Posts Tagged ‘Power Systems’

IBM Drives Platforms to the Cloud

April 29, 2016

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

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

openstack-logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 8, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Spectrum Suite Returns IBM to the Storage Game

January 29, 2016

The past four quarters haven’t been kind to IBM storage as the storage group racked up consecutive quarterly revenue losses. The Spectrum Suite V 1.0 is IBM’s latest software defined storage (SDS) initiative, one of the hottest trends in storage. The product release promises to start turning things around for IBM storage.

IBM Mobile Storage (Jared Lazarus/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM Mobile Storage, Jamie,Thomas, GM Storage (Jared Lazarus/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

Driving interest in SDS is the continuing rapid adoption on new workload, new application, and new ways of storing and consuming data. The best thing about the Spectrum Suite is the way IBM is now delivering it—as a broad set of storage software capabilities that touch every type of storage operation. It doesn’t much matter which workloads or applications are driving it or what kind of storage you need.  Seventy percent of clients report deploying object storage, and 60% already are committed to SDS.  Over three-quarters of storage device interface (SDI) adopters also indicated a strong preference for single-vendor storage solutions.  This all bodes well for IBM’s Spectrum Suite.

Also working in IBM’s favor is the way storage has traditionally been delivered. Even within one enterprise there can be multiple point solutions from different vendors or even incompatible solutions from the same vendor. Companies need to transition among storage software offerings as business needs change, which entails adding and removing software licenses. This always is complex and may even lead to dramatic cost gyrations due to different licensing metrics and different vendor policies.  On top of that, procurement may not play along so quickly, leaving the organization with a gap in functionality.  Then there are the typical inconsistent user interfaces among offerings, which invariably reduces productivity and may increase errors.

Add to that the usual hassles of learning different products with different interfaces and different ways to run new storage processes. As a result, a switch to SDS may not be as smooth or efficient as you hoped, and it probably won’t be cheap.

IBM is counting on these storage complications, outlined above, and more to give it a distinct advantage in the SDS market  IBM should know; the company has been one of the offenders creating similar complications as they cobbled together a wide array of storage products with different interfaces and management processes over the years.

With the new Spectrum Storage Suite IBM finally appears to have gotten it right. IBM is offering a simplified and predictable licensing model for entire Spectrum Storage family. Pricing is pegged to the capacity being used, regardless of what that capacity is and how it is being used. Block, file, object—doesn’t matter; the same per-terabyte pricing applies. IBM estimates that alone can save up to 40% compared to licensing different software capabilities separately. Similarly, there are no software licensing hassles when migrating from one form of storage or data type to another. Even the cost won’t change unless you add capacity. Then, you pay the same per-terabyte cost for the additional capacity.

The Spectrum Suite and its licensing model work for mainframe shops running Linux on z and LinuxONE. Sorry, no z/OS yet.

The new Spectrum Storage approach has advantages when running a storage shop. There are no unexpected charges when using new capabilities and IBM isn’t charging for non-production uses like dev and test.

Finally, you will find a consistent user interface across all storage components in the Spectrum suite. That was never the case with IBM’s underlying storage hardware products but Spectrum SDS makes those difference irrelevant. The underlying hardware array doesn’t really matter; admins will rarely ever have to touch it.

The storage capabilities included in IBM Spectrum Storage Suite V1.0 should be very familiar to you from the traditional IBM storage products you probably are currently using. They include:

  • IBM Spectrum Accelerate, Version 11.5.3
  • IBM Spectrum Archive Enterprise Edition, Version 1.2 (Linux edition)
  • IBM Spectrum Control Advanced Edition 5.2
  • IBM Spectrum Protect Suite 7.1
  • IBM Spectrum Scale Advanced and Standard Editions (Protocols) V4.2
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software for SAN Volume Controller, Version 7.6
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software for SAN Volume Controller, Version 7.6 – Real-time Compression
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software for SAN Volume Controller, Version 7.6 – Encryption Software

With Spectrum Storage you can, for example, run SAN storage, storage rich servers, and a tape library. Add up the storage capacity for each and pay the per-terabyte licensing cost. Re-allocate the existing capacity between the different types of storage and your charges don’t change. Pretty nifty, huh? To DancingDinosaur, who has sat through painful discussions of complicated IBM software pricing slopes, this is how you spell relief. Maybe there really is a new IBM coming that actually gets 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.

IBM zSystem Continues Surge in 4Q15

January 22, 2016

DancingDinosaur follows technology, not financial investments, so you’d be an idiot if you considered what follows as investment advice. It is not.  Still, as one who has built a chunk of his career around the mainframe, it is good to see the z System continuing to remain in the black and beating the sexier Power lineup although I do follow both closely. See the latest IBM financials here.

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The IBM z13 System

 Specifically, as IBM reported on Tuesday, revenues from z Systems mainframe server products increased 16 percent compared with the year-ago period (up 21 percent adjusting for currency).  Total delivery of z Systems computing power, as measured in MIPS (millions of instructions per second), increased 28 percent.  Revenues from Power Systems were up 4 percent compared with the 2014 period (up 8 percent adjusting for currency).

Almost as good, revenues from Power Systems were up 4 percent compared with the 2014 period (up 8 percent adjusting for currency). Power revenues have been up most of the year although they got a little blurry in the accounting.

In the storage market, which is getting battered by software defined storage (SDS) on one hand and cloud-based storage on the other, IBM reported revenues from System Storage decreased 11 percent (down 7 percent adjusting for currency). The storage revenues probably won’t bounce back fast, at least not without IBM bringing out radically new storage products. That storage rival EMC got acquired by Dell should be some kind of signal that the storage market as the traditional enterprise players knew it is drastically different. For now object storage, SDS, and even Flash won’t replace the kind of revenue IBM used to see from DS8000 disk systems or TS enterprise tape libraries loaded with mechanical robotics.

Getting more prominence is IBM’s strategic initiative. This has been a company priority all year. Strategic initiatives include cloud, mobile, analytics, security, IoT, and cognitive computing. Q4 revenues, as reported by IBM, from these strategic imperatives — cloud, analytics, and engagement — increased 10 percent year-to-year (up 16 percent adjusting for currency).  For the full year, revenues from strategic imperatives increased 17 percent (up 26 percent adjusting for currency and the divested System x business) to $28.9 billion and now represents 35 percent of total IBM consolidated revenue.

For the full year, total cloud revenues (public, private and hybrid) increased 43 percent (up 57 percent adjusting for currency and the divested System x business) to $10.2 billion.  Revenues for cloud delivered as a service — a subset of the total cloud revenue — increased 50 percent to $4.5 billion; and the annual as-a-service run rate increased to $5.3 billion from $3.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Meanwhile, revenues from business analytics increased 7 percent (up 16 percent adjusting for currency) to $17.9 billion.  Revenues from mobile more than tripled and from security increased 5 percent (up 12 percent adjusting for currency).

Commenting on IBM latest financial was Timothy Prickett Morgan, who frequently writes on IBM’s platforms. Citing Martin Schroeter, IBM’s chief financial officer, statements to analyst, Morgan suggested that low profit margins, which other financial analysts complained about, put pressure on the System z13 product line that launched early in the year. After a fast start, apparently, the z13 is now experiencing a slowdown in the upgrade cycle. It’s at this point that DancingDinosaur usually expects to see a new z, typically a business class version of the latest mainframe, the z13 in this case, but that does not appear to be in the offing. About the closest IBM got to that was the RockHopper model of the LinuxOne, a z optimized only for Linux, cloud, mobile, and analytics.

Morgan also noted that IBM added about 50 new mainframe customers for the year on an installed base of about 6,000 active customers. DancingDinosaur has been tracking that figure for years and it has not fluctuated much in recent years. And am never sure how to count the handful of IT shops that run a z in the IBM cloud.  But 5000-6000 active z shops still sounds about right.

Power Systems, which has also grown four quarters in a row, and was up 8 percent at constant currency. This has to be a relief to the company, which has committed over $1 billion to Power. IBM attributes some of this growth to its enthusiastic embrace of Linux on Power8, but Morgan complains of having no sense of how much of the Power Systems pie is driven by scale-out Linux machines intended to compete against Intel Xeon servers. Power also is starting to get some boost from the OpenPOWER Foundation, members that started to ship products in the past few months. It’s probably minimal revenue now but over time it should grow.

For those of us who are counting on z and Power to be around for a while longer, the latest financials should be encouraging.

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.

Mobile Financial App Security Appears Shaky

January 15, 2016

IBM has made mobile a key strategic imperative going forward, even discounting mobile software license charges on z. However, a recent study suggests that mobile apps may be less secure than app users think. For example, 83% of the app users surveyed felt their applications were adequately secure. Yet, 90% of the applications Arxan Technologies tested were vulnerable to at least two of the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Mobile Top 10 Risks.

dino Arxan_SOAS_Title_Image

The OWASP Top Ten is an awareness document for web application security. The OWASP Top Ten represents a broad consensus about what the most critical web application security flaws are. Security experts will use the list as a first step in changing the security awareness and software development culture around security in organizations around the world. You can find the Arxan report here.

In the latest study, 41% of mobile finance app users expect their finance apps to be hacked within the next six months. That’s not exactly a vote of confidence. Even worse, 42% of executive IT decision makers, those who have oversight or insight into the security of the mobile finance apps they produce, feel the same way.  Does this bother you?

It should. The researchers found that 81% of app users would change providers if apps offered by similar providers were more secure. While millennials are driving the adoption of mobile apps, their views on the importance of app security were equally as strong as the older non-millennials. Overall, survey results showed very little geographical discrepancies across the US, UK, Germany, and Japan.

This sentiment makes it sound like mobile finance applications are at a hopeless state of security where, despite Herculean efforts to thwart attackers, adversaries are expected to prevail. But the situation is not hopeless; it’s careless. Half the organizations aren’t even trying. Fully 50% of organizations have zero budget allocated for mobile app security—0, nothing, nada—according to the researchers.  By failing to step up their mobile security game organizations risk losing customers to competitors who offer alternative apps that are more secure.

How bad is the mobile security situation? When put to the test, the majority of mobile apps failed critical security tests and could easily be hacked, according to the researchers.  Among 55 popular mobile finance apps tested for security vulnerabilities, 92% were shown to have at least two OWASP Mobile Top 10 Risks. Such vulnerabilities could allow the apps to be tampered and reverse-engineered, which could clearly put sensitive financial information in the wrong hands or, even worse, potentially redirect the flow of money. Ouch!

Think about all the banks and insurance companies that are scrambling to deploy new mobile apps. As it turns out, financial services organizations, the researchers report, also are among the top targets of hackers seeking high-value payment data, intellectual property (IP), and other sensitive information. Specifically, employee, customer, and soft IP data are the top three targets of cyber-attacks in the financial services market; while at the same time theft of hard IP soared 183% in 2015, according to PwC, another firm researching the segment.

With the vast majority of cyber-attacks happening at the application layer, one would think that robust application security would be a fundamental security measure being aggressively implemented and increasingly required by regulators, particularly given the financial services industry’s rapid embrace of mobile financial apps. But apparently it is not.

So where does the financial mobile app industry stand? Among the most prevalent OWASP Mobile Top 10 Risks identified among the mobile finance apps tested the top 2 risks were:

1) Lack of binary protection (98%) – this was the most prevalent vulnerability

2) Insufficient transport layer protection (91%).

A distant third, at 58%, was unintended data leakage. All these vulnerabilities, the top two especially, make the mobile financial applications susceptible to reverse-engineering and tampering in addition to privacy violations and identity theft.

Says Arxan CTO Sam Rehman: “The impact for financial institutions and mobile finance app users can be devastating. Imagine having your mobile finance app leak your personal financial information and identity, or your app maliciously redirecting your money.” The customer outrage and bad press that followed wouldn’t be pretty, not to mention the costly lawsuits.

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 Systems Sets 2016 Priorities

December 14, 2015

Despite its corporate struggles, IBM Systems, the organization that replaced IBM System and Technology Group (IBM STG) had a pretty good year in 2015. It started the year by launching the z13, which was optimized for the cloud and mobile economy. No surprise there. IBM made no secret that cloud, mobile, and analytics were its big priorities.  Over the year it also added cognitive computing and software defined storage to its priorities.

But it might have left out its biggest achievement of 2015.  This week IBM announced receiving a major multi-year research grant to IBM scientists to advance the building blocks for a universal quantum computer. The award was made by the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) program. This may not come to commercial fruition in our working lives but it has the potential to radically change computing as we have ever envisioned it. And it certainly will put a different spin on worries about Moore’s Law.

Three Types of Quantum Computing

Right now, according to IBM, the workhorse of the quantum computer is the quantum bit (qubit). Many scientists are tackling the challenge of building qubits, but quantum information is extremely fragile and requires special techniques to preserve the quantum state. This fragility of qubits played a key part in one of the preposterous but exciting plots on the TV show Scorpion. The major hurdles include creating qubits of high quality and packaging them together in a scalable form so they can perform complex calculations in a controllable way – limiting the errors that can result from heat and electromagnetic radiation.

IBM scientists made a great stride in that direction earlier this year by demonstrating critical breakthroughs to detect quantum errors by combining superconducting qubits in lattices on computer chips – and whose quantum circuit design is the only physical architecture that can scale to larger dimensions.

To return to a more mundane subject, revenue, during 2015 DancingDinosaur reported the positive contributions the z System made to IBM’s revenue, one of the company’s few positive revenue performers. Turned out DancingDinosaur missed one contributor since it doesn’t track constant currency. If you look at constant currency, which smooths out fluctuations in currency valuations, IBM Power Systems have been on an upswing for the last 3 quarters: up 1% in Q1, up 5% in Q2, up 2% in Q3.   DancingDinosaur expects both z and Power to contribute to IBM revenue in upcoming quarters.

Looking ahead to 2016, IBM identified the following priorities:

  • Develop an API ecosystem that monetizes big data and cognitive workloads, built on the cloud as part of becoming a better service provider.
  • Win the architectural battle with OpenPOWER and POWER8 – designed for data and the cognitive era. (Unspoken, beat x86.)
  • Extend z Systems for new mobile, cloud and in-line analytics workloads.
  • Capture new developers, markets and buyers with open innovation on IBM LinuxONE, the most advanced and trusted enterprise Linux system.
  • Shift the IBM storage portfolio to a Flash and the software defined model that disrupts the industry by enabling new workloads, very high speed, and data virtualization for improved data economics.
  • Engage clients through a digital-first Go-to-Market model

These are all well and good. About the only thing missing is any mention of the IBM Open Mainframe Project that was announced in August as a partnership with the Linux Foundation. Still hoping that will generate the kind of results in terms of innovative products for the z that the OpenPOWER initiative has started to produce. DancingDinosaur covered that announcement here. Hope they haven’t given up already.  Just have to remind myself to be patient; it took about a year to start getting tangible results from OpenPOWER consortium.

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.

Expect this to be the final DancingDinosaur for 2015.  Be back the week of Jan. 4

Latest IBM Initiatives Drive Power Advantages over x86

November 20, 2015

This past week IBM announced a multi-year strategic collaboration between it and Xilinx that aims to enable higher performance and energy-efficient data center applications through Xilinx FPGA-enabled workload acceleration on IBM POWER-based systems. The goal is to deliver open acceleration infrastructures, software, and middleware to address applications like machine learning, network functions virtualization (NFV), genomics, high performance computing (HPC), and big data analytics. In the process, IBM hopes to put x86 systems at an even greater price/performance disadvantage.

CAPI-640x419

Courtesy of IBM

At the same time IBM and several fellow OpenPOWER Foundation members revealed new technologies, collaborations and developer resources to enable clients to analyze data more deeply and at high speed. The new offerings center on the tight integration of IBM’s open and licensable POWER processors with accelerators and dedicated high performance x86e processors optimized for computationally intensive software code. The accelerated POWER-based offerings come at a time when many companies are seeking the best platform for Internet of Things, machine learning, and other performance hungry applications.

The combination of collaborations and alliances are clearly aimed at establishing Power as the high performance leader for the new generation of workloads. Noted IBM, independent software vendors already are leveraging IBM Flash Storage attached to CAPI to create very large memory spaces for in-memory processing of analytics, enabling the same query workloads to run with a fraction of the number of servers compared to commodity x86 solutions.  These breakthroughs enable POWER8-based systems to continue where the promise of Moore’s Law falls short, by delivering performance gains through OpenPOWER ecosystem-driven, full stack innovation. DancingDinosaur covered efforts to expand Moore’s Law on the z a few weeks back here.

The new workloads present different performance challenges. To begin, we’re talking about heterogeneous workloads that are becoming increasingly prevalent, forcing data centers to turn to application accelerators just to keep up with the demands for throughput and latency at low power. The Xilinx All Programmable FPGAs promise to deliver the power efficiency that makes accelerators practical to deploy throughout the data center. Just combine IBM’s open and licensable POWER architecture with Xilinx FPGAs to deliver compelling performance, performance/watt, and lower total cost of ownership for this new generation of data centers workloads.

As part of the IBM and Xilinx strategic collaboration, IBM Systems Group developers will create solution stacks for POWER-based servers, storage, and middleware systems with Xilinx FPGA accelerators for data center architectures such as OpenStack, Docker, and Spark. IBM will also develop and qualify Xilinx accelerator boards for IBM Power Systems servers. Xilinx is developing and will release POWER-based versions of its leading software defined SDAccel™ Development Environment and libraries for the OpenPOWER developer community.

But there is more than this one deal. IBM is promising new products, collaborations and further investments in accelerator-based solutions on top of the POWER processor architecture.  Most recently announced were:

The coupling of NVIDIA® Tesla® K80 GPUs, the flagship offering of the NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform, with Watson’s POWER-based architecture to accelerate Watson’s Retrieve and Rank API capabilities to 1.7x of its normal speed. This speed-up can further improve the cost-performance of Watson’s cloud-based services.

On the networking front Mellanox announced the world’s first smart network switch, the Switch-IB 2, capable of delivering an estimated 10x system performance improvement. NEC also announced availability of its ExpEther Technology suited for POWER architecture-based systems, along with plans to leverage IBM’s CAPI technology to deliver additional accelerated computing value in 2016.

Finally, two OpenPOWER members, E4 Computer Engineering and Penguin Computing, revealed new systems based on the OpenPOWER design concept and incorporating IBM POWER8 and NVIDIA Tesla GPU accelerators. IBM also reported having ported a series of key IBM Internet of Things, Spark, Big Data, and Cognitive applications to take advantage of the POWER architecture with accelerators.

The announcements include the names of partners and products but product details were in short supply as were cost and specific performance details. DancingDinosaur will continue to chase those down.

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.

DancingDinosaur will not post the week of Thanksgiving. Have a delicious holiday.

IBM Enhances the DS8000 Storage Family for New Challenges

October 30, 2015

Earlier this month IBM introduced a family of business-critical hybrid data storage systems that span a wide range of price points. The family is powered by the next generation of IBM’s proven DS8000 storage platform and delivers critical application acceleration, 6-nines (99.9999) availability, and industry-leading capabilities, like integrated high performance flash.  And coming along in November and December will be new tape storage products.

IBM-DS8880.jpg.

DS8880, courtesy of IBM (click to enlarge)

The company sees demand for the new storage being driven by cloud, mobile, analytics, and security. As IBM continues to encourage data centers to expand into new workloads, it is introducing a new family of business-critical hybrid flash data systems primarily to support the latest requirements of z System- and Power-based data centers. If your shop hasn’t started to experience a ramp up of new workloads it likely will soon enough.

The new storage family, all based on POWER8 and the DS8000 software stack, currently consists 3 models:

  1. The entry model, the DS8884, delivers fast hybrid flash starting at under $50K. It offers up to 12 cores, 256 GB total system memory, 64 16GB FCP/FICON ports, and 768 HDD/SSD + 120 Flash cards in a 19”, 40u rack.
  2. The DS8886 brings a 2x performance boost, up to 48 cores, 2 TB total system memory, 128 16GB FCP/FICON ports, and 1536 HDD/SSD’s + 240 Flash cards packed into a 19”, 46u rack.
  3. The high end DS8888, according to IBM, is the industry’s fastest T1 Subsystem. It offers all-flash with up to 96 cores, 2 TB total system memory, 128 16GB FCP/FICON ports, and 480 Flash cards packed in the 19”, 40u rack. Won’t be available until spring 2016.

Being built on the DS8000 software stack, the new storage brings unparalleled integration with IBM z System. The systems are especially tuned for insight and cloud environments. They also deliver top efficiency and maximum utilization of resources including staff productivity, space utilization and lower cost through streamlined operations and a 30% reduction in footprint vs. 33″-34” racks.

The DS8888 family comes with two license options: Base function license provides Logical Configuration support for FB, Original Equipment License (OEL), IBM Database Protection, Thin Provisioning, Encryption Authorization, Easy Tier, and I/O Priority Manager. The z Synergy Service  Function license brings PAV, and Hyper-PAV, FICON and High Performance FICON (zHPF), IBM z/OS Distributed Data Backup, and a range of Copy Services Functions including FlashCopy, Metro Mirror, Global MirrorMetro/Global Mirror, z/Global Mirror & z/Global Mirror Resync, and Multi-Target PPRC .

The DS8880 family also provides 99.9999% uptime, an increase over the typical industry uptime benchmark of 99.999% uptime. That extra decimal point translates into 365.243 continuous days of uptime per year. Even the most mission-critical application can probably live with that.

The High-Performance Flash Enclosure for the DS8880 family redefines what IBM considers true enterprise hybrid flash data systems should be, especially in terms of performance for critical applications. Usually, hybrid systems combine flash and traditional spinning drives to be deployed among a variety of mixed workloads of private or public clouds, while reserving more costly all-flash storage for delivering the most extreme performance for only those applications that require it. Now IBM recommends hybrid configurations for consolidation of virtually all workloads since the DS8880 preserves the flexibility to deliver flash performance exactly where and when it is needed automatically through Easy Tier, which optimizes application performance dynamically across any DS8880 configuration without requiring administrators to manually tune and retune applications and storage.

The DS8880 also supports a wide variety of enterprise server and virtual server platforms, but not all are created equal. It includes special integration with z Systems and IBM Power Systems. This is due to the advanced microcode that has been developed and enhanced in lockstep with the mainframe’s I/O architecture over the past several decades. For Power shops the DS8880 copy services are tightly integrated with IBM PowerHA SystemMirror for AIX and IBM i, which add another level of assurance for users who need 24×7 business continuity for their critical Power systems.

For shops dealing with VMware, the DS8880 includes interoperability with VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration, VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager, and a VMware vCenter plug-in that allows users to offload storage management operations in VMware environments to the DS8880. Should you prefer to go the other direction, the DS8880 supports IBM Storage Management Console for VMware vCenter to help VMware administrators independently monitor and control their storage resources from the VMware vSphere Client GUI.

If you didn’t notice, there have been a series of interesting announcements coming out of IBM Insight, which wrapped up yesterday in Las Vegas. DancingDinosaur intends to recap some of the most interesting announcements in case you missed them.

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 z System Shines in 3Q15 Quarterly Report

October 23, 2015

IBM posted another down quarter this past Monday, maybe the thirteenth in a row; it’s easy to lose track. But yet again, the IBM z System provided a bright spot, a 15 percent increase compared with the year-ago period. Last quarter the z also came up a winner. Still the investment analysts went crazy, the stock tumbled, and wild scenarios, inspired by Dell’s acquisition of EMC no doubt, began circulating.

ibm-z13

IBM z13

However, don’t expect IBM to be going away anytime soon. DancingDinosaur is a technology analyst and writer, absolutely not a financial analyst (his wife handles the checkbook).  If you look at what has been going on in the past two years with z System and POWER from a technology standpoint these platforms are here for the long haul.  Most of the top 100 companies rely on a mainframe.  Linux on z has become a factor in roughly 70 percent of the leading shops. When DancingDinosaur last ran the numbers there still are about 5000-6000 active mainframe shops and the numbers aren’t dropping nearly as fast as some pundits would have you believe.

primary-linuxone-emperor

IBM LinuxONE

The z13 and LinuxONE are very powerful mainframes, the most powerful by any number of measures in the industry.  And they are a dramatically different breed of enterprise platform, capable of concurrently running mixed workloads—OLTP, mobile, cloud, analytics—with top performance, scalability, and rock solid security. The Open Mainframe Project in conjunction with the Linux Foundation means that IBM no longer is going it alone with the mainframe. A similar joint effort with the Open POWER Consortium began delivering results within a year.

The Dell-EMC comparison is not a valid one. EMC’s primary business was storage and the business at the enterprise level has changed dramatically. It has changed for IBM too; the company’s revenues from System Storage decreased 19 percent. But storage was never as important to the company as the z, which had long been its cash cow, now diminished for sure but still worth the investment. The dozens and dozens of acquisitions EMC made never brought it much in terms of synergy. IBM, at least, has its strategic imperatives plan that is making measurable progress.

IBM’s strategic imperatives, in fact, were the only business that was doing as well as the z. Strategic imperatives revenue: up 27 percent year-to-year; Cloud revenue up more than 65 percent year-to-date.  Total cloud revenue hit $9.4 billion over the trailing 12 months. Cloud delivered as a service had an annual run rate of $4.5 billion vs. $3.1 billion in third-quarter 2014.  Business analytics revenue was up 19 percent year-to-date. Be interesting to see what cognitive computing and Watson can produce.

Besides storage, the other dim spot in the IBM platform story is Power Systems.  Revenues from Power Systems were down 3 percent compared with the 2014 period. DancingDinosaur, long a fan of Power Systems, anticipates the platform will turn positive next quarter or the first quarter of 2016 as some of the new technology and products coming, in part, from the Open POWER Consortium begin to attract new customers and ring up sales. The new Power Systems LC Server family should attract interest for hybrid Cloud, Hyperscale Data Centers, and Open Solutions, hopefully bringing new customers. With online pricing starting around $6600 the LC machines should be quite competitive against x86 boxes of comparable capabilities.

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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