Sunday, 25 May 2014

Busy week for IBM

IBM has had a busy week, with announcements about cloud, tape storage, and even giving Watson a personality! So let’s have a look at what’s being said.

An IBM survey (produced by the Institute for Business Value) found that global organizations are unprepared for things like cloud computing, analytics, mobile devices, and social media. And guess what? IBM has some new systems, software, and capabilities to help those organizations create smarter infrastructures that will give them faster access to big data insights through the cloud and improved business performance.

IBM recently announced software enabling organizations to access any data from any device and from anywhere in the world, and has added to that with storage announcements. Its Storwize, XIV, tape library, and Flash storage products can optimize storage for large-scale cloud deployments through virtualization, real-time compression, easy-tiering, and mirroring, and provide fast access to information.

IBM’s Storwize V7000 Unified has been enhanced with new clustering capabilities, real-time compression, and Active Cloud Engine to help customers manage growing amounts of data. The system also supports 4 petabytes (twice the storage capacity of previous models).

IBM’s XIV Cloud Storage for Service Providers provides a pay-per-use pricing model for business partners that reduces the initial cost of the system. New features demoed included XIV multi-tenancy, enhanced data security, and improved cloud economics through the partition of XIV storage into logical domains assigned to distinct tenants.

The TS4500 Tape Library enables large-scale cloud deployments with a data architecture that maintains high utilization and can back up three times more cloud data in the same footprint. And the IBM DS8870 Flash enclosure provides up to three and one-half times faster flash performance requiring 50 percent less space and 12 percent less energy.

IBM has launched IBM Cloudmanager with Openstack that can be downloaded from its Marketplace like any other application. It’s based on IBM Cloudentry, and includes full access to Icehouse, the latest version of Openstack. It can also be bought as part of a package with the IBM Power Systems server range to form the IBM Power Systems Solution Edition for Scale Out Cloud.

IBM also has IBM Flex System X6 compute nodes and IBM Flex System x880 X6 eight-socket, x480 X6 four-socket, and x280 X6 two-socket compute nodes. These nodes include modular blade design that enables seamless scalability without ‘rip and replace’ as analytic workloads increase.

The IBM System x3100 M5 is a new, compact, tower server equipped with the latest Intel Xeon E3-1200v3 processors for increased performance, and four levels of RAID for enhanced data protection.

The IBM PureFlex Solution for Parallels allows managed service providers to integrate Web, IaaS, SaaS, and core services for their clients on the Parallels Automation software platform.

IBM also announced cloud-based offerings (Software as a Service) for IBM Concert, IBM Project Catalyst, and OpenPages. IBM Concert provides a way to make budgeting, planning, and forecasting software more accessible to sales, marketing, and incentive-compensation decision makers. Project Catalyst provides advanced analytics capabilities to everyone. OpenPages provides governance, risk-management, and compliance application as a managed service on SoftLayer

Meanwhile, IBM and Fujifilm have demoed a 154TB LTO-size tape cartridge. The density developments rely on smaller magnetic particles, narrower tracks, meaning more tracks on a half-inch-wide tape, and better read:write heads to follow and read/write to/from these tracks.

And finally, in a busy week of announcements, IBM’s Watson group has acquired Cognea, an Australian-founded start-up that makes virtual assistants for enterprise customers. They say that the Watson Platform will fit into the “cognitive era of computing” where people have conversations with machines that are able to understand natural language. IBM has brought in Cognea to offer a range of personalities for Watson, “from suit-and-tie formal to kid-next-door friendly”. The acquisition furthers IBM’s plan to make Watson a development platform available to the enterprise, start-ups, and universities.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Enterprise Social Networking

Enterprise Social Networks are identifiable by the fact that they integrate with existing platforms and applications and they appeal directly to end users. In effect, they bring the benefits of social media to the enterprise. So how would you recognize an Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) product? It would be something like Microsoft’s Yammer, Jive Software’s Jive, Salesforce’s Chatter, and IBM’s Connections. In fact, those are Gartner’s four leading products in the sector (Gartner Inc “Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace” by Nikos Drakos et al, September 2013).

Drakos and colleagues estimated the market will be worth $1.4 billion in revenue by 2016, and described it as “dynamic and highly competitive”. Gartner looked at the top 20 vendors in the sector. Apart from the top four mentioned above, Gartner’s Visionaries were: Google, Telligent (Zimbra), SAP, Cisco, and Acquia. The Niche players were: OpenText, Huddle, blueKiwi, Igloo, Novell, Liferay, and Zyncro. And the Challengers were: Tibco Software, VMware, NewsGator, and Atlassian.

According to Gartner, “Leaders are well-established vendors with widely used social software and collaboration offerings. They have established their leadership through early recognition of users’ needs, continuous innovation, overall market presence, and success in delivering user-friendly and solution-focused suites with broad capabilities”.

If you’re thinking of getting an Enterprise Social Network, what are you going to use it for? “S.O.C.I.A.L. – Emergent Enterprise Social Networking Use Cases: A Multi Case Study Comparison”, by Kai Riemer and Alexander Richter (2012), analysed nearly 7500 messages from across five mature networks and found that virtually all the messages could be grouped into one of eleven generic categories. They were:

  • Problem solving – what can I do with x that I can’t do with y?
  • Idea generation – how we can make this group more useful to its members?
  • Status updates – I’m in my weekly meeting with customers
  • Work coordination – @bob Can you raise tom’s permissions
  • Information storage – checklist for H&S
  • Discussion and opinions
  • Input generation – #NHF recommends
  • Meeting organization – I can’t make that time, can we shift to 4pm?
  • Event notifications – 19 May for leaving drinks.
  • Social praise – thanks for all your hard work on cut-over day.
  • Informal talk – congratulations on your new baby.

Gartner has suggested that the business objectives of Enterprise Social Networking projects are to:

  • Improve general communication and information sharing
  • Boost team productivity and effectiveness with projects and business processes
  • Support communities that stimulate learning and innovation, diffuse best practices, and encourage peer-to-peer networking that strengthens professional and interpersonal relationships.

So let’s take a brief look at those market leaders.

Yammer was launched in 2008 and was bought by Microsoft in 2012. The plans seem to be that it will tightly integrate with Office, SharePoint, and application programs running on Windows. Yammer lives in the cloud and looks pretty much like Facebook, so users can find their way round it fairly easily. With Office 365, sites can run their Microsoft infrastructure in the cloud too.

Jive Software’s Jive was previously known as Clearspace, then Jive SBS, then Jive Engage. Jive (the company) was founded in 2001. was founded in 1999, and provides a variety of different services to its customer base. Both offer a Facebook-like product.

IBM’s product is IBM Connections. It was announced at Lotusphere in 2007, and is currently at Version 4.5. Its components include a homepage, microblogging, profiles, communities, ideation (the ability to crowdsource ideas), media gallery, blogs, bookmarks, activities (a tool for groups of people to work together on a specific project or task), files, wikis, forums, and a search facility.

The ten IBM Connections components are J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) applications that are hosted on IBM WebSphere Application Server. In this way, the components can be hosted independently of each other, and large-scale deployments can be supported.

Importantly, if this is going to get any take up outside of IBM-controlled environments, IBM Connections uses plug-ins to integrate into existing applications, including:

  • IBM Notes
  • IBM Sametime
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft Windows Explorer
  • Microsoft Sharepoint
  • RIM BlackBerry
  • Apple iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch
  • Google Android Phones
  • WebSphere Portal.

There’s also platform support for IBM WebSphere Application Server V8 and DB2 10, as well as support for the IBM i operating system.

It’s likely that once people start to use them, Enterprise Social Networks will take on a life of their own and new uses will be found for them. My feeling is that their use will continue to grow and you’ll begin to find them embedded in every organization that you visit – and you’ll find people checking them on their smartphones and tablets when they’re out and about.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Trevor Eddolls - IBM Champion 2014

iTech-Ed Ltd, the mainframe specialist organization that provides IT consultancy, analysis, technical education and training, Web design, writing, and editing solutions, is pleased to announce that Trevor Eddolls, its CEO, has been recognized by IBM as an IBM Champion for Information Management for the sixth year running. Trevor was first made an IBM Champion in 2009.

Trevor Eddolls, CEO of iTech-Ed Ltd said: “I am really proud to be recognized for this award again this year. There may not be a financial benefit to being an IBM Champion, but it’s a positive way for IBM to recognize people around the world who are helping to promote IBM’s products and help share information about those products amongst their users”.

But what does it mean? According to IBM: “IBM Champions encompass educators, programmers, developers and other IT professionals across a spectrum of technology categories, including big data, business analytics, information management, storage and more. These individuals serve as advocates and mentors for those availing themselves of IBM solutions and services.”

Contributions can come in a variety of forms, and popular contributions include blogging, speaking at conferences or events, moderating forums, leading user groups, and authoring books or magazines. Educators can also become IBM Champions; for example, an academic faculty may become IBM Champions by including IBM products and technologies in course curricula and encouraging students to build skills and expertise in these areas.

An IBM Champion is not an IBMer, and can live in any country. IBM Champions share their accomplishments and activities in their public profiles on IBM developerWorks, making it easy for the IT professional community to learn more about them and their contributions, and engage with them.”

So why is iTech-Ed Ltd’s Trevor Eddolls an IBM Champion? Well, he doesn’t work for IBM, but he does write about mainframe hardware and software. You can read his blog at and He also blogs once a month on the Destination z Web site. He’s Editorial Director for the well-respected Arcati Mainframe Yearbook. He’s also written technical articles that have been published in a variety of journals including Enterprise Tech Journal and its predecessor, z/Journal. And Trevor Eddolls is the chair of the Virtual IMS user group and the Virtual CICS user group. He also looks after their social networking – you can find information about the groups on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

IBM Champions receive the title for one year, during which they can enjoy the benefits associated with the program – rather than any direct payment from IBM. Existing Champions are eligible to renew their status for the following year, as long as they can demonstrate that they have made significant contributions to the community over the previous 12 months.

Are IBM Champions compensated for their role? No. Do IBM Champions have any obligations to IBM? Again the answer is no. The title recognizes their past contributions to the community only over the previous 12 months. Do IBM Champions have any formal relationship with IBM? No. IBM Champions don’t formally represent IBM nor do they speak on behalf of IBM.

But it’s not all one-sided! IBM Champions receive merchandise customized with the IBM Champion logo. And IBM Champions receive: visibility, recognition, and networking opportunities at IBM events and conferences; and special access to product development teams, and invitations and discounts to events and conferences.

You can see Trevor’s profile here.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Keeping down costs and getting ahead of the competition

We all know that everyone should be using mainframes for all their computing needs – and we also know that most people have got a laptop for their smaller computing needs on which they use Microsoft Office. A recent survey has published interesting results showing how those users could save money.

The company is called SoftWatch (, and their benchmark study looked at options for moving from on-premises applications to cloud-based solutions. They compared the cost of using MS Office with using Google Apps. Their study included over 150,000 users. What they found was that, on average, an employee spends only 48 minutes a day on MS Office applications, most of it on Outlook for e-mail. The study also revealed high numbers of inactive users in the organizations, and found that PowerPoint was not being used at all by half of the employees. In addition, most of the users of the other applications used them primarily for viewing and light editing purposes, with only a small number of heavy users: 2 percent in PowerPoint, 9 percent in Word, and 19 percent in Excel. According to SoftWatch, by moving light users from MS Office to Google Apps, organizations could save up to 90% on their Microsoft licensing fees.

By using SoftWatch’s software, companies can actually measure to what extent employees are using MS Office applications. The data is displayed on a dashboard, making it easy to determine what an enterprise really needs in terms of Microsoft licences, how to effectively transition to Google Apps, and how much money can be saved.

Also this week, Adaptive Computing (‎) was thinking about Big Data, and more especially data paring. They were saying that data is growing exponentially, and growing your computer data exponentially will require budgets that aren’t realistic. As the amount of data increases exponentially, the amount of interesting data doesn’t, so somehow the ‘noise’ needs to be ignored.

They suggest that paring and sifting algorithms are the way forward, and that they will only grow in significance over time. They add that data capturing will always be fundamentally faster and easier than data analysis, and data will continue to multiply exponentially. Not wasting time on irrelevant data will be one of the keys to staying ahead of the competition.

They conclude that the scientific community has been determining how to remove irrelevant data for a long time, so long that the term outlier is mainstream. As Big Data moves to the forefront, organizations that can adapt techniques to ignore outliers and draw intelligent conclusions based on higher-correlated data are going to lead the way.

With the growth in the Internet of Things (IOT) and the ability to store more-and-more data, I can only agree with them that sorting the chaff from the wheat is going to be what separates successful organizations from the rest.

So there you are. I’ve given you a suggestion of how to cut IT costs, and how to keep your organization ahead of the opposition. Surely this must result in some money coming the way of the mainframe team for their IT needs – as your company looks to the future!