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Two Big Deals in the Mobile World

The U.S. Labor Day weekend has not been a restful one in the mobile communications and devices industry. Vodafone is selling its share of Verizon Wireless to Verizon in a blockbuster $130 billion cash and stock deal, and Microsoft is buying Nokia's struggling mobile phone business, other assets, and licenses for 5.4 billion euro (about $7.2 billion).

What have these deals got to do with mainframes? Plenty. The mobile business is still growing rapidly, and mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are rapidly displacing traditional PCs as the dominant application and information service clients. That growth is increasing transaction volumes and associated batch processing on mainframes. It's also encouraging existing and new mainframe customers to add applications and application functions to their mainframes, especially to support increasing demands for continuous service and improved security given the challenges mobile devices present.

So how can mainframes address mobile platforms? They already do, and it's quite easy to do more. One excellent example is IBM Worklight for zEnterprise which makes it easy to support multiple mobile device types from your mainframe with functionally rich, device-appropriate, secure "apps" and mobile Web user interfaces. Another example is the IBM CICS Transaction Server Feature Pack for Mobile which is available to CICS customers at no additional charge and which supports lightweight, mobile-appropriate JSON Web services.

The contrast between the two deal sizes is interesting all by itself because it demonstrates where the value has shifted in the mobile market. The smaller Nokia-Microsoft deal is an attempt to combine two weak mobile players into one in order to try to compete with Apple and Google, in particular. The trouble is that Google (especially) has a different business model with lots of services, advertising, and content, and that business model is working well. Google seems to have won the mobile OEMs who were perhaps a bit uncomfortable with Google's acquisition of Motorola, but Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia trumps their mild concern. In other words, Microsoft isn't going to get any help now from Samsung, HTC, LG, ZTE, Lenovo, and other mobile device makers. It'll also be tough for Microsoft to compete against Apple in the premium segment of the mobile device market, and Apple is also strong in content. All that said, I think the acquisition makes sense for Microsoft. Microsoft really doesn't have much choice. Nor does Nokia. When Nokia's CEO, Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft executive (and soon a Microsoft executive again it seems, perhaps even the next CEO) bet his new company on Microsoft's struggling mobile Windows platform, he set in motion a chain of events that would very likely result in Nokia's divestiture of its mobile device business to Microsoft. I don't think too many people are surprised that Microsoft is carving up Nokia now. Cynical observers might even say that was the plan all along.

An interesting footnote is what happens to struggling Canadian mobile pioneer Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the Blackberry. Their new BB10 platform is technically very good, but that's never enough. According to reports RIM is at least open to the idea of selling itself to another company, but there's no perfect suitor available. None of the Chinese companies make much sense given that many of RIM's government customers would flee if such an acquisition came to fruition. HP might make some sense, but is there room for both a third and a fourth mobile platform, and would HP have any chance of finding room in the mobile market given Microsoft's still deep pockets? (Microsoft's Nokia acquisition is another piece of bad news for HP at least in terms of limiting HP's options and in terms of pulling some of Microsoft's attention away from the traditional PC business and OEMs like HP.) Samsung might be interested in acquiring RIM. Samsung would probably take BB10 and merge it with Android, retaining Android application compatibility but adding some more Samsung/RIM differentiation. That'd make some sense if the price is right. Google might have similar ideas, also at the right price. Both Samsung and Google wouldn't mind having RIM's patent portfolio. I don't see IBM being too interested except perhaps for RIM's Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) software which another suitor might be willing to carve out for IBM, HP, or somebody else. Oracle, Facebook, and Dell are longshot candidates to buy RIM, each for different reasons. Or maybe nobody buys RIM, and we (probably) fondly remember the Blackberry much like we remember Amiga computers.

It's rarely boring in the technology industry.

by Timothy Sipples September 3, 2013 in CICS, Current Affairs, Financial, Web Technology
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Verisign Needs a Mainframe

Versign, which Symantec partly acquired in 2010, was hacked. The extent of the data breach is unknown.

Verisign has admitted it was hacked repeatedly in 2010 and could not pin down what data was stolen.

by Timothy Sipples February 2, 2012 in Security, Web Technology
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Strange Happenings in the PC Market

Welcome to 2012, faithful Mainframe Blog readers. The year 2011 is history, and now the results are starting to trickle in. Late last year IBM made some predictions about the next five years. I'd like to spend a little more time analyzing prediction #4 and its relevance to mainframe computing. There are two additional pieces of information available to me after writing that post. One is Gartner's report on 4th quarter PC sales, and the other is some careful observation of my family, particularly my sister, during the Christmas holiday.

First let's consider Gartner's report: PC unit sales fell 1.4% globally in the fourth quarter, and U.S. sales dropped 5.9%. HP's PC sales fell 16.2%. Note that these figures do not include Apple's iPad. If you also take out sales of Apple's Macintosh desktops and laptops, total U.S. PC sales (of Windows PCs) fell by 8.6%. (Apple's Mac sales grew 20.7%.)

Those are startling figures, but they are in perfect agreement with IBM's prediction. If the PC were the only way (or at least the "best" way) to access our increasingly digital world, we would expect the so-called "digital divide" to persist for a generation or more. Instead what's happening is that smartphones and tablets are rapidly becoming the most prominent access devices, while the importance of (and sales of) the PC are diminishing.

And I also observed my sister. She has an iPad and an iPhone. I'm not sure if she has a PC, and I don't think she cares whether she does. And for most of the Christmas holiday period and no doubt beyond she was glued to that iPad. She had everything she needed and more to support both the business and fun aspects of her life. And clearly she found the iPad nearly effortless to operate and worry-free. It's hard to break an iPad, in either software or hardware terms. She, and millions of other people like her, across all countries and social strata, are finding non-PC mobile devices much more suited to their lifestyles and needs. And this change is occurring very quickly.

Thinking as an architect, I was also struck by how much she was able to do in such a short time. The intensity of her iPad use was quite impressive and not, it seemed, a temporary phenomenon. As I mentioned previously, the infrastructure required to support the information delivery and transactional requirements of all these cloud-managed mobile devices is going to be astonishing. And it'll be mainframes of one stripe or another that'll do most of the heavy lifting.

I'm very bullish on the future of the mainframe as we begin this new year and enter the post-PC world. Be sure to keep stopping by in the coming weeks and months as we continue to explore the growing world of mainframe computing.

Happy New Year!

by Timothy Sipples January 13, 2012 in Systems Technology, Web Technology
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New WebSphere Application Server Liberty Profile

A large and growing percentage of mainframes run JavaTM code. Even when you license only z/OS, you get Java at no additional charge. CICS Transaction Server, IMS, DB2, WebSphere MQ, Linux on zEnterprise — the list goes on and on — all support Java. If you want to write or run Java on the mainframe, there's nothing stopping you. Go for it!

I'm quite pleased to see that IBM has announced its beta program for WebSphere Application Server Version 8.5. One major new innovation is the WAS Liberty Profile which supports both z/OS and Linux on zEnterprise. The Liberty Profile for z/OS is tiny (by today's and yesterday's standards): the download is only 32 MB. It starts quickly and consumes very little memory. And you can download the beta version now to try yourself. Of course, anything that can run on the Liberty Profile can also run on WebSphere Application Server if/when you're ready. That's because the Liberty Profile is WAS, but with as-needed/where-needed function delivery, depending on your application's requirements. And yes, of course, you can access all the helpful JZOS methods from the Liberty Profile for z/OS.

I expect this new WebSphere Liberty Profile will be extremely attractive to mainframe customers and to mainframe software developers. (Did I mention it's tiny?) Please go give it a try today and let IBM know what you think.

by Timothy Sipples December 21, 2011 in Application Development, Innovation, Web Technology, z/OS
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Japan's NTT Data Is Rock Solid with zEnterprise

NTT Data is the largest system integrator in Japan. In this video a couple of NTT Data's professionals discuss the new banking solution they're building for the Bank of Japan and the exceptional attributes of zEnterprise, z/OS, and WebSphere middleware products on z/OS.

by Timothy Sipples December 13, 2011 in Financial, Innovation, Web Technology, z/OS
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Not-So-Radical-Thought: Cloud Computing is Often More Secure

Over at the Smarter Planet Blog (which I don't read often enough, I confess), Steve Hamm and Harold Moss opine on whether cloud computing can be more secure than, well, non-cloud computing I guess.

Well, sure it can (and is), at least if we're talking about private clouds. Because that's what a mainframe is and has been for decades: a private cloud (typically), albeit one that's extremely efficient and integrated already, so you have a lot less work to do to assemble and manage the parts. I like to call the mainframe "a complete data center in a box." There's widespread agreement that mainframes offer numerous security-related advantages — assuming equivalent and reasonable operational competence. (Anybody can turn an inherently secure environment into an insecure one. Open the gates to Fort Knox without at least checking some IDs and don't be surprised if some gold disappears.)

It's a lot easier to secure one or a very few centralized...ahem, cloud...environments than 100 or more distributed environments. Security is both difficult and evolving, so "do it once and do it well." Because otherwise if you're doing it 100 times simultaneously you're bound to do it badly. Security, I mean.

by Timothy Sipples February 27, 2011 in Web Technology
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