Posts Tagged ‘IoT’

IBM Resurrects Moore’s Law

June 23, 2017

Guess Moore’s Law ain’t as dead as we were led to believe. On Jun 5 IBM and Research Alliance partners GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Samsung, along with equipment suppliers announced the development of an industry-first process to build silicon nano sheet transistors that will enable 5nm chips. Previously, IBM announced a 7nm process using a silicon germanium (SiGe) alloy.

As DancingDinosaur wrote in early Oct. 2015, the last z System that conformed to the expectations of Moore’s Law was the zEC12, introduced Aug 2012. IBM could boast then it had the fastest commercial processor available.  The subsequent z13 didn’t match it in processor speed.  The z13 chip runs a 22 nm core at 5 GHz, one-half a GHz slower than the zEC12, which ran its 32nm core at 5.5 GHz. IBM compensated for the slower chip speed by adding more processors throughout the system to boost I/O and other functions and optimizing the box every way possible.

5nm silicon nano-sheet transistors delivers 40% performance gain

By 2015, the z13 delivered about a 10 percent performance bump per core thanks to the latest tweaks in the core design, such as better branch prediction and better pipelining. But even at one-half Ghz slower, the z13 was the first system to process 2.5 billion transactions a day.  Even more importantly for enterprise data centers, z13 transactions are persistent, protected, and auditable from end-to-end, adding assurance as mobile transactions grow to an estimated 40 trillion mobile transactions per day by 2025. The z13 also received and continues to receive praise for its industry leading security ratings as well as its scalability and flexibility.

Just recently Hitachi announced a partnership with IBM to develop a version of the z13 to run its own operating system, VOS3. The resulting z13 will run the next generation of Hitachi’s AP series.

But IBM isn’t back in pursuit of Moore’s Law just to deliver faster traditional mainframe workloads. Rather, the company is being driven by its strategic initiatives, mainly cognitive computing. As IBM explained in the announcement: The resulting increase in performance will help accelerate cognitive computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other data-intensive applications delivered in the cloud. The power savings could also mean that the batteries in smartphones and other mobile products could last two to three times longer than today’s devices, before needing to be charged.

Scientists working as part of the IBM-led Research Alliance at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s NanoTech Complex in Albany, NY achieved the breakthrough by using stacks of silicon nanosheets as the device structure of the transistor instead of the standard FinFET architecture, which is the blueprint for the semiconductor industry up through 7nm node technology. “For business and society to meet the demands of cognitive and cloud computing in the coming years, advancement in semiconductor technology is essential,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president, Hybrid Cloud, and director, IBM Research in the announcement. “That’s why IBM aggressively pursues new and different architectures and materials that push the limits of this industry, and brings them to market in technologies like mainframes and our cognitive systems.”

Compared to the leading edge 10nm technology available in the market, according to IBM, a nanosheet-based 5nm technology can deliver 40 percent performance enhancement at fixed power, or 75 percent power savings at matched performance. This improvement enables a significant boost to meeting the future demands of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, virtual reality, and mobile devices.

These may not sound like the workloads you are running on your mainframe now, but systems with these chips are not going to be shipped in the next mainframe either. So, you have a couple of years. The IBM team expects to make progress toward commercializing 7nm in 2018. By the time they start shipping 5nm systems you might be desperate for a machine to run such workloads and others like them.

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.

 

 

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.

 

IBM Taps PCM to Advance Neuron-based Cognitive Computing

August 19, 2016

Just a couple of months ago DancingDinosaur reported a significant IBM advance in phase change memory (PCM). Then earlier this month IBM announced success in creating randomly spiking neurons using phase-change materials to store and process data. According to IBM, this represents a significant step toward achieving energy-efficient, ultra-dense, integrated neuromorphic technologies for application in cognitive computing.

IBM Phase Change Neurons

Phase Change Neurons

This also represents big step toward a cognitive computer. According to IBM, scientists have theorized for decades that it should be possible to imitate the versatile computational capabilities of large populations of neurons as the human brain does. With PCM it appears to be happening sooner than the scientists expected. “We have been researching phase-change materials for memory applications for over a decade, and our progress in the past 24 months has been remarkable,” said IBM Fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou.

As the IBM researchers explain: Phase-change neurons consist of a chip with large arrays of phase-change devices that store the state of artificial neuronal populations in their atomic configuration. In the graphic above individual devices are accessed by means of an array of probes to allow for precise characterization, modeling and interrogation. The tiny squares are contact pads that are used to access the nanometer-scale, phase-change cells (not visible). The sharp probes touch the contact pads to change the phase configuration stored in the cells in response to the neuronal input. Each set of probes can access a population of 100 cells. The chip hosts only the phase-change devices that are the heart of the neurons. There are thousands to millions of these cells on one chip that can be accessed (in this particular graphic) by means of the sharp needles of the probe card.

Not coincidentally, this seems to be dovetailing with IBM’s sudden rush to cognitive computing overall, one of the company’s recent strategic initiatives that has lately moved to the forefront.  Just earlier this week IBM was updating industry analysts on the latest with Watson and IoT and, sure enough, cognitive computing plays a prominent role.

As IBM explains it, the artificial neurons designed by IBM scientists in Zurich consist of phase-change materials, including germanium antimony telluride, which exhibit two stable states, an amorphous one (without a clearly defined structure) and a crystalline one (with structure). These artificial neurons do not store digital information; they are analog, just like the synapses and neurons in our biological brain, which is what makes them so tempting for cognitive computing.

In the published demonstration, the team applied a series of electrical pulses to the artificial neurons, which resulted in the progressive crystallization of the phase-change material, ultimately causing the neurons to fire. In neuroscience, this function is known as the integrate-and-fire property of biological neurons. This forms the foundation for event-based computation and, in principle, is similar to how our brain triggers a response when we touch something hot.

Even a single neuron can exploit this integrate-and-fire property to detect patterns and discover correlations in real-time streams of event-based data. To that end, IBM scientists have organized hundreds of artificial neurons into populations and used them to represent fast and complex signals. Moreover, the artificial neurons have been shown to sustain billions of switching cycles, which would correspond to multiple years of operation at an update frequency of 100 Hz. The energy required for each neuron update was less than five picojoule and the average power less than 120 microwatts (for comparison, 60 million microwatts power a 60 watt lightbulb).

The examples the researchers have provided so far seem pretty conventional.  For example, IoT sensors can collect and analyze volumes of weather data collected at the network edge for faster forecasts. Artificial neurons could be used to detect patterns in financial transactions that identify discrepancies. Even data from social media can be used to discover new cultural trends in real time. To make this work, large populations of these high-speed, low-energy nano-scale neurons would most likely be used in neuromorphic coprocessors with co-located memory and processing units, effectively mixing neuron-based cognitive computing with conventional digital computing.

Makes one wonder if IBM might regret spending millions to dump its chip fabrication capabilities.  According to published reports Samsung is very interested in this chip technology and wants to put the new processing power to work fast. The processor, reportedly dubbed TrueNorth by IBM, uses 4,096 separate processing cores to form one standard chip. Each can operate independently and are designed for low power consumption. Samsung hopes  the chip can help with visual pattern recognition for use in autonomous cars, which might be just a few years away. So, how is IBM going to make any money from this with its chip fab gone and commercial cognitive computers still off in the future?

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 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.

bluemix garage -ni_5554516560

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.

 

IBM 2Q 2016 Report—Where’s z System and POWER?

July 22, 2016

“IBM continues to establish itself as the leading cognitive solutions and cloud platform company,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a statement accompanying the latest IBM 2Q financial report. The strategic imperatives grew; second-quarter revenues from its cloud, analytics, and engagement units— increased 12 percent year to year.

IBM Quantum Computing Lab - Friday, April 29, 2016, Yorktown Heights, NY (Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM Quantum Experience delivered via Cloud (Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

Where’s z and POWER? The z and POWER platforms continued to flounder: revenues of $2.0 billion, down 23.2 percent. Revenue reflects z Systems product cycle dynamics; gross profit margin improved in both z Systems and Power. “Product cycle dynamics” refers to the lack of a new z.  In the past year IBM introduced the new LinuxONE and, more recently a new z13s, essentially what used to be known as a Business Class mainframe.

There is no hint, however, of a new z, a z14 that will drive product dynamics upward. IBM showed a POWER roadmap going all the way out to the POWER10 in 2020 but nothing comparable for the z.

DancingDinosaur, a longtime big iron bigot, remains encouraged by IBM’s focus on its strategic initiatives and statements like this: “And we continue to invest for growth with recent breakthroughs in quantum computing, Internet of Things and blockchain solutions for the IBM Cloud.” IBM strategic initiatives in cloud, mobile, IoT, and blockchain will drive new use of the mainframe, especially as the projected volumes of things, transactions, users, and devices skyrocket.

Second-quarter revenues from the company’s strategic imperatives — cloud, analytics and engagement — increased 12 percent year to year.  Cloud revenues (public, private and hybrid) for the quarter increased 30 percent.  Cloud revenue over the trailing 12 months was $11.6 billion.  The annual run rate for cloud as-a-service revenue — a subset of total cloud revenue — increased to $6.7 billion from $4.5 billion in the second quarter of 2015.  Revenues from analytics increased 5 percent.  Revenues from mobile increased 43 percent and from security increased 18 percent.

IBM indirectly is trying to boost the z and the cloud. CSC and IBM  announced an alliance with IBM in which IBM will provide CSC Cloud Managed Services for z Systems. CSC already includes IBM SoftLayer as part of its “Service-enabled Enterprise” strategy. “Cloud for z” extends that offering and will be of interest to current and potential mainframe customers in healthcare, insurance, and finance. CSC still sees life in the managed mainframe market, and IBM Global Technology Services, a competitor to CSC, apparently is happy to let them sell managed cloud services for mainframes. All this is taking place as IBM scrambles to secure a leadership share of cloud revenue, and any cloud billing CSC brings will help.

Microsoft, like IBM, claimed big cloud momentum on its fourth quarter conference call, according to a report in Fortune Magazine. It was enough to send Microsoft share price up 4% at one point in after hours trading.

As Fortune notes, for Microsoft as for IBM and other legacy IT providers like Oracle, putting up big cloud numbers is mandatory as more companies change the way they buy IT products. Instead of purchasing hundreds or thousands of new servers or storage boxes every few years, more companies are running their software and storing their data on shared public cloud infrastructure, like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, the Google Compute Platform, or the IBM Cloud.

For reporting purposes, Microsoft combines Azure with other products in its intelligent cloud product segment. Overall, that segment’s revenue grew about 7% year over year to $6.7 billion from about $6.3 billion.

Oracle, too, is facing the same scramble to establish an enterprise cloud presence. Cloud software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) revenues were $690 million, up 66% in U.S. dollars. Total Cloud revenues, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), were $859 million, up 49% in U.S. dollars. At the same time, Oracle’s hardware revenue fell by 7% to $1.3 billion, and its software license revenue fell by 2% to $7.6 billion.

“We added more than 1,600 new SaaS customers and more than 2,000 new PaaS customers in Q4” (which ended in June), said Oracle CEO, Mark Hurd. “In Fusion ERP alone, we added more than 800 new cloud customers. Today, Oracle has nearly 2,600 Fusion ERP customers in the Oracle Public Cloud — that’s ten-times more cloud ERP customers than Workday.”

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is the last of the big public enterprise platform vendors, along with IBM and Oracle. (Dell is private and acquired EMC). HPE recently reported its best quarter in years. Second quarter net revenue of $12.7 billion, up 1% from the prior-year period. “Today’s results represent our best performance since I joined in 2011,” said Meg Whitman, president and chief executive officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The businesses comprising HPE grew revenue over the prior-year period on an as-reported basis for the first time in five years.

IBM needs to put up some positive numbers. Seventeen consecutive losing quarters is boring. Wouldn’t it be exciting if a turnaround started with a new enterprise z14?

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.

 

Compuware Continues Mainframe GUI Tool Enhancements

July 1, 2016

Early in 2015 Compuware announced the first in what it promised would be a continuing stream of new mainframe tools and tool enhancements. Did anyone really believe them? Mainframe ISVs are not widely regarded for their fast release cycles. DancingDinosaur reported on it then here and has continued to follow up and report its progress through a handful of new releases. This past week, DancingDinosaur received new Compuware mainframe tool announcements. For a mainframe ISV this is almost unheard of. IBM sometimes releases new mainframe products in intense spurts but then quickly resumes its typical languid release pace.

compuware ispw

Screen from Compuware’s ISPW for Continuous Delivery to the Mainframe

Let’s take a look at each of these new releases. First, ISPW Deploy, an advanced mainframe release automation solution that enables large enterprises to bring continuous delivery best practices to their IBM z/OS environments. ISPW Deploy, built on the ISPW technology Compuware acquired in January 2016, facilitates faster and more reliable mainframe software deployment. Specifically, it helps, according to Compuware, in three ways, through:

  1. Automation that rapidly moves code through the deployment process, including test staging and approvals, while also providing greatly simplified full or partial rollbacks.
  1. Visualization that enables DevOps managers to quickly pinpoint deployment issues in order to both solve immediate rollout problems and address persistent bottlenecks in code promotion.
  1. Integrations with both third-party solutions and Compuware’s own industry-leading mainframe toolkit that allow IT to build complete SCM-to-production DevOps pipelines and to quickly launch associated remediation support tools if and when deployment issues occur.

Compuware is further empowering enterprises to achieve mainframe agility by integrating. For instance, its ISPW and XebiaLabs’ cross-platform continuous delivery solutions enable IT organizations to orchestrate and visualize their mainframe DevOps processes in a common manner with their broader cross-platform DevOps automation.

The second announcement focused on Xebial Labs, as noted above. The idea here is to deliver cross-platform continuous releases for the mainframe. As Compuware explained, enterprises using XebiaLabs’ solution suite and Compuware ISPW, can now automate and monitor all phases of mainframe DevOps within the same continuous delivery management environment they use for their distributed, web, and cloud platforms. This automation and monitoring includes test/QA, pre-copy staging, and code promotion. The goal, as with all DevOps, is to speed digital agility for mainframe or distributed systems or both.

The third announcement concerned a partnership between Compuware and ConicIT that aims to help a new generation of IT ops staff proactively resolve emerging mainframe issues before they impact application service levels. It does so by integrating ConicIT’s predictive mainframe analytics with Compuware’s Strobe, which provides visually intuitive troubleshooting intelligence. Together, the two companies promise to enable even IT staff with relatively little hands-on mainframe experience to quickly identify and resolve a wide range of application performance problems.

The key to doing this is a reliance on the adoption of intuitive GUI interfaces. Compuware started this with its Topaz tools and has been continuing along this path for two years. Compuware’s CEO, Chris O’Malley, has been harping on these themes almost since he first arrived there.

Compuware customers apparently have gotten the message. As reported: “Market pressures are making it essential for us to deliver quality products and services to our clients more frequently, and the mainframe plays a critical role in that delivery,” according to Craig Danielson, Assistant Vice President for Commerce Bank. “We leverage ISPW to help in this capacity and its new capabilities will provide us the automation and visibility of our software deployment process to help us continuously improve our internal operations and services.” (note: DancingDinosaur did not validate this customer statement.)

Companies will need all the help modern mainframe tools can deliver. Mainframe data centers are facing unprecedented challenges that require unusual speed and agility. In short, they need DevOps fast. And they will have to respond with an increasingly aging core of experienced mainframe staff supplemented by millennials who have to be coaxed and cajoled onto the mainframe with easy graphical tools. If mainframe data centers can’t respond to these challenges—not just cloud, mobile, Linux, and analytics, but also IoT, blockchain, cognitive computing, and whatever else is coming along next—how are they going to cope. Already their users, the line of business managers, are turning to shadow IT out of frustration with the slow response from the mainframe data centers. And you know what comes next.

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.

 

Medical Mutual Gains Fast Access to z/OS Log Data via Splunk and Ironstream

June 3, 2016

Running Syncsort’s Ironstream and leveraging Splunk Enterprise, Medical Mutual of Ohio has now implemented mainframe security in real time through the Splunk® Enterprise platform. One goal is to help protect customer information stored in DB2 from unauthorized access. Syncsorts’s Ironstream, a utility, collects and forwards z/OS log data, including security data, to Splunk Enterprise and Splunk Enterprise Security.

zOS Security2 PNG

z/OS security data, courtesy of Syncsort

“We’ve always had visibility. Now we can get it faster, in real time directly from the mainframe,” said the insurer’s enterprise security supervisor. Previously, the company would do a conventional data transfer, which could take several hours. The new approach, sometimes referred to as a big iron-to-big data strategy, now delivers security log data in near real time. This enables the security team to correlate all the security data from across the enterprise to effectively and quickly gain visibility into user-authentication data and access attempts tracked on the mainframe. And they can do it without needing specialized expertise or different monitoring systems for z/OS.

Real-time analytics, including real-time predictive analytics, are increasingly attractive as solutions for the growng security challenges organizations are facing. These challenges are due, in large part, to the explosion of transaction activity driven by mobile computing, and soon, IoT, and Blockchain, most of which eventually finds its way to the mainframe. All of these present immediate security concerns and require fast, nearly instant security decisions. Even cloud usage, which one would expect to be mainstream in enterprises by now, often is curtailed due to security fears.

With the Ironstream and Splunk combination, Medical Mutual Medical Mutual can see previously slow-to-access mainframe data alongside other security information it was already analyzing in Splunk Enterprise. Splunk Enterprise enables a consolidated enterprise-wide view of machine data collected across the business, which makes it possible to correlate events that might not raise suspicion alone but could be indicative of a threat when seen together.

The deployment proved to be straightforward. Medical Mutual’s in-house IT team set it up in a week with Syncsort answering deployment questions to assist. Although there are numerous tools to capture log data from the mainframe, the insurer chose to go with the Splunk-Ironstream combination because it already was using Splunk in house for centralized logging. Adding mainframe security logs was an easy step. “This was affordable and it saved us from having to learn another product,” the security supervisor added. Medical Mutual runs a z13, model 409 with Ironstream.

According to the announcement, by having Ironstream leverage z/OS log data via Splunk Enterprise, Medical Mutual has enables the organization to:

  • Track security events and data from multiple platforms including IBM z/OS mainframes, Windows and distributed servers and correlate the information in Splunk Enterprise for better security.
  • Diagnose and respond to high severity security issues more quickly since data from across the entire enterprise is being monitored in real time.
  • Provide monthly and daily reporting with an up-to-the-minute account of unusual user activity.
  • Detect security anomalies and analyze their trends – the cornerstone of Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) strategies.

Real time monitoring with analytics has proven crucial for security. You can actually detect fraud while it is taking place and before serious damage is done. It is much harder to recoup loses hours, days, or, what is often the case, months later.

The Splunk platform can handle massive amounts of data from different formats and indexes and decipher and correlate security events through analytics. Ironstream brings the ability to stream mainframe security data for even greater insights, and Ironstream’s low overhead keeps mainframe processing costs low.

To try the big iron-to-big data strategy organizations can download a free Ironstream Starter Edition and begin streaming z/OS Syslog data into Splunk solutions. Unlike typical technology trials, the Starter Edition is not time-limited and may be used in production at no charge. This includes access to the Ironstream applications available for download on Splunkbase.

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 Drives Platforms to the Cloud

April 29, 2016

IBM hasn’t been shy about its shift of focus from platforms and systems to cloud, mobile, analytics, and cognitive computing. But it didn’t hit home until last week’s release of 1Q2016 financials, which mentioned the z System just once. For the quarter IBM systems hardware and operating systems software revenues (lumped into one category, almost an after-thought) rang up $1.7 billion, down 21.8 percent.

This is ugly, and DancingDinosaur isn’t even a financial analyst. After the z System showed attractive revenue growth through all of 2015 suddenly its part of a loss. You can’t even find the actual numbers for z or Power in the new report format. As IBM notes: the company has revised its financial reporting structure to reflect the transformation of the business and provide investors with increased visibility into the company’s operating model by disclosing additional information on its strategic imperatives revenue by segment. BTW, IBM did introduce new advanced storage this week, which was part of the Systems Hardware loss too. DancingDinosaur will take up the storage story here next week.

openstack-logo

But the 1Q2016 report was last week. To further emphasize its shift IBM this week announced that it was boosting support of OpenStack’s RefStack project, which is intended to advance common language between clouds and facilitate interoperability across clouds. DancingDinosaur applauds that but if you are a z data center manager you better take note that the z along with all the IBM platforms, mainly Power and storage, being pushed to the back of the bus behind IBM’s strategic imperatives.

DancingDinosaur supports the strategic initiatives and you can throw blockchain and IoT in with them too. These initiatives will ultimately save the mainframe data center. All the transactions and data swirling around and through these initiatives eventually need to land in a safe, secure, utterly reliable place where they can be processed in massive volume, kept accessible, highly available, and protected for subsequent use, for compliance, and for a variety of other purposes. That place most likely will be the z data center. It might be on premise or in the cloud but if organizations need rock solid transaction performance, security, availability, scalability, and such they will want the z, which will do it better and be highly price competitive. In short, the z data center provides the ideal back end for all the various activities going on through IBM’s strategic initiative.

The z also has a clear connection to OpenStack. Two years ago IBM announced expanding its support of open technologies by providing advanced OpenStack integration and cloud virtualization and management capabilities across IBM’s entire server portfolio through IBM Cloud Manager with OpenStack. According to IBM, Cloud Manager with OpenStack will provide support for the latest OpenStack release, dubbed Icehouse at that time, and full access to the complete core OpenStack API set to help organizations ensure application portability and avoid vendor lock-in. It also extends cloud management support to the z, in addition to Power Systems, PureFlex/Flex Systems, System x (which was still around then)  or any other x86 environment. It also would provide support for IBM z/VM on the z, and PowerVC for PowerVM on Power Systems to add more scalability and security to its Linux environments.

At the same time IBM also announced it was beta testing a dynamic, hybrid cloud solution on the IBM Cloud Manager with OpenStack platform. That would allow workloads requiring additional infrastructure resources to expand from an on premise cloud to remote cloud infrastructure.  Since that announcement, IBM has only gotten more deeply enamored with hybrid clouds.  Again, the z data center should have a big role as the on premise anchor for hybrid clouds.

With the more recent announcement RefStack, officially launched last year and to which IBM is the lead contributor, becomes a critical pillar of IBM’s commitment to ensuring an open cloud – helping to advance the company’s long-term vision of mitigating vendor lock-in and enabling developers to use the best combination of cloud services and APIs for their needs. The new functionality includes improved usability, stability, and other upgrades, ensuring better cohesion and integration of any cloud workloads running on OpenStack.

RefStack testing ensures core operability across the OpenStack ecosystem, and passing RefStack is a prerequisite for all OpenStack certified cloud platforms. By working on cloud platforms that are OpenStack certified, developers will know their workloads are portable across IBM Cloud and the OpenStack community.  For now RefStack acts as the primary resource for cloud providers to test OpenStack compatibility, RefStack also maintains a central repository and API for test data, allowing community members visibility into interoperability across OpenStack platforms.

One way or another, your z data center will have to coexist with hybrid clouds and the rest of IBM’s strategic imperatives or face being displaced. With RefStack and the other OpenStack tools this should not be too hard. In the meantime, prepare your z data center for new incoming traffic from the strategic imperatives, Blockchain, IoT, Cognitive Computing, and whatever else IBM deems strategic next.

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.

Ubuntu Linux (beta) for the z System is Available Now

April 8, 2016

As recently as February, DancingDinosaur has been lauding IBM’s bolstering of the z System for Linux and support for the latest styles of app dev. As part of that it expected Ubuntu Linux for z by the summer. It arrived early.  You can download it for LinuxONE and the z now, hereubuntu-logo-300x225

Of course, the z has run Linux for over a decade. That was a customized version that required a couple of extra steps, mainly recompiling, if x86 Linux apps were to run seamlessly. This time Canonical and the Ubuntu community have committed to work with IBM to ensure that Ubuntu works seamlessly with IBM LinuxONE, z Systems, and Power Systems. The goal is to enable IBM’s enterprise platforms to play nicely with the latest app dev goodies, including NFV, containers, KVM, OpenStack, big data analytics, DevOps, and even IoT. To that end, all three parties (Canonical, the Ubuntu community, and IBM) commit to provide reference architectures, supported solutions, and cloud offerings, now and in the future.

Ubuntu is emerging as the platform of choice for organizations running scale-out, next-generation workloads in the cloud. According to Canonical, Ubuntu dominates public cloud guest volume and production OpenStack deployments with up to 70% market share. Global brands running Ubuntu at scale in the cloud include AT&T, Walmart, Deutsche Telecom, Bloomberg, Cisco and others.

The z and LinuxONE machines play right into this. They can support thousands of Linux images with no-fail high availability, security, and performance. When POWER 9 processors come to market it gets even better. At a recent OpenPOWER gathering the POWER 9 generated tremendous buzz with Google discussing its intentions of building a new data center server  based on an open POWER9 design that conforms to Facebook’s Open Compute Project server.

These systems will be aimed initially at hyperscale data centers. OpenPOWER processors combined with acceleration technology have the potential to fundamentally change server and data center design today and into the future.  OpenPOWER provides a great platform for the speed and flexibility needs of hyperscale operators as they demand ever-increasing levels of scalability.

According to Aaron Sullivan, Open Compute Project Incubation Committee Member and Distinguished Engineer at Rackspace. “OpenPOWER provides a great platform for the speed and flexibility needs of hyperscale operators as they demand ever-increasing levels of scalability.” This is true today and with POWER9, a reportedly 14nm processor coming around 2017, it will be even more so then. This particular roadmap looks out to 2020 when POWER10, a 10nm processor, is expected with the task of delivering extreme analytics optimization.

But for now, what is available for the z isn’t exactly chopped liver. Ubuntu is delivering scale-out capabilities for the latest development approaches to run on the z and LinuxONE. As Canonical promises: Ubuntu offers the best of open source for IBM’s enterprise customers along with unprecedented performance, security and resiliency. The latest Ubuntu version, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, is in beta and available to all IBM LinuxOne and z Systems customers. See the link above. Currently SUSE and Red Hat are the leading Linux distributions among z data centers. SUSE also just announced a new distro of openSUSE Linux for the z to be called openSUSE Factory.

Also this week the OpenPOWER Foundation held its annual meeting where it introduced technology to boost data center infrastructures with more choices, essentially allowing increased data workloads and analytics to drive better business results. Am hoping that the Open Mainframe Project will emulate the Open POWER group and in a year or two by starting to introducing technology to boost mainframe computing along the same lines.

For instance OpenPOWER introduced more than 10 new OpenPOWER servers, offering expanded services for high performance computing and server virtualization. Or this: IBM, in collaboration with NVIDIA and Wistron, revealed plans to release its second-generation OpenPOWER high performance computing server, which includes support for the NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing platform. The server will leverage POWER8 processors connected directly to the new NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPU accelerators via the NVIDIA NVLink, a high-speed interconnect technology.

In the same batch of announcements TYAN announced its GT75-BP012, a 1U, POWER8-based server solution with the ppc64 architecture. The ppc64 architecture is optimized for 64-bit big-endian PowerPC and Power Architecture processors.  Also of interest to DancingDinosaur readers may be the variation of the ppc64 that enables a pure little-endian mode with the POWER8 to enable the porting of x86 Linux-based software with minimal effort. BTW, the OpenPOWER-based platform, reportedly, offers exceptional capability for in-memory computing in a 1U implementation, part of the overall trend toward smaller, denser, and more efficient systems. The latest TYAN offerings will only drive more of it.

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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