Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

IBM Q Network Promises to Commercialize Quantum

December 14, 2017

The dash to quantum computing is well underway and IBM is preparing to be one of the leaders. When IBM gets there it will find plenty of company. HPE, Dell/EMC, Microsoft and more are staking out quantum claims. In response IBM is speeding the build-out of its quantum ecosystem, the IBM Q Network, which it announced today.

IBM’s 50 qubit system prototype

Already IBM introduced its third generation of quantum computers in Nov., a prototype 50 qubit system. IBM promises online access to the IBM Q systems by the end of 2017, with a series of planned upgrades during 2018. IBM is focused on making available advanced, scalable universal quantum computing systems to clients to explore practical applications.

Further speeding the process, IBM is building a quantum computing ecosystem of big companies and research institutions. The result, dubbed IBM Q Network, will consist of a worldwide network of individuals and organizations, including scientists, engineers, business leaders, and forward thinking companies, academic institutions, and national research labs enabled by IBM Q. Its mission: advancing quantum computing and launching the first commercial applications.

Two particular goals stand out: Engage industry leaders to combine quantum computing expertise with industry-oriented, problem-specific expertise to accelerate development of early commercial uses. The second: expand and train the ecosystem of users, developers, and application specialists that will be essential to the adoption and scaling of quantum computing.

The key to getting this rolling is the groundwork IBM laid with the IBM Q Experience, which IBM initially introduced in May of 2016 as a 5 cubit system. The Q Experience (free) upgrade followed with a 16-qubit upgrade in May, 2017. The IBM effort to make available a commercial universal quantum computer for business and science applications has increased with each successive rev until today with a prototype 50 cubit system delivered via the IBM Cloud platform.

IBM opened public access to its quantum processors over a year ago  to serve as an enablement tool for scientific research, a resource for university classrooms, and a catalyst for enthusiasm. Since then, participants have run more than 1.7M quantum experiments on the IBM Cloud.

To date IBM was pretty easy going about access to the quantum computers but now that they have a 20 cubit system and 50 cubit system coming the company has become a little more restrictive about who can use them. Participation in the IBM Q Network is the only way to access these advanced systems, which involves a commitment of money, intellectual property, and agreement to share and cooperate, although IBM implied at any early briefing that it could be flexible about what was shared and what could remain an organization’s proprietary IP.

Another reason to participate in the Quantum Experience is QISKit, an open source quantum computing SDK anyone can access. Most DancingDinosaur readers, if they want to participate in IBM’s Q Network will do so as either partners or members. Another option, a Hub, is really targeted for bigger, more ambitious early adopters. Hubs, as IBM puts it, provide access to IBM Q systems, technical support, educational and training resources, community workshops and events, and opportunities for joint work.

The Q Network has already attracted some significant interest for organizations at every level and across a variety of industry segments. These include automotive, financial, electronics, chemical, and materials players from across the globe. Initial participants include JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Samsung, JSR Corporation, Barclays, Hitachi Metals, Honda, Nagase, Keio University, Oak Ridge National Lab, Oxford University, and University of Melbourne.

As noted at the top, other major players are staking out their quantum claims, but none seem as far along or as comprehensive as IBM:

  • Dell/EMC is aiming to solve complex, life-impacting analytic problems like autonomous vehicles, smart cities, and precision medicine.
  • HPE appears to be focusing its initial quantum efforts on encryption.
  • Microsoft, not surprisingly, expects to release a new programming language and computing simulator designed for quantum computing.

As you would expect, IBM also is rolling out IBM Q Consulting to help organizations envision new business value through the application of quantum computing technology and provide customized roadmaps to help enterprises become quantum-ready.

Will quantum computing actually happen? Your guess is as good as anyone’s. I first heard about quantum physics in high school 40-odd years ago. It was baffling but intriguing then. Today it appears more real but still nothing is assured. If you’re willing to burn some time and resources to try it, go right ahead. Please tell DancingDinosaur what you find.

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 Introduces Cloud Private to Hybrid Clouds

November 10, 2017

When you have enough technologies lying around your basement, sometimes you can cobble a few pieces together, mix it with some sexy new stuff and, bingo, you have something that meets a serious need of a number of disparate customers. That’s essentially what IBM did with Cloud Private, which it announced Nov. 1.

IBM staff test Cloud Private automation software

IBM intended Cloud Private to enable companies to create on-premises cloud capabilities similar to public clouds to accelerate app dev. Don’t think it as just old stuff; the new platform is built on the open source Kubernetes-based container architecture and supports both Docker containers and Cloud Foundry. This facilitates integration and portability of workloads, enabling them to evolve to almost any cloud environment, including—especially—the public IBM Cloud.

Also IBM announced container-optimized versions of core enterprise software, including IBM WebSphere Liberty, DB2 and MQ – widely used to run and manage the world’s most business-critical applications and data. This makes it easier to share data and evolve applications as needed across the IBM Cloud, private, public clouds, and other cloud environments with a consistent developer, administrator, and user experience.

Cloud Private amounts to a new software platform, which relies on open source container technology to unlock billions of dollars in core data and applications incorporating legacy software like WebSphere and Db2. The purpose is to extend cloud-native tools across public and private clouds. For z data centers that have tons of valuable, reliable working systems years away from being retired, if ever, Cloud Private may be just what they need.

Almost all enterprise systems vendors are trying to do the same hybrid cloud computing enablement. HPE, Microsoft, Cisco, which is partnering with Google on this, and more. This is a clear indication that the cloud and especially the hybrid cloud is crossing the proverbial chasm. In years past IT managers and C-level executives didn’t want anything to do with the cloud; the IT folks saw it as a threat to their on premises data center and the C-suite was scared witless about security.

Those issues haven’t gone away although the advent of hybrid clouds have mitigated some of the fears among both groups. Similarly, the natural evolution of the cloud and advances in hybrid cloud computing make this more practical.

The private cloud too is growing. According to IBM, while public cloud adoption continues to grow at a rapid pace, organizations, especially in regulated industries of finance and health care, are continuing to leverage private clouds as part of their journey to public cloud environments to quickly launch and update applications. This also is what is driving hybrid clouds. IBM estimates companies will spend more than $50 billion globally starting in 2017 to create and evolve private clouds with growth rates of 15 to 20 percent a year through 2020, according to IBM market projections.

The problem facing IBM and the other enterprise systems vendors scrambling for hybrid clouds is how to transition legacy systems into cloud native systems. The hybrid cloud in effect acts as facilitating middleware. “Innovation and adoption of public cloud services has been constrained by the challenge of transitioning complex enterprise systems and applications into a true cloud-native environment,” said Arvind Krishna, Senior Vice President for IBM Hybrid Cloud and Director of IBM Research. IBM’s response is Cloud Private, which brings rapid application development and modernization to existing IT infrastructure while combining it with the service of a public cloud platform.

Hertz adopted this approach. “Private cloud is a must for many enterprises such as ours working to reduce or eliminate their dependence on internal data centers,” said Tyler Best, Hertz Chief Information Officer.  A strategy consisting of public, private and hybrid cloud is essential for large enterprises to effectively make the transition from legacy systems to cloud.

IBM is serious about cloud as a strategic initiative. Although not as large as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Service (AWS) in the public cloud, a recent report by Synergy Research found that IBM is a major provider of private cloud services, making the company the third-largest overall cloud provider.

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.

Windows for IBM zEnterprise/zBX

April 18, 2011

Last week IBM published a general statement of direction, not an actual product announcement, that essentially said the zEnterprise will run Windows in the 4th quarter via an x blade for the zBX. The announcement reads, in part, “IBM intends to offer select IBM System x blades running Microsoft Windows in the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension Model 002.”

Along with the announcement came the usual disclaimer: “IBM’s plans, directions, and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice. Any reliance on these statements of general direction is at the relying party’s sole risk and will not create liability or obligation for IBM.”

This isn’t exactly new. IBM has been hinting about this since the zEnterprise announcement last July although it refrained from making any statement that might legally commit them to anything. DancingDinosaur has been writing about it for about as long. Here is a Windows on z piece from earlier this year.

Windows on z (or the zBX as is the case here) raises some interesting issues. Of immediate interest is the question of which Windows workloads might be best moved to the zEnterprise. Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SharePoint, probably the company’s two most popular enterprise server applications, are good bets to stay where they are and not move to the z.

Similarly, the Microsoft Office Suite will stay where it is unless someone wants to attempt to virtualize a slew of Office desktops on a handful of zBX IBM x blades as a VDI play. Without knowing the performance and pricing details of the zBX System x blades it is impossible to intelligently make such decisions.

In response to which workloads, IBM’s reply is as follows: Enterprise clients with one or more applications running in a complex, heterogeneous, multi-tiered environment have the opportunity to upgrade that infrastructure with zEnterprise and enjoy the management benefits that the Unified Resource Manager brings. The most likely candidates are those Windows apps that make use of data or processing residing on the z. This is IBM’s basic fit-for-purpose strategy.

IBM also is not expecting a wholesale migration of Windows servers to the z. Again, the IBM spokesman explains: Many of the largest data centers already have far more blades and/or rack-mounted servers in their inventory than could realistically fit into the zBX.

What IBM does hope for, according to the spokesman, are workloads that rely on System z for data serving and application components, whether it is DB2 for z/OS, IMS, CICS, WebSphere, or even Oracle. In addition, they are workloads that require the strength of System z but often have application components on Power or Intel that are required to complete the end-to-end business process. Clients who have applications running in these two- or three-tier environments may be ideal candidates for zEnterprise running the new System x blades.

Beyond these basic fit-for-purpose statements IBM isn’t saying much about blade pricing, performance, or software licensing. This serves two purposes for IBM: 1) it avoids promises to which it might be held, and probably as importantly, 2) it freezes the competitive market. Multi-platform, multi-tier enterprises considering an upgrade of their Windows servers to the latest offerings from HP or Oracle (Sun) or others now know this option is coming in the fourth quarter and may wait until they see the pricing, licensing, and performance details.

With the System x blades running Windows as well as Linux IBM indeed can make a strong case for IT recentralizationg on the zEnterprise, especially for multi-tier, multi-platform enterprises. This case will be based on the zEnterprise’s centralized management efficiency, the potential for greater optimization, and the resulting performance improvements. It’s a good story that could catch on if IBM keeps the pricing competitive.

Upcoming pieces here will take up the corporate politics implications of such a recentralization effort. 


Should the IBM zEnterprise run Windows

January 3, 2011

Will the zEnterprise run Windows is a question IBM has been asked repeatedly starting almost as soon as the machine was introduced last summer, even before. It is a fair question given that the zEnterprise will support IBM x86 blades through the zBX extension cabinet, and Microsoft Windows runs on the x86 processor.

Here is the response of IBM’s Alan Altmark on July 22. to the Windows question.

Q: Will the zEnterprise System support for Microsoft Windows or IBM iOS operating systems?

A: No, Windows [and] iOS are not supported at this time. IBM will initially support AIX, Linux on System x (SOD available 1H 2011) and optimizers through the zBX. Support for additional operating systems will be evaluated over time based on demand from our clients.

DancingDinosaur also asked various IBMers the same question and got pretty much the same response: There is no technical reason the zEnterprise cannot run Windows; we’ll get to it if there is customer demand.

Will the z run Windows might not be the right question. Maybe the more important question is this: SHOULD organizations run Windows on the z? Is there a compelling business case for doing so?

Running Windows on the z will vastly increase the number of workloads organizations could run on the machine, and DancingDinosaur always welcomes new mainframe workloads. From that standpoint, it’s a no-brainer.

Licensing and pricing details of Windows on z aside, one could argue a solid business case for consolidating Windows server workloads on the z. Using Linux server consolidation on z as a guide, organizations should be able to consolidate hundreds if not thousands of virtual Windows servers on a single z. The organization would capture the savings from massive consolidation as well as achieve z levels of RAS compared to what they typically can achieve today with distributed x86 servers. (You can achieve high levels of RAS in the distributed world, but it doesn’t come cheap or easy.)

Although the business case may be advantageous, there is a political problem organizations will have to confront. Simply put, the chances are very high that any proposal to consolidate Windows apps on the z would encounter bitter resistance. Most organizations with mainframes also support distributed platforms. Data center managers already report resistance to consolidating distributed Linux severs on the mainframe. Just imagine the resistance from the Windows camp.

There are other considerations as well. To start, not every Windows server workload needs the capabilities the z brings. Some small Windows workgroup apps might not even be worth z MIPS.

The x86 blades for the zBX aren’t expected until sometime in the first half of 2011. After that there will be plenty of time to start advocating for Windows on z. Just be ready for an epic battle.

 


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