Fun Fact: zEnterprise Alone = Triple Oracle

To gain a little more insight into the server market, I was reading through IDC's 2012 year end server market report and compared that to Oracle's latest financial report. Here's the fun fact: IBM's zEnterprise server hardware business alone is triple Oracle's entire hardware business: "Exa," Solaris servers, tape, everything.

Sure, insert standard disclaimers here about quarterly and annual variations, model cycles, etc. But

by Timothy Sipples April 19, 2013 in Analysts, Financial
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The PC Market is Shrinking Fast

IDC and Gartner reported their separate views of the state of the PC market for the first calendar quarter of 2013. They agree that the PC market is shrinking, quickly.

According to IDC, the PC market suffered its worst year over year decline in the history of its tracking study. It estimates that the global PC market shrank nearly 14% and that the U.S. PC market shrank nearly 13%. (Gartner estimates are -11.2% and -9.6% respectively.) They both agree that HP lost a lot of marketshare, Dell lost some, and Lenovo, Toshiba, and Apple gained some marketshare. Lenovo, in particular, managed to grow within a shrinking market.

If Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system had any impact it wasn't helpful. By definition a shrinking PC market, particularly one with Apple gaining marketshare, means a shrinking Microsoft since so much of its business is dependent on the twin Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office franchises. Microsoft also has other business units, but those two are essential to its continued success. I can't imagine Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer being happy with what's happening to the PC market his company dominates.

What's going on? Simple: smartphones and tablets. Google and Apple supply the two most popular mobile platforms. Those devices are killing off much of the PC market. Smartphones and tablets are simply more relevant to more people in more places than PCs, and the mobile client application ecosystems are now stronger. It's astonishing, really. And what's really scary if your business is heavily dependent on PCs is that most of the world's population will never buy a PC but almost everybody on the planet has a mobile phone. Mobile phones are literally more popular than toilets. And smartphones are rapidly eroding the remaining market for feature phones. If it hasn't happened yet, this year (2013) is when the number of active smartphones and tablets will surpass the number of PCs, and it won't take long for tablets and smartphones to outnumber PCs by billions.

Naturally Microsoft isn't happy with this turn of events and has even filed a complaint with the European Commission, which strikes me (and a lot of other people) as absurd. Google and Apple simply built better business models and more compelling platforms than Microsoft, and that's why they're doing well (and should do well).

So what does the continuing rise of smartphones and tablets have to do with mainframes? Plenty. I continue to hear from mainframe users that transaction volumes and associated batch processing are growing faster than they expected, and that's mostly explained by smartphones and tablets. Mobile users are inherently more demanding users in terms of time and place, and consequently they expect continuous or near-continuous service with excellent security. Mobile users often generate wilder swings in application usage patterns — a simple Tweet could easily trigger (twigger?) a sudden spike in demand. Do those requirements sound familiar?

I don't predict the death of the PC, however. I'm just not sure yet where the PC market will stabilize.

UPDATE: ZDNet has posted an incredible chart showing what's happening to the PC market along with some more commentary. Wow.

by Timothy Sipples April 11, 2013 in Analysts, History
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It's Time to (Mostly) Retire Historical Mainframe Photos

325px-Candlestick_phoneChris Gaun at Gartner asks "Can Mainframes Be the Least Expensive Option?" (Well of course they can!) But I must take issue with his editor who decided to illustrate Mr. Gaun's blog post with a photo of an IBM 704 mainframe taken in 1957.

What's the freakin' point? Shouldn't illustrations have some reasonable relevance to the story? (And why stop there? How about a picture of Charles Babbage's difference engine? Or an abacus? Good grief!)

Here's a proposition. If every news editor starts illustrating all Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Nokia Lumia, and RIM BlackBerry stories with photos of analog cellular "bag" phones or rotary dial "candlestick" phones, and if every editor illustrates all stories about Apple iPad and Google Nexus tablets with photos of a 12th century monk's manuscript, I'll drop my objection to illustrating mainframe-related stories with photos taken years or decades before I was born. Do we have a deal?

Unless you're specifically writing about an IBM 704 and its use in 1957 at NASA, that's a really, really dumb photo to choose for your story about the popularity of 5.5 GHz IBM zEnterprise mainframes in 2013. Update: NASA didn't actually exist until 1958. However, NASA is the source of the photo Gartner used. The photo might make sense accompanying an article about NASA's computing history. That isn't Mr. Gaun's article.

Smartphone, circa 1928.

by Timothy Sipples January 29, 2013 in Analysts, Blogs, Media
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STASH: A "Skunkworks" Project for Secure Clients?

Joe Clabby reports on a (formerly) secret project to use IBM mainframes for virtual hosting of secure desktop environments. It's a fascinating read.

by Timothy Sipples April 23, 2012 in Analysts, Future, Innovation, Security
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CIOs All Agree: Mainframes Are More Strategic Than Themselves

Alan Radding over at neatly destroys a recent Micro Focus-sponsored Standish Group marketing brochure survey of select CIOs. Several people posting comments to Alan's article also make good points.

I'd like to make one more point. According to CIO Magazine, the average tenure of a CIO barely exceeds four years. A supermajority (70%) of Standish Group-selected CIOs agreed that their mainframes are strategic. But, when asked to look forward 5 to 10 years, they at least weren't sure. Ergo, all of The Standish Group-selected CIOs agree: their mainframes are more strategic, on average, than themselves — and the mainframes will undoubtedly serve their employers much, much longer.

by Timothy Sipples September 21, 2011 in Analysts, Media
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