Posts Tagged ‘System z’

Exploiting the IBM z13 for Maximum Price/Performance Advantage

February 4, 2016

The z13 is the most powerful general purpose computer IBM has ever made. The key to capturing the maximum value from the z13, however, lies in how you plan, design, configure, and optimize your systems and software for everything from COBOL and Java to process parallelization and analytics. What you do in this regard will have significant impact on not only the price/performance you experience but on your success at achieving the business outcomes you are expecting.

z13-under the covers

IBM System z13

This really becomes a software configuration challenge. By tapping approximately 600 internal processors IBM already has optimized the hardware, input, output, memory, and networking/communications about as much as it can be. Your job is to optimize the software you are running, which will require working closely with your ISV.

The place to start is by leveraging the z13’s new compiler technology, parallelism, zIIP and assist processors. This will enable you to save significant money while boosting workload performance. You will literally be doing more for less.

Similarly, in the not too distant past Moore’s Law would virtually guarantee a 15-20% price/performance gain automatically just by taking a new machine out of the box and plugging it in. That’s no longer the case. Now you will have to partner with your ISV to exploit advanced software to maximize the hardware payback and continue the ride along the favorable Moore’s Law price/performance slope.

Then look at the latest COBOL V5.x and its compiler on the z13. Out of the box it is better optimized than previous compilers. In general, the strategic value of COBOL V5.x comes from migrating high CPU usage programs as quickly as possible, effectively saving organizations considerable money by running optimized code.

Some organizations report a 15% on average reduction of CPU time, which adds up to significant savings in monthly CPU charges. How significant? Up to $150k less on a $1 million bill, with some reporting even higher percentage reductions producing even greater savings. Just migrate to COBOL V5.2 (or at least V5.1) to achieve the savings. In general, staying on the software curve with the latest releases of the OS, languages, and compilers with applications optimized for them is the best way to ensure your workloads are achieving top performance in the most cost-effective way.

For example, the new z13 processor leverages a new Vector Facility for certain COBOL statements and expands the use of Decimal Floating Point Facility for packed decimal calculations. Well-structured, compute-intensive batch applications running on z13 and compiled with the Enterprise COBOL V5.2  compiler have shown CPU reduction usage of up to 14% over the same applications running on zEC12 (compiled with the GA release of Enterprise COBOL V5.1), according to IBM. The result: improved workload price/performance.

Enterprise COBOL V5.2 also includes new features to improve programmability, developer productivity, and application modernization. Supporting JSON, for instance, will provide mobile applications easy access to data and the processing they need from business critical production applications written in COBOL.

The z13 and its z sister, the latest LinuxONE dedicated Linux models, were designed and optimized from the start for cloud, mobile, and analytics. They were intended to run alongside traditional mainframe workloads with z/OS or Linux running on the appropriate models.

Finally, plan to take advantage of the new assist processors and expanded memory capacity to further boost performance and lower cost. With the z13, there is a mandatory migration of all zAAP-enabled applications to zIIP. Expect the usage of the zIIP assist processors to surge when all those Java applications move from the zAAP.  ISVs like Compuware should be able to help with this.  In addition, if you enable SMT on the z13, you’ll immediately get more Java capacity.  Applications that run under IBM WebSphere (WAS) on z/OS will benefit too.

The z13 and especially the LinuxONE are breaking new ground. IBM has established, in conjunction with the Linux Foundation, an Open Mainframe Project to support and advance ongoing open source Linux innovation on the mainframe. IBM also is breaking with its traditional mainframe pricing model by offering a pay-per-use option in the form of a fixed monthly payment with costs scaling up or down based on usage. It also offers per-core pricing with software licenses for designated cores. See DancingDinosaur here.

An upcoming DancingDinosaur will look at more of the enhancements being added to these machines, including some of the latest LinuxOne enhancements like support for Google’s Go language and Cloudant’s NoSQL services. The message: the new z System can take you to the places you will want to be in this emerging cloud-mobile-analytics era.

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.

  ibm-z13

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

Making the IBM Mainframe Agile and Swift

December 7, 2015

Do you remember what the mainframe was like when you started on the mainframe career path? Today IBM blurs distinctions between the mainframe and distributed environments through Linux and Java as well as cloud and mobile delivery models.  Heck, you can run Windows natively on x86 cards in a zBX cabinet managed from a console on the z itself. Maybe it’s not the most efficient way to do it and expect better ways coming from IBM, but it is doable now.

seasoft devops imageDevOps in the SDLC, Courtesy Seasoft

More than just interact, the z and distributed environment must productively and seamlessly integrate and interoperate to produce a streamlined development, test, and deployment process. Compounding the challenge: they must do it fast. Organizations can no longer wait for six-month or nine-month release cycles to introduce new capabilities. If capabilities cannot be introduced in just a few weeks max, opportunities and revenue can be lost.  Agile and batch teams have no choice; they must work together.

This calls for data center adoption of DevOps, a combination of development, testing, and operations. Already IBM has instituted DevOps on the z System. The idea of bringing agile and batch together—it almost sounds like an oxymoron or the punchline from a bad computer systems joke—no longer is farfetched. Welcome to the world of hybrid computing where what was once considered disparate and incompatible systems are being brought together, often on the same platform.

The latest generations of the mainframes have been fully hybrid-capable platforms, starting with the z10. They are capable of running mixed workloads concurrently, some of which previously belonged in the distributed platform world only. Today, a mainframe shop with the latest z13 can run traditional z/OS COBOL workloads right alongside Java and Linux workloads. Those with a zBX extension cabinet can even run Windows workloads too under the same unified mainframe management console.

If that sounds a little too kludgy for you, just jump into the cloud. From Bluemix in the cloud you can get to DevOps and find just about everything you need already there, including IBM’s StrongLoop acquisition for API management and microservices.

So now the idea of bringing batch and agile computing together on the mainframe platform doesn’t seem so farfetched.  And it won’t stop there. IBM has been doing its enterprise thing with Apple for about a year. Expect more coming.

That said; an agile mainframe/distributed DevOps environment will become increasingly necessary. How often do you release software? Previously, if an IT organization released new software every year or even every 18 months customers were satisfied. Not anymore.  Today you can’t wait six months before the organization risks falling behind. LOB managers and customers won’t wait. There are too many competitors waiting for any chance to seize an advantage. Slow system refreshes and software updates just play into these competitors’ hands.

DevOps also is essential to the organization’s mobile strategy. Companies in every industry segment are deploying new mobile apps as fast as they can and then almost immediately updating them. For many of these mobile apps the mainframe is the back end, if not the middleware too. Each mobile request for information or to make a purchase or to schedule something triggers numerous back end processes that quickly make their way to the mainframe. It had gotten to the point where IBM had to discount mobile processing on the z or it would hinder mobile growth. DancingDinosaur covered it here.

Helping to drive mobile on the z, of course, is IBM’s relationship with Apple. Over the past year the two companies have been bringing out combined enterprise-mobile applications. Now Apple just announced that it is making its popular programming language, Swift, open source. It shouldn’t take much to get it onto Bluemix. Back in Sept. 2014  IBM announced it already had a preliminary version working through Bluemix.

Although Swift is known mainly for mobile client development, today it is described as combining the performance and efficiency of compiled languages with the simplicity and interactivity of popular scripting languages.  Apple’s Swift strategy seems coming right out of IBM’s recent playbook of embracing open source communities. You can get started at the Swift website, here.

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 LinuxONE Can Uberize x86-Based IT

November 13, 2015

Uberization—industry disruption caused by an unlikely competitor—emerged as a dominant concern of C-suite executives in a recently announced IBM-Institute of Business Value study. According to the study, the percentage of C-suite leaders who expect to contend with competition from outside their industry increased from 43% in 2013 to 54% today.

IBM Csuite Study_Tiles_10_30_2 competition data

These competitors, future Ubers, aren’t just resulting from new permutations of old industries; they also are coming from digital invaders with totally different business models. Consider IBM LinuxONE, a powerful open source Linux z13 mainframe supported by two open communities, the Open Mainframe Project and the Linux Foundation. For the typical mass market Linux shop, usually an x86-based data center, LinuxONE can deliver a standard Linux distribution with both KVM and Ubuntu as part of a new pricing model that offers a pay-per-use option in the form of a fixed monthly payment with costs scaling up or down based on usage. It also offers per-core pricing with software licenses for designated cores.

Talk about disruptive; plus it brings scalability, reliability, high performance, and rock-solid security of the latest mainframe. LinuxONE can handle 8000 virtual servers in a single system, tens of thousands of containers. Try doing that with an x86 machine or even a dozen.

Customers of traditional taxi companies or guests at conventional hotels have had to rethink their transportation or accommodation options in the face of Uberization and the arrival of other disruptive alternatives like Airbnb. So too, x86 platform shops will have to rethink their technology platform options. On either a per-workload basis or a total cost of ownership (TCO) basis, the mainframe has been cost competitive for years. Now with the Uberization of the Linux platform by LinuxONE and IBM’s latest pricing options for it, the time to rethink an x86 platform strategy clearly has arrived. Many long-held misconceptions about the mainframe will have to be dropped or, at least, updated.

The biggest risk to businesses used to come from a new rival with a better or cheaper offering, making it relatively simple to alter strategies. Today, entrenched players are being threatened by new entrants with completely different business models, as well as smaller, more agile players unencumbered by legacy infrastructure. Except for the part of being smaller, IBM’s LinuxONE definitely meets the criteria as a threatening disruptive entrant in the Linux platform space.

IBM even is bring new business models to the effort too, including hybrid cloud and a services-driven approach as well as its new pricing. How about renting a LinuxONE mainframe short term? You can with one of IBM’s new pricing options: just rent a LinuxONE machine monthly with no upfront payment.  At the end of the 36-month rental (can return the hardware after 1 year) you choose to return, buy, or replace. Try that with enterprise-class x86 machines.

The introduction of support for both KVM and Ubuntu on the z platform opens even more possibilities. With the LinuxONE announcement Ubuntu has been elevated to a fully z-supported Linux distribution. Together IBM and Canonical are bringing a distribution of Linux incorporating Ubuntu’s scale-out and cloud expertise on the IBM z Systems platform, further expanding the reach of both. Ubuntu combined with KVM should make LinuxONE very attractive for OpenStack-based hybrid cloud computing that may involve thousands of VMs and containers. And don’t forget a broader range of tools, including an expanded set of open-source and industry tools and software, including Apache Spark, Node.js, MongoDB, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Chef and Coker.

Deon Newman, VP of Marketing for IBM z Systems, can recite the LinuxONE scalability stats off the top of his head: The entry-level, single-frame LinuxONE server, named Rockhopper, starts at 80 virtual Linux machines, and hundreds and hundreds of containers while the high-end double-frame server, Emperor, features six IFLs that support up to 350 virtual machines and can scale all the way to 8,000 virtual machines. On the Emperor server, you can literally have hundreds of thousands of containers on a single platform. Newman deliberately emphasizes that LinuxONE machines are servers.  x86 server users take note. LinuxONE definitely is not your father’s mainframe.

In the latest C-suite study all C-suite executives—regardless of role—identified for the first time technology as the most important external force impacting their enterprise. These executives believe cloud computing, mobile solutions, the Internet of Things, and cognitive computing are the technologies most likely to revolutionize or Uberize their business.

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 Acquires Weather Company to Supercharge Cloud Data Analytics

November 6, 2015

Last week IBM announced it would acquire The Weather Company’s B2B, mobile and cloud-based web properties, including WSI, weather.com, Weather Underground, and The Weather Company brand in a move intended to boost its data analytics capabilities. The company has big plans for the acquisition, especially for Watson but is probably not thinking of streaming weather images onto the z System.

IBM Weather Company

IBM to acquire the Weather Company

Maybe it should. How many of the z Systems logistics, supply chain management, scheduling, and reservation systems rely on weather? Might be nice to get access to a couple of Weather Company APIs to pop weather data and analytics into z production systems.

Instead most of the weather goodies will go the Watson as IBM aims to improve the precision of weather forecasts by further deepening Watson’s IoT capabilities through the integration of global atmosphere and weather insights with enterprise information (hello zSystem) to create disruptive industry solutions that optimize decision-making. For instance, IBM reports that airlines can save millions of dollars annually by tapping multiple real-time and historical data sources to optimize fuel consumption, reduce delays and airport congestion, and improve passenger safety during disruptive conditions.

In short, the planned acquisition would bring together IBM’s powerful cognitive and analytics platform and The Weather Company’s dynamic cloud data platform, which powers the fourth most-used mobile app daily in the United States and handles 26 billion inquiries (more than its fair share from DancingDinosaur) to its cloud-based services each day. The plan calls to integrate real-time weather insights into business to improve operational performance and decision-making.

A few days earlier, IBM announced what it describes as a transformational approach to making the most of data, with the introduction of IBM Insight Cloud Services. Through collaboration with Twitter and The Weather Company, as well as the use of open data sets and business-owned data, IBM believes it can help clients cut through the noise of unstructured data, help turn streaming data into insights, and change critical business outcomes across industries such as retail, insurance, and media/entertainment.

As part of that announcement, IBM identified three specific actions it is taking:

  1. Provide four new APIs that developers can access from IBM Bluemix, IBM’s cloud platform, to incorporate historical and forecasted weather data from The Weather Company into web and mobile apps; and two APIs that allow developers to incorporate Twitter content enriched with sentiment insights
  2. Introduce new bundled data sets from IBM and The Weather Company customized for key industries and available on the IBM Cloud. The data packages can help insurers use weather data to alert policyholders ahead of hail storms that may cause property damage, help utilities forecast demand and identify likely service outages, help local governments to develop detailed emergency planning in advance of severe weather, and enable many industries such as retail to use data to help optimize their operations, reduce costs, and uncover revenue opportunities ahead of changes in weather.
  3. Offer a set of pre-built solutions that leverage IBM Insight Cloud Services cognitive techniques to help enable business users to tackle very specific industry challenges. This expands a set of industry solutions IBM introduced in May 2015 that provide businesses with the ability to generate new types of insights based on customer behavior.

With the pending acquisition of the Weather Company properties IBM is able to further advance its capabilities in big data, analytics, cloud computing, and cognitive computing. These encompass what the company refers to as its strategic imperatives and, alongside the z, they delivered the only bright spot in IBM’s 3Q15 financials. As reported by DancingDinosaur here a few weeks ago: 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. With its plans for the Weather Company expect the numbers to grow in upcoming quarters. The Weather Company can also show IBM a thing or two about mobile, another top priority.

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 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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