Evangelizing Mainframe
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2015 in Review

2015 has been an interesting year. For the first time in a long time it’s begun to feel as though organizations might just be considering spending some money. My impression from vendors both large and small is that the mood among customers is beginning to be slightly more optimistic. It feels like there might be deals to be done out there. It’s as if the long winter has started to thaw and we might, just might, be able to see the first snowdrops very soon.

IBM announced the IBM z13 in January—an exciting start to the year. This new processor has faster I/O, and can address up to 10 TB of memory. It can house 141 processors, and run 8,000 virtual servers. It’s been designed with mobile users (as well as traditional users) in mind. The 5 GHz processors have eight cores and smaller, faster transistors. It incorporate simultaneous multi-threading (SMT), allowing it to execute two instructions in parallel on each clock cycle. It now supports single instruction, multiple data (SIMD), a parallel computing technology, and runs the DB2 BLU for Linux, an in-memory database technology for analytics.

But at the same time, IBM’s fourth quarter 2014 earnings announcements were not as people hoped ($15.75 to 16.50 per share) making $24.1 billion rather than the expected $24.77 billion. Earnings were down 4 percent, and software revenues had slumped along with everything else, making it the 11th successive quarterly sales decline. And the year started with rumors of layoffs.

In August, IBM announced the LinuxONE Emperor and Rockhopper, two Linux-based systems. It’s now possible to own a Linux system that comes with a range of open source tools including those for big data and analytics. The IBM LinuxONE Emperor is the top-of-the-range system and is based on IBM z13 hardware. The LinuxONE Rockhopper is the entry-level model and is based on the IBM z Enterprise BC12 hardware. LinuxONE Emperor can run up to 8,000 Linux VMs concurrently. There is an option to use the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) to operate VMs, in addition to z/VM and PR/SM.

In terms of big software announcements, during the year, IBM announced CICS Transaction Server for z/OS V5.3. And the company announced the General Availability of IMS 14.

In February, William Data Systems, probably best known for its ZEN networking products, was acquired by Syncsort, probably still best known for its eponymous data sorting product—although these days specializing in big data, high speed sorting products, and data integration software and services.

New Terms

We heard new terms like M2M, which stands for machine-to-machine. It’s used when talking about machines, devices and equipment that can communicate with each other, and that communication can be wired or wireless. The use of the term M2M often goes with the term IoT (Internet of Things) because it describes how these different “Things” are able to communicate with each other. The other term that’s often used in the same breath as these other two is “smart” as in smart cities or smart grids. And, of course these days, “cloud” is the other term that’s often used with the others. M2M can be used in simple monitoring applications. A thermometer can send readings every 10 minutes and these can be displayed on a phone app set for that location. Or it could be used to get information from smart meters back to the utility supplier. It can be used for manufacturing, where it can identify items that need maintenance, and so enhance the reliability and safety of complex systems. It can also be used to update adverts at different times of the day, so the advertisements displayed are most appropriate for that time of day.

Analysts Gartner produced one of its magic quadrants for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) and placed IBM, along with NTT Communications and Sungard Availability Services at the top. Gartner visualizes three kinds of cloud-based recovery service: DRaaS, recovery using infrastructure as a service and recovery using Back-up as a Service (BaaS). Gartner had a total of 14 vendors in their quadrant.

New Technologies

IBM is also at the forefront of research and, this year, demonstrated a quantum chip. Quantum computing will be very much faster than the currently available computers. The new chip is the first to integrate qubits, the basic devices needed to build a quantum computer, into a 2-D grid. The circuits in the chip are made from metals that superconduct when cooled to just above absolute zero (-273oC). There is still a long way to go with this work, but this is a fascinating start.

With the focus on mobile and cloud, IBM announced a new container service for IBM Bluemix that’s based on the open source Docker software container technology. It’s designed to help developers deliver applications across hybrid cloud environments. Bluemix is a cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS) that supports multiple programming languages and services, as well as integrated DevOps to allow developers to create, run, deploy and manage applications on the cloud. Bluemix is an implementation of IBM’s Open Cloud Architecture, which is based on Cloud Foundry, an open-source PaaS. IBM’s cloud services is a $7.7 billion business, and IBM is claiming a growth rate of 75 percent. By the way, DevOps is more a philosophical idea than a set of hard-and-fast rules for software development where communication and collaboration between developers and IT staff is paramount. In this way, companies can rapidly produce the software and services they need and improve operational performance.


And IBM was quite acquisitive in 2015. In March it acquired AlchemyAPI, for use with big data. In April, it got Explorys for healthcare analytics, and Phytel for health management software. In June it was Blue Box Group for its Private Cloud as a Service. In July, it acquired Compose Inc. for its Database as a Service. In August, it was back to healthcare with Merge Healthcare Inc. for its healthcare imaging software. Then in September it bought StrongLoop Inc. for its mobile API capabilities, and Meteorix LLC for its consulting services for Workday applications. Then in October, it was Cleversafe Inc. for its object-based storage software, and The Weather Company’s Product and Technology Businesses for weather forecast-related mobile and cloud-based services. In November, it acquired Gravitant Inc. for its cloud brokerage software and cloud management.

Mainframe Will Continue Strong

As they say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose—the more things change, the more they stay the same. I have every confidence that in 2016 the mainframe will continue to offer outstanding performance and reliability, and be at the heart of the world’s business-critical applications.

Trevor Eddolls is CEO at iTech-Ed Ltd, an IT consultancy. A popular speaker and blogger, he currently chairs the Virtual IMS and Virtual CICS user groups. He’s editorial director for the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook, and has been an IBM Champion every year since 2009.

Posted: 12/15/2015 12:16:44 AM by Trevor Eddolls | with 0 comments

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