Posts Tagged ‘mobile’

IBM Advances SSD with Phase-Change Memory Breakthrough

May 20, 2016

Facing an incessant demand to speed data through computers the latest IBM storage memory advance, announced earlier this week, will ratchet up the speed another notch or two. Scientists at IBM Research have demonstrated storing 3 bits of data per cell using phase-change memory (PCM). Until now, PCM had been tried but had never caught on for a variety of reasons. By storing 3 bits per cell, IBM can boost PCM capacity and speed and lower the cost.

TLCPCMSmall (1)

IBM multi-bit PCM chip connected to a standard integrated circuit board.

Pictured above, the chip consists of a 2 × 2 Mcell array with a 4- bank interleaved architecture, IBM explained. The memory array size is 2 × 1000 μm × 800 μm. The PCM cells are based on doped-chalcogenide alloy and were integrated into the prototype chip serving as a characterization vehicle in 90 nm CMOS baseline technology.

Although PCM has been around for some years only with this latest advance is it attracting the industry’s attention as a potential universal memory technology based on its combination of read/write speed, endurance, non-volatility, and density. Specifically, PCM doesn’t lose data when powered off, unlike DRAM, and the technology can endure at least 10 million write cycles, compared to an average flash USB stick, which tops out at 3,000 write cycles.  Primary use cases will be capturing massive volumes of data expected from mobile devices and the Internet of Things.

PCM, in effect, adds another tier to the storage/memory hierarchy, coming in between DRAM and Flash at the upper levels of the storage performance pyramid. The IBM researchers envision both standalone PCM and hybrid applications, which combine PCM and flash storage together. For example, PCM can act as an extremely fast cache by storing a mobile phone’s operating system and enabling it to launch in seconds. For enterprise data centers, IBM envisions entire databases could be stored in PCM for blazing fast query processing of time-critical online applications, such as financial transactions.

As reported by CNET, PCM fits neatly between DRAM and flash. DRAM is 5-10x faster at retrieving data than PCM, while PCM is about 70x faster than flash. IBM reportedly expects PCM to be cheaper than DRAM, eventually becoming as cheap as flash (or course flash keeps getting cheaper too). PCM’s ability to hold three bits of data rather than 2 bits, PCM’s previous best, enables packing more data into a chip, which lowers the cost of PCM storage and boosts its competitive position against technologies like Flash and DRAM.

Phase change memory is the first instantiation of a universal memory with properties of both DRAM and flash, thus answering one of the grand challenges of our industry,” wrote Haris Pozidis, key researcher and manager of non-volatile memory research at IBM Research –in the published announcement. “Reaching 3 bits per cell is a significant milestone because at this density the cost of PCM will be significantly less than DRAM and closer to flash.”

IBM explains how PCM works: PCM materials exhibit two stable states, the amorphous (without a clearly defined structure) and crystalline (with structure) phases, of low and high electrical conductivity, respectively. In digital systems, data is stored as a 0 or a 1. To store a 0 or a 1 on a PCM cell, a high or medium electrical current is applied to the material. A 0 can be programmed to be written in the amorphous phase or a 1 in the crystalline phase, or vice versa. Then to read the bit back, a low voltage is applied.

To achieve multi-bit storage IBM scientists have developed two innovative enabling technologies: 1) a set of drift-immune cell-state metrics and 2) drift-tolerant coding and detection schemes. These new cell-state metrics measure a physical property of the PCM cell that remains stable over time, and are thus insensitive to drift, which affects the stability of the cell’s electrical conductivity with time. The other measures provide additional robustness of the stored data. As a result, the cell state can be read reliably over long time periods after the memory is programmed, thus offering non-volatility.

Combined these advancements address the key challenges of multi-bit PCM—drift, variability, temperature sensitivity and endurance cycling, according to IBM. From there, the experimental multi-bit PCM chip used by IBM scientists is connected to a standard integrated circuit board

Expect to see PCM first in Power Systems. At the 2016 OpenPOWER Summit in San Jose, CA, last month, IBM scientists demonstrated PCM attached to POWER8-based servers (made by IBM and TYAN® Computer Corp.) via the CAPI (Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface) protocol, which speeds the data to storage or memory. This technology leverages the low latency and small access granularity of PCM, the efficiency of the OpenPOWER architecture, and the efficiency of the CAPI protocol, an example of the OpenPower Foundation in action. Pozidis suggested PCM could be ready by 2017; maybe but don’t bet on it. IBM still needs to line up chip makers to produce it in commercial quantities among other things.

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.

 

 

BMC MainView for Java Manages Critical Digital Business

May 16, 2016

A large European financial services firm increasingly handles a lot of critical transaction functions with Java running through CICS and WebSphere.  As the firm looks forward, its managers see Java playing a bigger and more critical role in its core business as it shifts more of its business functionality to agile programming in Java. This firm is not even thinking about abandoning its workhorse COBOL code ever, but all new work is being directed to Java.

bmc mainview java 2

With that in mind, BMC last week announced MainView for Java Environments, part of BMC’s MainView integrated systems management suite of tools that provides insight into how Java is consuming resources and affecting application performance on the z System.  It is no surprise, therefore, that the firm became an early beta user for MainView for Java Environments.

According to a BMC survey, 93% of mainframe organizations in a recent BMC survey said Java usage is growing or steady, and Java is the language of choice for writing new or rewriting existing mainframe applications. BMC MainView for Java Environments provides insight into Java resource usage and how it impacts other workloads and applications. For example it automatically discovers all the Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) across z/OS. That alone can help with identifying performance problems in an effort to find and fix problems fast.

Java is the key to both performance and cost savings by running on zIIP assist processors. Java workloads, however, can affect performance and availability on the mainframe, as they consume system resources without regard for the needs of other applications or services, which is another reason why zIIP is essentially. Also, an integrated management approach gives IT operations a holistic view of the environment to quickly and easily discover Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) and to manage the effect of their resource consumption on application performance.

Java was the first object oriented programming language DancingDinosaur tried.  Never got good enough to try it on real production work, but here’s what made it appealing: fully object oriented, produces truly portable write-once, run-anywhere code (mainly because it results in Java virtual machine bytecode) and had automatic garbage collection. For a run-of-the-mill programmer, Java was a joy compared to C or, ugh, COBOL. Some of the new languages becoming popular today, the ones driving mobile and cloud and analytics apps look even easier, but DancingDinosaur would feel too embarrassed to sit in a programming class with twenty-somethings the age of his daughters.

Java usage today, according to the BMC survey, is growing or steady, while Java has become the language of choice for writing new or rewriting existing mainframe applications. The only drawback may be that Java workloads can affect performance and resource availability on the mainframe as JVMs consume system resources oblivious to the needs of other applications or services or the cost of uncontrolled resource consumption, which is what Java unrestrained produces. An integrated management approach that allows for a holistic view of the environment can quickly and easily discover JVMs and manage can constrain the effects on resource consumption on application performance and offset any drawback.

Explained Tim Grieser, program vice president, at IDC’s Enterprise System Management Software: “Since Java manages its own resources it can consume excessive amounts of processor time and memory resources leading to performance or availability problems if not proactively managed.” The key being proactively managed.  BMC’s MainView for Java Environments promises exactly that kind of proactive management by monitoring z/OS Java runtime environments and provides a consolidated view of all resources being consumed. This will enable system admins and operators to identify and manage performance issues before they impact end users.

“Java on the mainframe is being used to develop and deploy new applications faster and more economically to meet dynamically changing digital business needs and to take advantage of widely available programming skills” IDC’s Grieser continued. Something like BMC’s MainView for Java Environments can be used to constrain Java. IBM’s Omegamon can fulfill a similar function.

According to the financial firm beta test manager, with BMC’s MainView for Java Environments tool, Java can be effectively used to unlock Java’s potential on the mainframe  vital in a changing application and systems environment as part of an integrated performance management solution that discovers and monitors JVMs. As such, it provides a single graphical console which enables you  to quickly understand the Java applications impact on resources and its effect on the performance of other applications and transactions. The solution promises to improve application performance and ensure availability while reducing Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) and lowering Monthly License Charges (MLC) by monitoring zIIP offloading, which is the key to both performance and cost management.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer and occasional wanna-be programmer. 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.

Play the Cloud-Mobile App Dev Game with z/OS Client Web Enablement

April 15, 2016

Is you z team feeling a little nervous that they are missing an important new game? Are business managers bugging you about running slick Cloud and mobile applications through the z? Worse, are they turning to third party contractors to build apps that will try to connect your z to the cloud and mobile world? If so, it is time to take a close look at IBM’s z/OS Client Web Enablement Toolkit.

mobile access backend data 1800FLOWERS

Accessing backend system through a mobile device

If you’re a z shop running Linux on z or a LinuxONE shop you don’t need z/OS Web Enablement. The issue only comes up when you need to connect the z/OS applications to cloud, web, and mobile apps. IBM began talking up z/OS Enablement Toolkit since early this year. Prior to the availability of the toolkit, native z/OS applications had little or no easy options available to participate as a web services client.

You undoubtedly know the z in its role as a no-fail transaction workhorse. More recently you’ve watched as it learned new tricks like managing big data or big data analytics through IBM’s own tools and more recently with Spark. The z absorbed the services wave with SOA and turned CICS into a handler for Web transactions. With Linux it learned an entire new way to relate to the broader distributed world. The z has rolled with all the changes and generally came out ahead.

Now the next change for z data centers has arrived. This is the cloud/web-mobile-analytics execution environment that seemingly is taking over the known world. It almost seems like nobody wants a straight DB2 CICS transaction without a slew of other devices getting involved, usually as clients. Now everything is HTTP REST to handle x86 clients and JSON along with a slew of even newer scripting languages. Heard about Python and Ruby? And they aren’t even the latest.  The problem: no easy way to perform HTTP REST calls or handle JSON parsing on z/OS. This results from the utter lack of native JSON services built into z/OS, according to Steve Warren, IBM’s z/OS Client Web Enablement guru.

Starting, however, with z/OS V2.2 and now available in z/OS V2.1 via a couple of service updates,  Warren reports, the new z/OS Client Web Enablement Toolkit changes the way a z/OS-based data center can think about z/OS applications communicating with another web server. As he explains it, the toolkit provides an easy-to-use, lightweight solution for applications looking to easily participate as a client, in a client/server web application. Isn’t that what all the kids are doing with Bluemix? So why not with the z and z/OS?

Specifically, the z/OS Toolkit provides a built-in protocol enabler using interfaces similar in nature to other industry-standard APIs along with a z/OS JSON parser to parse JSON text coming from any source and the ability to build new or add to existing JSON text, according to Warren.  Suddenly, it puts z/OS shops smack in the middle of this hot new game.

While almost all environments on z/OS can take advantage of these new services, Warren adds, traditional z/OS programs running in a native environment (apart from a z/OS UNIX or JVM environment) stand to benefit the most. Before the toolkit, native z/OS applications, as noted above, had little or no easy options available to them to participate as a web services client. Now they do.

Programs running as a batch job, a started procedure, or in almost any address space on a z/OS system have APIs they can utilize in a similar manner to any standard z/OS APIs provided by the OS. Programs invoke these APIs in the programming language of their choice. Among z languages, C/C++, COBOL, PL/I, and Assembler are fully supported, and the toolkit provides samples for C/C++, COBOL, PL/I initially. Linux on z and LinuxONE shops already can do this.

Businesses with z data centers are being forced by the market to adopt Web applications utilizing published Web APIs that can be used by something as small as the watch you wear, noted Warren. As a result, the proliferation of Web services applications in recent years has been staggering, and it’s not by coincidence. Representational state transfer (REST) applications are simple, use the ubiquitous HTTP protocol—which helps them to be platform-independent—and are easy to organize.  That’s what the young developers—the millennials—have been doing with Bluemix and other cloud-based development environments for their cloud, mobile, and  web-based applications.  With the z/OS web enablement toolkit now any z/OS shop can do the same. As IoT ramps up expect more demands for these kinds of applications and with a variety of new devices and APIs.

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.

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.

ibm_zos_apache_spark_app

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.

State of z System CICS in the Modern Enterprise

March 25, 2016

You should be very familiar with the figures describing the continued strength of mainframe computing in the enterprise today. Seventy percent of enterprise data resides on a mainframe, 71 percent of all Fortune 500 companies run their core businesses on the mainframe, and 92 of the top 100 banks rely on the mainframe to provide at-your-fingertip banking services to the customers (many via mobile).  CICS, according to IBM, handles 1.1 million transactions every second, every day. By comparison, Google handles a mere 59,421 searches every second.

cics at-interconnect-2015-1-638

CICS at IBM Interconnect 2015

H&W, a top mainframe ISV recently released its State of CICS in the Modern Enterprise study. Find a copy of the study here.  For starters, it found that nearly two-thirds on respondents run 51-100% their business-critical applications online through CICS. Within government, 32% of respondents reported running 75-100% of business-critical applications through CICS.

A different study suggests that CICS applications handle more than 30 billion transactions per day and process more than $1 trillion dollars’ worth of business each week. Mainframe data also still drives information systems worldwide. Approximately 60 percent of organizations responding to a 2013 Arcati survey said they manage 40 to 100 percent of their enterprise data on the mainframe.

Integrating legacy systems is a strategy mainframe sites continue to adopt. In fact, 74 percent of respondents in that survey said specifically they are web-enabling CICS subsystems. However, as organizations pursue this strategy, challenges can include unlocking the data, keeping the applications and data available to users, and maintaining data integrity in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Nothing new for data center managers about this.

According to the H&W study, online CICS usage has gone up in the last 3 years, from 54% of respondents reporting running over half of their business-crit applications through CICS to 62% in 2015. Hope people will finally stop talking about the mainframe heading toward extinction.

CICS also has carved out a place on the web and with mobile. Sixty-five percent of respondents say at least some of their business-crit applications are available via PC, phone, tablet, and web-based interfaces while 11% more reported plans to mobile- and web-enable their mainframe apps in the future. Thirteen percent reported no plans to do so. Government sector respondents reported that they were significantly more likely to not make the applications available for online access; so much for open government and transparency.

CICS availability proved to raise no concern although a few were concerned with performance. Based on the study results in 2012 some predicted that companies would be moving away from CICS by now. These predictions, apparently, have not come to pass, at least not yet.

In fact, as far as the future of CICS, the technology seems to be facing a remarkably stable outlook for the next 3-5 years. The largest number of respondents, 37%, expected the number of CICS applications to remain the same in that period while 34% said they would be decreasing. More encouragingly, 27% of respondents planned to increase their number of CICS applications accessible online. In the financial services segment, 38% planned to increase the number of online CICS applications while only 10% expected to decrease the number of online applications. Given the demands by banking customers for mobile apps the increase in the number of CICS applications makes perfect sense.

The researchers concluded that CICS continues to play an important role for the majority of mainframe shops surveyed and an increasingly important role for a significant chunk of them.  The respondents also reported that, in general, they were satisfied with CICS performance even in the face of increasingly complex online workloads.

Mainframe CICS may see even more action going forward depending on what companies do with Internet of Things. As with mobile traffic, companies may turn to CICS to handle critical aspects of backend IoT activity, which has the potential to become quite large.

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 zSystem and Power Score in IDC 4Q 2015 Rankings

March 18, 2016

IBM retained the number 3 spot with 14.1% share for the quarter as revenue increased 8.9% year-over-year to $2.2 billion in 4Q15. More impressively, IBM experienced strong growth for POWER Systems and double-digit growth for its z System mainframes in the quarter, according to IDC. You can check out the IDC announcement here. IDC credits z and POWER for IBM’s strong platform finish in 2015.

Primary_LinuxONE_LeftAngle-1 (1) zSystem-based LinuxONE

DancingDinosaur has expected these results and been reporting IBM’s z System and POWER System successes for the past year. You can check it out here (z13s) and here (LinuxOne) and here (Power Systems LC).

Along with deservedly crowing about its latest IDC ranking IBM added:  z Systems saw double digit growth due to a number of new portfolio enhancements. The next-generation z13 mainframe, optimized for digital businesses and hybrid cloud environments, is designed to handle mobile transactions securely and at scale, while enabling clients to run analytics on the system and in real time. IBM expanded its commitment to offering open-source on the mainframe by launching a line of Linux-only systems in August of 2015. LinuxONE is based on the latest generation of z Systems technology and enables popular open-source tools and software on the mainframe. IBM also added what amounts to a Business Class z with the z13s to go along with a Business Class dedicated Linux z, the LinuxONE Rockhopper.

Meanwhile, IBM has started to get some uptake for its Open Mainframe Project. In addition to announcing support from the usual mainframe suspects—IBM, CA, Compuware, SUSE, BMC, and others—it also announced its first projects. These include an effort to find ways to leverage new software and tools in the Linux environment that can better take advantage of the mainframe’s speed, security, scalability, and availability. DancingDinosaur is hoping that in time the Open Mainframe Project will produce the kind of results the Open POWER Foundation has recently generated for the POWER Platform

IBM attributes the growing traction of Linux running on POWER Systems in large part to optimized solutions such as DB2 BLU, SAP HANA, and other industry big data software, built on POWER Systems running Linux. In October 2015, IBM expanded its Linux on Power Systems portfolio with the LC line of servers. These servers are infused with OpenPOWER Foundation technology and bring the higher performance of the POWER CPU to the broad Linux community. The POWER-based LC line along with the z-based LinuxONE Rockhopper should give any data center manager looking to run a large, efficient Linux server farm a highly cost-competitive option that can rival or even beat the x86 option. And given that both platforms will handle Docker containers and microservices and support all of today’s popular development tools there is no reason to stick with x86.

From a platform standpoint, IBM appears to be in sync with what IDC is reporting: Datacenter buildout continues, and the main beneficiary this quarter is the density-optimized segment of the market, where growth easily outpaced the overall server market. Density-optimized servers achieved a 30.2% revenue growth rate this quarter, contributing a full 2 percentage points to the overall 5.2% revenue growth in the market.

“The fourth quarter (of 2015) was a solid close to a strong year of growth in the server market, driven by on premise refresh deployments as well as continued hyperscale cloud deployments,” said Kuba Stolarski, Research Director, Servers and Emerging Technologies at IDC. “As the cyclical refresh of 2015 comes to an end, the market focus has begun to shift towards software-defined infrastructure and hybrid environment management, as organizations begin to transform their IT infrastructure as well as prepare for the compute demands expected over the next few years from next-gen IT domains such as IoT and cognitive analytics. In the short term, 2016 looks to be a year of accelerated cloud infrastructure expansion with existing footprints filling out and new cloud datacenter buildouts across the globe.”

After a seemingly endless string of dismal quarters DancingDinosaur is encouraged by what IBM is doing now with the z, POWER Systems, and its strategic initiatives. With its strategic focus on cloud, mobile, big data analytics, cognitive computing, and IoT as well as its support for the latest approaches to software development, tools, and languages, IBM should be well positioned to continue its platform success in 2016.

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.

2016 State of OpenStack Adoption Shows Continued Progress

March 10, 2016

Sixty-one percent of over 600 survey respondents are adopting OpenStack to combat the expense of public cloud alternatives, reports Talligent, provider of cost and capacity management solutions for OpenStack and hybrid clouds, which conducted most recent study of OpenStack adoption. Almost as many respondents, 59%, have opted for OpenStack to improve the responsiveness of IT service delivery.

openstack-logo

OpenStack is a cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter, all managed through a dashboard that gives administrators control while empowering their users to provision resources through a web interface. As OpenStack puts it: A key part of the OpenStack Foundation mission is to inform, and with the ever expanding ecosystem, we felt it was a good time to cut through the noise to give our members the facts needed to make sound decisions.

In that spirit, make the OpenStack Marketplace one of your first steps in planning an OpenStack effort. There you will find the technology broken down into digestible chunks with details like which components are included, the versions used, and the APIs exposed. The community has also implemented interoperability testing to validate products displaying OpenStack logos. The results are now available in the Marketplace for public clouds, hosted private clouds, distributions & appliances.

DancingDinosaur has covered OpenStack numerous times; for example here and here, IBM fully committed to OpenStack. Late last spring it announced an expanded suite of OpenStack services that allow organizations to integrate applications and data across hybrid clouds including public, dedicated and local cloud environments without the fear of vendor lock-in or costly customization.

IBM may be a bit in front of the market on this. The Talligent survey found private clouds will not be replaced by public clouds very soon, with 54% of respondents still expecting their cloud use to be ALL or mostly private five years from now.

But whether this will occur in two years or five years developers and enterprises using the IBM Cloud OpenStack Services will be able to launch applications on local, on-premises installations and public clouds hosted on the SoftLayer infrastructure, VMware, or the IBM Cloud. This can all be done without changing code or configurations. As a result, developers can build and test an application in a public cloud and use the interoperability of OpenStack to seamlessly deploy that same application and data across any combination of clouds; public, dedicated and local/private.

The Talligent survey also found OpenStack deployments, once in place, are expected to expand quickly beyond development environments, growing from 43% to 89% within 12 months. For QA/Test the expected growth will be a tad stronger, from 47% to 91% within 12 months.

Other interesting tidbits from the survey: the top three workloads currently delivered on OpenStack include: new green field applications (69%); containers (61%), web applications (58%). No surprise there.  Also, as noted above, private clouds should continue to thrive as OpenStack users expect high levels of private cloud use within the next 5 years. Fourteen percent, however, are expecting to deploy across a balanced mix of private and public clouds. At the same time, the survey suggests that PaaS, Containers, and privately managed OpenStack are expected to grow in use while proprietary public clouds and legacy virtualization are likely to decline.

Finally, the survey respondents voiced their opinions on the OpenStack providers. Although industry vendors like VMware, IBM, HPE, Cisco and more are exploring ways to support customers in a hybrid cloud mix, the respondents, as previously noted, are not quite ready to move to a hybrid model. Still, the respondents voiced a clear desire for more operational tools.

Similarly, a majority of respondents currently using OpenStack are still prepared to maintain most of their environment on-premises, with 54% saying they will continue to be more than 80% private over the next 5 years. This may reflect ongoing concerns of corporate management about security in the public cloud. The survey, however, picked up some ambivalence on this point: 30% of the respondents using OpenStack report planning to move more than 80% of their environments to the public cloud over the next 5 years. Could this be a signal that security concerns may be fading?

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 InterCONNECT 2016 as Cloud Fest for App Dev

February 29, 2016

IBM spent the last week of February announcing a constant stream of Cloud deals that focused mostly on various aspects of App Dev. All IBM software is now enabled for private, public and hybrid cloud.  It announced expansion of Bluemix public, dedicated, and local services, IoT and the Weather Company, a growing suite of cognitive APIs for Watson, and hybrid object storage. These should be no surprise to DancingDinosaur readers who have seen a steady trickle of IBM Cloud announcements for months. Let’s sample just a few:

IBM/vmware execs (Alan M Rosenberg/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM senior VP Robert LeBlanc and VMware COO Carl Eschenbach

For DancingDinsosaur, this announcement: IBM and VMware Announce Strategic Partnership to Accelerate Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Adoption, was the most eyebrow raising. IBM and VMware have jointly designed an architecture and cloud offering that will enable customers to automatically provision pre-configured VMware SDDC environments, consisting of VMware vSphere, NSX and Virtual SAN on the IBM Cloud. With this SDDC environment in place, customers will be able to deploy workloads in this hybrid cloud environment without modification, due to common security and networking models based on VMware. This appears intended to encompass SoftLayer too as just another new application environment.

Apple’s Swift development language adds more developer news: IBM to Bring Swift to the Cloud to Radically Simplify End-to-End Development of Apps. IBM has become the first cloud provider to enable the development of applications in native Swift, unlocking its full potential in radically simplifying the development of end-to-end apps on the IBM Cloud. This announcement is the next phase of its roadmap to bring Swift to the Cloud with a preview of a Swift runtime and a Swift Package Catalog to help enable developers to create apps for the enterprise.  DancingDinosaur, a former wannabe developer, is a fan of Swift as well as node.js and Go. Where were all these nifty tools when I was younger?

Watson is another longtime favorite of DancingDinosaur: IBM Announces New and Advanced Watson APIs on the Cloud. New and expanded cognitive APIs for developers that enhance Watson’s emotional and visual senses will further extend the capabilities of the industry’s largest and most diverse set of cognitive technologies and tools.  IBM is also adding tooling capabilities and enhancing its SDKs (Node, Java, Python, and the newly introduced iOS Swift and Unity) across the Watson portfolio and adding Application Starter Kits to make it easy for developers to customize and build with Watson. All APIs are available through the IBM Watson Developer Cloud on Bluemix.

And just in case you didn’t think these weren’t enterprise-class announcements: IBM and GitHub Form Strategic Partnership to Offer First GitHub Enterprise Service in Dedicated and Local Hybrid. IBM and GitHub plan to deliver GitHub Enterprise as a dedicated service on Bluemix to customers across private and hybrid cloud environments. By working with IBM Cloud, developers can expect to learn, code and work with GitHub’s collaborative development tools in a private, environment with robust security capabilities. GitHub and IBM, through this strategic partnership, aim to advance the development of next generation cloud applications for enterprise customers.

IBM WebSphere Blockchain Connect – A new service available to all WebSphere clients is designed to provide a safe and encrypted passage from their blockchain cloud to their enterprise. Starting immediately, enterprises currently using IBM’s on-premises software can tap these new offerings as an on ramp to hybrid cloud, realizing immediate benefits and new value from their existing investments. Blockchain is just one part of a series of tools intended to make it easier for developers to unlock the valuable data, knowledge and transaction systems. Also coming is fully integrated DevOps tools for creating, deploying, running and monitoring Blockchain applications on IBM Cloud that enables the applications to be deployed on IBM z Systems.

Blockchain still may be unfamiliar to many. Recognized most as the technology behind bitcoins, it should prove particularly valuable for IoT systems by providing a mechanism to securely track any of the various things. It enables what amounts to trustless transactions by eliminating the need for an intermediary between buyers and sellers or things and things. For those who want open trustworthy IoT communications without relying on intermediaries blockchain could provide the answer, facilitating the kind of IoT exchanges people have barely begun to imagine could be possible.

Finally, IBM Unveils Fast, Open Alternative to Event-Driven Programming through the Bluemix OpenWhisk platform, which enables developers to quickly build and link microservices that execute software code in response to events such as mouse clicks or receipt of sensor data from an IOT device. Developers won’t to need worry about things like pre-provisioning infrastructure or operations. Instead, they can simply focus on code, dramatically speeding the process.

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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