Late October, 2008, Potpourri

  1. Do you want to access your mainframe from your iPhone or iPod touch? MochaSoft offers a solution. (Rational HATS is another.) There's some discussion on IBM-MAIN about setting up appropriate security, but this would be handy.
  2. IBM has published a new paper: "Why to Choose CICS Transaction Server for New IT Projects." The paper discusses why it makes sense to develop new business application functions to run in CICS within a service-oriented architecture. Somebody was listening to James Governor.
  3. IDG via The New York Times reports: "Looking for Job Security? Try COBOL."
  4. interviews David Boyes of Sine Nomine Associates regarding their introduction of OpenSolaris for System z. There's an interesting discussion on Slashdot about this newest mainframe operating system.
  5. Need to access information via HTTP(S) from batch and other programs written in COBOL, PL/I, and other programming languages? Don't have any middleware which can do the job, such as CICS Transaction Server? cURL for z/OS might be just the solution for you, and it's free.

by Timothy Sipples October 24, 2008
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The New Mainframe: The System z10 BC

Today IBM is introducing the new System z10 BC. At quick glance, it's another home run for IBM. This new machine really is every bit like IBM's top-end Enterprise Class machine, with the same quality attributes and functions, but in a smaller (half size) package covering the small and medium capacity ranges. "Medium" is getting very large, though.

It's surprising to see IBM introducing this model this year. I think mainframe watchers were expecting the z10 BC perhaps in mid-2009.

One piece of big news: big price reductions. IBM has slashed the price of z10 BC specialty processors (with memory) by 50%. Also, the press release now openly says "starting under $100,000."

I'll likely have more to say on the Mainframe Blog in the coming days but, for now, IBM offers plenty of z10 BC goodness for your reading enjoyment. And you can get your own z10 BC as early as October 28, 2008.

UPDATE: Here are some of the interesting highlights as I see them, in no particular order:

  • IBM continues to offer more value while reducing prices. As mentioned, the specialty engine pricing (with memory!) stands out. Novell and Red Hat are supporting this new pricing with Linux promotions, for example. Also, there is another "technology dividend" (10% lower MSUs versus the z9 BC). One of the most interesting technology dividends is the A01 model: there is now a 3 MSU mainframe! This is fantastic news for the smallest mainframe customers.
  • Full speed uniprocessor performance looks to be about 42% higher than the z9 BC. That's a healthy jump, although for many workloads (certain crypto, decimal floating point, Linux, Java, XML) that figure probably undercalls the improvement.
  • There are many more capacity models available than even the z9 BC. That helps improve efficiency and lower costs.
  • Minimum memory is now 4 GB with a dedicated 8 GB HSA. That's nice for customers with less-demanding memory requirements and probably explains a little of IBM's lower pricing. Maximum usable memory is up to a hefty 248 GB, but until June next year the maximum is 120 GB. Obviously there's a higher density memory part coming, and it's nice that IBM is telling us that so we can plan ahead and know the z10 BC can grow, particularly in consolidation projects.
  • Speaking of which, in terms of overall positioning the z10 BC is now a much more capable consolidation server, helping sustain much larger consolidation projects than the z9 BC. This factor should be very helpful as consolidation and virtualization becomes much more pressing in even small data centers.
  • There are no dedicated spares in a maximally configured z10 BC (10 engines activated), but if you want a spare it's a lot easier to do: just configure only 9 (or fewer) engines. That's much more realistic for more customers.
  • The I/O has been improved in quite interesting ways, including z High Performance FICON (zHPF) and elimination of some planned outages for I/O upgrades.
  • HiperDispatch is supported on the z10 BC, along with all the other big z10 processor improvements such as the 1 MB page size.
  • There's a new and unique CPU Measurement Facility feature, to collect system activities at the processor level without inducing different behavior in microcode levels and above. Actually, it's not completely new -- apparently it's been a poorly advertised feature in previous machines, available to IBM engineers. But now it can be activated on-the-fly, without re-IPL (rebooting) the system, and IBM is opening it up more. This should be quite helpful in chasing down deeply buried bugs and performance issues. IBM has always been exceptional in system serviceability, so it's nice to see they aren't resting.

What new capabilities in the z10 BC are interesting to you?

by Timothy Sipples October 21, 2008 in Innovation
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Don't be Snowed by the Seven Myths

Anywhere you turn, there is misunderstanding, especially in science and technology. (I won't mention religion!) Thwarting certain bad information is where a lot of mainframers spend our non-tech time. (Seems like the story of our lives.) A coin always has two sides and unless you're Governor William J. Lepetomane you can only see one side at a time.

I heard about the following last week from Monte my IBM rep. If you work with "System z" or other mainframe platforms then you certainly have heard these myths and probably have spent more time than you would like in refuting them, so the article might be nostalgic or preaching to the choir. If you are new to this z world, then you should check out this easy-read three pager. Chris O'Malley does a great job of summarizing.

And ... drat! ... I see Tim Sipples beat me to that Solar Flair news.  [sigh]

by sirsanta October 17, 2008
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IBM Announces 3Q2008 Earnings Details

IBM CFO Mark Loughridge discussed the company's 3rd quarter earnings moments ago. In his prepared remarks, Loughridge noted that IBM System z hardware revenues increased an impressive 25 percent year to year, with double digit revenue growth in all geographies. MIPS (capacity shipped) grew by 49 percent. (You can do the math on what that means for price-performance.) Within that, the specialty MIPS segment grew a whopping 120 percent, driven by increasing Linux and Java use on the mainframe. Loughridge noted that these results likely mean that IBM once again gained server marketshare with System z. System z is one of IBM's fastest growing businesses.

Despite that result, IBM's total hardware revenues were down due especially to weakness in X86 servers. System x (IBM's total X86 server business) declined 18 percent, with blades down 8 percent. System p grew 7 percent.

Software revenues grew significantly, although IBM did not specifically break out System z-related software.

Thank you, IBM System z customers. We sincerely appreciate your continued patronage. Please keep letting IBM know how to do even better.

by Timothy Sipples October 16, 2008 in Economics
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OpenSolaris for System z Now Available

Sine Nomine Associates has now made its first OpenSolaris for System z release available for free and public download. This is a "prototype" (but working) release, available to all who wish to learn and to explore this additional mainframe operating system.

Congratulations to Sine Nomine on achieving this significant milestone.

by Timothy Sipples October 16, 2008 in Innovation
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IBM 3Q2008 Earnings Preview

Amidst turmoil in world financial markets, IBM gave an early preview of its third quarter, 2008 earnings. Diluted earnings were $2.05 per share, an increase of 22 percent over 3Q2007. "We remain confident in our full-year outlook," CEO Samuel J. Palmisano remarked.

More details, including any particular business unit results, await IBM's regular earnings announcement after the U.S. stock markets close on October 16, 2008.

by Timothy Sipples October 9, 2008 in Economics
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Mainframe, Youth and T-Shirt Driven Development

kathy t

If you don't know Kathy Sierra you should. She is one of America's foremost thinkers on the psychology of learning and how to get kick ass results in IT through her blog, Creating Passionate Users. One post that always sticks in my mind is T-Shirt First Development. In it Kathy points out:

Guy Kawasaki (the original Mac evangelist for Apple) said it in his 1992 book Selling the Dream: make the t-shirt before you make the product. If you're a team lead, project manager, open source evangelist... make the t-shirt. If you're promoting a business, service, supporting a cause... make the t-shirt. And the more subversive, the better. If the t-shirt is for internal use only, see how far you can push before marketing or legal steps in. The more maverick the shirt, the more valued it becomes.

Anyone would think IBM was listening. Subversive - check (the t-shirt in questions rips off Pink Floyd). Here is the video she is pointing to- the mainframe rejuvenation continues.

One thing is very very clear. Scott Wetter and Ben Ferancheck both have a bright future in IT, architecture and management.

by James Governor October 1, 2008
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