Posts Tagged ‘IBM’

AI and IBM Watson Fuel Interest in App Dev among Mainframe Shops

December 1, 2016

BMC’s 2016 mainframe survey, covered by DancingDinosaur here, both directly and indirectly pointed to increased activity in regard to data center applications. Mainly this took the form of increased interest in Java on the z as a platform for new applications. Specifically, 72% of overall respondents reported using Java today while 88% reported plans to increase their use Java. At the same time, the use of Linux on the z has been steadily growing year over year; 41% in 2014, 48% in 2015, 52% in 2016. This growth of both point to a heightened interest in application development, management, and change.

ibm-project-dataworks-visualization-1

IBM’s Project DataWorks uses Watson Analytics to create complex visualizations with one line of code

IBM has been feeding this kind of AppDev interest with its continued enhancement of Bluemix and the rollout of the Bluemix Garage method.  More recently, it recently announced a partnership with Topcoder, a global software development community comprised of more than one million designers, developers, data scientists, and competitive programmers with the aim of stimulating developers looking to harness the power of Watson to create the next generation AI apps, APIs, and solutions.

According to Forrester VP and Principal Analyst JP Gownder in the IBM announcement, by 2019, automation will change every job category by at least 25%. Additionally, IDC predicts that 75% of developer teams will include cognitive/AI functionality in one or more applications by 2018. The industry is driving toward a new level of computing potential not witnessed since the introduction of Big Data

To further drive the cultivation of this new style of developer, IBM is encouraging participation in Topcoder-run hackathons and coding competitions. Here developers can easily access a range of Watson services – such as Conversation, Sentiment Analysis, or speech APIs – to build powerful new tools with the help of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. Topcoder hosts 7,000 code challenges a year and has awarded $80 million to its community. In addition, now developers will have the opportunity to showcase and monetize their solutions on the IBM Marketplace, while businesses will be able to access a new pipeline of talent experienced with Watson and AI.

In addition to a variety of academic partnerships, IBM recently announced the introduction of an AI Nano degree program with Udacity to help developers establish a foundational understanding of artificial intelligence.  Plus, IBM offers the IBM Learning Lab, which features more than 100 curated online courses and cognitive uses cases from providers like Codeacademy, Coursera, Big Data University, and Udacity. Don’t forget, IBM DeveloperWorks, which offers how-to tutorials and courses on IBM tools and open standard technologies for all phases of the app dev lifecycle.

To keep the AI development push going, recently IBM unveiled the experimental release of Project Intu, a new system-agnostic platform designed to enable embodied cognition. The new platform allows developers to embed Watson functions into various end-user devices, offering a next generation architecture for building cognitive-enabled experiences.

Project Intu is accessible via the Watson Developer Cloud and also available on Intu Gateway and GitHub. The initiative simplifies the process for developers wanting to create cognitive experiences in various form factors such as spaces, avatars, robots, or IoT devices. In effect, it extends cognitive technology into the physical world. The platform enables devices to interact more naturally with users, triggering different emotions and behaviors and creating more meaningful and immersive experiences for users.

Developers can simplify and integrate Watson services, such as Conversation, Language, and Visual Recognition with the capabilities of the device to act out the interaction with the user. Instead of a developer needing to program each individual movement of a device or avatar, Project Intu makes it easy to combine movements that are appropriate for performing specific tasks like assisting a customer in a retail setting or greeting a visitor in a hotel in a way that is natural for the visitor.

Project Intu is changing how developers make architectural decisions about integrating different cognitive services into an end-user experience – such as what actions the systems will take and what will trigger a device’s particular functionality. Project Intu offers developers a ready-made environment on which to build cognitive experiences running on a wide variety of operating systems – from Raspberry PI to MacOS, Windows to Linux machines.

With initiatives like these, the growth of cognitive-enabled applications will likely accelerate. As IBM reports, IDC estimates that “by 2018, 75% of developer teams will include Cognitive/AI functionality in one or more applications/services.”  This is a noticeable jump from last year’s prediction that 50% of developers would leverage cognitive/AI functionality by 2018

For those z data centers surveyed by BMC that worried about keeping up with Java and big data, AI adds yet an entirely new level of complexity. Fortunately, the tools to work with it are rapidly falling into place.

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.

 

 

 

IBM Power System S822LC for HPC Beat Sort Record by 3.3x

November 17, 2016

The new IBM Power System S822LC for High Performance Computing servers set a new benchmark for sorting by taking less than 99 seconds (98.8 seconds) to finish sorting 100 terabytes of data in the Indy GraySort category, improving on last year’s best result, 329 seconds, by a factor of 3.3. The win proved a victory not only for the S822LC but for the entire OpenPOWER community. The team of Tencent, IBM, and Mellanox has been named the Winner of the Sort Benchmark annual global computing competition for 2016.

rack-of-new-ibm-power-systems-s822lc-for-high-performance-computing-servers-1Power System S822LC for HPC

Specifically, the machine, an IBM Power S822LC for High Performance Computing (HPC), features NVIDIA NVLink technology optimized for the Power architecture and NVIDIA’s latest GPU technology. The new system supports emerging computing methods of artificial intelligence, particularly deep learning. The combination, newly dubbed IBM PowerAI, provides a continued path for Watson, IBM’s cognitive solutions platform, to extend its artificial intelligence expertise in the enterprise by using several deep learning methods to train Watson.

Actually Tencent Cloud Data Intelligence (the distributed computing platform of Tencent Cloud) won each category in both the GraySort and MinuteSort benchmarks, establishing four new world records with its performance, outperforming the 2015 best speeds by 2-5x. Said Zeus Jiang, Vice President of Tencent Cloud and General Manager of Tencent’s Data Platform Department: “In the future, the ability to manage big data will be the foundation of successful Internet businesses.”

To get this level of performance Tencent runs 512 IBM OpenPOWER LC servers and Mellanox’100Gb interconnect technology, improving the performance of Tencent Cloud big data products with the infrastructure. Online prices for the S822LC starts at about $9600 for 2-socket, 2U with up to 20 cores (2.9-3.3Ghz), 1 TB memory (32 DIMMs), 230 GB/sec sustained memory bandwidth, 2x SFF (HDD/SSD), 2 TB storage, 5 PCIe slots, 4 CAPI enabled, up to 2 NVidia K80 GPU. Be sure to shop for volume discounts.

The 2016 Sort Benchmark Results below (apologies in advance if this table breaks apart)

Sort Benchmark Competition 20 Records (Tencent Cloud ) 2015 World Records 2016 Improvement
Daytona GraySort 44.8 TB/min 15.9 TB/min 2.8X greater performance
Indy GraySort 60.7 TB/min 18.2 TB/min 3.3X greater performance
Daytona MinuteSort 37 TB/min 7.7 TB/min 4.8X greater performance
Indy MinuteSort 55 TB/min 11 TB/min 5X greater performance

Pretty impressive, huh. As IBM explains it: Tencent Cloud used 512 IBM OpenPOWER servers and Mellanox’100Gb interconnect technology, improving the performance of Tencent Cloud big data products with the infrastructure. Then Tom Rosamilia, IBM Senior VP weighed in: “Industry leaders like Tencent are helping IBM and our OpenPOWER partners push performance boundaries for a cognitive era defined by big data and advanced analytics.” The computing record achieved by Tencent Cloud on OpenPOWER turned out to be an important milestone for the OpenPOWER Foundation too.

Added Amir Prescher, Sr. Vice President, Business Development, at Mellanox Technologies: “Real-time-analytics and big data environments are extremely demanding, and the network is critical in linking together the extra high performance of IBM POWER-based servers and Tencent Cloud’s massive amounts of data,” In effect, Tencent Cloud developed an optimized hardware/software platform to achieve new computing records while demonstrating that Mellanox’s 100Gb/s Ethernet technology can deliver total infrastructure efficiency and improve application performance, which should make it a favorite for big data applications.

Behind all of this was the new IBM Power System S822LC for High Performance Computing servers. Currently the servers feature a new IBM POWER8 chip designed for demanding workloads including artificial intelligence, deep learning and advanced analytics.  However, a new POWER9 chips has already been previewed and is expected next year.  Whatever the S822LC can do running POWER8 just imagine how much more it will do running POWER9, which IBM describes as a premier acceleration platform. DancingDinosaur covered POWER9 in early Sept. here.

To capitalize on the hardware, IBM is making a new deep learning software toolkit available, PowerAI, which runs on the recently announced IBM Power S822LC server built for artificial intelligence that features NVIDIA NVLink interconnect technology optimized for IBM’s Power architecture. The hardware-software combination provides more than 2X performance over comparable servers with 4 GPUs running AlexNet with Caffe. The same 4-GPU Power-based configuration running AlexNet with BVLC Caffe can also outperform 8 M40 GPU-based x86 configurations, making it the world’s fastest commercially available enterprise systems platform on two versions of a key deep learning framework.

Deep learning is a fast growing, machine learning method that extracts information by crunching through millions of pieces of data to detect and ranks the most important aspects of the data. Publicly supported among leading consumer web and mobile application companies, deep learning is quickly being adopted by more traditional enterprises across a wide range of industry sectors; in banking to advance fraud detection through facial recognition; in automotive for self-driving automobiles; and in retail for fully automated call centers with computers that can better understand speech and answer questions. Is your data center ready for deep learning?

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.

 

 

Can SDS and Flash Resurrect IBM Storage?

November 4, 2016

As part of IBM’s ongoing string of quarterly losses storage has consistently contributed to the red ink, but the company is betting on cloud storage, all-flash strategy, and software defined storage (SDS) to turn things around. Any turn-around, however, is closely tied to the success of IBM’s strategic imperatives, which have emerged as bright spots amid the continuing quarterly losses; especially cloud, analytics, and cognitive computing.

climate-data-requires-fast-access-1

Climate study needs large amounts of fast data access

As a result, IBM needs to respond to two challenges created by its customers: 1) changes like the increased adoption of cloud, analytics, and most recently cognitive computing and 2) the need by customers to reduce the cost of the IT infrastructure. The problem as IBM sees it is this: How do I simultaneously optimize the traditional application infrastructure and free up money to invest in a new generation application infrastructure, especially if I expect move forward into the cognitive era at some point? IBM’s answer is to invest in flash and SDS.

A few years ago DancingDinosaur was skeptical, for example, that flash deployment would lower storage costs except in situations where low cost IOPS was critical. Today between the falling cost of flash and new ways to deploy increasingly cheaper flash DancingDinosaur now believes Flash storage can save IT real money.

According to the Evaluator Group and cited by IBM, flash and hybrid cloud technologies are dramatically changing the way companies deploy storage and design applications. As new applications are created–often for mobile or distributed access–the ability to store data in the right place, on the right media, and with the right access capability will become even more important.

In response, companies are adding cloud to lower costs, flash to increase performance, and SDS to add flexibility. IBM is integrating these capabilities together with security and data management for faster return on investment.  Completing the IBM pitch, the company offers choice among on-premise storage, SDS, or storage as a cloud service.

In an announcement earlier this week IBM introduced six products:

  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize 7.8 with transparent cloud tiering
  • IBM Spectrum Scale 4.2.2 with cloud data sharing
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize family flash enhancements
  • IBM Storwize family upgrades
  • IBM DS8880 High Performance Flash Enclosure Gen2
  • IBM DeepFlash Elastic Storage Server
  • VersaStack—a joint IBM-Cisco initiative

In short, these announcements address Hybrid Cloud enablement, as a standard feature for new and existing users of Spectrum Virtualize to enable data sharing to the cloud through Spectrum Scale, which can sync file and object data across on-premises and cloud storage to connect cloud native applications. Plus, more high density, highly scalable all-flash storage now sports a new high density expansion enclosure that includes new 7TB and 15TB flash drives.

IBM Storwize, too, is included, now able to grow up to 8x larger than previously without disruption. That means up to 32PB of flash storage in only four racks to meet the needs of fast-growing cloud workloads in space-constrained data centers. Similarly, IBM’s new DeepFlash Elastic Storage Server (ESS) offers up to 8x better performance than HDD-based solutions for big data and analytics workloads. Built with IBM Spectrum Scale ESS includes virtually unlimited scaling, enterprise security features, and unified file, object, and HDFS support.

The z can play in this party too. IBM’s DS8888 now delivers 2x better performance and 3x more efficient use of rack space for mission-critical applications such as credit card and banking transactions as well as airline reservations running on IBM’s z System or IBM Power Systems. DancingDinosaur first reported on the all flash z, the DS8888, when it was introduced last May.

Finally hybrid cloud enablement for existing and new on-premises storage enhancements through IBM Spectrum Virtualize, which brings hybrid cloud capabilities for block storage to the Storwize family, FlashSystem V9000, SVC, and VersaStack, the IBM-Cisco collaboration.

Behind every SDS deployment lies some actual physical storage of some type. Many opt for generic, low cost white box storage to save money.  As part of IBM’s latest SDS offerings you can choose among any of nearly 400 storage systems from IBM and others. Doubt any of those others are white box products but at least they give you some non-IBM options to potentially lower your storage costs.

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.

 

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.

 

Compuware Triples Down on Promised Quarterly z System Releases

October 14, 2016

Since Jan 2015 Compuware has been releasing enhancements to its mainframe software portfolio quarterly.  The latest quarterly release, dated Oct. 3, delivers REST APIs for ISPW source code management and DevOps release automation; Integration of Compuware Abend-AID with Syncsort Ironstream to create their own custom cross-platform DevOps toolchains; and a new Seasoft Plug-In for Topaz Workbench. The Seasoft plug-in will help less skilled IBM z/OS developers to manage mainframe batch processing along with other z platform tasks

compuware-blended-ecosystem

Compuware’s point is to position the mainframe at the heart of agile DevOps computing. As part of the effort, it needs to deliver slick, modern tools that will appear to the non-mainframers who are increasingly moving into multi-platform development roles that include the mainframe. These people want to work as if they are dealing with a Windows or Linux machine. They aren’t going to wrestle with arcane mainframe constructs like Abends or JCL.  Traditional mainframe dev, test and code promotion processes are simply too slow to meet the demands of today’s fast-moving markets. The new dev and ops people who are filling out data center ranks haven’t the patience to learn what they view as antiquated mainframe concepts. They need intelligent tools that visualize the issue and let them intuitively click, drag, drop, and swipe their way through whatever needs to be done.

This is driven by the long-expected attrition of veteran mainframers and the mainframe knowledge and application insight they brought. Only the recession that began in 2008 slowed the exit of aging mainframers. Now they are leaving; one mainframe credit card processor reportedly lost 50 mainframe staff in a month.  The only way to replace this kind of experience is with intelligent and easy to learn tools and expert automation.

Compuware’s response has been to release new tools and enhancements every quarter. It started with Topaz in 2015. DancingDinosaur covered it Jan. 2015 here.  The beauty of Topaz lies in its graphical ease-of-use. Data center newbies didn’t need to know z/OS; they could understand what they were seeing and do meaningful work. With each quarterly release Compuware, in one way or another, has advanced this basic premise.

The most recent advances are streamlining the DevOps process in a variety of ways.  DevOps has emerged as critical with mainframe shops scrambling to remain relevant and effective in a rapidly evolving app dev environment. Just look at Bluemix if you want to see where things are heading.

In the first announcement, Compuware extended mainframe DevOps innovation with REST APIs for ISPW SCM and release automation. The new APIs enable large enterprises to flexibly integrate their numerous other mainframe and non-mainframe DevOps tools with ISPW to create their own custom cross-platform DevOps toolchains. Part of that was  the acquisition of the assets associated with Itegrations’s source code management (SCM) migration practice and methodology, which will  enable Compuware users to more easily migrate their SCM systems from Agile-averse products such as CA Endevor, CA Panvalet, CA Librarian, and Micro Focus/Serena ChangeMan as well as internally developed SCM systems—to ISPW

According to Compuware, these DevOps toolchains are becoming increasingly important for two reasons:

  • Enterprises must aggressively adopt DevOps disciplines in their mainframe environments to fulfill business requirements for digital agility. Traditional mainframe dev, test and code promotion processes are simply too slow to meet the demands of today’s fast-moving markets to counter new, digitally nimble market disruptors.
  • Data centers need to better integrate the toolchains that support their newly adopted mainframe DevOps workflows with those that support DevOps across their various other platforms. This is because mainframe applications and data so often function as back-end systems-of-record for front-end web and mobile systems-of-engagement in multi-tier/cross-platform environments.

In the second announcement Compuware integrated Abend-AID and Syncsort’s Ironstream to give fast, clear insight into mainframe issues. Specifically, the integration of Abend-AID and Ironstream \ enables IT to more quickly discover and act upon correlations between application faults and broader conditions in the mainframe environment. This is particularly important, notes Compuware, as enterprises, out of necessity, shift operational responsibilities for the platform to staffs with limited experience on z/OS. Just put yourself into the shoes of a distributed system manager now dealing with a mainframe. What might appear to be a platform issue may turn out to be software faults, and vice versa.  The retired 30-year mainframe veterans would probably see it immediately (but not always). Mainframe newcomers need a tool with the intelligence to recognize it for them.

With the last announcement Compuware and Software Engineering of America (SEA) introduced the release of SEA’s JCLplus+ Remote Plug-In and $AVRS Plug-In for Compuware’s Topaz Workbench mainframe IDE. Again think about mainframe neophytes. The new plug-ins for Topaz significantly ease challenging JCL- and output-related tasks, according to Compuware, effectively enabling both expert and novice IT staff to perform those tasks more quickly and more accurately in the context of their other mainframe DevOps activities.

An encouraging aspect of this is that Compuware is not doing this alone. The company is teaming up with SEA and with Syncsort to make this happen. As the mainframe vendors work to make mainframe computing easier and more available to lesser trained people it will be good for the mainframe industry as a whole and maybe even help lower the cost of mainframe operations.

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.

 

Put your z System at the Center of Blockchain

October 6, 2016

The zSystem has been a leading platform for the world’s top banks for decades and with blockchain the z could capture even more banking and financial services data centers. Two recent IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) studies show commercial blockchain solutions are rapidly being adopted throughout banking and financial markets dramatically faster than initially expected, according to an IBM announcement late in Sept.  Of course, not every blockchain deployment runs on z but more should be.

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Copyright William Mougayer

According to an IBV study, more than 70 percent of early adopters are prioritizing blockchain efforts in order to break down current barriers to creating new business models and reaching new markets. IBV analyst report the respondents are better positioned to defend themselves against competitors, including those untraditional disruptors like non-bank startups. The majority of respondents are focusing their blockchain efforts on four areas: clearing and settlement, wholesale payments, equity and debt issuance, and reference data.

But blockchain isn’t just a financial services story. Mougayer identifies government services, healthcare, energy, supply chains, and world trade as blockchain candidates. IoT will also be an important area for blockchain, according to a new book on IoT by Maciej Kranz, an IoT pioneer.

As Kranz explains: blockchain has emerged as a technology that allows a secure exchange of value between entities in a distributed fashion. The technology first appeared on most IT radar screens a few years ago in the form of Bitcoin, a virtual currency that relies on blockchain technology to ensure its security and integrity. Although Bitcoin’s future is still uncertain, blockchain is a completely different story.

Blockchain is attracting considerable attention for its ability to ensure the integrity of transactions over the network between any entities. Automobile companies are considering the technology to authenticate connected vehicles in the vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) environment, notes Kranz. Still others are looking at blockchain to trace the sources of goods, increase food safety, create smart contracts, perform audits, and do much more. Blockchain also provides a natural complement to IoT security in a wide variety of use cases.

The z and especially the newest generation of z Systems is ideal for blockchain work. Zero downtime, industry-leading security, massive I/O, flexibility, high performance at scale, and competitive price/performance along with its current presence in the middle of most transactions, especially financial transactions, makes z a natural for blockchain.

A key driver for blockchain, especially in the banking and financial services segment is the Linux Foundation’s HyperLedger project. This entails a collaborative, open source effort to establish an open blockchain platform that will satisfy a variety of use cases across multiple industries to streamline business processes. Through a cross-industry, open standard for distributed ledgers, virtually any digital exchange of value, such as real estate contracts, energy trades, even marriage licenses can securely and cost-effectively be tracked and traded.

According to Linux Foundation documents, “the Hyperledger Project has ramped up incredibly fast, a testament to how much pent-up interest, potential, and enterprise demand there is for a cross-industry open standard for distributed ledgers.” Linux Foundation members of the Hyperledger Project are moving blockchain technology forward at remarkable speed. IBM has been an early and sizeable contributor of code to the project. It contributed 44,000 lines of code as a founding member.

That it is catching on so quickly in the banking and financial services sector shouldn’t be a surprise either.  What blockchain enables is highly secure and unalterable distributed transaction tracking at every stage of the transaction.  Said Likhit Wagle, Global Industry General Manager, IBM Banking and Financial Markets, when ticking off blockchain advantages: To start, first movers are setting business standards and creating new models that will be used by future adopters of blockchain technology. We’re also finding that these early adopters are better able to anticipate disruption and fight off new competitors along the way.

It is the larger banks leading the charge to embrace blockchain technology with early adopters twice as likely to be large institutions with more than a hundred thousand employees. Additionally, 77 percent of these larger banks are retail banking organizations.

As the IBV surveys found, trailblazers expect the benefits from blockchain technology to impact several business areas, including reference data (83 percent), retail payments (80 percent) and consumer lending (79 percent). When asked which blockchain-based new business models could emerge, 80 percent of banks surveyed identified trade finance, corporate lending, and reference data as having the greatest potential.

IBM is making it easy to tap blockchain by making it available through Docker containers, as a signed and certified distribution of IBM’s code submission to Hyperledger, and through Bluemix services. As noted above, blockchain is a natural fit for the z and LinuxOne. To that end, Bluemix Blockchain Services and a fully integrated DevOps Tool is System z- and IoT-enabled.

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.

 

IBM z System and Power Fuel Hybrid Cloud

September 30, 2016

DancingDinosaur has been cheerleading the z as a cloud player since 2011 and even before, mainly as an ideal vehicle for private clouds. So it should be no surprise to readers that last week IBM announced z and Power cloud-ready systems, services, and solutions for the hybrid cloud environment. My only question: What took them so long?

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Power and z accelerate transformation to hybrid cloud

The world, indeed, is changing fast, and IT data centers especially have to scramble to keep up as they try to blend public cloud, private cloud, and traditional IT data centers and integrate it all seamlessly. “Today’s business environment is very dynamic and filled with disruption. A hybrid cloud model enables clients to continuously adapt while also optimizing on-premises investments and delivering the flexibility clients need across IBM Systems and the cloud,” according to Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president, IBM Systems.

At the heart of the IBM’s systems for what it calls the hybrid cloud era are three technologies we should be generally already familiar:

  • z Systems for cloud. IBM z Systems Operational Insights is a new SaaS-based offering that provides analytic insights on cloud operations for new levels of efficiency and application performance. It allows users to make better business and application decisions based on trends and embedded expertise on performance data through a GUI dashboard. This accompanies IBM OMEGAMON Application Performance Management, which provides quick identification of problem components through end-to-end visibility for clients’ hybrid workloads that include z Systems applications.  In addition, the newly available IBM Common Data Provider enables z Systems operational data to be efficiently consumed in near real time by the clients’ cloud or local enterprise operational analytics platform. An OK start, but you can quibble with OMEGAMON as IBM’s performance analysis and management choice. At its core, this is old technology. DancingDinosaur would prefer, say, Watson.
  • Power Systems for cloud. With integrated OpenStack-based cloud management and elastic consumption models, according to IBM, these new enterprise-class IBM Power Systems enable organizations to transform their IT infrastructure to a local cloud for AIX, IBM i and Linux workloads and extend them with rapid access to compute services in the IBM Cloud. DancingDinosaur covered the new LC here.
  • IBM Spectrum Copy Data Management and Protect. This brings a new solution that drives operational and development agility and efficiency across new and traditional applications that allow detailed, easy management of data copies.  Additionally, IBM Spectrum Protect has expanded its extensive hybrid cloud solution integration with cloud object storage options for use in hybrid cloud deployments.

About the only thing missing above is LinuxONE but that will come up below when IBM gets to openness, which is critical to hybrid clouds. In its announcement, IBM also promised a series of new and expanded collaborations with IBM Systems for hybrid cloud environments, including:

  • Canonical: Canonical and IBM are extending their ongoing alliance to make Ubuntu OpenStack available today on LinuxONE, z Systems, Power Systems, and OpenPOWER-based systems, including the new line of LC servers. This enables organizations to leverage Canonical’s portfolio across the three platforms with simplified and automated OpenStack management.
  • Hortonworks: IBM and Hortonworks,  a Hadoop platform, are jointly entering the marketplace to make Hortonworks Hadoop distribution available on POWER. Whoopee, Hadoop already runs native on z.
  • Mirantis: Mirantis and IBM are collaborating to develop reference architectures enabling Mirantis OpenStack to manage compute nodes hosted on IBM Power Systems servers, and to validate a host of core applications to run its OpenStack private cloud. With this integration, Mirantis will now bring its OpenStack based private cloud management to the POWER platform. This enables organizations to leverage the efficiency of IBM Power Systems for data-driven workloads in a seamless and compatible way for their data center through Mirantis’ OpenStack cloud management.
  • NGINX: NGINX’s application delivery platform now supports servers based on IBM’s POWER architecture with the latest release of its commercial load balancer and web accelerator software, NGINX Plus R10. The combination of NGINX Plus and POWER brings new agility to enterprises, allowing them to scale their infrastructure and application delivery solutions across any environment – public, private, and hybrid cloud; containers; and bare metal – providing a consistent user experience.
  • Red Hat: Red Hat and IBM are expanding their long-standing alliance to better help organizations embrace hybrid cloud. Through joint engineering and deeper product collaboration, the two companies plan to deliver solutions built on key components of Red Hat’s portfolio of open source products, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, (RHEL)., By the way, RHEL is the #2 Linux distro on the z. RHEL also enables IBM Power Systems as a featured component of Red Hat’s hybrid cloud strategy spanning platform infrastructure located both on and off an enterprise’s premises.

There is enough openness to enable you to do what you need so DancingDinosaur has no real complaints with IBM’s choices above. Just wish it was more z- and LinuxONE-centric.

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

 

IBM Applies Fit-For-Purpose to Accelerating Hybrid Cloud Adoption

September 16, 2016

Almost every company is using the cloud, but not for everything, according to a recently announced study from IBM’s Institute of Business Value (IBV). Although 78 percent of the executives surveyed reported cloud initiatives as coordinated or fully integrated, almost half of computing workloads are expected to remain on dedicated, on-premises servers. This forces IT managers to consider applying IBM’s old server fit-for-purpose methodology to the cloud era, something mainframe shops haven’t seen since 2009-2010 with the arrival of hybrid mainframes.

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Given cloud evolution, notes the study researchers, it is imperative that organizations determine and regularly re-assess which combination of traditional IT, public cloud, and private cloud best suits their needs. This sounds eerily similar to IBM’s fit-for-purpose mantra that it used to steer buyers between the company’s various server offerings: enterprise mainframes, midrange machines, and entry level PC servers. Only in today’s cloud era, the choices are on-premises private clouds, off-premises public clouds, and hybrid clouds.

Picking up the fit-for-purpose mantra, IBM’s Marie Wieck said:  “Enterprises are moving to the cloud, especially hybrid cloud, faster than anyone expected to support their digital transformation, drive business model innovation and fuel growth.” She concludes by rephrasing the old server fit-for-purpose pitch for the cloud era: “Successful clients have integrated plans to place workloads where they fit best, and IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy provides this on-ramp for flexibility and growth.”

DancingDinosaur has no problem with the fit-for-purpose approach.  It has proven immeasurably useful to me over the years when pressed to explain differences between IBM platforms. That the company is starting to apply it to various ways of deploying cloud computing seems both fitting and ironic. It was the emergence of the Internet in the first place as a forerunner to the cloud that saved IBM from the incompatibilities of its myriad platforms. This was after IBM’s internal effort to make its systems at least interoperate in some rudimentary way, no matter how kludgy, failed. This happened under an initiative called Systems Application Architecture (SAA), which started in the late 1980s and was gone and forgotten by 2000. Vestiges of SAA actually may still linger in some systems. Read about it here.

It should be no surprise that the cloud has emerged as a strategic imperative for IBM. In addition to being where the revenue is heading, it is doing good things for its customers. The latest study finds that the top reasons executives cite for adopting hybrid cloud solutions are: lowering total cost of ownership (54 percent), facilitating innovation (42 percent), enhancing operational efficiencies (42 percent), and enabling them to more readily meet customer expectations (40 percent).

Furthermore, the researchers found that organizations are steadily increasing their use of cloud technologies to address wide-ranging requirements. Specifically companies reported undertaking cloud initiatives that enabled them to expand into new industries (76 percent), create new revenue sources (71 percent), and create and support new business models (69 percent).

Given the widely varying possible cloud starting points from which any company might begin its cloud journey the fit-for-purpose approach makes even more send. As the researchers noted: The particular needs and business conditions of each enterprise help define its optimal hybrid solution: most often, a blend of public cloud, private cloud, and traditional IT services. Finding the right cloud technology mix or deployment approach starts with deciding what to move to the cloud and addressing the challenges affecting migration. In the study, executives achieved the strongest results by integrating cloud initiatives company-wide, and by tapping external resources for access to reliable skills and greater efficiency.

Cloud computing undeniably is hot. According to IDC, worldwide spending on public cloud services is expected to grow from $96.5 billion this year to more than $195 billion in 2020. Even as cloud adoption matures and expands, organizations surveyed expect that about 45 percent of their workloads will continue to need on-premises, dedicated servers – nearly the same percentage as both today and two years ago. Clearly organizations are reluctant to give up the control and security they retain by keeping certain systems on-premises, behind their own firewalls.

Hybrid cloud solutions promise a way to move forward incrementally. Hybrid clouds by definition include a tailored mix of on-premises and public cloud services intended to work in unison and are expected to be widely useful across industries. Each organization’s unique business conditions and requirements will define its optimal hybrid technology landscape. Each organization’s managers will have to balance cost, risk, and performance considerations with customer demands for innovation, change, and price along with its own skills and readiness for change. Sounds like fit-for-purpose all over again.

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

 


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