Monday, 7 April 2008

IBM and extinction-level events

Last week I was suggesting that IBM mainframes, particularly the new z10, were, for all sorts of reasons, the best computing solution in town, and yet many people were making other choices. I was suggesting that if IBM didn’t do something they would find themselves as extinct as the dinosaurs they are so often compared to. And with dinosaurs ruling the Earth for 186 million years, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

So, despite IBM having the best product, many people are choosing an alternative option. What can IBM do about it? What are their choices to avoid becoming extinct?

IBM could decide to do nothing. This solution solidifies them in their current position. They can continue producing new hardware at regular intervals. They can continue upgrading their software. And, of course they can continue selling at very high prices to very big and very wealthy corporations.

IBM can continue with their SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) developments. But while this makes bits of CICS programs available to Web browsers, it does nothing to generate more mainframe sales. It really just satisfies current mainframe users, who can argue against people wanting a change to Unix or Microsoft in order to have this kind of computing available.

The future looks bleak for IBM because they will only be selling to a diminishing number of companies. They don’t currently seem to have a strategy to suck in middle size VMware users from server farms.

What’s needed is a physically small box, perhaps running z/VM (as you know I’m a big VM fan, I’ve even written two books on the subject) that needs almost no tweaking once it’s first set up. This box should then run any operating system you like – Linux, Solaris, and, dare I say it, Windows. And it should run an incredibly large number of them. And it should cost almost nothing (to begin with).

This is a bad strategy because IBM will immediately lose all its small and some middle-sized mainframe users. Even large sites will be working out the cost-benefits.

It’s a good strategy because it will retain all its smaller customers who would have bought other products. It’s good because it will encourage sites using almost any other server to change to IBM. Having killed all the mainframe emulator companies, it will be able to do this.

IBM then has to bite the bullet of small revenues while other competing companies go out of business. Then, in perhaps 10 years time, this new-look IBM starts to raise its costs, or the costs of add-on speciality engines, and gradually goes back into mega-profit.

This mutation of IBM will allow it to continue to thrive long after the asteroid has hit the Earth and lumbering giants have turned into fossils.

Meanwhile in the real world, IMS professionals will be pleased to know that Tuesday 8 April at 10:30 CDT is when the next Virtual IMS Connection (
www.virtualims.com) user group meeting takes place. The meeting is free to members (and signing up to become a member is also free) and contains part 2 of the talk by Bill Keene on IMS disaster recovery preparation.

2 comments:

muthyam said...

Hi,
iam a mainfrmaes prof with 3 yr exp.i would like to know the future of mainframes?

corneel said...

Funny - I just added a blog entry on the same subject this morning. I thought it would interest you. It is titled:
"Is COBOL like Oil?" and you can read it at http://www.cicsworld.com/node/559

Regards.
Corneel Booysen.