Sunday, 25 November 2012

End of an era - goodbye Lotus

It was announced this week that IBM is dropping the Lotus brand from its much-loved Notes and Domino workgroup products. That’s the end of an era for a brand that first saw the light of day 30 years ago (in 1982). From Version 9.0 onwards, we’ll be calling it IBM Notes.

Let’s turn back time to 1982. We’ll gloss over the clothes, the music, and the politics, and remind ourselves about that king of spreadsheets – Lotus 1-2-3. Mitch Kapor founded Lotus Development Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA in that year. Lotus 1-2-3 was so popular that many people bought PCs simply to use it!

Over the years, a number of other products came from Lotus – with names such as Approach, cc:Mail, Hal, Improv, Jazz, Manuscript, Magellan, Organizer, and Symphony. You can just feel the memories as you say the names – although the truth is that they weren’t all wildly successful. But with the triumph of Microsoft Office in the desktop environment, Lotus could still hold its head high. It had the best groupware product around – Notes.

In the 1990s, every presentation seemed to be how client/server was the only computing model worth considering, and Notes’ combination of messaging and database fitted the bill perfectly. And as soon as PCs could produce enough power for it to work, Notes took off.

And then in 1995, in the spirit of the old Remington catchphrase, IBM liked the product so much, they bought the company! And they paid a whopping $3.5 billion for it. IBM added Lotus Domino (the server-side version of Notes), and the product became popular for collaborative working.

Lotus ran some major jamborees, labelled Lotusphere, where the faithful could get the latest news on products and developments, and talk to like-minded users. At Xephon, where I was working in the 1990s, we published Notes Update and then Notes/Domino Update, with me as the editor.

IBM also acquired Ray Ozzie, who’s company Iris Associates, developed Notes for Lotus. But soon Ozzie was on the move and formed Groove Networks, which was taken over by Microsoft. In 2006 he became Chief Architect at Microsoft, but left at the end of 2010. His new company is called Cocomo.

So, the good news is that Notes and Domino go on. The sad news is that the Lotus brand name finally disappears. 

Meanwhile, don’t forget to complete the mainframe users survey at And vendors - make sure your free entry in the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook is up-to-date by going to

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Guide Share Europe - my impression

Yet again, I could only get to the first day of this year’s Guide Share Europe conference on the 13 and 14 November – which was shame. I hoped I could arrange my meetings to take place at the conference, but there we are. So, I thought that, for those people who were unable to make even the first day, I’d give you a flavour of what you missed.

As usual, the conference was at Whittlebury Hall – which is near Silverstone, but just into Northamptonshire. The location is stunning, so a walk outside to get a breath of air is always worthwhile.

The exhibition hall is big, and busy, and its where lunch and coffees are served, making it easy to chat to the vendors and other attendees. I always find it’s a great opportunity to put faces to people I usually talk to by e-mail, to catch up with old colleagues, and make new friends. The quality of the food is always good, particularly the conference dinner.

 With 14 streams and pretty much 10 sessions in each stream, it can be hard to decide which sessions to attend. I chair the Virtual IMS user group and the Virtual CICS user group, so I split my time between the CICS and IMS streams. 

The first session I went to, I saw IBM’s Steve Foley and the new CICS Director, Danny Mace, talk about CICS TS Version 5.1. They highlighted improvements in CICS capacity and scalability suggesting users could have two or three times more workloads per region. They spoke about new autonomic policy-based management, and increased availability including being able to refresh SSL certificates without a CICS restart. They also spent some time clarifying the concepts of what an ‘application’ is and what a ‘platform’ is. You may think you already know, but this way, it becomes easier to move an application to a different platform. Steve also ran over some of the portfolio updates too. And the session ended with an interesting conversation about pricing.

Next I headed for a presentation about IMS 13 by Paul Fletcher (also from IBM). He said that the new version came with improvements in performance, reductions in storage usage, and reduced TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). The HALDB ALTER and the DEDB ALTER commands allow changes to be made without needing a database outage. You can have multiple views of a physical database in the IMS catalog. And he talked about IMS Connect enhancements.

After lunch it was back to the CICS stream to see IBM’s Inderpal Singh talk about CICS and cloud computing. He said that an ‘application’ contained a collection of CICS bundles. It seemed that no-one in the room was using CICS bundles at this time. He also spoke about the life-cycle of an application – install, enable, disable, and discard. It’s that final stage that doesn’t seem to happen at most installations, where things are left in-place, just in case they’re needed in the future. You can create a CICS bundle in CICS Explorer using the new-look Cloud Explorer interface for CICS.

Next up in the IMS stream was IBM’s Dougie Lawson. Dougie is another fantastically knowledgeable IBMer, who you may have come across when you’ve had an IMS problem. He talked about DRD and the IMS repository – and tried to break the record for the most slides you can show in an hour!. He explained that the repository is a data store of resource information and the repository catalog is points to repository and is quite different from the IMS Catalog.

The final technical session of the afternoon was an old friend of the Virtual IMS user group, GT Software’s Dusty Rivers, talking about IMS modernization. The main thrust of his presentation was about making data and applications available on other platforms. He suggested that mainframe modernization means different things to different people and he grouped these into adding a Web look-and-feel, getting access to mainframe data, getting to mainframe business logic, the need to consolidate logic, the need to reduce MIPS, and the need to integrate with new technologies (such as cloud and smartphones). 

After a day full of so many technical presentations, you might think people would give an extra session a miss. But it was standing room only for the always-excellent Resli Costabell, who talked about dealing with ‘difficult’ people. Her definition of difficult people, is that they are just people that you’ve run out of skills to deal with! And she said that the power in such a situation is with the person being difficult – so we should accept them as they are and stay calm. She even gave us a strategy. You talk as if you’re talking to a friend and say: “I know you’re only [insert positive intention], and [insert negative effect], so [and here you ask for what you want them to do]”. She also suggested that whatever someone does, they do with the best intentions, and they are doing the best that they know how. Resli explained to the group that some people look for similarities between what you’re telling them and their experience, and some look for differences. In the latter case, again she had a strategy. Tell them that they won’t like what you have to say and that there are only a few situations where they can use it. Your difficult person will immediately find lots of ways that they can use it (which is really what you wanted all along!). A really great session – and I haven’t even mentioned Mark Wilson’s contribution!!

Over drinks in the exhibition hall sponsored by Vanguard, Attachmate, and Suse, and an excellent dinner sponsored by Computacenter and PKWARE, I chatted more informally with vendors and real mainframe users. As usual, I was encouraging vendors to complete their entry in the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook, and explaining the benefits of sponsoring it. And I was asking mainframe users to complete the user survey.

My overall impression of the conference was that it was excellent. Mark Wilson (the GSE technical coordinator) and his colleagues made sure everything worked well. I picked up loads of information, and had a really good day.

Well done everyone who organized it and spoke at it. And if you missed it, go next year.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

How important is e-mail?

As the bulk of the mainframe population gets older, you can expect that some of them will retire. You can also expect, in any job, that people will get promotions or transfer to other organizations. And so it comes as no surprise to me when I e-mail my list of members of the CICS or IMS virtual user groups each month that perhaps one or two will be undeliverable – like Elvis, they’ve left the building. And each year when I e-mail people about the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook user survey, I’m even less surprised to find their e-mails are bouncing.

It seems a pretty fair assumption to make – if an e-mail address stops working, then the person is no longer working for that company. And in my case, I tend to delete them off my list. I guess it’s what most people do in order to keep their e-mail lists up-to-date. Just delete the bounce-back/undeliverable e-mail addresses.

And that strategy seemed to make sense up until late last Friday night – that’s over a week ago!

I never give e-mail a thought these days. I’ve been using it forever. I’ve been using the Internet since the days of Bulletin Boards. I can access my e-mail on my phone. E-mail has always been just there. It’s like electricity and running water – I know there’s an infrastructure that delivers it to my home, but, most of time, I just take it for granted. It’s there, I use it, and I don’t give it a second thought!

I have a personal e-mail address and a company account. I use Yahoo and Gmail. I can get to my e-mail on anyone’s laptop, on my tablet, and, like I said, on my phone. I can choose to check my e-mail during the day, wherever I am. I can check it last thing at night and first thing in the morning. I get Listserv e-mails from CICS and IMS sites. I get newsletters and other consolidation information. I get Google alerts about mainframe news. And, of course, I get lots of spam. Or, at least, I did, up until last Friday evening.

I tend to keep my e-mail open all day and I answer e-mails during a break from whatever else I’m working on. It acts like a refresher – unless the e-mail is causing more work, in which case I flag it and come back to deal with it later. I keep abreast of what’s going on and what people are saying. I can then answer press or client inquiries as they come in. I use e-mail to send articles to various publishers.

So, that’s not very different from hundreds of other people. I use e-mail a lot. I get around 50 e-mails every hour (plus spam). Some are just trying to sell me something, but a lot are work-related and useful.

But, late last Friday evening, my e-mail stopped working. Or, to be more precise (and sound less like a typical end-user!), my e-mail forwarding stopped. All the people writing to trevor, admin, virtualims, virtualcics, arcati, and lots of other addresses had their e-mails flagged as undeliverable. As far as they were concerned my company had disappeared. I, along with everyone else here, had probably retired, resigned, or just left!

It was all to do with my IT provider being taken over. The new company ‘updated’ my service – and took away all my e-mail forwarding. By Monday, I was concerned. By Tuesday, I was very concerned. All these bouncebacks meant people would be thinking not only that I didn’t exist, but my whole company had disappeared. By Wednesday my frantic back-and-forth with my provider was leaving me tearing my hair out. And here we are now. Over a week of frantic messaging and tweeting by me still hasn’t made a difference. Come on Dotster – I need my e-mail working. I need people to know that iTech-Ed Ltd is still in business.

I now have a much greater appreciation of e-mail and its importance to any business. And how a glitch can cause no end of problems. It’s as if the water and electricity to my office had been turned off!

If you have any suggestions about what I can do next, I’d love to hear from you.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

What’s really going on?

One of the problems with being a mainframer these days is finding out what’s going on at other sites and being able to compare your experiences with other people’s. There used to be rooms full of mainframe staff, and regular turnover meant that new ideas were easily examined. Apart from Google, nowadays you can keep in the loop by joining a user group (like the Virtual IMS and Virtual CICS user groups that don’t require you to be out of the office to attend meetings), going to conferences (you’ve just missed IOD, but Guide Share Europe takes place next week), or you can read survey results.

Or there’s survey results. And as we’re coming to the end of another year, surveys seem to be happening more frequently.

BMC Software recently published a survey from their AsiaPacific area. They found there was a growth in processor engines, which was driven by transaction processing requirements. And driving that is users wanting to have data available to them at any time and anywhere – particularly users with mobile devices. BMC also found that some of the growth could be attributed to legacy application development and some to newer applications where the mainframe provides the back-end delivery of that application.

Respondents liked mainframes for security and data integrity reasons, as well as its centralized manageability. One result that won’t surprise anyone who’s investigated the option was that the cost of moving away from the mainframe is very high!

CA Technologies has published a survey of 800 IT and business leaders. They found that IT and business leaders often have two different views on innovation, with IT respondents suggesting that they are more likely to position themselves as driving innovation, being an expert on innovation, and having the required skills to foster innovation. Business executives identified IT’s shortcomings in regard to its ability to support and drive innovation and gave themselves credit for innovation.

With results that could have been published any time up to the 1990s, the survey found large gaps can be found in rating IT’s knowledge of the business, IT’s business and communications skills, and overall speed and agility. I thought this division had healed over many years ago, but maybe the pendulum is swinging back the other way? Perhaps the paucity of IT staff makes it harder for them to get to meetings and interact with other execs? Or maybe the CIO (Chief Information Officer) is disappearing from organizations and IT is being relegated into a silo all over again?

Not surprisingly, the survey found common frustrations such as organizations’ lack of agility, and budget and staff resource shortages. Interestingly, new IT initiatives include mobile and business intelligence/analytics. Organizations reporting high levels of innovation are also planning investments in cloud, security management, business analytics, service management, and virtualization.

If you want to have your say about what’s happening at your site, the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook is conducting a user survey now. You can find the survey at

If you’re interested in the Virtual IMS or CICS user groups, you can find them at and respectively. More information about the GSE conference is at