Open Letter to the Federal Reserve

Susan Eustis provides some sage advice to the U.S. Federal Reserve — and alerts U.S. taxpayers:

As a senior industry analyst and member of the press covering the IT industry, it has come to my attention that the IT department at the Federal Reserve is interested in throwing out the mainframe and replacing all that functionality with distributed computer systems. As far as I know, there’s no new workload going on the mainframe at the Federal Reserve. This is, I believe, a mistake.

My concern is that because the reliability and the security of the System z are superior to distributed systems, the economy is being put in jeopardy by this decision....

You can read on for more details.

by Timothy Sipples June 27, 2008
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Mid-June 2008 Potpourri

1. Back in February, on the heels of IBM's acquisition of Cognos and coinciding with the System z10 announcement, IBM promised (well, issued a "Statement of Direction") that Cognos Business Intelligence would be available for the mainframe sometime in the latter half of 2008. Most people, including me, thought that was great news and expected to see the product on December 31, 2008, at 11:59:59 p.m. Hawaiian time.

We were wrong. It's shipping this month. Darn it, IBM, you shipped six months early!

I think this announcement represents a major change in IBM's strategic focus for the mainframe. For a decade or more IBM has been trying to hawk me-too distributed platform business intelligence solutions. Those solutions are all premised on, first, copying your most precious enterprise data somewhere else. And, for as many years, more and more customers kept telling IBM, "Thank you, no." What started as a dull roar became a full blown cacophony of objections to this basic architectural pattern, fraught with numerous automatic drawbacks concerning security/privacy protection, information currency, workload management (just ETLing the data is hard work), service availability, and so on. So, to IBM's credit, it looks like they're doing a 180 and reinventing the mainframe for business intelligence. I say, "About freakin' time." I also have a little inside information to say this: watch this zBI area closely. There's more to come.

2. James Governor is exactly right: IBM has not done a good job explaining the value of CICS (and IMS, for that matter) as the best place to develop and run whole classes of brand new business services within a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). This despite the fact that it's already happening: current and new CICS and IMS customers — yes, there are new CICS and IMS customers — are constantly developing great new business services in their favorite transaction managers, and for thoroughly sensible reasons.

There's a lot to say on this subject, and I plan to say more in a more formal way. But, as a start, I'd like to point out that Java is a terrific programming language, but no programming language will ever define all of enterprise computing. (I'd like to think that someday nobody except perhaps middleware and operating system developers will ever need to work directly with programming languages, at least as we understand them today, but I plan to live a long time.) CICS and IMS are language-agnostic, while Java EE servers such as WebSphere Application Server are decidedly not. So if you happen to want to develop a new business service in, say, C++, you should probably choose CICS or IMS or z/TPF. OK, technically you could write some C++ to run in z/OS UNIX System Services, more or less running as a daemon, and access that via Java Native Interface (JNI) from WebSphere Application Server for z/OS. And yes I know WAS for z/OS can run COBOL EJBs. But those techniques are cheating. :-)

3. "Reconsider the Mainframe" writes Rusty Weston in the latest issue of Smart Enterprise Magazine.

4. Jans Wessels, writing in South Africa's ITWeb, says that "Powerful servers are still the best solution for processing high volume transactions."

5. Save the mainframe! The Bluffton (Indiana) Fire Department responded to a terrible blaze at Farm Credit Services earlier this week. "...Before they were ordered out of the building, firefighters managed to take the mainframe and some other items from the building and place them on a tarp in the backyard." (I wonder if that tarp provides both FICON and ESCON connections.) No one was hurt, thank goodness.

by Timothy Sipples June 13, 2008
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