What's the point of Microsoft Host Integration Server? A response.

I asked Charles Fitzgerald, Microsoft general manager of platform strategy, what he made of Timothy's trenchant blog post yesterday about Microsoft Host Integration Server (which, now suspiciously, seems to have a less inflammatory headline). He  was kind enough to respond, and i am sure the response will  - ahem-exercise the mainframe blog community. I have taken the liberty of posting it in full from own blog, MonkChips.

I am most amused at the idea of mainframe guys arguing cost. In the interest of transparency, Timothy might also do the math on what the customer would save if they ripped the mainframe out altogether. Not only do they not need to buy HIS, but they can save a lot more on the recurring costs of the mainframe.

One fundamental reason for HIS is because it is always preferable to run an instruction off the mainframe as opposed to on it, given a choice. The reality is the mainframe is the most expensive place in the world to run code and getting more expensive in relative terms. Welcome to the land that Moore’s Law forgot. Last time I checked (and I haven’t been paying attention for a while), the mainframe was three orders of magnitude more expensive per MIP than x86 and was falling further and further behind. You’re crazy to put any new workload on the mainframe. This is why IBM is always peddling the fad of the moment on the mainframe to see if they can hoodwink people to maintaining or even increasing the workloads on their mainframe. Run Linux and Java on the mainframe, they say, never mind the fact that these cross platform approaches should drive people to the lowest cost hardware, not the highest cost. This week they’ve probably got a sales pitch for how you can Second Life on the mainframe. Anything to keep the mainframe annuity flowing in.

IBM is welcome to disprove this by actually publishing industry standard benchmarks for the mainframe, but for some reason they have not been willing to permit any apples to apples comparisons for years.

Whatever their rationale, customers seem to prefer HIS. The last time I checked about 60% of mainframe installations have an instance of HIS or precursor running.

For all the ways IBM has pitched the “mainframe renaissance” in recent years, the reality is the mainframe base continues to shrink and IBM continues to jack prices for the customers who remain. Perhaps a mainframe blog is just what it will take to turn this around in the face of terrible economics, limited investment, a dying ecosystem and a graying talent pool that isn’t being replenished.

To put this in perspective, we’ve just been through the biggest computing buildout ever in the last decade with the Web, and the mainframe is nowhere to be seen. Even when IBM has tried to pay customers to run portions of their web sites on a mainframe, they have failed. There is a lot of inertia to the installed base, and IBM has been very active in prolonging it as much as possible, but it is a dead end.

Hats off to Charles. He admits he hasn't examined the economics lately, but is confident enough to make some assertions about platform cost. IBM has been working hard to show price slashing credentials through its mainframe charter, but evidently for some reason Charles didn't get the memo (that might be because if Google is anything to go by IBM appears to have pretty much forgotten about the initiative from a marketing perspective). There are some new faces in the space (although why the "community page" doesnt link to mainframe blogs is beyond me). Anyway - I just thought some of you might care to respond. And keep it clean please folks...

by James Governor April 11, 2007 in Economics
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No, my blog entry title has its original flammability to the best of my recollection. No censorship here as far as I know.

Posted by: Timothy Sipples | Apr 12, 2007 3:23:10 AM

Tut tut, that old 'apples to apples' benchmark argument. Conveniently forgetting the difficulty in benchmarking: heterogeneous workloads including Pfister's parallel hell, availability, reliability, virtualisation, workload management, flexible and responsive service levels (QoS), ... Let's add all them into a bake-off, including the cost of the floor space, power, cooling, people needed for the many server boxes, the routers and disks and ... well you get the idea. Then we can argue about economics. But that's still missing the point as mainframes aren't about economics or benchmarks.

Posted by: Harry Alton | Apr 12, 2007 3:59:46 AM

"The reality is the mainframe is the most expensive place in the world to run code..."

The whole point of a business computer is not to "run code", it is to "do work".

Measuring a platform's ability to "run code" is meaningless.

Posted by: Don | Apr 12, 2007 9:32:06 AM

Fitzgerald is making a statement without examining the economics? And this is a 'hats off'?
How can you make an assertion and be believed without doing the math.
The TCA for a mainframe is high, I admit; the ongoing costs are a lot less than those of the alternate platforms. Especially due to personell and the constant re-booting.
Hardware is a small part of the equation.
Software is a larger portion, but the biggest component is people cost -- which is the biggest problem with windows.
There is no deserving kudos for making a statement without any backing!

Posted by: Ted MacNEIL | Apr 12, 2007 10:32:10 AM

Looks like we need a fire extinguisher! There really is no way to compare these platforms except when they are performing the same function. All of the straw-man arguments over "costs" presume that you can replace all of the Xs with equivalent Ys. In some cases you can and in those cases the mainframe rarely wins. Want proof? That's how we got here in the first place.

However, it's not often that one can do a mindless rip and replace. And in those cases the economics are murky to say the least. Customers continue to spend heavily on their mainframe infrastructures, but in ALL cases, those systems are surrounded by a dizzying array of other platforms and systems. So regardless of the individual platform costs the bill the customer sees is the sum of the Xs and Ys.

It would be more rational all around to concede that each has its strengths and each serves a valid purpose. Are mainframes expensive? Damn right they are. It is madness to pretend otherwise. But the bill for a thousand Winders or Penguins is steep too. IT is expensive. Get over it, or pound on your vendors to make it more efficient and less expensive.

CC

Posted by: Chris Craddock | Apr 12, 2007 11:05:08 AM

Hey Ted- might there be a tinge of irony in my hats off comment? I admire chutzpah as much as the next man but Charles is a big believer in data-driven decision making, so it was somewhat of a tweak. I do admire Charles. But that doesnt mean i can't give him a little ribbing.

Posted by: James Governor | Apr 18, 2007 7:56:09 AM

Actually, "other systems" do not require constant reboot. I think you mean windows, but windows servers are not alternatives to mainframes. Usually an alternative to mainframe is a unix system. and they can generally run constantly for months.

and for "the mainframe does it all" idea, THIS IS WRONG! Mainframes cannot integrate with web services, mainframes has no 2 phase commit transaction support, mainframes use IMS which has to be used together with a relational database for anything else than recording and fetching data!

Coding for mainframes creates problems since it must be written as a monoblock code.

Face it. Mainframes are not for todays software and information world. It is just dinos are afraid of new technology, but they have got enough money to give IBM so that they can continue playing in their warm and dark and peaceful mainframe. for any cost!

Posted by: Veysel | Feb 5, 2008 2:13:25 AM

Hello Sir,
Myself Dharmendra Singh and I am Student of the Software Engineering in the NIIT Institute and that I make the project on the ISAS topic is

Miscrosoft Host Integration Server and I want basically details about its and working, features, limitation of its.

please send me the details as its possible.


Thank you
Dharmendra Singh
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Posted by: Dharmendra Singh | Mar 28, 2008 10:18:12 AM

Hello Sir,
Myself Dharmendra Singh and I am Student of the Software Engineering in the NIIT Institute and that I make the project on the ISAS topic is

Miscrosoft Host Integration Server and I want basically details about its and working, features, limitation of its.

please send me the details as its possible.


Thank you
Dharmendra Singh
91-9972548440

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