Posts Tagged ‘IMS’

Arcati 2017 Mainframe Survey—Cognitive a No-Show

February 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

IBM Cheers Beating Estimates But Losing Streak Continues

January 26, 2017

It has been 19 quarters since IBM reported positive revenue in its quarterly reports but the noises coming out of IBM with the latest 4Q16 and full year 2016 financials are upbeat due to the company beating analyst consensus revenue estimates and its strategic initiatives are starting to generate serious revenue.   Although systems revenues were down again (12%) the accountants at least had something positive to say about the z: “gross profit margins improved driven by z Systems performance.”

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EZSource: Dashboard visualizes changes to mainframe code

IBM doesn’t detail which z models were contributing but you can guess they would be the LinuxONE models (Emperor and Rock Hopper) and the z13. DancingDinosaur expects z performance to improve significantly in 2017 when a new z, which had been heavily hinted in the 3Q2016 results reported here, is expected to ship.

With it latest financials IBM is outright crowing about its strategic initiatives: Fourth-quarter cloud revenues increased 33 percent.  The annual exit run rate for cloud as-a-service revenue increased to $8.6 billion from $5.3 billion at year-end 2015.  Revenues from analytics increased 9 percent.  Revenues from mobile increased 16 percent and revenues from security increased 7 percent.

For the full year, revenues from strategic imperatives increased 13 percent.  Cloud revenues increased 35 percent to $13.7 billion.  The annual exit run rate for cloud as-a-service revenue increased 61 percent year to year.  Revenues from analytics increased 9 percent.  Revenues from mobile increased 34 percent and from security increased 13 percent.

Of course, cognitive computing is IBM’s strategic imperative darling for the moment, followed by blockchain. Cognitive, for which IBM appears to use an expansive definition, is primarily a cloud play as far as IBM is concerned.  There is, however, a specific role for the z, which DancingDinosaur will get into in a later post. Blockchain, on the other hand, should be a natural z play.  It is, essentially, extremely secure OLTP on steroids.  As blockchain scales up it is a natural to drive z workloads.

As far as IBM’s financials go the strategic imperatives indeed are doing well. Other business units, however, continue to struggle.  For instance:

  • Global Business Services (includes consulting, global process services and application management) — revenues of $4.1 billion, down 4.1 percent.
  • Systems (includes systems hardware and operating systems software), remember, this is where z and Power platforms reside — revenues of $2.5 billion, down 12.5 percent. But as noted above, gross profit margins improved, driven by z Systems performance.
  • Global Financing (includes financing and used equipment sales) — revenues of $447 million, down 1.5 percent.

A couple of decades ago, when this blogger first started covering IBM and the mainframe as a freelancer writing for any technology publication that would pay real money IBM was struggling (if $100 billion behemoths can be thought to be struggling). The buzz among the financial analysts who followed the company was that IBM should be broken up into its parts and sold off.  IBM didn’t take that advice, at least not exactly, but it did begin a rebound that included laying off tons of people and the sale of some assets. Since then it invested heavily in things like Linux on z and open systems.

In December IBM SVP Tom Rosamilia talked about new investments in z/OS and z software like DB2 and CICS and IMS, and the best your blogger can tell he is still there. (Rumors suggest Rosamilia is angling for Rometty’s job in two years.)  If the new z does actually arrive in 2017 and key z software is refreshed then z shops can rest easy, at least for another few quarters.  But whatever happens, you can follow it here.

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.

 

z System-Power-Storage Still Live at IBM

January 5, 2017

A mid-December briefing by Tom Rosamilia, SVP, IBM Systems, reassured some that IBM wasn’t putting its systems and platforms on the backburner after racking up financial quarterly losses for years. Expect new IBM systems in 2017. A few days later IBM announced that Japan-based APLUS Co., Ltd., which operates credit card and settlement service businesses, selected IBM LinuxONE as its mission-critical system for credit card payment processing. Hooray!

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LinuxONE’s security and industry-leading performance will ensure APLUS achieves its operational objectives as online commerce heats up and companies rely on cloud applications to draw and retain customers. Especially in Japan, where online and mobile shopping has become increasingly popular, the use of credit cards has grown, with more than 66 percent of consumers choosing that method for conducting online transactions. And with 80 percent enterprise hybrid cloud adoption predicted by 2017, APLUS is well positioned to connect cloud transactions leveraging LinuxONE. Throw in IBM’s expansion of blockchain capabilities and the APLUS move looks even smarter.

With the growth of international visitors spending money, IBM notes, and the emergence of FinTech firms in Japan have led to a diversification of payment methods the local financial industry struggles to respond. APLUS, which issues well-known credit cards such as T Card Plus, plans to offer leading-edge financial services by merging groups to achieve lean operations and improved productivity and efficiency. Choosing to update its credit card payment system with LinuxONE infrastructure, APLUS will benefit from an advanced IT environment to support its business growth by helping provide near-constant uptime. In addition to updating its server architecture, APLUS has deployed IBM storage to manage mission-critical data, the IBM DS8880 mainframe-attached storage that delivers integration with IBM z Systems and LinuxONE environments.

LinuxONE, however, was one part of the IBM Systems story Rosamilia set out to tell.  There also is the z13s, for encrypted hybrid clouds and the z/OS platform for Apache Spark data analytics and even more secure cloud services via blockchain on LinuxONE, by way of Bluemix or on premises.

z/OS will get attention in 2017 too. “z/OS is the best damn OLTP system in the world,” declared Rosamilia. He went on to imply that enhancements and upgrades to key z systems were coming in 2017, especially CICS, IMS, and a new release of DB2. Watch for new announcements coming soon as IBM tries to push z platform performance and capacity for z/OS and OLTP.

Rosamilia also talked up the POWER story. Specifically, Google and Rackspace have been developing OpenPOWER systems for the Open Compute Project.  New POWER LC servers running POWER8 and the NVIDIA NVLink accelerator, more innovations through the OpenCAPI Consortium, and the team of IBM and Nvidia to deliver PowerAI, part of IBM’s cognitive efforts.

As much as Rosamilia may have wanted to talk about platforms and systems IBM continues to avoid using terms like systems and platforms. So Rosamilia’s real intent was to discuss z and Power in conjunction with IBM’s strategic initiatives.  Remember these: cloud, big data, mobile, analytics. Lately, it seems, those initiatives have been culled down to cloud, hybrid cloud, and cognitive systems.

IBM’s current message is that IT innovation no longer comes from just the processor. Instead, it comes through scaling performance by workload and sustaining leadership through ecosystem partnerships.  We’ve already seen some of the fruits of that innovation through the Power community. Would be nice to see some of that coming to the z too, maybe through the open mainframe project. But that isn’t about z/0S. Any boost in CICS, DB2, and IMS will have to come from the core z team. The open mainframe project is about Linux on z.

The first glimpse we had of this came last spring in a system dubbed Minsky, which was described back then by commentator Timothy Prickett Morgan. With the Minsky machine, IBM is using NVLink ports on the updated Power8 CPU, which was shown in April at the OpenPower Summit and is making its debut in systems actually manufactured by ODM Wistron and rebadged, sold, and supported by IBM. The NVLink ports are bundled up in a quad to deliver 80 GB/sec bandwidth between a pair of GPUs and between each GPU and the updated Power8 CPU.

The IBM version, Morgan describes, aims to create a very brawny node with very tight coupling of GPUs and CPUs so they can better share memory, have fewer overall GPUs, and more bandwidth between the compute elements. IBM is aiming Minsky at HPC workloads, according to Morgan, but there is no reason it cannot be used for deep learning or even accelerated databases.

Is this where today’s z data center managers want to go?  No one is likely to spurn more performance, especially if it is accompanied with a price/performance improvement.  Whether rank-and-file z data centers are queueing up for AI or cognitive workloads will have to be seen. The sheer volume and scale of expected activity, however, will require some form of automated intelligent assist.

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

Compuware Acquires Standardware COPE IMS to Speed DevOps and Save Money

December 16, 2016

Compuware, in early December, acquired the assets of Standardware, the leading provider of IMS virtualization technology.  Standardware’s COPE reduces the considerable time, cost and technical difficulty associated with the development and testing of IMS systems, enabling z-based data centers to significantly increase their digital business agility while also enabling less mainframe-experienced staff to perform IMS-related DevOps tasks. In addition, it allows IMS to run as a virtualized image, saving significantly on software charges.

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Standardware’s COPE IMS, courtesy of Compuware

All three Compuware acquisitions this year—Standardware, ISPW, Itegrations—aimed to facilitate mainframe code management or app dev. The company’s acquisition of ISPW brought source code management and release automation. Itegrations eased the migration to ISPW from CA Endevor. Now Standardware brings IMS virtualization technology.

IMS continues as a foundational database and transaction management technology for systems of record at large global mainframe enterprises, especially in industries such as banking, insurance, airlines and such. Its stability, dependability, and high efficiency at scale make it particularly valuable as a back-end resource for high-traffic, customer-facing apps. IBM’s mainframe Information Management System (IMS) provides a hierarchical database and information management system with extensive transaction processing capabilities. It offers a completely different database model from the common relational model behind IBM’s DB2.

IBM touts IMS as the most secure, highest performing, and lowest cost hierarchical database management software for online transaction processing (OLTP). IMS is used by many of the top Fortune 1000 companies worldwide. Collectively these companies process more than 50 billion transactions per day through IMS, and they do so securely.

As Compuware puts it, IMS remains a deeply foundational database and transaction management technology for systems of record at large global enterprises, especially in the core mainframe segments like financial services or transportation. Its stability, dependability and high efficiency ensure it can continue to play an important role as a back-end resource for high-traffic customer-facing apps. All that’s needed is to reduce the effort required to use it.

Conventional approaches to the development and testing of IMS systems, however, can be excessively slow, technically challenging, and expensive. This is too high a technical price to pay in today’s agile, fast iteration app dev environment.  For example,  the set-up of IMS application development environments require configuring dedicated IMS regions and databases, which is especially time-consuming; additional resources must be defined and compiled for each instance, and at every stage of development expect testing, training, and systems integration. Worse yet, these tasks typically require experienced DBAs and system programmers with IMS-specific skills, making it an increasingly problematic and costly constraint given the generational shift underway in IT, which makes those skills increasingly rare.

As a result of these bottlenecks and resource constraints, large enterprises can find themselves far less nimble than their smaller competitors and unable to fully leverage their current IMS assets in response to digital requirements.  That leaves the mainframe shop at a distinct disadvantage.

Since COPE comes well integrated with Compuware Xpediter, an automated mainframe debugging tool, many such problems go away. Xpediter, which is interactive,  can be used within the Standardware virtualized environment and COPE. When a problem occurs, developers can quickly set up an interactive test session with minimal effort and resolve the problem. When they’re done, they can confidently move the application into production. And now that Xpediter is integrated with COPE IMS virtualization lets multiple developers debug application code in the same or different logical IMS systems within the virtualized COPE IMS environment.

And therein lies the savings for mainframe shops. As Tyler Allman, Compuware’s COPE product manager explains, COPE converts IMS to run in a virtual environment. It takes a COPE expert to set it up initially, but once set up, it can run as a logical IMS system with almost no ongoing maintenance, which results in administrative savings.

On the software side, IMS is licensed as part of the usual rolling average 4hr workload software billing. Once the environment has been virtualized with COPE, you can run multiple IMS logical regions at no additional cost. The savings experienced by mainframe data centers , Allman suggests, can amount to tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. These saving alone can justify COPE.

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 Discounts z/OS Cloud Activity

August 12, 2016

The latest iteration of IBM’s z/OS workload pricing aims at to lower the cost of running cloud workloads.  In a recent announcement, z Systems Workload Pricing for Cloud (zWPC) for z/OS seeks to minimize the impact of new public cloud workload transaction growth on Sub-Capacity license charges. IBM did the same thing with mobile workloads when they started driving up the 4-hour workload averages on the z. As more z workloads interact with public clouds this should start to add up, if it hasn’t already.

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Bluemix Garages in the Cloud

As IBM puts it: zWPC applies to any organization that has implemented Sub-Capacity pricing via the basic AWLC or AEWLC pricing mechanisms for the usual MLC software suspects. These include z/OS, CICS, DB2, IMS, MQ and WebSphere Application Server (WAS).  An eligible transaction is one classified as Public Cloud-originated, connecting to a z/OS hosted transactional service and/or data source via a REST or SOAP web service.  Public cloud workloads are defined as transactions processed by named Public cloud application transactions identified as originating from a recognized Public Cloud offering, including but not limited to, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and more.

IBM appears to have simplified how you identify eligible workloads. As the company notes: zWPC does not require you to isolate the public cloud work in separate partitions, but rather offers an enhanced way of reporting. The z/OS Workload Manager (WLM) allows clients to use WLM classification rules to distinguish cloud workloads, effectively easing the data collection requirements for public cloud workload transactions.

So how much will you save? It reportedly reduces eligible hourly values by 60 percent. The discount produces an adjusted Sub-Capacity value for each reporting hour. What that translates into on your monthly IBM software invoice once all the calculations and fine print are considered amounts to a guess at this point. But at least you’ll save something. The first billing eligible under this program starts Dec. 1, 2016.

DancingDinosaur expects IBM to eventually follow with discounted z/OS workload pricing for IoT and blockchain transactions and maybe even cognitive activity. Right now the volume of IoT and blockchain activity is probably too low to impact anybody’s monthly license charges. Expect those technologies ramp up in coming years with many industry pundits projecting huge numbers—think billions and trillions—that will eventually impact the mainframe data center and associated software licensing charges.

Overall, Workload License Charges (WLC) constitute a monthly software license pricing metric applicable to IBM System z servers running z/OS or z/TPF in z/Architecture (64-bit) mode.  The driving principle of WLS amounts to pay-for-what-you-use, a laudable concept. In effect it lowers the cost of incremental growth while further reducing software costs by proactively managing associated peak workload utilization.

Generally, DancingDinosaur applauds anything IBM does to lower the cost of mainframe computing.  Playing with workload software pricing in this fashion, however, seems unnecessary. Am convinced there must be simpler ways to lower software costs without the rigmarole of metering and workload distribution tricks. In fact, a small mini-industry has cropped up among companies offering tools to reduce costs, primarily through various ways to redistribute workloads to avoid peaks.

A modification to WLC, the variable WLC (VWLC) called AWLC (Advanced) and the EWLC (Entry), aligns with most of the z machines introduced over the past couple of years.  The result, according to IBM, forms a granular cost structure based on MSU (CPU) capacity that applies to VWLC and associated pricing mechanisms.

From there you can further tweak the cost by deploying Sub-Capacity and Soft Capping techniques.  Defined Capacity (DC), according to IBM, allows the sizing of an LPAR in MSU such that the LPAR will not exceed the designated MSU amount.  Group Capacity Limit (GCL) extends the Defined Capacity principle for a single LPAR to a group of LPARs, allowing MSU resources to be shared accordingly.  BTW, a potential downside of GCL is that is one LPAR in the group can consume all available MSUs due to a rogue transaction. Again, an entire mini industry, or maybe no so mini, has emerged to help handle workload and capacity pricing on the z.

At some point in most of the conference pricing sessions the eyes of many attendees glaze over.  By Q&A time the few remaining pop up holding a copy of a recent invoice and ask what the hell this or that means and what the f$#%@#$ they can do about it.

Have to admit that DancingDinosaur did not attend the most recent SHARE conference, where pricing workshops can get quite energetic, so cannot attest to the latest fallout. Still, the general trend with mobile and now with cloud pricing discounts should be lower costs.

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.

 

Latest New Mainframe puts Apache Spark Native on the z System

April 1, 2016

IBM keeps rolling out new versions of the z System.  The latest is the z/OS Platform for Apache Spark announced earlier this week. The new machine is optimized for marketers, data analysts, and developers eager to apply advanced analytics to the z’s rich, resident data sets for real-time insights.

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z/OS Platform for Apache Spark

Data is everything in the new economy; and the most and best data you can grab and the fastest you can analyze it, the more likely you will win. The z, already the center of a large, expansive data environment, is well positioned to drive winning data-fueled strategies.

IBM z/OS Platform for Apache Spark enables Spark, an open-source analytics framework, to run natively on z/OS. According to IBM, the new system is available now. Its key advantage:  to enable data scientists to analyze data in place on the system of origin. This eliminates the need to perform extract, transform and load (ETL), a cumbersome, slow, and costly process. Instead, with Spark the z breaks the bind between the analytics library and underlying file system.

Apache Spark provides an open-source cluster computing framework with in-memory processing to speed analytic applications up to 100 times faster compared to other technologies on the market today, according to IBM. Apache Spark can help reduce data interaction complexity, increase processing speed, and enhance mission-critical applications by enabling analytics that deliver deep intelligence. Considered highly versatile in many environments, Apache Spark is most regarded for its ease of use in creating algorithms that extract insight from complex data.

IBM’s goal lies not in eliminating the overhead of ETL but in fueling interest in cognitive computing. With cognitive computing, data becomes a fresh natural resource—an almost infinite and forever renewable asset—that can be used by computer systems to understand, reason and learn. To succeed in this cognitive era businesses must be able to develop and capitalize on insights before the insights are no longer relevant. That’s where the z comes in.

With this offering, according to IBM, accelerators from z Systems business partners can help organizations more easily take advantage of z Systems data and capabilities to understand market changes alongside individual client needs. With this kind of insight managers should be able to make the necessary business adjustments in real-time, which will speed time to value and advance cognitive business transformations among IBM customers.

At this point IBM has identified 3 business partners:

  1. Rocket Software, long a mainframe ISV, is bringing its new Rocket Launchpad solution, which allows z shops to try the platform using data on z/OS.
  1. DataFactZ is a new partner working with IBM to develop Spark analytics based on Spark SQL and MLlib for data and transactions processed on the mainframe.
  1. Zementis brings its in-transaction predictive analytics offering for z/OS with a standards-based execution engine for Apache Spark. The product promises to allow users to deploy and execute advanced predictive models that can help them anticipate end users’ needs, compute risk, or detect fraud in real-time at the point of greatest impact, while processing a transaction.

This last point—detecting problems in real time at the point of greatest impact—is really the whole reason for Spark on z/OS.  You have to leverage your insight before the prospect makes the buying decision or the criminal gets away with a fraudulent transaction. After that your chances are slim to none of getting a prospect to reverse the decision or to recover stolen goods. Having the data and logic processing online and in-memory on the z gives you the best chance of getting the right answer fast while you can still do something.

As IBM also notes, the z/OS Platform for Apache Spark includes Spark open source capabilities consisting of the Apache Spark core, Spark SQL, Spark Streaming, Machine Learning Library (MLlib) and Graphx, combined with the industry’s only mainframe-resident Spark data abstraction solution. The new platform helps enterprises derive insights more efficiently and securely. In the processing the platform can streamline development to speed time to insights and decision and simplify data access through familiar data access formats and Apache Spark APIs.

Best of all, however, is the in-memory capabilities as noted above. Apache Spark uses an in-memory approach for processing data to deliver results quickly. The platform includes data abstraction and integration services that enable z/OS analytics applications to leverage standard Spark APIs.  It also allows analysts to collect unstructured data and use their preferred formats and tools to sift through data.

At the same time developers and analysts can take advantage of the familiar tools and programming languages, including Scala, Python, R, and SQL to reduce time to value for actionable insights. Of course all the familiar z/OS data formats are available too: IMS, VSAM, DB2 z/OS, PDSE or SMF along with whatever you get through the Apache Spark APIs.

This year we already have seen the z13s and now the z/OS Platform for Apache Spark. Add to that the z System LinuxOne last year. z-Based data centers suddenly have a handful of radically different new mainframes to consider.  Can Watson, a POWER-based system, be far behind? Your guess is as good as anyone’s.

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

IBM Edge Rocks 6000 Strong for Digital Transformation

May 15, 2015

Unless you’ve been doing the Rip Van Winkle thing, you have to have noticed that a profound digital transformation is underway fueled, in this case,from the bottom. “This is being driven by people embracing technology,” noted Tom Rosamilia, Senior Vice President, IBM System. And it will only get greater with quantum computing, a peak into it provided at Edge2015 by Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director, IBM Research.

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(Quantum computing, courtesy of IBM, click to enlarge)

Need proof? Just look around. New cars are now hot spots, and it’s not just luxury cars. Retailers are adding GPS inside their store and are using it to follow and understand the movement of shoppers in real time. Eighty-two percent of millennials do their banking from their mobile phone.  As Rosamilia noted, it amounts to “an unprecedented digital disruption” in the way people go about their lives. Dealing with this digital transformation and the challenges and opportunities it presents was what IBM Edge 2015 was about. With luck you can check out much from Edge2015 at the media center here.

The first day began with a flurry of product announcements starting with a combined package of new servers and storage software and solutions aimed to accelerate the development of hybrid cloud computing.  Hybrid cloud computing was big at Edge2015. To further stimulate hybrid computing IBM introduced new flexible software licensing of its middleware to help companies speed their adoption of hybrid cloud environments.

Joining in the announcement was Rocket Software, which sponsored the entertainment, including the outstanding Grace Potter concert. As for Rocket’s actual business, the company announced Rocket Data Access Service on Bluemix for z Systems, intended to provide companies a simplified connection to data on the IBM z Systems mainframe for development of mobile applications through Bluemix. Starting in June, companies can access a free trial of the service, which works with a range of database storage systems, including VSAM, ADABASE, IMS, CICS, and DB2, and enables access through common mobile application interfaces, including MongoDB, JDBC, and the REST protocol.  Now z shops have no excuse not to connect their systems with mobile and social business.

Storage also grabbed the spotlight. IBM introduced new storage systems, including the IBM Power System E850, a four-socket system with flexible capacity and up to 70% guaranteed utilization. The E850 targets cloud service providers and medium or large enterprises looking to securely and efficiently deploy multi-tenancy workloads while speeding access to data through larger in-memory databases with up to 4TB of installed memory.

The IBM Power System E880, designed to scale to 192 cores, is suitable for IBM DB2 with BLU Acceleration, enhancing the efficiency of cloud deployments; and the PurePOWER System, a converged infrastructure for cloud. It is intended to help deliver insights via the cloud, and is managed with OpenStack.

The company also will be shipping IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights, a new software-defined storage offering that provides data management as a hybrid cloud service to optimize on-premises storage infrastructures. Storage Insights is designed to simplify storage management by improving storage visibility while applying analytics to ease capacity planning, enhance performance monitoring, and improve storage utilization. It does this by reclaiming under-utilized storage. Thank you analytics.

Finally for storage, the company announced IBM XIV GEN 3, designed for cloud with real-time compression that enables scaling as demand for data storage capacity expands. You can get more details on all the announcements at Edge 2015 here.

Already announced is IBM Edge 2016, again at the Venetian in Las Vegas in October 2016. That gives IBM 18 months to pack it with even more advances. Doubt there will be a new z by then; a new business class version of the z13 is more likely.

DancingDinosaur will take up specific topics from Edge2015 in the coming week. These will include social business on z, real-time analytics on z, and Jon Toigo sorting through the hype on SDS.

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

BMC and Compuware to Drive Down Mainframe Costs

February 20, 2015

This year jumped off to an active start for the mainframe community. The introduction of the z13 in January got things going. Now Compuware and BMC are partnering to integrate offerings of some their mainframe tools to deliver cost-aware workload and performance management. The combined tools promise to reduce mainframe OPEX even as z systems shops try to leverage their high-value mainframe applications, data, and processing capacity to meet rapidly evolving business challenges.

 compuware bmc logos hi res

Not that things had been quiet before, especially if you consider IBM scrambling to reverse successive quarters on poor financial performance with a slew of initiatives. During that time Compuware went private last fall; about a year earlier BMC went private. Now you have two companies collaborating to deliver tools that will help mainframe shops reduce their software costs. DancingDinosaur has covered previous cost-saving and efficiency initiatives from each of these companies here and here.

Driving this collaboration is the incessant growth of new mainframe workloads, which will likely accelerate with the new z13. Such workload growth is continually driving up the Monthly License Charge (MLC) for IBM mainframe software, which for sub-capacity environments are generally impacted by the highest rolling four-hour average (R4HA) of mainframe utilization for all applications on each LPAR, as measured in MSUs. IBM is helping with discounts for mobile workloads and its new ICAP and country multi-plex pricing, which DancingDinosaur covered here, but more is needed.

The trick requires continually managing those workloads. In effect, IT can most effectively reduce its sizable IBM z Systems software costs by both 1) tuning each application to minimize its individual consumption of mainframe resources and 2) orchestrating application workloads to minimize the LPAR utilization peaks they generate collectively at any given time.  Good idea but not easy to implement in practice. You need automated tools.

According to Frank DeSalvo, former research director at Gartner: “The partnership between BMC and Compuware launches an integrated opportunity for mainframe customers to manage workload inefficiencies in a manner that has not been achievable to-date.”   This partnership, however, “helps organizations leverage their IT budgets by enabling them to continuously optimize their mainframe workloads, resulting in cost effective decisions for both current and future spending.,” as DeSalvo was quoted in the initial announcement.

Specifically, the Compuware-BMC collaboration brings together three products: BMC Cost Analyzer, BMC MainView, and Compuware Strobe.

  • BMC Cost Analyzer for zEnterprise brings a financially intelligent workload management tool that enables z data centers to identify MLC cost drivers and take appropriate measures to reduce those costs.
  • BMC MainView provides real-time identification of application performance issues, enabling customers to quickly eliminate wasteful MSU consumption.
  • Compuware Strobe delivers deep, granular and highly actionable insight into the behavior of application code in the z systems environment.

The partners integrated the products so they actually work together. One integration, for instance, allows BMC Cost Analyzer to call Compuware Strobe for a detailed analysis of the specific application component for peak MLC periods, enabling customers to proactively tune applications that have the greatest impact on their monthly software licensing costs. A second integration with BMC MainView allows customers to either automatically or manually invoke Strobe performance analysis—empowering mainframe staffs to more quickly, efficiently, and consistently when performing cost-saving tuning tasks.

compuware bmc screen shot Courtesy of Compuware, click to enlarge

BTW, at the same time Compuware introduced the latest version of Strobe, v 5.2. It promises deep insight into how application code—including DB2, COBOL 5.1, IMS and MQ processes—consume resources in z environments. By providing these insights while making it easy for multi-discipline mainframe ops teams to collaborate around these insights Strobe 5.2 enables IT to further drive down mainframe costs. At the same time it improves application responsiveness.

Besides the software licensing savings that can result the organization also benefits from performance gains for these applications. These too can be valuable since they positively impact end-user productivity and, more importantly, customer experience.

DancingDinosaur feels that any technology you can use to automate and streamline your systems operations will benefit you because people are always more expensive and less efficient than technology.

Alan Radding is DancingDinosaur. Follow this blog on Twitter, @mainframeblog. View my other IT writing at Technologywriter.com and here.

Rocket z/SQL Accesses Non-SQL Mainframe Data

August 2, 2013

Rocket Software’s z/SQL enables access to non-SQL mainframe data using standard SQL commands and queries.  The company is offering a z/SQL free trial; you can install it no charge and get full access for as many users as you want. The only caveat, the free version is limited to three files. You can download the free trial here.

z/SQL will run SQL queries against any data source that speaks ANSI 92. “The tool won’t even know it is running relational data,” explained Gregg Willhoit, managing director of the Rocket Data Lab. That means you can run it against VSAM, IMS, Adabas, DB2 for z/OS, and physical sequential files.  In addition, you can use z/SQL to make real-time SQL queries directly to mainframe programs, including CICS TS, IMS TM, CA IDMS, and Natural.

By diverting up to 99% of processing-intensive data mapping and transformation from the mainframe’s CPU to the zIIP, z/SQL lowers MIPS capacity usage and its associated costs, effectively reducing TCO. And, it opens up the zIIP to extend programs and systems of record data to the full range of environments noted above.

z/SQL’s ability to automatically detect the presence of the z’s zIIP assist processor allows it to apply its patent pending technology to further boost the zIIP’s performance advantages.  The key attributes of the zIIP processor—low  cost,  speeds often greater than the speed of the mainframe engines (sub-capacity mainframe license), and its typical low utilization—are fully exploited by z/SQL for lowering a mainframe shop’s  TCO while providing for an accelerated ROI.

Rocket z/SQL is built on Metal C, a z/OS compiler option that provides C-language extensions allowing you to specify assembly statements that call system services directly. The DRDA support and the ANSI 92 SQL engine have been developed using what amounts to a new language that allows even more of z/SQL’s work to continue to run on the zIIP.  One of the key features in Metal C is allowing z/SQL to optimize its code paths for the hardware that it’s running on.  So, no matter if you’re running on older z9 or z10 or the latest zEC12 and zBC12 processors, z/SQL chooses the code path most optimized for your hardware.

With z/SQL you can expand your System z analytics effort and push a wider range of mainframe data analytics to near real time.  Plus, the usual ETL and all of its associated disadvantages are no longer a factor.  As such z/SQL promises to be a disruptive technology that eliminates the need for ETL while pushing the analytics to where the data resides as opposed to ETL, which must bring the data to the analytics.  The latter, noted Willhoit, is fraught with performance and data currency issues.

It’s not that you couldn’t access non-SQL data before z/SQL, but it was more cumbersome and slower.  You would have to replicate data, often via FTP to something like Excel. Rocket, instead, relies on assembler to generate an optimized SQL engine for the z9, z10, z196, zEC12, and now the zBC12.  With z/SQL the process is remarkably simple: no replication, no rewriting of code, just recompile. It generates the optimized assembler (so no assembler work required on your part).

Query performance, reportedly, is quite good.  This is due, in part, because it is written in assembler, but also because it takes advantage of the z’s multi-threading. It reads the non-relational data source with one thread and uses a second thread to process the network I/O.  This parallel I/O architecture for data promises game changing performance, especially for big data, through significant parallelism of network and database I/O.  It also takes full advantage of the System z hardware by using buffer pools and large frames, essentially eliminating dynamic address translation.

z/SQL brings its own diagnostic capabilities, providing a real-time view into transaction threads with comprehensive trace/browse capabilities for diagnostics.  It enables a single, integrated approach to identifying, diagnosing and correcting data connectivity issues between distributed ODBC, ADO.NET, and JDBC client drivers and mainframes. Similarly z/SQL provides dynamic load balancing and a virtual connection facility that reduces the possibility of application failures, improves application availability and performance, as well as supports virtually unlimited concurrent users and transaction rates, according to the company. Finally, it integrates with mainframe RACF, CA-TopSecret, and CA-ACF2 as well as SSL and client-side, certificate-based authentication on distributed platforms. z/SQL fully participates in the choreography of SSL between the application platform and the mainframe.

By accessing mainframe programs and data stored in an array of relational and non-relational formats z/SQL lets you leave mainframe data in place, on the z where it belongs, and avoids the cost and risk of replication or migration. z/SQL becomes another way to turn the z into an enterprise analytics server for both SQL and non-SQL data.

Rocket calls z/SQL the world’s most advanced mainframe access and integration software. A pretty bold statement that begs to be proven through data center experience. Test it in your data center for free.  As noted above, you can download the free trial here. If you do, please let me know how it works out. (Promise it won’t be publicized here.)

Next Generation zEnterprise Developers

April 19, 2013

Mainframe development keeps getting more complicated.  The latest complication can be seen in Doug Balog’s reference to mobile and social business on the zEnterprise, reported by DancingDinosaur here a few weeks ago. That is what the next generation of z developers face.

Forget talk about shortages of System z talent due to the retirement of mainframe veterans.  The bigger complication comes from need for non-traditional mainframe development skills required to take advantage mobile and social business as well as other recent areas of interest such as big data and analytics. These areas entail combining new skills like JSON, Atom, Rest, Hadoop, Java, SOA, Linux, hybrid computing along with traditional mainframe development skills like CICS and COBOL, z/VM, SQL, VSAM, and IMS. This combination is next to impossible to find in one individual. Even assembling a coherent team encompassing all those skills presents a serious challenge.

The mainframe industry has been scrambling to address this in various ways.  CA Technologies added GUI to its various tools and BMC has similarly modernized its various management and DB2 tools. IBM, of course, has been steadily bolstering the Rational RDz tool set.   RDz is a z/OS Eclipse-based software IDE.  RDz streamlines and refactors z/OS development processes into structured analysis, editing, and testing operations with modern GUI tools, wizards, and menus that, IBM notes, are perfect for new-to the-mainframe twenty- and thirty-something developers, the next generation of z developers.

Compuware brings its mainframe workbench, described as a modernized interactive developer environment that introduces a new graphical user interface for managing mainframe application development activities.  The interactive toolset addresses every phase of the application lifecycle.

Most recently, Micro Focus announced the release of its new Enterprise Developer for IBM zEnterprise.  The product enables customers to optimize all aspects of mainframe application delivery and promises to drive down costs, increase productivity, and accelerate innovation. Specifically, it enables both on- and off-mainframe development, the latter without consuming mainframe resources, to provide a flexible approach to the delivery of new business functions. In addition, it allows full and flexible customization of the IDE to support unique development processes and provides deep integration into mainframe configuration management and tooling for a more comprehensive development environment. It also boasts of improved application quality with measurable improvement in delivery times.  These capabilities together promise faster developer adoption.

Said Greg Lotko, Vice President and Business Line Executive, IBM System z, about the new Micro Focus offering:  We are continually working with our technology partners to help our clients maximize the value in their IBM mainframes, and this latest innovation from Micro Focus is a great example of that commitment.

Behind all of this development innovation is an industry effort to cultivate the next generation of mainframe developers. Using a combination of trusted technology (COBOL and mainframe) and new innovation (zEnterprise, hybrid computing, expert systems, and Eclipse), these new developers; having been raised on GUI and mobile and social, can leverage what they learned growing up to build the multi-platform, multi-device mainframe applications that organizations will need going forward.

As these people come on board as mainframe-enabled developers organizations will have more confidence in continuing to invest in their mainframe software assets, which currently amount to an estimated 200-300 billion lines of source code and may even be growing as mainframes are added in developing markets, considered a growth market by IBM.  It only makes sense to leverage this proven code base than try to replace it.

This was confirmed in a CA Technologies survey of mainframe users a year ago, which found that 1) the mainframe is playing an increasingly strategic role in managing the evolving needs of the enterprise; 2) the machine is viewed as an enabler of innovation as big data and cloud computing transform the face of enterprise IT—now add mobile; and 3) companies are seeking candidates with cross-disciplinary skill sets to fill critical mainframe workforce needs in the new enterprise IT thinking.

Similarly, a recent study by the Standish Group showed that 70 percent of CIOs saw their organizations’ mainframes as having a central and strategic role in their overall business success.  Using the new tools noted above organizations can maximize the value of the mainframe asset and cultivate the next generation mainframe developers.


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