On z9, mainframe blogging, serendipity, biography, killer marketing, and MVS geekdom

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On z9, mainframe blogging, serendipity, biography, killer marketing, and MVS geekdom

One of things that the blogosphere drives is serendipity, "the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident".

Links can make you lucky, and as Louis Pasteur said: "Chance favours the prepared mind".

What do i mean "links can make you lucky". For one thing most search engines work by counting links, so as links increase so does relevancy. For another, people follow and cluster and distribute links.Thus, when i recently posted a blog asking where are all the mainframe bloggers, I was expecting some kind of response. Someone somewhere was going to pull the link chain in.

What I didn't know was just how good my timing was. I had written the post months before, but never got round to posting it. As soon as I did though, July 15th, IBM's mainframe communications people jumped. They wanted to introduce blogging as an element of System z9 marketing and I had just made the kind of call to action they were already planning to.

So naturally they asked if I wanted to contribute to a group blog. I believe in making a contribution. But I am also zealous in guarding my independence. I wanted to know about the blog ownership, copyright, who else was involved. It may seem odd to say the one question I didn't ask was: "how much will I get paid?" But that is blogs for you.

I was reassured that IBM would include representatives from both the user community, but also, more importantly for credibility's sake, other mainframe vendors. I would not have got involved if it was just an IBM marketing vehicle. We'll see how this plays out. Finally, you will notice the blog is not even hosted by IBM.com.

That is because, increasingly, IBM gets it. People like Catherine Helzermann, James Snell, and executives with cojones, are leading IBM into the world of conversational marketing. One of the tenets of blogging, as far as I am concerned, is Be More Competitive By Being Less Competitive. If you are in attack mode all the time you tend to lose credibility, Ed Brill's solid FUD/anti-FUD work notwithstanding. I regularly link to other smart analysts with good ideas. I would rather do that than steal the idea and claim it as my own. And I know other firms can do things we at RedMonk can't, don't or won't.

So that's a few words on mainframe blogging, but what about biography? One key thing in starting a blog is to say a little bit about who you are and why you're doing it. Who is this James Governor cat, and why should I pay a jot of attention to what he has to say?

I am 35 and I have been covering the IBM mainframe ecosystem for ten years now. I used to be a reporter and editor. I think i can hear the knives on the grind stone. "This guy has been a journalist and analyst and expects to have any credibility? "

I will take that on the chin, but with a caveat.

When I started watching the mainframe in 1995 it really was grey hairs and geeks. I had to learn a new language and felt I had to fight for credibility in every meeting. I wasn't just 25; I was a young looking 25. Sometimes I thought about wearing glasses just to try and look more mature. The fear of being found out meant that I immersed myself in gorpy stuff like SNA, partitioning and virtualization, job scheduling, message-queing, workload management, the meaning of mixed workloads and I/O intensive operations. But you had to extend this stuff too - terminal emulation and middleware were bread and butter. I covered Amdahl and HDS, EMC and StorageTek, BMC and CA.

My colleagues called me "legacy boy". So much for legacy - many of the dotcom and networking firms they covered don't exist any more... What they called legacy I called production environments. And the age thing? I couldn't help but notice that boas, one of the other posters on this group blog, was born two years after me                        .

These days of course our skills are in demand. Every systems vendor out there has mainframe envy, and needs to get better at delivering on, and communicating, hardcore technical concepts for today's computing challenges. When I talk to Michael Emanuel about Microsoft's systems management strategy we both know that mainframe quality is the high bar-that is what Microsoft is shooting for.

According to this August 2004 interview in news.com Bill Gates is still measuring his company's efforts against the IBM System/360 project. He said:

 

Our scheduling and predictability on this project has   been better than it was on OS 360 (the mainframe operating system created by   IBM). So software has not gotten more complex. Software with this kind of   scope of features and compatibility has always been complex. That's the   business we're in.

I think the admission  is somewhat revealing of Gates's psychology, but that's a subject for a different blog...

Its worth taking a step back, at this point, to compare a couple of systems launches this week.

Microsoft began the long beta road to delivery of Vista.

IBM announced System z9 and some other assorted goodies.

What is kind of amazing is that, as far as I can see, IBM blew away Microsoft from a PR perspective.

News stories about Vista tend to raise more questions than they answered. What's the point, what's the value, when will it be here? Words like gripe and delay peppered the coverage.

IBM's z9 press coverage meanwhile was more like the US governments': it was all about certainty.

It was like John Kerry against George W Bush, with IBM as the Republicans.

I should make an admission at this point. I was pre-briefed on the IBM systems news last Thursday and I didn't think it quite made it. I fired off an email to that effect. You sure you tied the concepts together? I wasn't at the event in NY earlier this week but evidently IBM did just that.

IBM wanted to frame the debate using terms like "collaborative processing" and collaborative design. What the hell is collaborative processing? Who cares, as long as it means brand z9 and brand IBM are associated with one of today's hot memes, collaboration. And the association worked bloody well, as these links show.

So IBM got it right. z9 associations were aspirational and all about clarity.

What is one of businesses biggest concerns at the moment? Identity leakage and theft. While Microsoft is doing some good work with respect to security and ID, it was IBM earning the approval of column inches. Erich Clementi's story about tape and encryption evidently caught the imagination.

And for pranksters what about the names of these systems, and the cars they evoke?

Would you prefer a BMW concept car or a 1970s Oldsmobile station wagon?

What I also can't understand is why nobody at Microsoft used their search engine to see about other Vista Software companies. Its called due diligence. And it only takes a second. I guess when legal and out of court settlements become part of the business model you can get a little complacent. But if I was Steve Ballmer I would be firing someone this week.

No such problems for IBM z9, unless BMW wants to claim it is a software company now.

Not everyone was impressed with IBM's moves.

But all in all the proof is in the press. IBM has the third estate on side, and on message. At least for now. We'll know soon enough if that translates into sales.

One thing that I wanted to make sure I did when posting to the mainframe blog was to give hardcore geeks something to check out. Other bloggers or techies with similar interests. So how about MVS Turnkey emulation, open source style? SAP R/2 hands keep popping out of the woodwork. Here is some 3278 pr0n.

One final note before I go. If you want to read blogs you can make life very easy for yourself by using a simple online service called bloglines. Here is a how to guide. You don't need to visit a bunch of sites every day. Blogs come to you, which one of the reasons they are so useful.

Thus ends my first Mainframe Blog post.

by James Governor July 29, 2005 in People
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Tracked on Jul 29, 2005 10:36:48 AM

Comments

James, great post, and welcome aboard. That Gates reference to System/360 is fascinating, and I look forward to your additional thoughts on the Microsoft mindset.

I'd be remiss if I didn't draw your attention to another IBM-supported blog that's not hosted on ibm.com: www.gametomorrow.com. It's a group blog of talented IBM'ers in the game technology space, who're figuring out the future of gaming -- what Irving WB likes to call "3GUI." In any case, look forward to reading your future posts.

Posted by: David Berger | Jul 29, 2005 9:52:00 AM

Great start to what should be a great blog. I'm only 2 years your senior, so I can relate. FWIW I submitted a Slashdot story the instant the System z9 officially debuted. (I clicked "Submit" at 12:01 p.m. Eastern that day. :-)) Those Slashdot editors utterly failed to report anything about the world's newest and most scalable Linux server (among other things it manages to deliver). Ah, but Apple introduced a slightly faster iBook, so there's some news. (Whatever.)

I note that BMC just announced their first quarter earnings. Excluding special charges, sales were up 7% and license revenues up 19%. With the possible exception of Google, where else exactly is there growth in the IT industry? Do you think the analysts will figure out what's going on anytime soon?

Answering my own question(s): yes, I think so. The technology gap is widening, and CEOs are losing their jobs (ComAir) when their core systems are down. Security and privacy protection are more important than ever (CardSystems). The smart companies -- the ones grabbing marketshare and profits -- are deploying the best, most cost-effective technologies. A whole generation of IT professionals are relearning hard lessons about how to properly support their businesses and governments.

Exciting times.

Posted by: Timothy Sipples | Aug 2, 2005 11:46:43 PM

cheers timothy. you are right that many current and growing business challenges require the kind of capability that mainframes offer as standard. Peter Armstrong, a blogger over at BMC, is quite funny on this issue:
http://talk.bmc.com/blogs/blog-parmstrong/peter-armstrong/nostalgia

Posted by: james governor | Aug 3, 2005 10:13:24 AM

and dont worry about slashdot - its not what it used to be. :-)
we got slashdotted this week and only picked up an extra 3.5k hits.

the conversation is spreading out - scoble calls it the flatlands...

Posted by: james governor | Aug 4, 2005 1:27:02 PM

ahhh James........Legacy boy!! - I remember you regularly asking for comments from me and thinking he will mature!! and to be honest you did, you went from sound bites to the real issues hidden behind the marketing and I am sure now you can see for yourself what I am talking about.

As for Mainframe interest and comments, I have covered this area a tiny bit longer than James and at times I too am frustrated at the positioning by vendors to this segment. As mentioned somewhere else most new trends like virtualisations are not new and have been incorporated in the mainframe for years but the vendors have never made a virture of pointing out the benefits such technology bring to real life business processes, let alone quantify them and put the results out in simple layman terms which senior company executives can understand. This has been going on for so long that the mainframe has created a complexity of its own and thus the marketing generally revolves around the MIPs, the secure environment and the stability of the platform. I believe if you want to bring more visibility to this segment, Vendors increasingly need to show comparisions and benefits down to the business process level (not in technical terms!)and how in certain cases the mainframe really is the cheapest option over the longer term.

This will attract a higher number of mainstream IT and business people who are not scared at discussing the relevance of the mainframe and its application to them in everyday use. It will not scare them to discuss the issues without going all technical and will also create interest in the upcoming IT generation!


Mitul

Posted by: Mitul Mehta | Aug 11, 2005 11:38:41 AM

ah welcome mitul. good to hear from you.

i agree ibm mainframe announcements are far too gorpy/ still, with talk of FICON, GDPS, books, MIPS, and so on.

wittgenstein argued its impossible to create a "private language"

he evidently never worked in IT... and certainly not with mainfrmaes... :-)

Posted by: james governor | Aug 15, 2005 9:10:50 AM

I would like to know more about MVS concepts, JCL, CICS, DB/2
Kindly guide me
Read a lot about the need of system programmers recently.
plz help

Sunny
[email protected]

Posted by: | Dec 13, 2005 4:14:07 PM

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