Monday, 30 July 2012

Whatever happened to IPv6?

IPv4 is pretty much everywhere. It uses 32-bit addresses, which means (and you can check the maths on this) that there is a finite number of IP addresses that people can use – 4,294,967,296 addresses, in fact. Although the number of available addresses seems pretty large, you only have to look round at how online everything is to recognize that those addresses will run out. In fact, they already have – although techniques such as Network Address Translation (NAT), classful network design, and Classless Inter-Domain Routing have helped to keep everything working.

Back in the 1990s people (including me) were writing about the address limitation of IPv4, and the proposed solution was IPv6, which, after a very long gestation period, became commercially available in 2006. World IPv6 Launch day was as recently as 6 June 2012. The big selling point of IPv6 is that it uses 128-bit addressing, which results in far more addresses being available for people to use – 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 apparently.

An IPv4 address looks like: An IPv6 address looks like: 2001:0db8:85a3:0042:0000:8a2e:0370:7334. And that’s the problem that many organizations face. How to they convert from IPv4 to IPv6? How do they translate their addresses? How do they test these new addresses when they need to maintain a working business environment?

William Data Systems (WDS) has come up with a new module for its ZEN system called the ZEN Application Gateway – or ZAG. WDS has found that many of its customers are currently facing the costs and risks of changes to applications, networks, and hardware. ZAG helps implement IPv6 under z/OS by minimizing the need for companies to make any changes to their applications, hardware, or networks. ZAG users can input IPv4 and get out IPv6, or they can do things the other way round.

And while z/OS sites are able to run separate IPv4 and IPv6 stacks – in fact, keeping the two IP stacks segregated like this may be something many chose to do because it enables them to keep their IPv6 testing traffic separate from their production IPv4 traffic – one thing they could use ZAG for is to sit in between the two stacks and act as a bridge, allowing IPv6 clients in one stack to access IPv4 applications in another stack (and vice versa). Obviously, sites could do achieve the same thing without ZAG, but they would need to weigh up the additional costs and risks (as well as management time) resulting from application, network, and hardware changes.

According to WDS’s press release, ZAG “allows customers to:
  • Test new IPv6 applications using their existing IPv4 infrastructure
  • Access their IPv4 applications from new IPv6 clients
  • Segregate their IPv6 and IPv4 traffic on different IP stacks
  • Act as a bridge, allowing traffic to connect between IPv6 and IPv4 stacks
  • Provide pseudo Network Address Translation (NAT) capabilities in an IPv6 environment, which is very useful if you want to hide internal IPv6 addresses from the outside world.”

If you are at SHARE in Anaheim between 5 and 10 August, WDS will be demonstrating their ZEN suite on a Raspberry Pi. WDS comment this is: “just in case hardware budgets keep reducing!” Adding that one lucky delegate will win the Raspberry Pi in the SHARE prize draw. 

Here’s a photo of their Raspberry Pi in action!

Moving from the limited IPv4 to IPv6 is something that people have been talking about for a long time. It now looks like the time to actually migrate is here. Anything that makes the job easier (and the painless) has got to be a good thing.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

IBM and Social Business

When Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus first discussed social business in his books “Creating a world without poverty – Social Business and the future of capitalism” and “Building Social Business – The new kind of capitalism that serves humanity’s most pressing needs”, he was thinking of a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective within a highly-regulated marketplace. Nowadays, the term is usually applied to businesses that utilize social networking tools and practices for internal and external functions. And to help with that, this week, IBM has introduced its Intranet Experience Suite.

According to IBM’s Web site: “Social businesses effectively engage employees, improving productivity, and business results. Intranet Experience Suite can help your organization to become a social business by leveraging social software, content, and collaboration within a seamless employee Web experience across mobile and other channels.”

The new software combines social networking, mobile computing, and, of course these days, analytics to front office operations and externally to clients. The software integrates an organization’s information and data, personalized content, news and social media, and analytics, so that employees can connect, collaborate, and access information whenever they want from any location.

IBM is claiming that with the Intranet Experience Suite, an organization can move forward to becoming a “social business by leveraging social software, content and collaboration within a seamless employee Web experience across mobile and other channels.”

The Web site goes on to explain that it does this by creating an engaging employee experiences because applications, content, and key social services can be combined contextually for each employee across any channel.

It improves efficiency because it speeds access to the correct information and applications securely, both in an office environment or remotely via mobile devices.

It fosters innovation because users exchange ideas with, and benefit from, subject matter experts with profiles and with collaborative tools such as forums, blogs, and files.

It empowers employees because it enable business users to create and manage intranet Web content.

The Web site also suggests it will “discover incremental ROI” through reuse of existing IT investments, such as legacy enterprise applications, by extending functions to more users; and decrease costs by automating paper-based processes, and helping employees do their jobs faster.”

Interestingly, the product components are:
  • IBM WebSphere Portal Server – aggregates applications and content as role-based applications.
  • IBM Connections Files and Profiles – helps employees find experts and post, share, and discover documents quickly and in context.
  • IBM Web Content Manager – increases the efficiency and accuracy of Web site deployments.
  • IBM Forms – automates forms-based business processes to help improve efficiency, customer service, and time to value, making an organization more responsive to customer and market needs.
  • IBM Web Experience Factory Designer – delivers enterprise ready, standards based, Web 2.0 applications with interactive interfaces.
  • IBM Sametime – provides a unified user experience across a broad range of integrated, real-time communications services.
  • IBM Content Analytics with Enterprise Search – analyses employee’s interactions and activities via integration with supported analytics solutions.
Most organizations have some kind of intranet and are using social media. So yet again (recently I was talking about IBM’s augmented reality app) we find IBM pushing the envelope in technologies not immediately connected to mainframes.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


We all sit staring at computer screens for long periods during the day. In fact, some of us spend long periods in the evening staring at computer screens too! And as we sit there – getting on with whatever work needs doing, working through our e-mail, and occasionally checking Facebook to see what people with a life are doing – are we affecting our ability to crack on and really persevere with challenges? That’s a question that was answered back in 1984. And the answer is YES!

I’ve been to some organizations where people plug their laptops into workstations resulting in the screen being quite high up and the user having to then use a second keyboard and a mouse because they can’t reach the laptop’s keyboard in this position. They have to look up to do any useful work. I always thought this was a strange and unnatural way of working.

Most people I see working on their laptops have the laptops in front of them – on a desk at work, or on their lap elsewhere. I’ve also seen people using tablets (and iPads) in much the same way. They are hunched over their screens getting on with their work.

So what would happen if you took these two groups of people and then gave them some kind of test – something that measured their perseverence, their willpower to stay on-task. You might think that it wouldn’t make any difference, that there would be factors other than where their computer screen had been put determining how long these people wrestled with a problematic task.

That’s what John Riskind from Texas A&M university decided to investigate – the effects of posture on perseverence. One group was made to sit upright with their shoulders back and their heads up for three minutes. The other group was made to slump for three minutes, with stooped and hunched over backs and their heads dropped down. So the two groups spent three minutes in one of these two positions, pretty much like the two positions that laptop users can adopt.

After the three minutes, participants were sent to a different room and asked to solve several geometric puzzles that involved tracing over a diagram without lifting up the pencil. To make life a bit harder, some of the puzzles were impossible to solve. Riskind timed how long people persevered trying to solve the puzzle.

And he found that people who had been sitting up straight persevered trying to solve the puzzles for almost twice as long as the people who had previously been slouching.

In 2007, picking up on that earlier work, Hyung-il, Teeters, Wang, Breazeal, and Picard asked people to actually sit at a computer and work on a difficult problem. They divided their subjects into two groups – with one group using a monitor placed low down so they had to stoop, and the second group using a monitor that was placed slightly above their eye-line, so they had to sit up straight.

By now, you can guess the results of this second piece of research. People who sat up straight because their monitor was higher up persevered for longer than the people who slouched over their monitor.

What can we conclude from these two pieces of research? Well, if you want staff at your organization to be highly motivated, you need to ensure the centre of the screens they’re using is slightly above their eye level.

If you want to look up these two studies to make sure that I’m not making this all up (it’s not the 1 April blog!), Riskind published “They stoop to conquer: Guiding with self-regulatory functions of physical posture after success and failure” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (issue 47, pages 479-493, if you must know). The second study in 2007 was entitled “Stoop to Conquer: Posture and affect interact to influence computer users; persistence” and was presented at the 2nd International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction, 12-14 September 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal.

It makes you wonder what else we should be doing to get the most out of the human-computer interface.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Higgs boson exists

This week saw scientists at CERN pretty much claim to have found a new subatomic particle – the boson predicted half a century ago by theoretical physicist Peter Higgs. The discovery allows physics to work because particles can now have mass. But, of course, it opens the door to lots of other questions such as why is there more matter than anti-matter in the universe.

So, in a week when scientists and non-scientists have been talking about bosons and fermions, and quarks and leptons, IBM has been pushing the envelope with an Augmented Reality (AR) app for shoppers owning a smartphone! The app, they claim, can automatically deliver personalized coupons, offers, customer reviews, and hidden product details to the potential customer.

The app doesn’t rely on barcodes or RFID tags to recognize products, but it does need a camera. The app compares a captured image with those in its database. If the product packaging matches the image-processing algorithm, it will automatically overlay digital details of the product on the image.

These details could include nutritional information, price, reviews, and discounts. And, you can opt into a social networking feature that delivers comments or reviews from friends and family about that product.

While a shopping AR app may, in many ways, seem trivial, it is opening the door for a whole new world of living. AR could be as revolutionary as the Internet. Think about it – you visit a new city, say Paris, for the first time, and on your phone screen comes information about every building and statue that the guide books know about. Or, perhaps, your car won’t start, so you point your camera at the engine and it identifies where the oil should go, or the brake fluid, etc. Not that I’d trust these ones, but an inexperienced surgeon operating on a patient could see AR information, or someone who’d never flown a plane before but needs to land it successfully (come on, you’ve seen it often enough in the movies and on TV).

Other news this week is that Dell is continuing to reposition itself with its $2.4 billion bid for Quest Software. With the growth in sales of tablet devices and the drop in sales of desktop and laptop PCs, as well as the growth in cloud computing, Dell is moving away from being just the hardware supplier that we’ve known for so long.

Quest is probably best known for its TOAD product, which is used to build, manage, and maintain databases. But Quest also has a range of other products including Shareplex, Lightspeed, Netvault, and Foglight. Dell apparently plans to make Quest, which has 1,300 software developers, the core of its software group, which it expects to grow into a $2 billion-a-year business over the next three years.

Dell’s other recent acquisitions include Wyse Technology, Make Technologies, Clerity Solutions, AppAssure, SonicWALL, and Force10 Networks.

And finally, why not become part of the IBM System z poster? Go to, complete the form and  upload your photo. You then have a chance of being one of the 150 faces that will appear on the poster. But if you’re not one of the chosen faces, you’ll still receive a printed poster afterwards. You’ve got until 31 July to send in your picture.