Sunday, 30 October 2011

Two things you thought would never happen at IBM

I guess any two pundits sitting in a room together 10 years ago and talking about IBM’s future would have been more likely to predict Star Trek-like beaming technology and computers you could talk to than a mainframe that integrated Windows servers and woman landing the top job at IBM.

And here we are. It’s almost November 2011, and both are about to come to pass.

The zEnterprise 196 and the Business Class version, the zEnterprise 114, mainframes come with the zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension. Initially this supported AIX on Power blades and Linux on x86 blades. This fit nicely with IBM’s model of the universe because it owns AIX and Linux is, of course, open source – ie it doesn’t belong to anybody. The Unified Resource Manager (URM) controls the operating systems and hypervisors on the mainframe and the blades. But now – the previously unthinkable – IBM promises that it will have Windows running on its HX5 Xeon-based blade servers for the zBX chassis before the end of this year.

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter Edition will run on the PS701 blade servers in the zBX enclosures. The zBX extension can have 112 PS701 blades or 28 HX5 blades.

This is clearly important for those sites that use mainframes or are ready to upgrade to mainframes and still have a big Windows-using population. It’s interesting that so many people consider Windows to be the de facto computing platform. I recently had a conversation where Windows laptops were given the metaphor of rats or beetles – they just turn up everywhere – and Linux was given the metaphor of a stealth operating system or a hidden shadow – it was everywhere, but you didn’t see it. Why stealth, well because Linux turns up behind the scenes on routers, on TiVO boxes, on supercomputers, as the precursor to Android on smartphones, making movies at Pixar and Dreamworks, in the military, governments, everywhere!

After Windows on IBM hardware, the next thing we hear is that Virginia M Rometty, a senior vice president at IBM, is going to be the company’s next CEO – starting in January. “Ginni”, aged 54 (as all the releases inform us), succeeds Samuel J Palmisano, who is 60, and will remain as chairman.

Ms Rometty graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in computer science, joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer. She moved through different management jobs, working with clients in a variety of industries. Her big coup was in 2002, when she played a major part in the  purchase of the very big consulting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting. PwC staff were used to working in a different way from IBM’s and managing that culture shift was down to Ms Rometty.

In 2009, Ginni became senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing, and strategy.

You’ll recall that Sam Palmisano took over in 2003 from Louis V Gerstner Jr, who’d joined IBM from RJR Nabisco in 1993 and helped turn round an ailing IBM. The previous incumbent had been the lacklustre John Akers.

I suppose with Siri on iPhones and the much less serious about itself Iris on Android, we’ve moved some way towards being able to talk to a computer – even if it is a smartphone. Still no sign of Scotty being beamed up, though!

No comments: