Come Together

by Timothy Sipples November 24, 2008 in People
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New Business and new skills – HP doesn’t have this right either

Competitive Winbacks

Some quick thoughts about HP. When they talked about 250 customers moving from mainframes to HP, they really didn’t say who they were. Why? Not really significant?

Yesterday, alert readers pointed me toward a new IBM press release.   Over 5000 businesses moved to IBM servers from HP, Sun and EMC. Of that total, over 150 customers moved to IBM mainframes in less than a year since the IBM Migration Factory was establish for System z.


While that is cool, the best part was that real customer names were used, with Finanz Informatk being the most significant mainframer in the list. Real customers experiencing real value with real solutions from IBM. I guess using the new hype: Smart Customers.


Declining skills or Simplicity of acquiring skills?

So when you want to say something negative, you find a way to do it to cloud the real story. HP says that mainframe skills are retiring. Yes, that’s a fact. When you have a system that’s been around in a a consistent form for over 40 years, that is bound to happen. Personally, my dad was a computing pioneer and retired after 42 years in 1996 or so. So retirements happen.

What is really cool is how quickly “kids” can get on board the mainframe. First there is zVM, presumably the oldest virtualization hypervisor in the industry, circa 1967. And the most scalable and reliable to boot. That can put a mainframe operating system on the desktop of every college student, application architect and systems programmer that you can imagine. Hey, did you get the memo? SYS1.PARMLIB is proprietary…oh my goodness, I’m so embarrassed and afraid….NOT!   Heck, you ever try to use REGEDIT on a PC? That’s pretty complex, in fact, it’s unreadable on a single screen. But again, all that is irrelevant. The biggest problem with skills is that the mainframe has not been easily accessible to developers. Now that zVM has risen like a


out of the ashes, more and more customers and academic institutions are making mainframe images, be they Linux, z/OS, zVSE or zTPF on desktops through virtualization. Add some Rational Developer for z tooling and you’ll find that the mainframe even looks like a PC server. The problem was never that it was hard. The problem is that because of operational change control risks, the mainframe just wasn’t made available to new communities.

With IBM’s Academic Initiative leading the way, there are more students coming out with knowledge than ever in history. More schools are adding mainframe skills to their curicullum. But as important, it’s not just a job, it’s fun….remember my mantra – Same code, different container, superior operations model.  We have students tell us all the time that they found creative new ways to solve problems that they didn’t think were possible because their knowledge had been limited to “simple” scale out servers, capable of only doing one thing. So sad! But that’s the best the competition can do to teach them, I guess.


I mentor kids in high school. A couple of years ago, one of those students was hired as a coop for a summer job. He liked it so much that he told his friends and three of his peers were hired as coops the next year. I now have a waiting list and this is from one rural high school in

New York

. That school only graduates 80 students a year...Nice win rate. They have fun, they learn the real world applicability and most important they realize that there are real jobs out there for them….It just doesn’t get any better than that.


This year, I’ve got two kids in 8th grade starting a mentorship. One of them wants to build a web server for his church. Somehow, someway, I’ll bet that web server ends up on Linux on z for at least a demo purpose…And then, it will migrate to the HTTPD on z/OS. And it will be a blast doing it…And the cool part? I don’t even have to see these students to make this work. It can all be done by instant message coaching…This is cut and paste simplicity. Yes indeed, the era of the new mainframe has arrived… So much fun for anyone that wants to give it a try.


And many of you reading this probably have teenagers at home or are young yourselves. Always seems like the “younger generation” hates it when someone tells you that you shouldn’t do something or that it’s bad for you? My own experience tells me that my kids will do something anyways. So message to HP…keep saying bad things about the mainframe, keep telling folks it’s not worth doing. Keep sending out misleading information. And in turn, you’ll just inspire that next generation of systems programmers and application developers to find out what it is they are missing and in doing so, they’ll have as much fun as the other folks that continue to thrive using the mainframe. Thanks, HP…you are just making my job easier.

by JimPorell November 21, 2008
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Saluting Northern Illinois University

Via Lindy Mayfield and IBM-MAIN we learn about Dr. Robert Rannie's sage advice to budding professional developers studying at Northern Illinois University, one of the premier higher learning institutions participating in the IBM Academic Initiative. For example, in the course syllabus for CSCI 468 he writes:

In this course programming will be carried out under a number of rules that, if you have not already discerned them, are those used in the 'real world' and which you may be assured you will encounter shortly after graduation. One of those rules is that a program which does NOT DO WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO DO -- REGARDLESS of how long or how hard or how much you 'sweat blood over it', is still, just, and only, a pile of chicken scratchings. It is NOT 50% or 10% or ANY percent a program! IT IS AN UN-PROGRAM!

AFTER you graduate you won't get paid by an employer for a program that doesn't work and BEFORE you graduate you won't get a grade in this course for a program that doesn't work. Don't ever forget that folks won't pay for parachutes that 'almost' work!

If you're one of Dr. Rannie's students, how fortunate you are. He speaks wisdom. Understand well, Grasshopper. And if you would like to meet Dr. Rannie you can attend a version of his "Mainframe Boot Camp" at the SHARE conference in Austin, Texas, in March, 2009.

by Timothy Sipples November 21, 2008
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z/OS Freebies Revisited

FREE! It's a word we all like, except perhaps corporate attorneys. IBM continues to introduce free (ahem, "no additional charge") software for z/OS. So get out your pen, jot down these program numbers, and head over to your Shopz account to order great freebies for your z/OS machine. Here are some popular examples:

Also available for Web download:

If you have DB2 for z/OS:

Any other freebies you like?

UPDATE #1: I should have mentioned two terrific freebies for two excellent transaction managers: the CICS Explorer and the IMS SOAP Gateway for z/OS.

UPDATE #2: There's also the ISPF Workstation Agent.

by Timothy Sipples November 20, 2008
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Mid-November, 2008, Potpourri

  1. As Jim Porell mentioned, HP cannot help but misrepresent a major industry analyst. Robert Frances Group took the rare step of issuing a press release to dispute HP's recent claims about RFG's views. InformationWeek has more. Memo to HP: if you want to earn the respect and trust of customers, don't fib.
  2. At CA World this week in Las Vegas, CA announced "Mainframe 2.0," a company-wide initiative to simplify CA's governance, management, and security tools for the mainframe. Highlights include reductions in skills and training requirements (including initial learning curves), uniform Web browser-based access, increased tools intelligence to reduce complexity, adoption of IBM's standard software installation processes (SMP/E), and new "turnkey" services. Mainframe tools account for 60 percent of CA's revenues, and CA expects that percentage to grow.
  3. On the off chance there was any ambiguity, IBM says it's fine to run OpenSolaris for System z on IFL processors.
  4. IBM announced WebSphere Dashboard Framework V6.1 for z/OS which provides software to deliver executive-style Web dashboards to, well, executives, team leaders, project leaders, etc. These dashboards can provide real-time and near real-time business and operational status information to help people make better decisions. It's a much better approach for collaboration than trying to keep everyone's spreadsheets and charts in sync. And you can provide those dashboards with the highest service qualities while exploiting zAAPs.
  5. IBM also announced a version of the Apache HTTP server, the IBM HTTP Server V7.0 for z/OS, as a no extra charge z/OS feature. Previously this new HTTP Server was only available as part of WebSphere Application Server for z/OS. V5.3 of the HTTP Server is still available, still supported, and still included as a base z/OS feature.
  6. IBM plans to buy Transitive Corporation.
  7. Sun Microsystems is laying off another 5,000 to 6,000 workers, about 18 percent of its global workforce.
  8. Region Calabria, Italy, has a new System z-based solution to serve their 2 million citizens, replacing a less reliable and more costly distributed solution. Congratulazioni! Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines improves its business resiliency with an expanded System z installation and improved storage.
  9. At 11:00 a.m. New York time on November 26, 2008, you can join the "Cloud Computing on System z" teleconference. A replay will also be available.

by Timothy Sipples November 19, 2008
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Who do you trust? RFG? Yes. HP? No

In my last entry, I talked about the misleading information that HP provided regarding a consulting report to get off the mainframe. In that dialog, I also referenced the same consulting group giving pro-mainframe support and then asked rhetorically, who do you trust, RFG or RFG? I’ve worked closely with Robert Francis Group and I was wondering why they would have done this.


Well, it looks like RFG is a lot more trustworthy than HP who misused the consulting report. Today, RFG put out a press release in which their headline reiterated:

RFG Still Believes That the Mainframe Is One of the Best and Most Energy Efficient Platform Options. 

Well, it was certainly nice to see that and their explanation. Anyone hazard to guess when we might see a retraction or correction from HP?

by JimPorell November 17, 2008 in Economics, History, Innovation
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HP attacking the mainframe? Like a car vs. a truck

Well, HP is at it again. They are making more generalities about IBM’s venerable mainframe to scare customers off that platform. Check their facts and sources, though and you’ll find that something’s rotten in

Palo   Alto

. Their comparisons are just not realistic. In this note, I’ll be giving you some consolidation efforts that IBM has seen with its customers.


Before we get into that, though, let’s do a quick comparison benchmark to establish a baseline. Let’s compare a four passenger Mini Cooper car Minicooper to a two passenger Freight liner truck cabTruck . Benchmark 1: which is cheaper to commute to work in? Pretty obvious, but I’ll vote for the car. Especially given gas price vs. diesel now…the car is the “green” solution. Benchmark 2: We want to move the contents of our house. Most people would say the truck, but they’d be wrong. We need to accessorize and add a trailer to each vehicle. Now the Mini happens to put the tailpipe right in the middle of the car on many of their models. Why? You’d have to be a moron to put a trailer on their car. As for the truck, with a large enclosed trailer, you can put all kinds of materials in it. In fact, you might even put a couple of the Mini’s inside. So we’ve just proven that with the right benchmark, either solution is appropriate. But benchmarks aren’t reality either. Most people will move their family in the car and outsource to a shipping company to move the contents of their house. So continuing that analogy, there is no one computer that will solve all of a business’ problems, neither a mainframe nor a PC server will do the job by themselves. It’s all about collaboration and using the best servers for the right jobs.


So let’s get back to HP’s claims. I’m a little confused by Robert Frances Group claims right now. In the HP quoted report, they say you get less electricity and floor space with a PC server than you do with a mainframe. I’ve never seen a mainframe that only ran a single workload. Most of them will have transaction processing, batch, interactive, query and decision support running all at the same time. It’s true that you can take one workload off of a mainframe and run it on a PC server and then compare that PC server to a mainframe. The data might actually be real, but as information, it is “incredible”. A single PC server may be smaller than a mainframe and use less electricity (The car). But no single PC server is going to be comparable to a mainframe running multiple workloads. In fact, RFG published a paper in which they said a mainframe will use 3% of the electricity of a comparable PC server cluster attempting to accomplish the same workload. It will also use a fraction of the floor space. (The Truck). But don’t believe me….here’s exactly what they said:


RFG believes mainframe computing platforms have many of the characteristics that will ameliorate, if not eliminate, the current challenges data center managers face with power and cooling. First, mainframe power consumption and heat characteristics are, for many companies, the most efficient servers in the data center. This is true in an absolute sense, where the energy per square foot is lower than any data center system measured by our clients. More significantly, this is massively true in a relative sense, when comparing power used per transaction. On a total workload throughput basis, mainframe system power consumption is almost negligible when compared with distributed systems on a power per transaction basis. As power and cooling costs continue to rise, IT executives should reevaluate mainframe computers total cost and overall value in reducing data center operations costs.

Quote used with permission of Robert Francis Group.


So who are you going to believe? RFG or RFG? Well, in the HP cited paper, RFG just republished the results of a report done by HP. So don’t throw RFG under the bus. Just understand that it’s HP’s low quality and misleading information at work, once again.


As for the Alinean update, it’s a single workload in each example. And in them, they talk about the SAP application server. But what about the database server? Typically, if the application server is on z, the database server is in DB2 for z/OS. Did that move too? The labor costs for System z appear to be much higher than the norm for a business. The report discusses the price of an older mainframe and again, some incredible Software license charges. But what if SAP was added to a newer mainframe? How would that have compared in this report? What if it was added to an existing, newer mainframe, what would the incremental charges be as compared to net new computing servers?


HP mentions the BART system avoiding 50% of their paycheck errors. Wow…that sounds like a big number. They went to Peoplesoft, from what I guess was a homegrown application that was running on a mainframe…at least that’s what HP wants you to believe. So it sounds like the BART people are better running trains than they are at writing programs? I doubt it. That wouldn’t be fair to the hard working people at BART. But remember, if there are two paycheck errors a month and it goes down to one paycheck error a month, that’s a 50% reduction as well. (The Car). So sometimes the big numbers quoted are really just a meaningless indicator to scare you into thinking something else. How many errors a month was BART really seeing? I don’t know and neither do you based on HP's comments.


So let’s talk about something I do know about….consolidations of servers are occurring and System z has been a great place to do that. Nationwide and DGTI are two examples.

IBM has published a paper on SAP consolidation capabilities on System z. The HP press release described a customer that had mainframes and Windows servers. By eliminating the mainframe, they had a common skill set based on Windows. But how real is a customer with a single computing infrastructure? Maybe for relatively small customers, but not with larger ones. RENFE is the Spanish national rail agency. Prior to its reorganization into the two new operating companies, RENFE was composed of 18 separate business units, each with its own intranet system running various line of business applications. These included human resources systems, helpdesk applications and various internal communication portals. To drive better integration across the business and improve process efficiency, RENFE made a strategic decision to create a single information portal for all employees and that was based on System z.


IBM is eating its own cooking by consolidating many of it’s thousands of application and database servers onto System z. But that’s not the whole story either. They are also consolidating some onto System p and some onto System x. In each case, IBM is looking at underutilized stand alone servers, the baseline for the PC server marketplace and leveraging virtualization technologies to get a large reduction in physical server images. IBM is putting the right workload in the right place that makes sense for the business environment. (The Trucks).


We see constant examples of taking 100’s of underutilized standalone PC servers and consolidating through virtualization down to 10’s of higher utilized PC or RISC servers or individual mainframe servers. In each case, the customers are saving substantially on labor, environmental and capital costs. HP will tell you that 100’s to 10’s is good enough.

IBM mainframes, though, can get that down to single digits in many cases.


Look at HP’s Brazilian Navy example. A lot of folks may perceive that a mainframe could never go on a Battleship, Aircraft carrier, early warning aircraft or other military location. Well, those folks would be wrong. Today’s modern mainframe, the System z, going as far back as the zSeries z800 processor meets or exceeds the electrical, floor space, ambient temperature, humidity, air pressure and vibration specifications necessary to satisfy the locations in which those servers may be deployed. See page 12 to view a subset of these specifications. In addition, it provides operational redundancy built into the hardware architecture and operating systems that exceeds the availability requirements necessary to satisfy those particular business needs. And with its open programming models, including Java, J2EE, C/C++, in addition to the venerable COBOL and PL/I capabilities, it provides a hosting environment to capture those programming needs.


In fact, development belongs on the desktop. The most creativity and tooling is possible in that desktop and you can reboot the system at will to test your applications. IBM’s Rational Developer for System z (RDz) and Rational Team Concert suites provide an Integrated Development Environment that can leverage the simplicity of the open programming environment through its tool base, but easily apply those skills and knowledge to mainframe application deployment. You want mainframe development skills? You have them in your hands already. Get the tools and put those people to work.


One of the principals of the mainframe has always been that the operating system, middleware and hardware are responsible for data locking, security, system resilience, storage management and capacity management. This enables multiple workloads to operate as individual processes and maintain the integrity of the system and the data. On other platforms, it’s typically the application that is responsible for many of these characteristics. In order to achieve these qualities of service, additional products must be acquired and additional code may have to be written by application developers to deliver these qualities. The point of this all is that a business might actually reduce the amount of code necessary to achieve their business objectives if it was targeted for deployment on System z and reduce their operational risk at the same time. To summarize this point, it can be the same code from distributed systems in a mainframe operational container and deliver superior operational performance. Same code, different container with superior operations model.


So this started by pointing out inaccuracies in the HP press release. How can a business use that information? Well, maybe to buy an individual compute server, that information may be helpful (The Car). But looking at an enterprise that needs to satisfy multiple business needs, it doesn’t appear too helpful at all (The Truck). They use Apples to compare to


. Customers continue to grow their compute power on IBM mainframes. New problems are being solved in creative ways, leveraging the best of the mainframe in collaboration with other systems. Like RENFE, get on board the IBM mainframe.



by JimPorell November 12, 2008 in Economics, Innovation, People, Systems Technology
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Siemens Getting Out of the Server Business

There's a shakeup in the mainframe hardware market to report. Fujitsu Siemens Computers (FSC), previously a 50-50 joint venture between Fujitsu Limited of Japan and Siemens AG of Germany, will now be 100% owned by Fujitsu as Siemens sells its stake in the company, effective April 1, 2009. Fujitsu will pay 450 million euros to Siemens as part of the deal.

FSC's primary markets are in Europe. Among its products are mainframes running the BS2000/OSD operating system. These mainframes trace their ancestry to 1960s RCA Spectra mainframes. Fujitsu also produces two other types of mainframes: Fujitsu-ICL machines running the VME operating system (with primary markets in the U.K.) and domestic Japanese market mainframes running the OSIV/MSP and OSIV/XSP operating systems. In the past Fujitsu also produced Amdahl mainframes which ran IBM mainframe operating systems.

Fujitsu's mainframe lines are incompatible with one another. Fujitsu has become something of a "mainframe collector," buying out ICL and Siemens to take advantage of their revenue streams. The challenge for them, and for their customers, is whether there will be any tangible investment back into the businesses. Fortunately these customers have an option: migrate to System z.

by Timothy Sipples November 9, 2008 in Economics
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CA zIIPs Along

CA, one of the world's largest software companies, recently announced a new release (r17) of arguably their most important database product: IDMS. This new release exploits the zIIP specialty processors available on System z9 and z10 mainframes, improving price-performance. CA also "saw considerable growth in new mainframe capacity and maintenance" in its just concluded fiscal 2Q2009 corporate earnings.

by Timothy Sipples November 9, 2008 in Economics
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Recession-Proof Mainframe Jobs

NBC's Today Show featured a short segment on "recession-proof jobs." It's a short list, but as you can see in the video toward the end of the segment, one of the big categories includes IT professionals with mainframe-related skills.

by Timothy Sipples November 7, 2008 in People
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