More Potpourri

1. The Chicago Tribune reports on the excellent career prospects for new mainframe professionals in Illinois. Illinois State University Assistant Professor Chu Jong, associated with that university's mainframe curriculum, says it's not uncommon for his graduates to receive six or seven job offers.

2. You can now download the open beta release of IBM's WebSphere MQ Version 7 for z/OS (and for Linux on System z) at no charge. Click on "Trials and demos" on the left menu to get there. MQ V7 will be generally available in late June, 2008, so don't wait too long to take the beta for a spin. Please let IBM know what you think.

WebSphere MQ is the most popular reliable messaging transport for connecting basically anything to anything. Many enterprise architects argue that WebSphere MQ is foundational to successful service-oriented architectures, especially on System z. I agree.

3. IBM reports 1Q2008 earnings after the U.S. markets close on Wednesday, April 16.

4. The Blocks and Files blog asks, "Seriously, why does IBM bother?" This skepticism arises after IBM researchers announced a breakthrough in spintronics memory technology which could lead to a new class of storage devices within 10 years.

It's a fair question, but there are some simple answers. The basic answer is that IBM has had tremendous success commercializing (and profiting from) storage technologies, so this research is hardly unusual and is in IBM's self-interest. Examples include hard disks, floppy disks, and most tape-related technologies (such as vacuum column loading). For example, Alan Shugart at IBM invented the floppy disk to load microcode onto System/370 mainframes and peripherals. The fact that other companies might also benefit from IBM's research — as "free loaders" — is interesting but not directly relevant to whether IBM spends money on R&D. IBM has done quite well collecting both direct sales and royalties from these inventions. And yes, R&D is inherently risky. IBM has spent a lot of money researching so-called millipede storage, and it's extremely unclear whether IBM will ever see any profit from that effort. But the only criterion that matters to IBM is whether the company itself is better off for investing billions in basic research. Given IBM's track record I side with the researchers: yes, it is, without a doubt.

It's also worth noting that there are some government subsidies that encourage certain types of research. The U.S. space program is one famous example. IBM does receive some government support, although the pharmaceutical and pure defense industries tend to receive a lot more.

I do think Blocks and Files raises an interesting point indirectly. If Wall Street is so focused on short-term quarterly results, putting pressure on research investments, how can society encourage more research? (Society is the ultimate "free loader." :-)) The traditional answer has been patents, but there are a lot of companies, including IBM, that think the patent system needs fixing.

by Timothy Sipples April 13, 2008 in Future, Innovation, People
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Comments

Why does IBM do such R&D? Because IBM is not Dell, HP, or Sun. IBM is one of the few computer makers that actually makes it's own chips anymore.

Posted by: wackyvorlon | Apr 17, 2008 11:45:12 PM

I believe that MQSeries was the touchstone of all of the work we're now calling SOA. Messaging-based integration was built on Hursley foundations.

Posted by: James Governor | Apr 18, 2008 8:51:47 AM

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