SPSS, MIPS pricing and SAS: Big Data on z

Timothy Sipples already mentioned IBM is acquiring SPSS. While there is a lot of analysis out there about the deal generally, I haven't seen much about the mainframe market implications. Except on my own blog. I figure the argument is worth repeating here.

IBM has done a lot of really solid work making the mainframe less expensive for non-CICS and IMS workloads like Linux (IFL), DB2 (zIP) or WebSphere (zAAP). IBM is determined to drive datawarehousing workloads to the mainframe. But SAS Institute was a “stick in the mud”, effectively forcing users to pay capacity-based mainframe charges, and so making it less likely customers would run Big Data analytics on z. Well now IBM is in a great position to offer specialist offload processors for data analytics workloads, but also push SAS Institute into a price war that can only benefit customers interested in mainframe consolidation- and don’t think that’s an isolated group. What was the first thing SAS claimed about the acquisition? It would force up prices. Good luck with that… One other thing IBM mainframe customers will be able to do- analyse all of their CICS transactions for patterns.

disclosure: ibm's mainframe group is a customer.

by James Governor July 31, 2009
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IBM to Acquire SPSS

This morning IBM announced its intention to acquire SPSS Inc., a major provider of predictive business analytics software. IBM continues to push, hard, into the business intelligence solutions market, including major improvements in System z's business intelligence capabilities. In fact, one of the just announced new IBM System z Solution Edition Series is an aggressively priced data warehousing package for z/OS.

by Timothy Sipples July 28, 2009 in Future
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IBM Announces 2Q2009 Earnings

IBM's CFO Mark Loughridge announced that the company had another strong quarter and is raising earnings guidance for the full year.

System z hardware had a tough quarter for comparison, though (as was expected). The second quarter of 2008 was the first full quarter of System z10 EC shipments, and that was a blockbuster quarter for mainframe hardware. Globally System z hardware revenue was down 39 percent year to year (35 percent at constant currency). However, IBM's so-called "growth markets" (which include Asia-Pacific ex-Japan, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America) demonstrated excellent strength, with mainframe hardware revenues up 17 percent. Clearly System z is increasing its global penetration. (You may recall a recent quarter when IBM announced the first System z sold in Vietnam, for example.)

Also, mainframe hardware profitability (i.e. margin) increased by 3 percentage points. Yet MIPS prices continued to decline because MIPS shipments were only down 20 percent year to year. All that is great news for customers (i.e. ever-lower prices) and for ongoing System z investment.

Unfortunately IBM does not break out System z software or System z-related services separately in their financial reports. Therefore it's difficult to get a complete picture of IBM's System z business because so much of it relates to software and services. However, Mr. Loughridge cited both ILOG and Cognos product lines as particularly strong. One of IBM ILOG's flagship products is Rules for COBOL, software which helps System z customers with COBOL application assets extract, modify, add, run, and manage business rules more flexibly and quickly, reducing code maintenance costs and complexity. Also (and I sure hope I won't get in trouble for revealing this fact), I am aware that IBM sold Cognos 8 Business Intelligence for System z here in my own little part of the world (Japan).

Thanks everybody.

UPDATE: Mr. Loughridge broke some news about new System z solutions that IBM will announce. Here's the relevant section from the earnings call transcript:

Mark Moskowitz - J.P. Morgan
....Mark, you mentioned in your comments about incremental workload [offerings?] introduced here shortly. Could you maybe give us some context in terms of how the workload engines in the mainframe business the last couple of years have boosted the annuity block in your software business? Has that helped leverage and can we see it be even more leverage with these new blocks coming out?

Mark Loughridge
Yeah, I mean, when you look at the z Series platform, that new workload approach is really to draw a new customer content and new customer adoption into the platform, and we’ve been quite happy with our new workload performance over time.

I think what is interesting about this now is it really does expand the aperture of the workload opportunities that we apply that approach to, so that’s why we are going to implement this new data warehouse offerings that enables real-time business analytics, consistent with our emphasis on business analytics. The enterprise disaster recovery solution enabling multi-location platforms for disaster recovery. Enterprise security hubs, the WebSphere application server, the enhanced SAP solutions — I mean, you put all five of those together, it substantially increases the aperture of opportunities that we now apply that new workload content to, and it has actually worked very, very well and we are quite optimistic about it going into the second half.

UPDATE 2: CA reported its quarterly earnings, and they were solid. About half of CA's revenues come from mainframe software, and CA's CEO said that mainframe-related revenues grew substantially faster than distributed server-related revenues. He also talked about the company's "Mainframe 2.0" initiative.

by Timothy Sipples July 16, 2009 in Economics
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IBM Previews z/VM Version 6.1

When IBM has announcements to make it's usually on a Tuesday (U.S. time). There's a big one this week: IBM revealed many details of the forthcoming z/VM Version 6.1.

z/VM is the ultra-refined virtualization operating system ("hypervisor") for the mainframe and routinely supports hundreds or even thousands of guest operating systems on a single machine. z/VM is a critical ingredient in the mainframe's Linux prowess.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for mainframe geeks (and many other people) is that IBM also declared a new Architecture Level Set (ALS) for the mainframe. So far all 64-bit machines implemented a single ALS called z/Architecture. All current IBM software can run on every machine to implement z/Architecture, starting from the z900. (Whether it makes sense to do that is a separate question, but in pure technical terms you can run any current IBM software on any machine starting from the z900 which first shipped in the year 2000.) That's despite the fact that each new model implements new and enhanced CPU instructions. IBM software might exploit those instructions, but (currently) it doesn't require them. Most vendors have done the same thing: all their current software works with all z/Architecture machines. The one exception I can think of is OpenSolaris for System z, which requires a System z9 or higher.

That just changed, because IBM is giving advance warning that z/VM Version 6.1 will require a new ALS. (IBM says that z/VM Version 6.1 is scheduled to become generally available in 4Q2009.) I didn't see the name for this new ALS yet, but for now you can probably call it ARCHLVL 3 or perhaps z/Architecture 2. The System z10 EC and BC machines implement this new ALS, but prior machines do not. This ALS declaration establishes a significant distinction between System z9 (and prior) and System z10 models. If the past is any guide (and it usually is), z/VM Version 6.1 will only be the first software product to require ARCHLVL 3. There will be many others to come. The same happened with z/VM Version 5, the first product (that I remember anyway) to require z/Architecture (ARCHLVL 2).

by Timothy Sipples July 7, 2009
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Random Mainframe News for Early July, 2009

The Mainframe Blog takes no summer (northern hemisphere) vacation, nor does mainframe-related news. Here are pointers to the recent mainframe stories and happenings that interest me and hopefully you as well.

  1. IBM is introducing a free development tool for Enterprise Generation Language (EGL) which is highly relevant to System z. EGL is a 4th generation language (4GL): easy to learn, powerful, and easy to maintain. The runtime for the free tool is any operating system with Java capability, including z/OS and Linux on System z. I like free stuff.
  2. Analyst firm Clipper Group published a new whitepaper: System z as a Cloud for Business Services.
  3. CA published this paper: Usage and Plans for Mainframe Linux.
  4. IBM released WebSphere Application Server for Developers. Also free. You can install this version on any PC (Linux or Windows). Everybody using WAS for Developers is also already a mainframe developer. What you run on WAS for Developers can also run on WebSphere Application Server for z/OS and WebSphere Application Server for Linux on z.
  5. IBM has several teleconferences/webcasts scheduled (usually with replays available if you cannot join live): Misconceptions and Old Wives Tales on DB2 Database Maintenance and Recovery (July 7), Get Smart IMS Applications with COBOL and Java Interoperability (July 14), DB2 9 for z/OS Utilities: Best Practices Update (July 21), CICS and Rational: Increase Business Agility Through Innovative Tooling (July 22), and IMS Connect Extensions: Revealing the Secrets of IMS Connect (July 28). UPDATE: There's also Tivoli Provisioning Manager for Linux on System z: 64-Bit Benchmark Results (July 16).
  6. DataDirect's Gregg Willhoit thinks there ought to be better (and more) TPC-style mainframe benchmarks, especially for specialty engine exploitation measurements.
  7. Congratulations to KLM which has now fully upgraded to 64-bit z/TPF technology. (I mentioned JAL's upgrade previously.)
  8. Craig Gentry at IBM Research has solved a decades-long cryptographic riddle: is it possible to design an encryption scheme that allows calculations to be performed on the encrypted data without compromising the underlying secrets? Yes, it is possible, at least given a few years to solve the remaining engineering issues. This breakthrough should help make encryption much more convenient and promote more widespread adoption.
  9. The 2009 Australian "Master the Mainframe" contest is now running.
  10. Congratulations to Westpac which is now fighting bank fraud with ACI Worldwide's Proactive Risk Manager running on System z.
  11. From Slashdot: "Microsoft Backed-Firm Says IBM Is Anticompetitive."
  12. Tom's Hardware, a Web site which normally focuses on PC technologies, spent a lot of time developing a section entitled "A Complete History of Mainframe Computing." One of the section's pages discusses the System z10 Enterprise Class. Some of the technical details are not quite correct, starting with the name of the mainframe (they say "eServer zSeries E64"). But it's quite nice they made the effort. (UPDATE: The author has now revised the article to correct the minor technical errors.) Tom's Hardware likes good hardware design, and it's clear the author appreciates the System z10.
  13. eWeek reports that BMC's mainframe push is paying dividends: growth in their business.
  14. Meet Audible Mainframe, a hip-hop band originally from Boston. (Heads up: there are a couple "F word" utterances toward the end.)

by Timothy Sipples July 1, 2009 in Events, Innovation
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