Posts Tagged ‘Power Systems’

IBM Boosts AI at Think

March 23, 2018

Enterprise system vendors are racing to AI along with all the others. Writes Jeffrey Burt, an analyst at The Next Platform, “There continues to be an ongoing push among tech vendors to bring artificial intelligence (AI) and its various components – including deep learning and machine learning – to the enterprise. The technologies are being rapidly adopted by hyperscalers and in the HPC space, and enterprises stand to reap significant benefits by also embracing them.” Exactly what those benefits are still need to be specifically articulated and, if possible, quantified.

IBM Think Conference this week

For enterprise data centers running the Z or Power Systems, the most obvious quick payoff will be fast, deeper, more insightful data analytics along with more targeted guidance on actions to take in response. After that there still remains the possibility of more automation of operations but the Z already is pretty thoroughly automated and optimized. Just give it your operational and performance parameters and it will handle the rest.  In addition, vendors like Compuware and Syncsort have been making the mainframe more graphical and intuitive. The days of needing deep mainframe experience or expertise have passed. Even x86 admins can quickly pick up a modern mainframe today.

In a late 2016 study by Accenture that modeled the impact of AI for 12 developed economies. The research compared the size of each country’s economy in 2035 in a baseline scenario, which shows expected economic growth under current assumptions and an AI scenario reflecting expected growth once the impact of AI has been absorbed into the economy. AI was found to yield the highest economic benefits for the United States, increasing its annual growth rate from 2.6 percent to 4.6 percent by 2035, translating to an additional USD $8.3 trillion in gross value added (GVA). In the United Kingdom, AI could add an additional USD $814 billion to the economy by 2035, increasing the annual growth rate of GVA from 2.5 to 3.9 percent. Japan has the potential to more than triple its annual rate of GVA growth by 2035, and Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria could see their growth rates double. You can still find the study here.

Also coming out of Think this week was the announcement of an expanded Apple-IBM partnership around AI and machine learning (ML). The resulting AI service is intended for corporate developers to build apps themselves. The new service, Watson Services for Core ML, links Apple’s Core ML tools for developers that it unveiled last year with IBM’s Watson data crunching service. Core ML helps coders build machine learning-powered apps that more efficiently perform calculations on smartphones instead of processing those calculations in external data centers. It’s similar to other smartphone-based machine learning tools like Google’s TensorFlow Lite.

The goal is to help enterprises reimagine the way they work through a combination of Core ML and Watson Services to stimulate the next generation of intelligent mobile enterprise apps. Take the example of field technicians who inspect power lines or machinery. The new AI field app could feed images of electrical equipment to Watson to train it to recognize the machinery. The result would enable field technicians to scan the electrical equipment they are inspecting on their iPhones or iPads and automatically detect any anomalies. The app would eliminate the need to send that data to IBM’s cloud computing data centers for processing, thus reducing the amount of time it takes to detect equipment issues to near real-time.

Apple’s Core ML toolkit could already be used to connect with competing cloud-based machine learning services from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft to create developer tools that more easily link the Core ML service with Watson. For example, Coca-Cola already is testing Watson Services for Core ML to see if it helps its field technicians better inspect vending machines. If you want try it in your shop, the service will be free to developers to use now. Eventually, developers will have to pay.

Such new roll-your-own AI services represent a shift for IBM. Previously you had to work with IBM consulting teams. Now the new Watson developer services are intended to be bought in an “accessible and bite size” way, according to IBM, and sold in a “pay as you go” model without consultants.  In a related announcement at Think, IBM announced it is contributing the core of Watson Studio’s Deep Learning Service as an open source project called Fabric for Deep Learning. This will enable developers and data scientists to work together on furthering the democratization of deep learning.

Ultimately, the democratization of AI is the only way to go. When intelligent systems speak together and share insights everyone’s work will be faster, smarter. Yes, there will need to be ways to compensate distinctively valuable contributions but with over two decades of open source experience, the industry should be able to pretty easily figure that out.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his work at technologywriter.com and here.

Dinosaurs Strike Back in IBM Business Value Survey

March 2, 2018

IBM’s Institute of Business Value (IBV) recently completed a massive study based 12,000 interviews of executives of legacy c-suite companies. Not just CEO and CIO but COO, CFO, CMO, and more, including the CHO. The CHO is the Chief Happiness Officer. Not sure what a CHO actually does but if one had been around when DancingDinosaur was looking for a corporate job he might have stayed on the corporate track instead of pursuing the independent analyst/writer dream.

(unattributed IBM graphic)

IBV actually referred to the study as “Incumbents strike back.” The incumbents being the legacy businesses the c-suite members represent. In a previous c-suite IBV study two years ago, the respondents expressed concern about being overwhelmed and overrun by new upstart companies, the born-on-the-web newcomers. In many ways the execs at that time felt they were under attack.

Spurred by fear, the execs in many cases turned to a new strategy that takes advantage of what has always been their source of strength although they often lacked the ways and means to take advantage of that strength; the huge amounts of data they have gathered and stored, for decades in some cases. With new cognitive systems now able to extract and analyze this legacy data and combine it with new data, they could actually beat some of the upstarts. Finally, they could respond like nimble, agile operations, not the lumbering dinosaurs as they were often portrayed.

“Incumbents have become smarter about leveraging valuable data, honing their employees’ skills, and in some cases, acquired possible disruptors to compete in today’s digital age,” the study finds, according to CIO Magazine, which published excerpts from the study here. The report reveals 72 percent of surveyed CxOs claimed the next wave of disruptive innovation will be led by the incumbents who pose a significant competitive threat to new entrants and digital players. By comparison, the survey found only 22 percent of respondents believe smaller companies and start-ups are leading disruptive change. This presents a dramatic reversal from a similar but smaller IBV survey two years ago.

Making possible this reversal is not only growing awareness among c-level execs of the value of their organizations’ data and the need to use it to counter the upstarts, but new technologies, approaches like DevOps, easier-to-use dev tools, the increasing adoption of Linux, and mainframes like the z13, z14, and LinuxONE, which have been optimized for hybrid and cloud computing.  Also driving this is the emergence of platform options as a business strategy.

The platform option may be the most interesting decision right now. To paraphrase Hamlet, to be (a platform for your industry) or not to be. That indeed is a question many legacy businesses will need to confront. When you look at platform business models, what is right for your organization. Will you create a platform for your industry or piggyback on another company’s platform? To decide you need to first understand the dynamics of building and operating a platform.

The IBV survey team explored that question and found the respondents pretty evenly divided with 54% reporting they won’t while the rest expect to build and operate a platform. This is not a question that you can ruminate over endlessly like Hamlet.  The advantage goes to those who can get there first in their industry segment. Noted IBV, only a few will survive in any one industry segment. It may come down to how finely you can segment the market for your platform and still maintain a distinct advantage. As CIO reported, the IBV survey found 57 percent of disruptive organizations are adopting a platform business model.

Also rising in importance is the people-talent-skills issue. C-level execs have always given lip service to the importance of people as in the cliché people are our greatest asset.  Based on the latest survey, it turns out skills are necessary but not sufficient. Skills must be accompanied by the right culture. As the survey found:  Companies that have the right culture in place are more successful. In that case, the skills are just an added adrenalin shot. Still the execs put people skills in top three. The IBV analysts conclude: People and talent is coming back. Guess we’re not all going to be replaced soon with AI or cognitive computing, at least not yet.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his work at technologywriter.com and here.

IBM Jumps into the Next Gen Server Party with POWER9

February 15, 2018

IBM re-introduced its POWER9 lineup of servers  this week starting with 2-socket and 4-socket systems and more variations coming in the months ahead as IBM, along with the rest of the IT vendor community grapples with how to address changing data center needs. The first, the AC922, arrived last fall. DancingDinosaur covered it here. More, the S922/S914/S924 and H922/H924/L922, are promised later this quarter.

The workloads organizations are running these days are changing, often dramatically and quickly. One processor, no matter how capable or flexible or efficient will be unlikely to do the job going forward. It will take an entire family of chips.  That’s as true for Intel and AMR and the other chip players as IBM.

In some ways, IBM’s challenge is even qwerkier. Its chips will not only need to support Linux and Windows, but also IBMi and AIX. IBM simply cannot abandon its IBMi and AIX customer bases. So chips supporting IBMi and AIX are being built into the POWER9 family.

For IBMi the company is promising POWER9 exploitation for:

  • Expanding the secure-ability of IBMi with TLS, secure APIs, and logs for SIEM solutions
  • Expanded Install options with an installation process using USB 3.0 media
  • Encryption and compression for cloud storage
  • Increasing the productivity of developers and administrators

This may sound trivial to those who have focused on the Linux world and work with x86 systems too, but it is not for a company still mired in productive yet aging IBMi systems.

IBM also is promising POWER9 goodies for AIX, its legacy Unix OS, including:

  • AIX Security: PowerSC and PowerSC MFA updates for malware intrusion prevention and strong authentication
  • New workload acceleration with shared memory communications over RDMA (SMC-R)
  • Improved availability: AIX Live Update enhancements; GDR 1.2; PowerHA 7.2
  • Improved Cloud Mgmt: IBM Cloud PowerVC Manager for SDI; Import/Export;
  • AIX 7.2 native support for POWER9 – e.g. enabling NVMe

Again, if you have been running Linux on z or LinuxONE this may sound antiquated, but AIX has not been considered state-of-the-art for years. NVMe alone gives is a big boost.

But despite all the nice things IBM is doing for IBMi and AIX, DancingDinosaur believes the company clearly is betting POWER9 will cut into Intel x86 sales. But that is not a given. Intel is rolling out its own family of advanced x86 Xeon machines under the Skylake code name. Different versions will be packaged and tuned to different workloads. They are rumored, at the fully configured high end, to be quite expensive. Just don’t expect POWER9 systems to be cheap either.

And the chip market is getting more crowded. As Timothy Prickett Morgan, analyst at The Next Platform noted, various ARM chips –especially ThunderX2 from Cavium and Centriq 2400 from Qualcomm –can boost non-X86 numbers and divert sales from IBM’s POWER9 family. Also, AMD’s Epyc X86 processors have a good chance of stealing some market share from Intel’s Skylake. So the POWER9 will have to fight for every sale IBM wants.

Morgan went on: IBM differentiated the hardware and the pricing with its NVLink versions, depending on the workload and the competition, with its most aggressive pricing and a leaner and cheaper microcode and hypervisor stack reserved for the Linux workloads that the company is chasing. IBM very much wants to sell its Power-Linux combo against Intel’s Xeon-Linux and also keep AMD’s Epyc-Linux at bay. Where the Power8 chip had the advantage over the Intel’s Haswell and Broadwell Xeon E5 processors when it came to memory capacity and memory bandwidth per socket, and could meet or beat the Xeons when it came to performance on some workloads that is not yet apparent with the POWER9.

With the POWER9, however, IBM will likely charge a little less for companies buying its Linux-only variants, observes Morgan, effectively enabling IBM to win Linux deals, particularly where data analytics and open source databases drive the customer’s use case. Similarly, some traditional simulation and modeling workloads in the HPC and machine learning areas are ripe for POWER9.

POWER9 is not one chip. Packed into the chip are next-generation NVIDIA NVLink and OpenCAPI to provide significantly faster performance for attached GPUs. The PCI-Express 4.0 interconnect will be twice the speed of PCI-Express 3.0. The open POWER9 architecture also allows companies to mix a wide range of accelerators to meet various needs. Meanwhile, OpenCAPI can unlock coherent FPGAs to support varied accelerated storage, compute, and networking workloads. IBM also is counting on the 300+ members of the OpenPOWER Foundation and OpenCAPI Consortium to launch innovations for POWER9. Much is happening: Stay tuned to DancingDinosaur

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his work at technologywriter.com and here.

IBM Halts Losing Quarterly Slide

January 25, 2018

With all respects to Casey at Bat author Ernest Thayer, joy may have returned to Mudville. IBM finally broke its 22 consecutive quarters losing streak and posted positive results in 4Q 17.  Fourth-quarter revenue of $22.5 billion, up 4 percent but that was just the start.

Watson and Weather Co. track flu

IBM is counting on its strategic imperatives to come through big and they did in 2017. Full-year strategic imperatives revenue of $36.5 billion, up 11 percent; represents 46 percent of IBM revenue. Similarly, IBM is making some gains in the highly competitive cloud business where IBM is fighting to position itself among the top ranks of formidable cloud players—Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. IBM did quite respectably in the cloud, posting $17 billion in cloud revenue, up 24 percent year to year.

DancingDinosaur readers will be interested to know that some of IBM’s various business segments, which have been a steady drain on IBM revenue turned things around in the 4th quarter. For example, Systems (systems hardware and operating systems software) saw revenues of $3.3 billion, up 32 percent driven by growth in IBM Z, Power Systems, and storage. That’s important to readers charged with planning their organization’s future with the Z or Power machines. They now can be confident that IBM mightn’t the sell the business tomorrow as it did with the x86 systems.

So where might IBM go in the future. “Our strategic imperatives revenue again grew at a double-digit rate and now represents 46 percent of our total revenue, and we are pleased with our overall revenue growth in the quarter.” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president, and CEO.  She then continued: “During 2017, we established IBM as the blockchain leader for business. Looking ahead, we are uniquely positioned to help clients use data and AI to build smarter businesses.”

Added James Kavanaugh, IBM CFO: “Over the past several years we have invested aggressively in technology and our people to reposition IBM.  2018 will be all about reinforcing IBM’s leadership position,” he continued, “in key high-value segments of the IT industry, including cloud, AI, security and blockchain.”

IBM has done well in some business and technology segments. Specifically, the company reported gains in revenues from analytics, up 9 percent, mobile, up 23 percent, and security, up a whopping 132 percent.

Other segments have not done as well. Technology Services & Cloud Platforms (includes infrastructure services, technical support services, and integration software) continue to lose money. A number of investment analysts are happy with IBM’s financials but are not optimistic about what they portend for IBM’s future.

For instance, Bert Hochfeld, long/short equity, growth, event-driven, research analyst, writes in Seeking Alpha, “the real reason why strategic imperatives and cloud showed relatively robust growth last quarter has nothing to do with IBM’s pivots and everything to do with the success of IBM’s mainframe cycle. IBM’s Z system achieved 71% growth last quarter compared to 62% in the prior quarter. New Z Systems are being delivered with pervasive encryption, they are being used to support hybrid cloud architectures, and they are being used to support Blockchain solutions… Right now, the mainframe performance is above the prior cycle (z13) and consistent with the z12 cycle a few years ago. And IBM has enjoyed some reasonable success with its all-flash arrays in the storage business. Further, the company’s superscalar offering, Power9, is having success and, as many of its workloads are used for AI, its revenues get counted as part of strategic initiatives. But should investors count on a mainframe cycle and a high-performance computer cycle in making a long-term investment decision regarding IBM shares?

He continued: “IBM management has suggested that some of the innovations in the current product range including blockchain, cryptography, security and reliability will make this cycle different, and perhaps longer, then other cycles. The length of the mainframe cycle is a crucial component in management’s earnings estimate. It needs to continue at elevated levels at least for another couple of quarters. While that is probably more likely, is it really prudent to base an investment judgement on the length of a mainframe cycle?

Of course, many DancingDinosaur readers are basing their career and employment decisions on the mainframe or Power Systems. Let’s hope this quarter’s success encourages them; it sure beats 22 consecutive quarters of revenue declines.

Do you remember how Thayer’s poem ends? With the hopes and dreams of Mudville riding on him, it is the bottom of the 9th; Casey takes a mighty swing and… strikes out! Let’s hope this isn’t IBM.

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

Meltdown and Spectre Attacks Require IBM Mitigation

January 12, 2018

The chip security threats dubbed Meltdown and Spectre revealed last month apparently will require IBM threat mitigation in the form of code and patching. IBM has been reticent to make a major public announcement, but word finally is starting to percolate publicly.

Courtesy: Preparis Inc.

On January 4, one day after researchers disclosed the Meltdown and Spectre attack methods against Intel, AMD and ARM processors the Internet has been buzzing.  Wrote Eduard Kovacs on Wed.; Jan. 10, IBM informed customers that it had started analyzing impact on its own products. The day before IBM revealed its POWER processors are affected.

A published report from Virendra Soni, January 11, on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 in Las Vegas where Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang revealed how the technology leaders are scrambling to find patches to the Spectre and Meltdown attacks. These attacks enable hackers to steal private information off users’ CPUs running processors from Intel, AMD, and ARM.

For DancingDinosaur readers, that puts the latest POWER chips and systems at risk. At this point, it is not clear how far beyond POWER systems the problem reaches. “We believe our GPU hardware is immune. As for our driver software, we are providing updates to help mitigate the CPU security issue,” Nvidia wrote in their security bulletin.

Nvidia also reports releasing updates for its software drivers that interact with vulnerable CPUs and operating systems. The vulnerabilities take place in three variants: Variant 1, Variant 2, and Variant 3. Nvidia has released driver updates for Variant 1 and 2. The company notes none of its software is vulnerable to Variant 3. Nvidia reported providing security updates for these products: GeForce, Quadro, NVS Driver Software, Tesla Driver Software, and GRID Driver Software.

IBM has made no public comments on which of their systems are affected. But Red Hat last week reported IBM’s System Z, and POWER platforms are impacted by Spectre and Meltdown. IBM may not be saying much but Red Hat is, according to Soni: “Red Hat last week reported that IBM’s System Z, and POWER platforms are exploited by Spectre and Meltdown.”

So what is a data center manager with a major investment in these systems to do?  Meltdown and Spectre “obviously are a very big problem, “ reports Timothy Prickett Morgan, a leading analyst at The Last Platform, an authoritative website following the server industry. “Chip suppliers and operating systems and hypervisor makers have known about these exploits since last June, and have been working behind the scenes to provide corrective countermeasures to block them… but rumors about the speculative execution threats forced the hands of the industry, and last week Google put out a notice about the bugs and then followed up with details about how it has fixed them in its own code. Read it here.

Chipmakers AMD and AMR put out a statement saying only Variant 1 of the speculative execution exploits (one of the Spectre variety known as bounds check bypass), and by Variant 2 (also a Spectre exploit known as branch target injection) affected them. AMD, reports Morgan, also emphasized that it has absolutely no vulnerability to Variant 3, a speculative execution exploit called rogue data cache load and known colloquially as Meltdown.  This is due, he noted, to architectural differences between Intel’s X86 processors and AMD’s clones.

As for IBM, Morgan noted: its Power chips are affected, at least back to the Power7 from 2010 and continuing forward to the brand new Power9. In its statement, IBM said that it would have patches out for firmware on Power machines using Power7+, Power8, Power8+, and Power9 chips on January 9, which passed, along with Linux patches for those machines; patches for the company’s own AIX Unix and proprietary IBM i operating systems will not be available until February 12. The System z mainframe processors also have speculative execution, so they should, in theory, be susceptible to Spectre but maybe not Meltdown.

That still leaves a question about the vulnerability of the IBM LinuxONE and the processors spread throughout the z systems. Ask your IBM rep when you can expect mitigation for those too.

Just patching these costly systems should not be sufficiently satisfying. There is a performance price that data centers will pay. Google noted a negligible impact on performance after it deployed one fix on Google’s millions of Linux systems, said Morgan. There has been speculation, Googled continued, that the deployment of KPTI (a mitigation fix) causes significant performance slowdowns. As far as is known, there is no fix for Spectre Variant 1 attacks, which have to be fixed on a binary-by-binary basis, according to Google.

Red Hat went further and actually ran benchmarks. The company tested its Enterprise Linux 7 release on servers using Intel’s “Haswell” Xeon E5 v3, “Broadwell” Xeon E5 v4, and “Skylake,” the upcoming Xeon SP processors, and showed impacts that ranged from 1-19 percent. You can demand these impacts be reflected in reduced system prices.

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

 

IBM Q Network Promises to Commercialize Quantum

December 14, 2017

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

IBM’s 50 qubit system prototype

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IBM 3Q17 Results Break Consecutive Quarters Losing Streak

November 2, 2017

DancingDinosaur generally does not follow the daily gyrations of IBM’s stock, assuming that readers like you are not really active investors in the company’s stock. That is not to say, however, that you don’t have an important, even critical interest in the company’s fortunes.  As users of Z or Power systems, you want to know that IBM has the means to continue to invest in and advance your preferred platform.  And a 20+ consecutive quarters losing streak doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

What is interesting about IBM’s latest 3Q17 financials, which ends the string of consecutive revenue losses, is the performance of the Z and storage, two things most of us are concerned with.

Blockchain simplifies near real-time clearing and settlement

Here is what Martin Schroeter, IBM Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer said to the investment analysts he briefs: In Systems, we had strong growth driven by the third consecutive quarter of growth in storage, and a solid launch of our new z14 mainframe, now just called Z, which was available for the last two weeks of the quarter.

DancingDinosaur has followed the mainframe for several decades at least, and the introduction of a new mainframe always boosts revenue for the next quarter or two. The advantages were apparent on Day 1 when the machine was introduced. As DancingDinosaur wrote: You get this encryption automatically, virtually for free. IBM insists it will deliver the z14 at the same price/performance of the z13 or less. The encryption is built into the cost of silicon out of the box.

A few months later IBM introduced a new LinuxOne mainframe, the Emperor II. The new LinuxOne doesn’t yet offer pervasive encryption but provides Secure Service Containers. As it was described here at that time: Through the Secure Service Container data can be protected against internal threats at the system level even from users with elevated credentials or hackers who obtain a user’s credentials, as well as external threats.

Software developers will benefit by not having to create proprietary dependencies in their code to take advantage of these security capabilities. An application only needs to be put into a Docker container for Secure Service Container deployment. The application can be managed using the Docker and Kubernetes tools that are included to make Secure Service Container environments easy to deploy and use. Again, it will likely take a few quarters for LinuxONE shops and other Linux shops to seek out the Emperor II and Secure Service Containers.

Similarly, in recent weeks, IBM has been bolstering its storage offerings. As Schroeter noted, storage, including Spectrum storage and Flash, have been experiencing a few positive quarters and new products should help to continue that momentum. For example, products like IBM Spectrum Protect Plus promises to make data protection available in as little as one hour.

Or the IBM FlashSystem 900, introduced at the end of October promises to deliver efficient, ultra dense flash with CAPEX and OPEX savings due to 3x more capacity in a 2U enclosure. It also offers to maximize efficiency using inline data compression with no application performance impact as it achieves consistent 95 microsecond response times.

But probably the best 3Q news came from the continuing traction IBM’s strategic imperatives are gaining. Here these imperatives—cloud, security, cognitive computing—continue to make a serious contribution to IBM revenue. Third-quarter cloud revenues increased 20 percent to $4.1 billion.  Cloud revenue over the last 12 months was $15.8 billion, including $8.8 billion delivered as-a-service and $7.0 billion for hardware, software and services to enable IBM clients to implement comprehensive cloud solutions.  The annual exit run rate for as-a-service revenue increased to $9.4 billion from $7.5 billion in the third quarter of 2016.  In the quarter, revenues from analytics increased 5 percent.  Revenues from mobile increased 7 percent and revenues from security increased 51 percent. Added Schroeter: Revenue from our strategic imperatives over the last 12 months was also up 10% to $34.9 billion, and now represents 45% of IBM.

OK, so IBM is no longer a $100 + billion company and hasn’t been for some time. Maybe in a few years if blockchain and the strategic imperatives continue to grow and quantum catches fire it may be back over the $100 billion mark, but not sure how much it matters.

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

Syncsort Finds New Corporate Home and Friend

September 8, 2017

Centerbridge Partners, L.P. a private investment firm, completed the $1.26 billion acquisitions of enterprise software providers Syncsort Incorporated and Vision Solutions, Inc. from affiliates of Clearlake Capital Group, L.P. Clearlake, which acquired Syncsort in 2015 and Vision in 2016, will retain a minority ownership stake in the combined company.

Syncsort is a provider of enterprise software and a player in Big Iron to Big Data solutions. DancingDinosaur has covered it here and here. According to the company, customers in more than 85 countries rely on Syncsort to move and transform mission-critical data and workloads. Vision Solutions provides business resilience tools addressing high availability, disaster recovery, migration, and data sharing for IBM Power Systems.

The company apparently hasn’t suffered from being passed between owners. Syncsort has been active in tech acquisitions for the past two years as it builds its data transformation footprint. Just a couple of weeks ago, it acquired Metron, a provider of cross-platform capacity management software, services. Metron’s signature athene solution delivers trend-based forecasting, capacity modeling, and planning capabilities that enable enterprises to optimize their data infrastructure to improve performance and control costs on premise or in the cloud.

This acquisition is the first since the announcement that Syncsort and Vision Solutions are combining, adding expertise and proven leadership in IBMi and AIX Power Systems platforms and to reinforce its ‘Big Iron to big data’ focus. Syncsort has also long established player in the mainframe business. Its Big Iron to Big Data promises to be a fast-growing market segment comprised of solutions that optimize traditional data systems and deliver mission-critical data from these systems to next-generation analytic environments using innovative Big Data technologies. Metron’s solutions and expertise is expected to contribute to the company’s data infrastructure optimization portfolio.

Syncsort has been on a roll since late in 2016 when, backed by Clearlake, it acquired Trillium Software, a global provider of data quality solutions. The acquisition of Trillium was the largest in Syncsort’s history then, and brings together data quality and data integration technology for enterprise environments. The combination of Syncsort and Trillium, according to the company, enables enterprises to harness all their valuable data assets for greater business insights, applying high-performance and scalable data movement, transformation, profiling, and quality across traditional data management technology stacks as well as Hadoop and cloud environments.

Specifically, Syncsort and Trillium both have a substantial number of large enterprise customers seeking to generate new insights by combining traditional corporate data with diverse information sources from mobile, online, social, and the Internet of Things. Syncsort expects these organizations to continue to rely heavily on next-generation analytic capabilities, creating a growing need for its best-in-class data integration and quality solutions to make their Big Data initiatives successful. Together, Syncsort and Trillium will continue to focus on providing customers with these capabilities for traditional environments, while leading the industry in delivering them for Hadoop and Spark too.

Earlier this year Syncsort integrated its own Big Data integration solution, DMX-h, with Cloudera Director, enabling organizations to easily deploy DMX-h along with Cloudera Enterprise on Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. By deploying DMX-h with CDH, organizations can quickly pull data into new, ready-to-work clusters in the cloud—accelerating the time to capture cloud benefits, including cost savings and Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) delivery.

“As organizations liberate data from across the enterprise and deliver it into the cloud, they are looking for a self-service, elastic experience that’s easy to deploy and manage. This is a requirement for a variety of use cases – from data archiving to analytics that combine data originating in the cloud with on premise reference data,” said Tendü Yoğurtçu, Chief Technology Officer.

“By integrating DMX-h with Cloudera Director,” Yoğurtçu continued, “DMX-h is instantly available and ready to put enterprise data to work in newly activated cloud clusters.”

Syncsort DMX-h pulls enterprise data into Hadoop in the cloud and prepares that data for business workloads using native Hadoop frameworks, Apache Spark, or MapReduce, effectively enabling IT to achieve time-to-value goals and quickly deliver business insights.

It is always encouraging to see the mainframe eco-system continue to thrive. IBM’s own performance over the past few years has been anything but encouraging.

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

 

IBM Power and z Platforms Show Renewed Excitement

June 30, 2017

Granted, 20 consecutive quarters of posting negative revenue numbers is enough to get even the most diehard mainframe bigot down. If you ran your life like that your house and your car would have been seized by the bank months ago.

Toward the end of June, however, both z and Power had some good news. First,  a week ago IBM announced that corporate enterprise users ranked the IBM z  enterprise servers as the most reliable hardware platform available on the market today. In its enterprise server category the survey also found that IBM Power Systems achieved the highest levels of reliability and uptime when compared with 14 server hardware options and 11 server hardware virtualization platforms.

IBM links 2 IBM POWER8 with NVIDIA NVLink with 4 NVIDIA Tesla P100 accelerators

The results were compiled and reported by the ITIC 2017 Global Server Hardware and Server OS Reliability survey, which polled 750 organizations worldwide during April/May 2017. Also among the survey finding:

  • IBM z Systems Enterprise mainframe class systems, had zero percent incidents of more than four hours of per server/per annum downtime of any hardware platform. Specifically, IBM z Systems mainframe class servers exhibit true mainframe fault tolerance experiencing just 0.96 minutes of minutes of unplanned per server, per annual downtime. That equates to 8 seconds per month of “blink and you miss it,” or 2 seconds of unplanned weekly downtime. This is an improvement over the 1.12 minutes of per server/per annum downtime the z Systems servers recorded in ITIC’s 2016 – 2017 Reliability poll nine months ago.
  • IBM Power Systems has the least amount of unplanned downtime, with 2.5 minutes per server/per year of any mainstream Linux server platforms.
  • IBM and the Linux operating system distributions were either first or second in every reliability category, including virtualization and security.

The survey also highlighted market reliability trends. For nearly all companies surveyed, having four nines (99.99%) of availability, equating to less than one hour of system downtime per year was a key factor in its decision.

Then consider the increasing costs of downtime. Nearly all survey respondents claimed that one hour of downtime costs them more than $150k, with one-third estimating that the same will cost their business up to $400k.

With so much activity going on 24×7, for an increasing number of businesses, 4 nines of availability is no longer sufficient.  These businesses are adopting carrier levels of availability; 5 nines or 6 nines (or 99.999 to 99.9999 percent) availability, which translates to downtime per year of 30 seconds (6 nines) or 5 minutes (5 nines) of downtime per year.

According to ITIC’s 2016 report: IBM’s z Enterprise mainframe customers reported the least amount of unplanned downtime and the highest percentage of five nines (99.999%) uptime of any server hardware platform.

Just this week, IBM announced that according to results from International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker® (June, 2017) IBM exceeded market growth by 3x compared with the total Linux server market, which grew at 6 percent. The improved performance are the result of success across IBM Power Systems including IBM’s OpenPOWER LC servers and IBM Power Systems running SAP HANA as well as the OpenPOWER-Ready servers developed through the OpenPOWER Foundation.

As IBM explains it: Power Systems market share growth is underpinned by solutions that handle fast growing applications, like the deep learning capabilities within the POWER8 architecture. In addition these are systems that expand IBM’s Linux server portfolio, which have been co-developed with fellow members of the OpenPOWER Foundation

Now all that’s needed is IBM’s sales and marketing teams to translate this into revenue. Between that and the new systems IBM has been hinting at for the past year maybe the consecutive quarterly losses might come to an end this year.

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

 


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