Posts Tagged ‘mobile’

developerWorks Open Reinforces IBM’s Commitment to Open Source Cloud

July 30, 2015

Maybe IBM’s decades-long legacy of proprietary platforms and systems makes people a little hesitant to fully embrace its open source initiatives. Still, IBM has been supporting Linux on the z System for over a decade, the Eclipse initiative for as long or longer, and gives no sign of getting ready to pull the plug on any of its open source initiatives.

Rise of Open Source Linux and OpenStackCourtesy of IBM (click to enlarge)

Or take Bluemix, an implementation of IBM’s Open Cloud Architecture based on Cloud Foundry, an open source Platform as a Service (PaaS) initiative. And the company only gets more open source by the day. Just last week IBM continued to pour more open source components into Bluemix. It announced developerWorks Open, a cloud-based environment for developers to not only download open sourced IBM code but also have access to blogs, videos, tools and techniques to accelerate their own efforts on behalf of clients.

The current model of development in the open source community, according to IBM, lacks a strategic focus on business requirements. To address this IBM is launching a set of projects in industries like healthcare, mobile, retail, insurance, and banking that ensure a strategic business focus and address real-world business challenges.

The creation of developerWorks Open, notes IBM, comes at an important time for cloud developers. Organizations are wrestling with getting the most out of their multiple clouds environments. For instance, a developer building cloud applications on Bluemix for an insurance accident claim system likely will require storing videos and repair photos for an insurance accident claim application. The developer may have difficulty making a storage choice and then implementing it. But developerWorks Open helps simplify that choice and provides the reassurance that the choice has industry support.

To that end IBM is offering a broad range of technologies for developerWorks Open that aim to help bridge this perceived development gap and remove the obstacles that inhibit developers from turning open source code into sustainable applications that solve real business issues. IBM will also offer these services on its programming platform for cloud software development, Bluemix. The goal is to remove the obstacles that hinder developers from turning open source code into sustainable enterprise-caliber applications that solve real business issues.

For that reason the company will open source a number of apps from its MobileFirst portfolio (MobileFirst was recently cited by Gartner as a leader in its Magic Quadrant mobile application development segment) that will assist developers in the following markets:

  • IBM Ready App for Healthcare tracks patient progress for at-home physical therapy programs via mobile device.
  • IBM Ready App for Retail personalizes and reshapes the specialty retail store shopping experience through direct line of communication
  • IBM Ready App for Insurance improves the relationship between homeowners and insurers and uses Internet of Things sensors to synch home with utilities.
  • IBM Ready App for Banking helps financial institution’s address the mobile needs business owners and attract prospects.

Additionally, IBM is open sourcing several analytics technologies including:

  • Activity Streams provides developers with a standard model and encoding format for describing how users engage with both the application and with one another.
  • Agentless System Crawler offers a unified cloud monitoring and analytics framework that enables visibility into all types of cloud platforms and runtimes
  • IBM Analytics for Apache Spark puts the full analytics power and capabilities of Spark at the developers fingertips. (Beta now available on Bluemix.)

IBM will also continue to open source cloud data services, including IBM Object Storage on Bluemix Service Broker, which can be used to integrate OpenStack Swift with Cloud Foundry to enable fast access to cloud data without needing to know where the data is stored.

The introduction of developerWorks Open comes at a time when organizations are starting to realize that their software and apps increasingly are their products, especially cloud, mobile, and collaboration apps, and they need a fast and efficient way to build and update them. In other cases, IBM notes, organizations are wrestling with getting the most out of their multiple clouds environments.

IBM is committed to open source; there is no going back. Company executives see it as the foundation of innovative application development in the cloud.  “With developerWorks Open we are open sourcing additional IBM innovations that we feel have the potential to grow the community and ecosystem and eventually become established technologies,” declared IBM Vice President of Cloud Architecture and Technology Dr. Angel Diaz recently.

Currently, IBM participates in and contributes to more than 150 open source projects. These projects include Spark, OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, Open Contain Project, Node.js, CouchDb, Linux, Eclipse and an already established relationship with Apache. As IBM notes, open source projects increase the skills and knowledge base around the company’s software product set. developerWorks Open is the next step in IBM’s strategy to help businesses create, use, and innovate around cloud computing systems. Coming right behind is a similar community initiative for IoT development. Stay tuned.

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

z Systems and Cloud Lead IBM 2Q Results

July 24, 2015

DancingDinosaur generally steers clear of writing about reported quarterly revenue. Given the general focus of this blog on enterprise and cloud computing, however, IBM’s recent 2Q15 report can’t be ignored. Although it continued IBM’s recent string of negative quarterly results, the z and cloud proved to be bright spots.

Infographic - IBM Q2 2015 Earnings - Cloud - July 20 2015 - Final

Strong IBM cloud performance, Q2 2015 (click to enlarge)

As IBM reported on Monday: Revenues from z Systems mainframe server products increased 9 percent compared with the year-ago period (up 15 percent adjusting for currency).  Total delivery of z Systems computing power, as measured in MIPS, increased 24 percent.  Revenues from Power Systems were down 1 percent compared with the 2014 period (up 5 percent adjusting for currency).

It’s not clear when and how Power Systems will come back. IBM has opened up the Power platform through the Open Power Foundation. A good move in theory, which DancingDinosaur applauds. Still, much depends on the Foundation gaining increased momentum and individual members rolling out successful Power-based products. The roadmap for POWER8, POWER9, and beyond looks promising but how fast products will arrive is unclear. There also is potential for the commoditization of the Power platform, a welcome development in many quarters, but commoditization’s impact on future revenue also is not clear.

Cloud revenue was up more than 70 percent, adjusting for currency and divested businesses; up more than 50 percent as reported, according to IBM. Given that cloud, along with mobile and analytics, has been designated strategic by IBM this is an encouraging development. The company’s cloud strategy is starting to bear fruit.

The big question hanging over every vendor’s cloud strategy is how to make money at it. One of the appealing aspects of the cloud in terms of cost and pricing for IT-using organizations is what amounts to a race to the bottom. With pricing immediately apparent and lower pricing just a click away it has become a feast for the bottom grazers to whom the lowest price is all that matters. For companies like IBM and Oracle, which also has declared cloud a strategic initiative, and other large legacy enterprise platform providers the challenge is to be competitive on price while differentiating their offerings in other ways. Clearly IBM has some unique cloud offerings in Watson and Bluemix and others but can they deliver enough revenue fast enough to offset the reduction in legacy platform revenue. Remember, x86 is off IBM’s menu.

Timothy Prickett Morgan, who writes frequently about IBM technology, also had plenty to say about IBM’s 2Q15 announcement, as did a zillion other financial and industry analyst. To begin he noted the irony of IBM promoting cloud computing, primarily an x86 phenomenon while trying to convince people that Power-based systems are cost competitive—which they can be—and will do a better job for many of those workloads, correct again.

Morgan also makes an interesting point in regard to the z: “IBM doesn’t have to push the System z mainframe so much as keep it on a Moore’s Law curve of its own and keep the price/performance improving to keep those customers in the mainframe fold.” That’s harder than it may seem; DancingDinosaur addressed the Moore’ Law issue last week here. As Morgan notes, with well over $1 trillion in software assets running on the mainframe, the 6,000 or so enterprises that use mainframes are unlikely to move off the platform because of the cost, disruption, and risk such a move would entail. Just ask Union-Pacific Railroad, which seems to be doing a slow-motion platform migration off the mainframe that seemingly may never actually end. Morgan concludes: “IBM can count on a certain level of money from the System z line that it just cannot with the Power Systems line.”

As noted above, how much revenue Power can generate for IBM depends on how fast the Open Power Foundation members introduce products that expand the market and how many Power processors SoftLayer can absorb as the business unit expands its global footprint.  There also is the question of how many POWER8 servers Rackspace, a much larger cloud provider than SoftLayer, will take and whether the Rackspace initiative will catch on elsewhere.

In any event, IBM’s 2Q15 report showed enough positive momentum to encourage IT platform enthusiasts. For its part, DancingDinosaur is expecting a business class z13 in the coming months and more.

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

IBM Extends Moore’s Law with First 7nm Test Chip

July 17, 2015

In an announcement last week, IBM effectively extended Moore’s Law for at least another generation of chips, maybe two.  This contradicts what leading vendors, including IBM, have been saying for years about the imminent diminishing returns of Moore’s Law, which postulated that chips would double in capacity every 18-24 months. Moore’s Law drove the price/performance curve the industry has been experiencing for the past several decades.

Post-Silicon-R&D_Infographic_070715_Final

Click to enlarge, courtesy of IBM

The announcement, ironically, coincides with IBM’s completion of the sale of its semi-conductor fabrication business to GLOBALFOUNDRIES, which IBM paid to take the costly facilities off its hands. To pull off the 7nm achievement IBM ended up partnering with a handful of players including public-private partnership with New York State and joint development alliance with GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Samsung, and equipment suppliers. The team is based at SUNY Poly’s NanoTech Complex in Albany.

To achieve the higher performance, lower power, and scaling benefits promised by 7nm technology, the IBM researchers turned to two main innovations, the use Silicon Germanium (SiGe) channel transistors and Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography integration at multiple levels, in effect bypassing conventional semiconductor manufacturing approaches.

Don’t expect to see new systems featuring these 7nm chips very soon. The announcement made no mention of any timetable for producing commercial products based on this technology. As Timothy Prickett Morgan, who writes extensively on IBM POWER Systems technology observed: the use of silicon germanium for portions of the transistors cuts back on power consumption for the very fast switching necessary for improving circuit performance, and the circuits are etched using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. These technologies may be difficult and expensive to put into production.

In the meantime, IBM notes that microprocessors utilizing 22nm and 14nm technology run today’s servers, cloud data centers, and mobile devices; and already 10nm technology is well on the way to becoming a mature technology. The 7nm chips promise even more: at least a 50% power/performance improvement for next mainframe and POWER systems that will fuel the Big Data, cloud and mobile era, and soon you can add the Internet of Things too.

The z13 delivers unbeatable performance today. With the zEC12 IBM boasted of the fastest commercial chip in the industry, 5.5 GHz on a 32 nm wafer. It did not make that boast with the z13. Instead the z13 runs on a 22 nm core at 5 GHz but still delivers a 40% total capacity improvement over the zEC12.

It does this by optimizing the stack top to bottom with 600 processors and 320 separate channels dedicated just to drive I/O throughput. The reason for not cranking up the clock speed on the z13, according to IBM, was the plateauing of Moore’s Law. The company couldn’t get enough boost for the tradeoffs it would have had to make. Nobody seems to be complaining about giving up that one-half GHz. Today the machine can process 2.5 billion transactions a day.

The ride up the Moore’s Law curve has been very enjoyable for all. Companies took the additional processing power to build onto the chip more capabilities that otherwise would have required additional processors.  The result: more performance and more capabilities at lower cost. But all good things come to an end.

This 7nm  breakthrough doesn’t necessarily restore Moore’s Law. At this point, the best we can guess is that it temporarily moves the price/performance curve to a new plane. Until we know the economics of mass fabrication in the 7nm silicon germanium world we can’t tell whether we’ll see a doubling as before or maybe just a half or quarter or maybe it could triple. We just don’t now.

For the past decade, Morgan reports, depending on the architecture, the thermal limits of systems imposed a clock speed limit on processors, and aside from some nominal instruction per clock (IPC) improvements with each  recent microarchitecture change, clock speeds and performance for a processor stayed more or less flat. This is why vendors went parallel with their CPU architectures, in effect adding cores to expand throughput rather than increasing clock speed to boost performance on a lower number of cores. Some, like IBM, also learned to optimize at every level of the stack. As the z13 demonstrates, lots of little improvements do add up.

Things won’t stop here. As Morgan observes, IBM Research and the Microelectronics Division were working with GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Samsung and chip-making equipment suppliers who collaborate through the SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in nearby Albany to get a path to 10 nm and then 7 nm processes even as the sale of GLOBALFOUNDRIES was being finalized.

The next step, he suggests, could possibly be at 4 nm but no one is sure if this can be done in a way that is economically feasible. If it can’t, IBM already has previewed the possibility of other materials that show promise.

Moore’s Law has been a wonderful ride for the entire industry. Let’s wish them the best as they aim for ever more powerful processors.

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

IBM Continues Open Source Commitment with Apache Spark

June 18, 2015

If anyone believes IBM’s commitment to open source is a passing fad, forget it. IBM has invested billions in Linux, open Power through the Open Power Foundation, and more. Its latest is the announcement of a major commitment to Apache Spark, a fast open source and general cluster computing system for big data.

spark VGN8668

Courtesy of IBM: developers work with Spark at Galvanize Hackathon

As IBM sees it, Spark brings essential advances to large-scale data processing. Specifically, it dramatically improves the performance of data dependent-apps and is expected to play a big role in the Internet of Things (IoT). In addition, it radically simplifies the process of developing intelligent apps, which are fueled by data. It does so by providing high-level APIs in Scala, Java, and Python, and an optimized engine that supports general computation graphs for data analysis. It also supports a rich set of higher-level tools including Spark SQL for SQL and DataFrames, MLlib for machine learning, GraphX for graph processing, and Spark Streaming for stream processing.

IBM is contributing its breakthrough IBM SystemML machine learning technology to the Spark open source ecosystem. Spark brings essential advances to large-scale data processing, such as improvements in the performance of data dependent apps. It also radically simplifies the process of developing intelligent apps, which are fueled by data. But maybe the biggest advantage is that it can handle data coming from multiple, disparate sources.

What IBM likes in Spark is that it’s agile, fast, and easy to use. It also likes it being open source, which ensures it is improved continuously by a worldwide community. That’s also some of the main reasons mainframe and Power Systems data centers should pay attention to Spark.  Spark will make it easier to connect applications to data residing in your data center. If you haven’t yet noticed an uptick in mobile transactions coming into your data center, they will be coming. These benefit from Spark. And if you look out just a year or two, expect to see IoT applications adding to and needing to combine all sorts of data, much of it ending up on the mainframe or Power System in one form or another. So make sure Spark is on your radar screen.

Over the course of the next few months, IBM scientists and engineers will work with the Apache Spark open community to accelerate access to advanced machine learning capabilities and help drive speed-to-innovation in the development of smart business apps. By contributing SystemML, IBM hopes data scientists iterate faster to address the changing needs of business and to enable a growing ecosystem of app developers who will apply deep intelligence to everything.

To ensure that happens, IBM will commit more than 3,500 researchers and developers to work on Spark-related projects at more than a dozen labs worldwide, and open a Spark Technology Center in San Francisco for the Data Science and Developer community to foster design-led innovation in intelligent applications. IBM also aims to educate more than 1 million data scientists and data engineers on Spark through extensive partnerships with AMPLab, DataCamp, MetiStream, Galvanize, and Big Data University MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

Of course, Spark isn’t going to be the end of tools to expedite the latest app dev. With IoT just beginning to gain widespread interest expect a flood of tools to expedite developing IoT data-intensive applications and more tools to facilitate connecting all these coming connected devices, estimated to number in the tens of billions within a few years.

DancingDinosaur applauds IBM’s decade-plus commitment to open source and its willingness to put real money and real code behind it. That means the IBM z System mainframe, the POWER platform, Linux, and the rest will be around for some time. That’s good; DancingDinosaur is not quite ready to retire.

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

API Economy Comes to the IBM z System

June 11, 2015

What comes to mind when you hear (or read) about a RESTful IBM z System? Hint: it is not a mainframe that is loafing. To the contrary, a RESTful mainframe probably is busier than it has ever been, now running a slew of new apps, most likely mobile or social apps with REST APIs connecting to z/OS-based web services plus its usual workloads. Remember web services when SOA first came to the mainframe? They continue today behind the new mobile, cloud, social, and analytical workloads that are putting the spotlight on the mainframe.

Travel and Transportation - Passenger Care

Courtesy of IBM: travel fuels mobile activity (click to enlarge)

A variety of Edge2015 sessions, given by Asit Dan, chief architect, z Service API Management and Glenn Anderson, IBM Lab Services and Training, put what the industry refers to as the emerging API economy in perspective. The z, it should come as no surprise, lies at the heart of this burgeoning API economy, not only handling transactions but also providing governance and management to the API phenomenon that is exploding. Check out IBM’s APIs for Dummies.

The difference between first generation SOA and today’s API economy lies in the new workloads—especially mobile and cloud—fueling the surging interest. The mobile device certainly is the fastest growing platform and will likely become the largest platform soon if it is not already, surpassing desktop and laptop systems.

SOA efforts initially focused on the capabilities of the providers of services, noted Dan, particularly the development, run-time invocation, and management of services. The API economy, on the other hand, focuses on the consumption of these services. It really aims to facilitate the efforts of application developers (internal developers and external business partners) who must code their apps for access to existing and new API-enabled services.

One goal of an enterprise API effort is to access already deployed services, such z-based CICS services or those of a partner. Maybe a more important goal, especially where the z is involved, is to drive use of mainframe software assets by customers, particularly mobile customers.  The API effort not only improves customer service and satisfaction but could also drive added revenue. (Have you ever fantasized of the z as a direct revenue generator?)

This calls, however, for a new set of interfaces. As Dan notes in a recent piece, APIs for accessing these assets, defined using well known standards such as web services and Representational State Transfer (REST) with JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), and published via an easily accessible catalog, make it efficient to subscribe to APIs for obtaining permissions and building new applications. Access to the APIs now can be controlled and tracked during run-time invocations (and even metered where revenue generation is the goal).

Now the API economy can morph into a commercial exchange of business functions, capabilities, and competencies as services using web APIs, noted Glenn Anderson at Edge2015. In-house business functions running on the z can evolve into an API as-a-service delivery vehicle, which amounts to another revenue stream for the mainframe data center.

The API economy often is associated with the concept of containers. Container technology provides a simplified way to make applications more mobile in a hybrid cloud, Anderson explained, and brings some distinct advantages. Specifically, containers are much smaller in size than virtual machines and provide more freedom in the placement of workloads in a cloud (private, public, hybrid) environment. Container technology is being integrated into OpenStack, which is supported on the z through IBM Cloud Manager. Docker is the best known container technology and it works with Linux on z.

With the combination of SOA, web services, REST, JSON, OpenStack, and Docker all z capable, a mainframe data center can fully participate in the mobile, apps, cloud API economy. BTW, POWER servers also can play the API, OpenStack, Docker game too. Even Watson can participate in the API economy through IBM’s early March acquisition of AlchemyAPI, a provider of scalable cognitive computing API services. The acquisition will drive the API economy into cognitive computing too. Welcome to the mainframe API economy.

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

Real Time Analytics on the IBM z13

June 4, 2015

For years organizations have been putting their analytics on distributed platforms thinking that was the only way to get fast, real-time and predictive analytics. Maybe once but not anymore. Turns out the IBM z System, especially the z13 not only is ideal for real time, predictive analytics but preferable.

IBM today is so bullish on analytics, especially predictive analytics, that last month it introduced 20 pre-built industry-specific predictive analytics solutions. To build these solutions IBM tapped its own experience working on 50,000 engagements but also an array of outside organizations with success in predictive analytics, including Urban Outfitters, National Grid, Deloitte, Bolsa de Santiago, Interactive Data Managed Solutions, and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, among others.

Web

Courtesy of IBM (click to enlarge)

The truth of the matter is that without efficient real time, predictive analytics managers get it wrong most of the time when it comes to making operational decisions, said Paul DiMarzio, IBM z Systems Big Data and Analytics Worldwide Portfolio Marketing Manager. He spoke at IBM Edge2015 in a session titled When Milliseconds Matter: Architecting Real-Time Analytics into Operational Systems. His key point: you can do this completely within the IBM z System.

The old notion of sending data to distributed systems someplace else for analytics now appears ridiculous, especially with the introduction of systems like the z13 that can handle operations and perform real time analytics concurrently. It performs analytics fast enough that you can make decisions when the action is still going on. Now the only question is whether we have the right business rules and scoring models. The data already are there and the tools are ready and waiting on the z13.

You start with the IBM SPSS Modeler with Scoring Adapter for zEnterprise. The real time predictive analytics capability delivers better, more profitable decisions at the point of customer impact. For business rules just turn to the IBM Operational Decision Manager for z/OS, which codifies business policies, practices, and regulations.

IBM SPSS improves accuracy by scoring directly within the transactional application against the latest committed data. As such it delivers the performance needed to meet operations SLAs and avoid data governance and security issues, effectively saving network bandwidth, data copying latency, and disk storage.

In addition to SPSS and the Operational Decision Manager the z13 brings many capabilities, some new for the z13 at this point. For starters, the z13 excels as a custodian of the data model, providing an accurate, secure, single copy of information that, according to IBM, ensures veracity of the data necessary for reliable analytics and provides centralized control over decision information.

Specifically, the machine brings SIMD (single instruction multiple data) and the MASS (mathematical acceleration subsystem) and ATLAS (automatically tuned linear algebra software) libraries for z/OS and Linux on z. SIMD enables the same operation to be performed on several data elements at the same time rather than sequentially. MASS and ATLAS help programmers create better and more complex analytic models.

In addition, increases in memory to as much as 10 TB, faster I/O, and simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) generally boost overall throughput of the z13, which will surely benefit any analytics being run on the machine, especially real time, predictive analytics.  In addition, analytics on the z13 gains from deep integration with core systems, the integrated architecture, and its single pane management view.

The latest IBM Red Book on analytics on the z13 sums it up as such: z Systems analytics enables organizations to improve performance and lower cost by bringing the analytic processing to where the data resides. Organizations can therefore maximize their current IT investments while adding functionality and improved price and performance with the z13. And with the new z13 features, applications can gain increased throughput for operational business intelligence (operational BI) and DB2 query workloads, which saves money (hardware, software, labor).

The Red Book suggests the following example: a user with a mobile application signs on and initiates a transaction flow through an IBM MobileFirst Platform Server running on Linux on z. The event goes to an LDAP server on z/OS to validate the user’s sign-on credentials. After successful validation, the transaction then proceeds through the z/OS transaction environment where all of the data resides in DB2 z/OS. IBM CICS transactions also are processed in the same z environment and all of the analysis is performed without moving any data, resulting in extremely fast performance. Sweet.

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

IBM zSystem for Social—Far From Forgotten at Edge2015

May 28, 2015

Dexter Doyle and Chris Gamin (z System Middleware) titled their session at Edge2015 IBM z Systems: The Forgotten Platform in Your Social Business. They were only half joking. As systems of engagement play bigger roles in the enterprise the z is not quite as forgotten as it may once have been.  In fact, at IBM the z runs the company’s own deployment of IBM Connections, the company’s flagship social business product.

Doyle used the graphic below (copyright John Atkinson, Wrong Hands) to make the point that new tools replace familiar conventional tools in a social business world.

 social desktop

 (copyright John Atkinson, Wrong Hands, click to enlarge)

Looks almost familiar, huh? Social business is not so radical. The elements of social business have been with us all along. It’s not exactly a one-to-one mapping, but Twitter and Pinterest instead of post-it notes, LinkedIn replaces the rolodex, Instagram instead of photos on your desk, and more.  Social business done right with the appropriate tools enables efficiency, Doyle observed. You don’t see the z in this picture, but it is there connecting all the dots in the social sphere

Many traditional mainframe data centers are struggling to come to grips with social business even as mobile and social workloads increasingly flow through the z. “The biggest thing with social is the change in culture,” said Doyle in his Forgotten Platform session. You end up using different tools to do business in a more social way. Even email appears antiquated in social business.

For data centers still balking at the notion of social business, Doyle noted that by 2016, 50% of large organizations will have internal Facebook-like social networks, a widely reported Gartner finding, and 30% of these will be considered as essential as email and telephones are today. The message: social business is real and z data centers should be a big part of it.

So what parts of social business will engage with the z? Doyle suggested five to start:

  1. Social media analytics
  2. Customer sentiment
  3. Customer and new market opportunity identification
  4. Identification of illegal or suspicious activities
  5. Employee and customer experiences

And the z System’s role? Same as it has always been:

  • Build an agile approach to deliver applications
  • Make every transaction secure
  • Use analytics to improve outcomes at every moment

These are things every z data center should be good at. To get started with social business on z visit the IBM Connections webpage here. There happens to be an offer for the 60-day free trail (it’s a cloud app) here. Easy and free, at least should be worth a try.

IBM Connections delivers a handful of social business capabilities. The main components are home, profiles, communities, and social analytics. Other capabilities include blogs, wikis, bookmarks, and forums for idea generation and sharing. You can use the activities capability to organize your work and that of a team, and another lets you vote on ideas. Finally, it brings a media library, content management capabilities, and file management.

Along with Connections you also might want to deploy WebSphere and Java, if you haven’t already. Then, if you are serious about building out a social business around the z you’ll want to check out Bluemix and MobileFirst. Already there is an IBM Red Book out for mobile app dev on the z13. The idea, of course, is to create engaging mobile and social business apps with the z as the back end.

The biggest payoff from social business on the z comes when you add analytics, especially real-time analytics. DancingDinosaur attended a session on that topic at Edge2015 and will be taking it up in a coming post.

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

Legacy Storage vs. Software Defined Storage at IBM Edge2015

May 21, 2015

At Edge2015 software defined storage (SDS) primarily meant IBM Spectrum Storage, the new storage software portfolio designed to address data storage inefficiencies by separating storage functionality from the underlying hardware through an intelligent software layer. To see what DancingDinosaur posted on Spectrum Storage in February when it was unveiled click here. Spectrum became the subject of dozens of sessions at the conference. Check out a general sampling of Edge2015 sessions here.

Jon Toigo, a respected storage consultant and infuriating iconoclast to some, jumped into the discussion of legacy storage vs. SDS at a session provocatively titled 50 Shades of Grey. He started by declaring “true SANs never reached the market.” On the other hand, SDS promises the world—storage flexibility, efficiency, avoidance of vendor lock-in, and on and on.

 edge2015 toigo san

Courtesy Jon Toigo (click to enlarge)

What the industry actually did as far as storage sharing, Toigo explained, was provide serial SCSI over a physical layer fabric and the use of a physical layer switch to make and break server-storage connections at high speed. Although network-like there was no management layer (which should be part of any true network model, he believes). Furthermore, the result was limited by the Fibre Channel Protocol and standards designed so that “two vendors could implement switch products that conformed to the letter of the standard…with absolute certainty that they would NOT work together,” said Toigo. iSCSI later enabled storage fabrics using TCP/IP, which made it easier to deploy the fabric since organizations already were deploying TCP/IP networks for other purposes.

Toigo’s key requirement: unified storage management, which means managing the diversity and heterogeneity of the arrays comprising the SAN. The culprit preventing this, as he sees it, are so call value-add services on array controllers that create islands of storage. You know these services: thin provisioning, on-array tiering, mirroring, replication, dedupe, and more. The same value-add services are the culprits driving the high cost of storage. “Storage hardware components are commoditized, but value-add software sustains pricing.”

With Spectrum Storage IBM incorporates more than 700 patents and is designed to help organizations transform to a hybrid cloud business model by managing massive amounts of data where they want it, how they want it, in a fast and easy manner from a single dashboard.  The software helps clients move data to the right location, at the right time to flash storage for fast access or to tape and cloud for the lowest cost.

This apparently works for Toigo, with only a few quibbles: vendors make money by adding more software, and inefficiency is added when they implement non-standard commands. IBM, however, is mostly in agreement with Toigo. According to IBM, a new approach is needed to help organizations address [storage] cost and complexity driven by tremendous data growth.  Traditional storage is inefficient in today’s world. However, Spectrum Storage software, IBM continued, helps organizations to more efficiently leverage their hardware investments to extract the full business value of data. Listen closely and you might even hear Toigo mutter Amen.

SDS may or may not be the solution. Toigo titled this session fifty shades of grey because the vendors can’t even agree on a definition for what constitutes SDS.  Yet, it is being presented as a panacea for everything that is wrong with legacy storage.

The key differentiator for Toigo is where a vendor’s storage intelligence resides; on the array controller, in the server hypervisor, or part of the software stack. As it turns out, some solutions are hypervisor dedicated or hypervisor dependent.  VMware’s Virtual SAN, for instance, only works with its hypervisor.  Microsoft’s Clustered Storage Spaces is proprietary to Microsoft, though it promises to share its storage with VMware – simple as pie, just convert your VMware workload into Microsoft VHD format and import it into Hyper-V so you can share the Microsoft SDS infrastructure.

IBM Spectrum passes Toigo’s 50 Shades test. It promises simple, efficient storage without the cost or complexity of dedicated hardware. IBM managers at Edge2015 confirmed Spectrum could run on generic servers and with generic disk arrays. With SDS you want everything agnostic for maximum flexibility.

Toigo’s preferred approach: virtualized SDS with virtual storage pools and centralized select value-add services that can be readily allocated to any workload regardless of the hypervisor. DancingDinosaur will drill down into other interesting Edge2015 sessions in subsequent posts.

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

IBM Edge Rocks 6000 Strong for Digital Transformation

May 15, 2015

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

ibm_infographic_rough draft_r5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Variety of System Vendors at IBM Edge2015

May 7, 2015

An interesting set of vendor sponsors and exhibitors are lined up for IBM Edge2015 in Las Vegas next week. For the past weeks DancingDinosaur has focused on a small selection of program sessions.  Now let’s take a look at some of the vendors that will be there.

DancingDinosaur loves the vendors because they’re usually the ones underwriting the free entertainment, food, and drinks as well as giving out the nifty stuff. (My daughters used to love going off to school with what they considered cool multi-colored pens, Day-Glo bouncing balls, folding Frisbees, and more, which I picked up free at different vendors’ booths.)

ibm enterprise cloud - cloud breakthrough year infographic_12-17-14b (1)

IBM enterprise cloud platform (click to enlarge)

Let’s start with Rocket Software. DancingDinosaur thinks of them mainly as a mainframe software provider with products for data management, performance optimization, catalog and system management, disaster recovery, storage management, and security. They also offer a bunch of interesting free utilities. At the end of April Rocket announced Rocket Discover, a self-service, intuitive data preparation and discovery solution to lets business managers and executives easily access, manipulate, prepare, and visualize data.

Both Brocade and Cisco will be there. In April, for instance, Brocade announced innovations for its campus LAN switch family. The switch is intended to help organization easily scale to meet increasing campus bandwidth demands. For instance it will deliver the industry’s highest 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) port density for any switch in its class to accommodate what it refers to as the onslaught of user video and wireless traffic that is taxing campus networks.

In early May Cisco announced that Eletrobras, a Brazilian electric utility, would use Cisco’s technology for a smart metering initiative.  The project is expected to enable operational efficiency by improving service quality and control of non-technical losses, which, according to the company, reach 22% in the North and 10% in the Northeast of Brazil compared to required energy.

Of course Red Hat and SUSE, currently the leading Linux providers for the mainframe, will be there. DancingDinosaur has gotten some of his favorite baseball hats from each of these companies at previous IBM Edge conferences.

Red Hat introduced a new business resource planner as part of the latest releases of Red Hat JBoss BPM Suite and Red Hat JBoss BRMS. The planner, based on the open source OptaPlanner JBoss community project, is designed to help enterprises address complex scheduling and resource planning challenges. It also promises to increase operational adaptability in the face of rapidly changing and unpredictable business environments.

In late April SUSE announced the upcoming availability of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications based on SUSE Linux Enterprise 12. New features, such as full operating system rollback, live kernel patching, and installation automation, should help simplify deployment and can increase uptime of mission-critical SAP solution-based workloads on Linux. SUSE customers should save time and resources as they experience improved performance and reliability.

Since the topic is Linux, let’s not forget Canonical’s Ubuntu, usually regarded as a desktop Linux distribution, is moving onto server platforms. At present Ubuntu is supported on POWER8 but not z. Ubuntu is included in numerous program sessions at Edge2015. For example, Ubuntu on Power – Using PowerKVM, presented by James Nash. The session covers various aspects to consider when moving to Ubuntu on the Power platform running in a PowerKVM environment.

In the exhibition area, where most people congregate for free food and drink after the program sessions there are over 30 exhibitors, including a handful of IBM units. For example, H&W Computer Systems  provides a handful of mainframe tools that enable you to run batch jobs during the business day without impacting CICS, automatically convert JES2 output to PDF or other formats, or use ISPF-like features to manage mainframe datasets. This is hardcore mainframe stuff.

An interesting exhibitor is ownCloud, an enterprise file sync and share system that is hosted in your data center, on your servers, using your storage. ownCloud provides Universal File Access through a single front-end to all of your disparate systems. Users can access company files on any device, anytime, from anywhere while IT can manage, control and audit file sharing activity to ensure security and compliance measures are met. (DancingDinosaur could actually use something like this—make note to check out this exhibitor.)

Recommend you spend a couple of late afternoons grazing through the exhibitor space, enjoying the food and drink, catching some demos, and collecting a new wardrobe of t-shirts and baseball caps.  And don’t forget to pick up some of the other funky stuff for your kids.

Of course, plan to save time for the free evening entertainment. In addition to Penn & Teller, a pair of magicians, and rocker Grace Potter, here. Also there will be a weird but terrific group, 2Cellos as well.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing on Technologywriter.com and here. If you are attending IBM Edge2015—now sold out—please look for me hanging out wherever people gather around available power outlets to recharge mobile devices.


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