve we call performance per TCO dollar. This problem is not unique to Google. This is an industry-wide problem.” True, but the majority of data centers, even the biggest ones, don’t face looming multi-billion user performance and scalability demands.

Morgan continued: “Google has absolutely no choice but to look for every edge. The benefits of homogeneity, which have been paramount for the first decade of hyperscaling, no longer outweigh the need to have hardware that better supports the software companies like Google use in production.”

This isn’t Intel’s problem alone although it introduced a new generation of systems, dubbed Skylake, to address some of these concerns. As Morgan noted recently, “various ARM chips –especially ThunderX2 from Cavium and Centriq 2400 from Qualcomm –can boost non-X86 numbers.” So can AMD’s Epyc X86 processors. Similarly, the Open Power consortium offers an alternative in POWER9.

Morgan went on: IBM differentiated the hardware with its NVLink versions and, depending on the workload and the competition, with its most aggressive pricing and a leaner and cheaper microcode and hypervisor stack reserved for the Linux workloads that the company is chasing. IBM very much wants to sell its Power-Linux combo against Intel’s Xeon-Linux and also keep AMD’s Epyc-Linux at bay. Still, it is not apparent to Morgan how POWER9 will compete.

Success may come down to a battle of vendor ecosystems. As Morgan points out: aside from the POWER9 system that Google co-engineered with Rackspace Hosting, the most important contributions that Google has made to the OpenPower effort is to work with IBM to create the OPAL firmware, the OpenKVM hypervisor, and the OpenBMC baseboard management controller, which are all crafted to support little endian Linux, as is common on x86.

Guess this is the time wade into the endian morass. Endian refers to the byte ordering that is used, and IBM chips and a few others do them in reverse of the x86 and Arm architectures. The Power8 chip and its POWER9 follow-on support either mode, big or little endian. By making all of these changes, IBM has made the Power platform more palatable to the hyperscalers, which is why Google, Tencent, Alibaba, Uber, and PayPal all talk about how they make use of Power machinery, particularly to accelerate machine learning and generic back-end workloads. But as quickly as IBM jumped on the problem recently after letting it linger for years, it remains one more complication that must be considered. Keep that in mind when a hyperscaler like Google talks about performance per TCO dollar.

Where is all this going? Your guess is as good as any. The hyperscalers and the consortia eventually should resolve this and DancingDinosaur will keep watching. Stay tuned.

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

Mainframe ISVs Advance the Mainframe While IBM Focuses on Think

March 30, 2018

Last week IBM reveled in the attention of upwards of 30,000 visitors to its Think conference, reportedly a record for an IBM conference. Meanwhile Syncsort and Compuware stayed home pushing new mainframe initiatives. Specifically, Syncsort introduced innovations to deliver mainframe log and application data in real-time directly to Elastic for deeper next generation analytics through like Splunk, Hadoop and the Elastic Stack.

Syncsort Ironstone for next-gen analytics

Compuware reported that the percentage of organizations running at least half their business-critical applications on the mainframe expected to increase next year, although the loss of skilled mainframe staff, and the failure to subsequently fill those positions pose significant threats to application quality, velocity and efficiency. Compuware has been taking the lead in modernizing the mainframe developer experience to make it compatible with the familiar x86 experience.

According to David Hodgson, Syncsort’s chief product officer, many organizations are using Elastic’s Kibana to visualize Elasticsearch data and navigate the Elastic Stack. These organizations, like others, are turning to tools like Hadoop and Splunk to get a 360-degree view of their mainframe data enterprise-wide. “In keeping with our proven track record of enabling our customers to quickly extract value from their critical data anytime, anywhere, we are empowering enterprises to make better decisions by making mission-critical mainframe data available in another popular analytics platform,” he adds.

For cost management, Syncsort now offers Ironstream with the flexibility of MSU-based (capacity) or Ingestion-based pricing.

Compuware took a more global view of the mainframe. The mainframe, the company notes, is becoming more important to large enterprises as the percentage of organizations running at least half their business-critical applications on that platform expected to increase next year. However, the loss of skilled mainframe staff, and the failure to subsequently fill those positions, pose significant threats to application quality, velocity and efficiency.

These are among the findings of research and analysis conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Compuware.  According to the study, “As mainframe workload increases—driven by modern analytics, blockchain and more mobile activity hitting the platform—customer-obsessed companies should seek to modernize application delivery and remove roadblocks to innovation.”

The survey of mainframe decision-makers and developers in the US and Europe also revealed the growing mainframe importance–64 percent of enterprises will run more than half of their critical applications on the platform within the next year, up from 57 percent this year. And just to ratchet up the pressure a few notches, 72 percent of customer-facing applications at these enterprises are completely or very reliant on mainframe processing.

That means the loss of essential mainframe staff hurts, putting critical business processes at risk. Overall, enterprises reported losing an average of 23 percent of specialized mainframe staff in the last five years while 63 percent of those positions have not been filled.

There is more to the study, but these findings alone suggest that mainframe investments, culture, and management practices need to evolve fast in light of the changing market realities. As Forrester puts it: “IT decision makers cannot afford to treat their mainframe applications as static environments bound by long release cycles, nor can they fail to respond to their critical dependence with a retiring workforce. Instead, firms must implement the modern tools necessary to accelerate not only the quality, but the speed and efficiency of their mainframe, as well as draw [new] people to work on the platform.”

Nobody has 10 years or even three years to cultivate a new mainframer. You need to attract and cultivate talented x86 or ARM people now, equip each—him or her—with the sexiest, most efficient tools, and get them working on the most urgent items at the top of your backlog.

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

 

IBM Boosts AI at Think

March 23, 2018

Enterprise system vendors are racing to AI along with all the others. Writes Jeffrey Burt, an analyst at The Next Platform, “There continues to be an ongoing push among tech vendors to bring artificial intelligence (AI) and its various components – including deep learning and machine learning – to the enterprise. The technologies are being rapidly adopted by hyperscalers and in the HPC space, and enterprises stand to reap significant benefits by also embracing them.” Exactly what those benefits are still need to be specifically articulated and, if possible, quantified.

IBM Think Conference this week

For enterprise data centers running the Z or Power Systems, the most obvious quick payoff will be fast, deeper, more insightful data analytics along with more targeted guidance on actions to take in response. After that there still remains the possibility of more automation of operations but the Z already is pretty thoroughly automated and optimized. Just give it your operational and performance parameters and it will handle the rest.  In addition, vendors like Compuware and Syncsort have been making the mainframe more graphical and intuitive. The days of needing deep mainframe experience or expertise have passed. Even x86 admins can quickly pick up a modern mainframe today.

In a late 2016 study by Accenture that modeled the impact of AI for 12 developed economies. The research compared the size of each country’s economy in 2035 in a baseline scenario, which shows expected economic growth under current assumptions and an AI scenario reflecting expected growth once the impact of AI has been absorbed into the economy. AI was found to yield the highest economic benefits for the United States, increasing its annual growth rate from 2.6 percent to 4.6 percent by 2035, translating to an additional USD $8.3 trillion in gross value added (GVA). In the United Kingdom, AI could add an additional USD $814 billion to the economy by 2035, increasing the annual growth rate of GVA from 2.5 to 3.9 percent. Japan has the potential to more than triple its annual rate of GVA growth by 2035, and Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria could see their growth rates double. You can still find the study here.

Also coming out of Think this week was the announcement of an expanded Apple-IBM partnership around AI and machine learning (ML). The resulting AI service is intended for corporate developers to build apps themselves. The new service, Watson Services for Core ML, links Apple’s Core ML tools for developers that it unveiled last year with IBM’s Watson data crunching service. Core ML helps coders build machine learning-powered apps that more efficiently perform calculations on smartphones instead of processing those calculations in external data centers. It’s similar to other smartphone-based machine learning tools like Google’s TensorFlow Lite.

The goal is to help enterprises reimagine the way they work through a combination of Core ML and Watson Services to stimulate the next generation of intelligent mobile enterprise apps. Take the example of field technicians who inspect power lines or machinery. The new AI field app could feed images of electrical equipment to Watson to train it to recognize the machinery. The result would enable field technicians to scan the electrical equipment they are inspecting on their iPhones or iPads and automatically detect any anomalies. The app would eliminate the need to send that data to IBM’s cloud computing data centers for processing, thus reducing the amount of time it takes to detect equipment issues to near real-time.

Apple’s Core ML toolkit could already be used to connect with competing cloud-based machine learning services from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft to create developer tools that more easily link the Core ML service with Watson. For example, Coca-Cola already is testing Watson Services for Core ML to see if it helps its field technicians better inspect vending machines. If you want try it in your shop, the service will be free to developers to use now. Eventually, developers will have to pay.

Such new roll-your-own AI services represent a shift for IBM. Previously you had to work with IBM consulting teams. Now the new Watson developer services are intended to be bought in an “accessible and bite size” way, according to IBM, and sold in a “pay as you go” model without consultants.  In a related announcement at Think, IBM announced it is contributing the core of Watson Studio’s Deep Learning Service as an open source project called Fabric for Deep Learning. This will enable developers and data scientists to work together on furthering the democratization of deep learning.

Ultimately, the democratization of AI is the only way to go. When intelligent systems speak together and share insights everyone’s work will be faster, smarter. Yes, there will need to be ways to compensate distinctively valuable contributions but with over two decades of open source experience, the industry should be able to pretty easily figure that out.

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

IBM Leverages Strategic Imperatives to Win in Cloud

March 16, 2018

Some people may have been ready to count out IBM in the cloud. The company, however, is clawing its way back into contention faster than many imagined. In a recent Forbes Magazine piece, IBM credits 16,000 AI engagements, 400 blockchain engagements, and a couple of quantum computing pilots as driving its return as a serious cloud player.

IBM uses blockchain to win the cloud

According to Fortune, IBM has jumped up to third in cloud revenue with $17 billion, ranking behind Microsoft with $18.6 billion and Amazon, with $17.5. Among other big players, Google comes in seventh with $3 billion

In the esoteric world of quantum computing IBM is touting live projects underway with JPMorganChase, Daimler, and others. Bob Evans, a respected technology writer and now the principle of Evans Strategic Communications, notes that the latest numbers “underscore not only IBM’s aggressive moves into enterprise IT’s highest-potential markets,” but also the legitimacy of the company’s claims that it has joined the top ranks of the competitive cloud-computing marketplace alongside Microsoft and Amazon.

As reported in the Fortune piece, CEO Ginni Rometty, speaking to a quarterly analyst briefing, declared: “While IBM has a considerable presence in the public-cloud IaaS market because many of its clients require or desire that, it intends to greatly differentiate itself from the big IaaS providers via higher-value technologies such as AI, blockchain, cybersecurity and analytics.” These are the areas that Evans sees as driving IBM into the cloud’s top tier.

Rometty continued; “I think you know that for us the cloud has never been about having Infrastructure-as-a-Service-only as a public cloud, or a low-volume commodity cloud; Frankly, Infrastructure-as-a-Service is almost just a dialtone. For us, it’s always been about a cloud that is going to be enterprise-strong and of which IaaS is only a component.”

In the Fortune piece she then laid out four strategic differentiators for the IBM Cloud, which in 2017 accounted for 22% of IBM’s revenue:

  1. “The IBM Cloud is built for “data and applications anywhere,” Rometty said. “When we say you can do data and apps anywhere, it means you have a public cloud, you have private clouds, you have on-prem environments, and then you have the ability to connect not just those but also to other clouds. That is what we have done—all of those components.”
  2. The IBM Cloud is “infused with AI,” she continued, alluding to how most of the 16,000 AI engagements also involve the cloud. She cited four of the most-popular ways in which customers are using AI: customer service, enhancing white-collar work, risk and compliance, and HR.
  3. For securing the cloud IBM opened more than 50 cybersecurity centers around the world to ensure “the IBM Cloud is secure to the core,” Rometty noted.
  4. “And perhaps this the most important differentiator—you have to be able to extend your cloud into everything that’s going to come down the road, and that could well be more cyber analytics but it is definitely blockchain, and it is definitely quantum because that’s where a lot of new value is going to reside.”

You have to give Rometty credit: She bet big that IBM’s strategic imperatives, especially blockchain and, riskiest of all, quantum computing would eventually pay off. The company had long realized it couldn’t compete in high volume, low margin businesses. She made her bet on what IBM does best—advanced research—and stuck with it.  During those 22 consecutive quarters of revenue losses she stayed the course and didn’t publicly question the decision.

As Fortune observed: In quantum, IBM’s leveraging its first-mover status and has moved far beyond theoretical proposals. “We are the only company with a 50-qubit system that is actually working—we’re not publishing pictures of photos of what it might look like, or writings that say if there is quantum, we can do it—rather, we are scaling rapidly and we are the only one working with clients in development working on our quantum,” Rometty said.

IBM’s initial forays into commercial quantum computing are just getting started: JPMorganChase is working on risk optimization and portfolio optimization using IBM quantum computing;  Daimler is using IBM’s quantum technology to explore new approaches to logistics and self-driving car routes; and JSR is doing computational chemistry to create entirely new materials. None of these look like the payback is right around the corner. As DancingDinosaur wrote just last week, progress with quantum has been astounding but much remains to be done to get a functioning commercial ecosystem in place to support the commercialization of quantum computing for business on a large scale.

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

Value and Power of LinuxOne Emperor II

February 4, 2018

There is much value n the mainframe but it doesn’t become clear until you do a full TCO analysis. When you talk to an IBMer about the cost of a mainframe the conversation immediately shifts to TCO, usually in the form of how many x86 systems you would have to deploy to handle a comparable workload with similar quality of service.  The LinuxONE Emperor II, introduced in September, can beat those comparisons.

LinuxONE Emperor II

Proponents of x86 boast about the low acquisition cost of x86 systems. They are right if you are only thinking about a low initial acquisition cost. But you also have to think about the cost of software for each low-cost core you purchase, and for many enterprise workloads you will need to acquire a lot of cores. This is where costs can mount quickly.

As a result, software will likely become the highest TCO item because many software products are priced per core.  Often the amount charged for cores is determined by the server’s maximum number of physical cores, regardless of whether they actually are activated. In addition, some architectures require more cores per workload. Ouch! An inexpensive device suddenly becomes a pricy machine when all those cores are tallied and priced.

Finally, x86 to IBM Z core ratios differ per workload, but x86 almost invariably requires more cores than a z-based workload; remember, any LinuxONE is a Z System. For example, the same WebSphere workload on x86 that requires 10 – 12 cores may require only one IFL on the Z. The lesson here: whether you’re talking about system software or middleware, you have to consider the impact of software on TCO.

The Emperor II delivers stunning specs. The machine can be packed with up to 170 cores, as much as 32 TB of memory, and 160 PCIe slots. And it is flexible; use this capacity, for instance, to add more system resources—cores or memory—to service an existing Linux instance or clone more Linux instances. Think of it as scale-out capabilities on steroids, taking you far beyond what you can achieve in the x86 world and do it with just a few keystrokes. As IBM puts it, you might:

  • Dynamically add cores, memory, I/O adapters, devices, and network cards without disruption.
  • Grow horizontally by adding Linux instances or grow vertically by adding resources (memory, cores, slots) to existing Linux guests.
  • Provision for peak utilization.
  • After the peak subsides automatically return unused resources to the resource pool for reallocation to another workload.

So, what does this mean to most enterprise Linux data centers? For example, IBM often cites a large insurance firm. The insurer needed fast and flexible provisioning for its database workloads. The company’s approach directed it to deploy more x86 servers to address growth. Unfortunately, the management of software for all those cores had become time consuming and costly. The company deployed 32 x86 servers with 768 cores running 384 competitor’s database licenses.

By leveraging elastic pricing on the Emperor II, for example, it only needed one machine running 63 IFLs serving 64 competitor’s database licenses.  It estimated savings of $15.6 million over 5 years just by eliminating charges for unused cores. (Full disclosure: these figures are provided by IBM; DancingDinosaur did not interview the insurer to verify this data.) Also, note there are many variables at play here around workloads and architecture, usage patterns, labor costs, and more. As IBM warns: Your results may vary.

And then there is security. Since the Emperor II is a Z it delivers all the security of the newest z14, although in a slightly different form. Specifically, it provides:

  • Ultimate workload isolation and pervasive encryption through Secure Service Containers
  • 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)

BTW the Emperor II also anchors IBM’s Blockchain cloud service. That calls for security to the max. In the end. the Emperor II is unlike any x86 Linux system.

  • EAL 5+ isolation, best in class crypto key protection, and Secure Service Containers
  • 640 Power cores in its I/O channels (not included in the core count)
  • Leading I/O capacity and performance in the industry
  • IBM’s shared memory vertical scale architecture with a better architecture for stateful workloads like databases and systems of record
  • Hardware designed to give good response time even with 100% utilization, which simplifies the solution and reduces the extra costs x86 users assume are necessary because they’re used to keeping a utilization safety margin.

This goes far beyond TCO.  Just remember all the things the Emperor II brings: scalability, reliability, container-based security and flexibility, and more.

…and Go Pats!

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a Boston-based 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.


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