Cloud Computing and the iPhone
I am sticking to my story -- the iPhone 3G is fantastic. There are some issues however. The iPhone is much more than a "cell phone" -- it is a platform. The six basic elements of the platform are the iPhone itself, the network (AT&T in the United States), iTunes, the "App Store", MobileMe and, most importantly, the applications.
Some are saying that since the new iPhone 2.0 software is available for the original iPhone that there is no need to upgrade to the iPhone 3G. It is true that there is no need to but there are a number of good reasons to. The new iPhone uses the new "new AT&T" 3G network which is claimed to be twice as fast -- as something. Speed claims are rarely delivered upon but no doubt that the 3G network is faster. The receiver in the iphone is also better even when communicating with an AT&T non-3G tower. I have noticed at least one bar improvement here at the lake where there is no 3G tower. The WiFi implementation is better too. Not sure if it is the hardware or software that is improved but it is much more reliable and doesn't get confused about whether to use the cellular signal or the WiFi signal. I am getting ahead of myself but one of the neatest new applications is TruPhone. TruPhone allows you to make a phone call from your iPhone via WiFi even if there is *no* tower of any kind. This happens. I was visiting friends in New Hampshire last weekend and we had brunch at a nice place in a remote area. There was no AT&T or roaming partner signal. None. No service. The restaurant, however, had a very nice free WiFi signal. With TruPhone you can make calls to anywhere in the world at a very low price -- pennies per minute. If you are calling another TruPhone user, it is free. I made some calls with it today and the quality was quite good.
There are other reasons to get the new iPhone. It is a bit thinner and more rounded and feels really nice to hold. It is a joy to use. The 3G has a real GPS receiver so when you use maps it is not an estimate of where you are based on cell phone tower triangulations -- it is using satellites to pinpoint exactly where you are. This opens up a slew of "location based" applications -- where is the nearest pizza place? What are the nearest geocaches? How do I get from where I am to wherever? The battery life is claimed to be better but I am not so sure of that. The iPhone has so much more to offer that I think the usage will be higher and maybe effective battery life will actually be less -- that is the case for me so far. Good idea to have a car charger on hand. One of the irritating things about the original iPhone is that you can't plug your favorite headset into it without a special adapter. The new iPhone accepts any headset and does so without any adapter. Bottom line, it is a really great device. There are many iPhone killers out there and more coming but I don't think they will match the overall experience of the Apple iPhone.
The network is another story and I have written about it in not so glowing terms in each iPhone update. I do think they are getting better. As I have always said, it depends on where you live. In the Northeast, Verizon has better coverage but AT&T is putting up new towers -- one just came online two miles from where I live in Connecticut. Naturally, major cities are covered. I also detect that AT&T customer service is really trying hard to satisfy their customers. The overall model of the industry is bad -- limited choice, get locked into two year contracts, and penalties if you want to move to something better.
iTunes continues to dominate online digital music sales but is facing more and more competition. I have been buying my music from Amazon. They have a nice downloader that puts the mp3 music directly into iTunes and there are no digital rights management restrictions. I like this because I can put purchased music on the iTrike. One of the other great applications on the iPhone is Pandora. This has become my music of choice and I play it through the Squeezebox. The Music Genome Project is awesome. If you love music, I highly recommend it.
iTunes is is integrated tightly (as all things Apple are) with the App Store. Both present easy ways to spend your money from your iPhone. I see this as a huge emerging trend. Call it m-Commerce (mobile commerce) if you want. While sitting in the dentist office awaiting your turn you can buy music and applications from your iPhone. An eBay application let's you spend your money -- or monitor your auctions-- there too. On launch day earlier this month there 500+ applications available for the iPhone. There will be many thousands of applications. So far, about 25% of them are free and supported by various flavors of advertising. You click to find the nearest pizza place and Apple gets a slice of the pie. Some are expensive but add huge value. I bought an aviation application for $69.99 that does everything a pilot can imagine. You can file flight plans with the FAA, check weather radar, airport runway lengths, pilot advisories, and much more. I am not a gamer but millions of people are and the iPhone accelerometer allows you to shake or wave the iPhone as inputs to the game. I have to admit that the Phone Saber is fun, albeit a bit geeky -- lets you take on Darth Vader. The impressive part to me is that the applications are stored in the iPhone but also in iTunes. When you sync you are syncing calendar, email, contacts, and the applications. When you click the App Store icon on the phone it tells you if any of your apps have an update available. When you do a search at the iTunes Store, the search results are organized by artists, albums, movies, etc. and applications.
On the flip side, organization is an issue. So far I have 55 applications. I expect to get many more. The human mind is amazing in terms of icon recognition. You just know that the Phone Saber is at the upper left of the fourth page of applications. But at some point it is overwhelming. I expect Apple or perhaps a third party developer will soon introduce an "app launcher" that allows you to tag an application as news, weather, financial, aviation, game, etc. and let you drill down to what you want.
Last, and I hope not least is MobileMe. Apple says it is the "Simple way to keep everything in sync". The vision is great -- your photos, contacts, email, and calendar are all pushed to your iPhone from the "Cloud". You can make a change on the iPhone and it shows up in Outlook or you can make a change in Outlook and it shows up in your iPhone. Those that work for companies that have Microsoft Exchange or IBM's Lotus Notes already have this kind of capability but there are millions of us who are "independent" and have our own mail server or use gmail, or Yahoo! or any of numerous other services. With MobileMe we can be like the "corporate" world but we can set our own policies and practices. We can have Exchange or Notes without Exchange or Notes. The cloud approach is clearly the next big thing (see prior stories on this and also by Irving), but Apple has stubbed their toe big time on this. There are numerous analysts, bloggers, and experts who have ripped them apart about the failings. As previously reported, I struggled with MobileMe the first few days but then it began to work properly for a few days albeit with some hiccups. Beginning this week it is not working properly. Calendar entries get duplicated, synchronization is sluggish or doesn't work at all at times. It is not like Apple to fail big time like this and I am sure they are scrambling to straighten things out.
I got an email from MobileMe@InsideApple.Apple.com the other day asking if I would be interested in a trial of MobileMe! Seems they didn't check their subscriber list first. The MobileMe web site says that "1% of MobileMe members have limited access to MobileMe Mail. Full service will be restored to these accounts on a rolling basis over the next few days". 99% and in a few days were good in the old days but not these days. I decided to try the online chat support to see if they could help resolve my problems. After sending my initial "instant message" I got a reply saying "A MobileMe Support Representative will be with you in approximately 26 minutes. We look forward to answering your questions". I got a reply while I had stepped out of the room for a minute and then had to start over and wait another 26 minutes. After 3 hours and 14 minutes the support rep said he had to escalate the problem to a specialist who would contact me by email. More than two days have gone by and I have had no email from Apple.
This all reminds me of the Fall of 1995 when we were preparing ibm.com to host the Olympic Games of 1996. It turned out to be the largest web site ever built. We had 54 outstanding engineers working on it and it turned out to be successful. Fortunately, we were able to convince the company to make a large investment in the infrastructure. I remember saying that "we don't how many people will come to the web site, we don't know when they will come, nor do we know what they will do when they get there". It was "trial by fire". That was 13 years ago. The lessons learned in 1995 served IBM well and it is now the largest web hosting company in the world. IBM doesn't always call it cloud computing, but they have built the largest clouds on Earth -- in the clouds. Apple has a lot to learn. I am confident they will. Their brand loyalty depends on it.
|by John R Patrick||July 30, 2008 |
Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Response to Jeff Savit Blog
As part of the announcement of z10 IBM made some marketing claims about the large number of distributed Intel servers that could be consolidated with zVM on a z10. The example cited used Sun rack optimized servers with Intel Architecture CPUs. Sun Blogger Jeff Savit objected strenuosly to the claims mainly because of the low utilization assumed on the Sun machines that the claims compared to. You can read it here:
http://blogs.sun.com/jsavit/entry/no_there_isn_t_aI responded, he responded. When I was out of pocket for awhile and did not respond soon enough and his blog cut off replies on that thread. I am putting my latest response here. Thanks to Mainframe blog for providing the venue to do so. My latest responses to Jeff are in blue italics.
Posted by Joe Temple on June 24, 2008 at 11:28 AM EDT #
|by Joe Temple||July 28, 2008 in Systems Technology |
Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
2Q2008 IBM Earnings
IBM CFO Mark Loughridge highlighted these facts from IBM's 2Q2008 earnings results:
1. System z revenue was up 32 percent for the quarter (year over year); capacity ("MIPS") grew 34 percent. That means System z gained marketshare again. It also means customers keep getting lower per-MIPS pricing, especially for non-U.S. dollar buyers. (That's just simple math.)
2. Loughridge said, "...frankly, we were sold out." Apparently IBM built System z machines as fast as it could in the quarter, and it still wasn't enough to satisfy demand.
3. System z demand was particularly strong in Europe and the Americas, and in the financial sector.
4. IBM shipped a record number of System z specialty engines in the quarter, indicating strong demand for placing new applications on the mainframe.
5. In June, IBM sold its first mainframe ever in Vietnam, to a financial institution.
|by Timothy Sipples||July 17, 2008 in Economics |
Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Mid-July 2008 Potpourri
1. IBM and Sun StorageTek both announced that they are breaking the 1 TB barrier. Now a single enterprise tape cartridge will hold 1 TB uncompressed. For IBM it's the TS1130, shipping in September. Sun ships the T10000B this month.
Remember, get those tapes encrypted. You really want to read in the newspaper that your company allowed terabytes of customer records to leak? Hundreds of gigabytes leaking is bad enough. Encryption is standard on the IBM drive and optional on the Sun StorageTek drive. If you do buy the T10000B, our strong advice is to buy it with the encryption feature.
2. IBM is pouring a cool $1 Billion into updating its East Fishkill, New York, semiconductor plant. Another $0.5 Billion goes to a research center in Albany. East Fishkill's most important product? The very special System z microprocessors, currently quad-core 4.4 GHz beasties.
3. Robert Crawford has some ideas about how IBM should bundle mainframe software.
4. AmeriServ Financial saves $265,000 by moving to a new mainframe. And that figure must be accurate, because that's what the company told the Securities and Exchange Commission in their earnings filing. Good work, AmeriServ.
5. Sun upgraded their M4000, M5000, M8000, and M9000 servers with a newer Fujitsu-supplied Sparc processor. John Fowler, Executive VP at Sun, had to say something, so he remarked, "Today, we're freeing customers from the constraints of the mainframe with open systems along with long-term investment protection features that can future-proof their datacenters."
Mr. Fowler didn't elaborate on what those constraints might be or how a minor speed boost in a Sparc chip (which Sun evidently can no longer invest itself to produce) has any new relevance to, say, owners of business-critical z/OS-based application portfolios. Although perhaps he was referring to partner Fujitsu's mainframes. Fujitsu has failed to innovate or even enhance its mainframes, having effectively frozen its MSP and XSP operating systems. IBM is happy to talk with Fujitsu MSP and XSP customers, almost all of whom are in Japan, about how the best and least risky business choice, by far, is to move to System z.
We're also not sure if Mr. Fowler consulted with the Sun StorageTek marketing team, which had a much more significant product announcement as mentioned above — a product which gets attached in huge numbers to mainframes.
Our friendly advice to Mr. Fowler is that Sun should help customers rationalize their data centers and lower their energy costs. Sun might have some market opportunity there if they can increase the performance and virtualization potential in their servers. We also think Sun should continue to broaden its software product portfolio, including extending that portfolio even more to System z Linux and z/OS. Solaris for System z, for example, is intriguing to us.
Unfortunately the next day The Wall Street Journal reported that "Sun Lowers Earning Projection."
6. The U.S. Department of Defense's IT agency, DISA, has enabled its 45 mainframes for cloud computing. Now users can visit an internal Web site and request IBM mainframe and other server resources. In 24 hours or less, they get their server(s), on demand. Nice!
7. IBM is unveiling its plans for a new product: WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition, including a version for its flagship z/OS operating system. I find so many organizations are struggling with FTP, trying to use it as an application integration vehicle. Sure, FTP is ubiquitous, but it's typically pretty terrible for tying application services together. For one thing, it's highly prone to failure and thus a management nightmare. So I'm very pleased to see this statement of direction, which should help organizations start improving application interaction links, a "Step Zero to SOA" in effect.
8. Meet Bill Kegley. Bill is 69 years old. He used to be a mainframe programmer, a noble and modern profession that kept him stimulated, focused, and solvent. But tragically he left his job. He then got bored, and he spun out of control. Now he's broke; his life ABENDed. As Pennsylvania's Pocono Record reports, "Hooked on sex: Man says escort addiction cost him $200,000. 'Stupid, huh?'"
We admire Bill's parsimonious diagnostic insight, something he no doubt learned before he retired. Let's hope he makes it back into a successful mainframe-oriented profession.
|by Timothy Sipples||July 17, 2008 |
Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
South Dakota Migrates (1 Application) Off Mainframe; Chaos Ensues
Certain sections of the government always seem to be reacting to long-ago technology fads, and a good example is "mainframe downsizing." As we've documented in exhaustive detail, the modern mainframe is enjoying a renaissance for myriad reasons. Unfortunately the good people of South Dakota are being let down by their state government leaders.
Yes, let's be blunt: somebody(ies) screwed up big. As if $4.50 gas wasn't enough to worry about in a rural state with little or no public transportation, car and truck owners now have to wait in long lines for registrations they aren't even getting. That can't be helping state revenue collection. Now where's the accountability? Here in Japan we'd have the equivalent of the state Transportation Secretary's resignation by now. Instead we're hearing a lot of clearly lame excuses.
It's a little tough being an armchair quarterback several timezones away, hearing only the lame excuses, but I'm going to try anyway. I still have no earthly clue why otherwise smart people confuse application changes with platform changes. Again, as we've also documented in exhaustive detail, if you want to run some hunk of uber-cool 64-bit Java written by vegan cattlemen five minutes ago, go for it — your mainframe will happily oblige. One of the first rules in IT project management when you do change something is to contain the number and scope of changes as narrowly as possible to accomplish the mission. (Interestingly that's exactly what IT service company sales representatives don't like — they love the over-sized "big bang" projects — but I digress.) Evidently that basic rule wasn't practiced in this particular case, and now South Dakota is suffering.
|by Timothy Sipples||July 11, 2008 |
Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
The Pitfalls of Mainframe Linux
In another forum, an IT project manager from the financial sector asked what might be the downside to mainframe Linux. Since so many have touted the positive aspects of Linux on System z, in balance, what are the drawbacks? Excellent question!
My answer ...
I come from the "big iron" side, but have been a multi-platform player for decades so have some objectivity. Disadvantages of Linux on the mainframe are few and include:
- high entry bar because of the class of hardware
- lack of graphical console and confusion over text mode consoles
- emotional stigma attached to mainframe stereotype
The first challenge is the bar to entry. Even a low-end System z represents a bigger up-front investment than most laymen can make, so running Linux there is beyond the reach of hobbyists or casual Linux users. When such a user shifts and begins to consider Linux professionally, there is a gap due to lack of exposure; they are unfamiliar with the mainframe port. As hardware goes, System z scales extremely well in both directions, up and down. But the very lowest end of the action is the realm of other hardware. (got hand-held?)
A second negative is lack of sexy graphics. While there are plenty of graphical devices for System z and its predecessors (S/390 and older), the Linux port makes no use of them. You can run X windows applications, as most of us mainframe Linux users do every day. But the physical display for such use is attached elsewhere. This goes hand-in-hand with the lack of warm fuzzy feelings many consumers have about their computers: they can't usually touch and see Linux on System z so they don't get to know it in the same intimate way. Virtual machines help, and z/VM is the most robust virtualization environment, but it still does not fill in this gap of a graphical console for Linux. (Then again, some users have the same problem with virtual machines as with mainframe hardware because of the need to touch, see, feel, ... scratch, sniff.)
But surely the worst thing about Linux on the mainframe is the political baggage of the word "mainframe". When people hear it, they immediately think of green screen applications which they hated in prior experience. Forget the advantage that the hardware can support retro code letting companies defer costly package upgrades or painful package replacements. Never mind that the hardware and traditional operating systems have nothing directly to do with the in-your-face formalities of business. "It's a mainframe and we know that that means." [sigh]
Our friend in the financial world probably expected to hear about dollar costs. Sorry, Charlie. Better fishing elsewhere for that kind of stuff. He did, however, ask an important and uncomfortable question. Now, I do not work for IBM and hold no stock in that company so my opinion is not tainted by personal gain: I can fairly say that the biggest con to mainframe Linux is social. There is also a real boundary for low-end scale down, but it is minor.
Mainframe Linux pitfalls? Few and hard to find.
|by sirsanta||July 10, 2008 |
Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
Forrester: Service Level Shortcomings Are Pervasive & Costly
Stephen Swoyer over at Enterprise Systems Journal reports on a new Forrester Research study which finds serious deficiencies in IT service delivery. The study finds that IT only meets Service Level Agreements (SLAs) about 75% of the time. Moreover, business users often find the SLAs woefully deficient — both poorly defined and, even when written and enforced, too limited to serve more demanding business needs.
Anecdotally I am finding the same situation among IT organizations around the world. Many organizations fail to define service levels in business terms, and they often have poor dialog with business stakeholders to help them understand risks and outcomes. They do not even agree on how to measure the outcomes, and frequently there is no measurement. It all sounds disturbingly familiar.
I remember one recent case when a major insurance company went into production with infrastructure to support their entire core application portfolio — underwriting, claims, etc. — but the IT service team failed to provide any disaster recovery. (Yes, literally zero DR.) One data center fire or explosion would have put the company out of business, probably disrupt that entire country's economy, and send a bunch of company executives to prison. The CEO, to his credit, found out about the gap and immediately ordered expensive remediation. Of course that remediation meant the whole IT project had a negative return on investment, but that's a story for another day.
So what do Forrester's findings have to do with mainframes? Everything, and in at least two ways:
1. Mainframe technologies and disciplines encourage the measurement and management of well-defined service levels to meet or exceed business goals. That remains a serious set of advantages for the platform. If Forrester is correct, that set of advantages is growing over time as business users become more demanding, as IT becomes ever more essential to myriad business processes.
2. If you have a mainframe, you have a challenge if you are not delivering these advantages to your customers. I still run into shops that schedule outages to IPL (reboot) every week to "fix" a 30 year old (and long ago defeated) memory leak. Come on! Do you think your customers appreciate that? Are you still taking online offline in order to run batch? It's 2008 — why? If you don't have Parallel Sysplex, why not? If you do have Parallel Sysplex, is it only for pricing purposes (a "ShamPlex")? Why not actually use what you paid for? Why are you still taking all of DB2 out of service for a version upgrade? Why are you taking the whole Sysplex out of service when you upgrade a frame or microcode? In other words, why are you forcing unnecessary outages on your users? Have you asked them lately how much they'd prefer to avoid outages?
Forrester suggests that the bulk of improving SLAs involves sitting down and talking in business terms with business users. Shocking, I know. :-) But are you?
I see a lot of RFIs and RFPs in my work. I am not fond of them, but I particularly dislike the ones that have little or no appreciation for service level requirements. If you're putting "99.99%" in your RFP and think you're done, you're in serious trouble. Most vendors (including IBM often enough) think you are describing a limit for unplanned outages. Are you, and is that what your business users expect? Then is it OK to have a planned outage every week for 6 hours for backup? (Salespeople being what they are, what do you think their answer is?) And that's just the start. For example, in disaster recovery — you did remember that, right? — do your users want full production capacity? Most vendors won't include that. (And don't you still need to develop and test at some point after a disaster? That may be the most critical time to develop and test. Where's that capacity?) What are the RTOs and RPOs for each business service? (You do have RTOs and RPOs well defined, right?) What sort of failures do you want to protect against? (Have you done a business risk analysis of some kind?) And, assuming you do a good job articulating all your requirements, how will you prove that the vendor is proposing a solution that will actually meet or exceed your standards?
I think it's also a good idea to understand the costs and implications for incremental SLA improvements. For example, if today you buy something that requires 6 hours of outage every week plus 24 hours of outage to upgrade certain infrastructure elements (such as the database version), how expensive (and would it even be possible?) to close those service level gaps? Business needs change, after all: let's call that service level scalability. Any platform you can think of that can manage to multiple service levels, and that can provide easy and comparatively low cost service level upgrades as business needs change?
I still vividly remember one conversation between a Web development team and a mainframe operations team. (Why they weren't talking with one another before our meeting is a mystery.) The Web team said, "We cannot take the Web application down every weekend, so we need to rehost the application from the mainframe." The mainframe operations team replied, "So, you want us not to IPL that LPAR each weekend?" Web team: "Uh, I think so, but what's an IPL?" Ops team: "An IPL is a reboot. OK, done. We won't IPL that LPAR this weekend or any future weekend. We'll send you a new SLA for your approval." Web team: "Why didn't you do that before?" Ops team: "Because you didn't tell us [in precisely the technical way we expected]." Web team: "It's just that easy? Do you need to do anything?" Ops team: "We weren't IPLing most weekends anyway — we just had that possible planned outage listed in our previous SLA with you. No, we don't need to do anything except send you a new agreement. We'll keep your application up and running." Web team: "Uh, thanks."
Yes, I agree with Forrester: IT organizations need to do much better in these areas. What do you think?
|by Timothy Sipples||July 6, 2008 in Economics |
Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Green Data Center Man
Will he save the day?
Some fun over the long weekend:
|by Boas Betzler||July 4, 2008 |
Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The postings on this site are our own and don’t necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of our employers.
© Copyright 2005 the respective authors of the Mainframe Weblog.