Posts Tagged ‘System z’

IBM Gets Feisty — Mobilizes Analytics for Oracle Battle

April 14, 2010 Leave a comment

By Merv Adrian, IT Market Strategy

In July 2009, IBM announced the Smart Analytics System 7600, a workload-optimized, pre-integrated bundle of hardware and software targeted at the business analytics market. Included in that package are an IBM POWER 550 running AIX, storage, plus InfoSphere Warehouse Enterprise Edition (which consists of DB2, Warehouse design and management tools + Cubing, Data Mining and Text Analytics services), and Cognos 8 Business Intelligence, configured and tuned, and “health check” features. Accommodations are made if the customer already has licensed some of the software and wants to use it on the platform; in this sense, the software is described as “optional.” This month, IBM broadened the story and upped the ante, making Smart Analytics System a key weapon in its widening battle with Oracle.


IBM’s hardware sneak attack

April 13, 2010 5 comments

Yesterday I read an interesting blog commenting on why Oracle seems so interested in Sun’s hardware.

I quote from a comment by Brian Aker, former head of architecture for MySQL on the O’Reily Radar blog site.  He comments on his view on why Oracle bought Sun,

Brian Aker: I have my opinions, and they’re based on what I see happening in the market. IBM has been moving their P Series systems into datacenter after datacenter, replacing Sun-based hardware. I believe that Oracle saw this and asked themselves “What is the next thing that IBM is going to do?” That’s easy. IBM is going to start pushing DB2 and the rest of their software stack into those environments. Now whether or not they’ll be successful, I don’t know. I suspect once Oracle reflected on their own need for hardware to scale up on, they saw a need to dive into the hardware business. I’m betting that they looked at Apple’s margins on hardware, and saw potential in doing the same with Sun’s hardware business. I’m sure everything else Sun owned looked nice and scrumptious, but Oracle bought Sun for the hardware.

I think that Brian has a good point. In fact, in a post I wrote a few months ago, I commented on the fact that hardware is back.  It is somewhat ironic. For a long time, the assumption has been that a software platform is the right leverage point to control markets.  Clearly, the tide is shifting.  IBM, for example, has taken full advantage of customer concerns about the future of the Sun platform. But IBM is not stopping there. I predict a hardware sneak attack that encompasses IBM’s platform software strength (i.e., middleware, automation, analytics, and service management) combined with its hardware platforms.

IBM will use its strength in systems and middleware software to expand its footprint into Oracle’s backyard surrounding its software with an integrated platform designed to work as a system of systems.  It is clear that over the past five or six years IBM’s focus has been on software and services.  Software has long provided good profitability for IBM. Services has made enormous strides over the past decade as IBM has learned to codify knowledge and best practices into what I have called Service as Software. The other most important movement has been IBM’s focused effort over the past decade to revamp the underlying structure of its software into modular services that are used across its software portfolio. Combine this approach with industry focused business frameworks and you have a pretty good idea of where IBM is headed with its software and services portfolios.

The hardware strategy has begun to evolve in 2005 when IBM software bought a little hardware XML accelerator hardware appliance company called DataPower. Many market watchers were confused. What would IBM software do with a hardware platform?  Over time, IBM expanded the footprint of this platform and began to repurpose it as a means to pre-packaging software components. First there was a SOA-based appliance; then IBM added a virtual machine appliance called the CloudBurst appliance.  On the Lotus side of the business, IBM bought another appliance company that evolved into the Lotus Foundations platform.  Appliances became a great opportunity to package and preconfigure systems that could be remotely upgraded and managed.  This packaging of software with systems demonstrated the potential not only for simplicity for customers but a new way of adding value and revenue.

Now, IBM is taking the idea of packaging hardware with software to new levels.  It is starting to leverage the software and networking capability focused on hardware-driven systems. For example, within the systems environment, IBM is leveraging its knowledge of optimizing systems software so that it applications-based workloads can take advantage of capabilities such as threading, caching, and systems level networking.

In its recent announcement, IBM has developed its new hardware platforms based on the five most common workloads: transaction processing, analytics, business applications, records management and archiving, and collaboration.  What does this mean to customers? If a customer has a transaction oriented system, the most important capability is to ensure that the environment uses as many threads as possible to optimize speed of throughput. In addition, caching repetitive workloads will also ensure that transactions move through the system as quickly as possible. While this has been doable in the past, the difference is that these capabilities are packaged as an end-to-end system. Thus, implementation could be faster and more precise. The same can be said for analytics workloads. These workloads demand a high level of efficiency to enable customers to look for patterns in the data that help predict outcomes.     Analytics workloads require the caching and fast processing of   algorithms and data across multiple sources.

The bottom line is that IBM is looking at its hardware as an extension of the type of workloads they are required to support.  Rather than considering hardware as as set of separate platforms, IBM is following a systems of systems approach that is consistent with cloud computing.  With this type of approach, IBM will continue on the path of viewing a system as a combination of the hardware platform, the systems software, and systems-based networking.  These elements of computing are therefore configured based on the type of application and the nature of the current workload.

It is, in fact, workload optimization that is at the forefront of what is changing in hardware in the coming decade. This is true both in the data center and in the cloud. Cloud computing — and the hybrid environments that make up the future of computing are all predicated on predictable, scalable, and elastic workload management.  It is the way we will start thinking about computing as a continuum of all of the component parts combined — hardware, software, services, networking, storage, collaboration, and applications.  This reflects the dramatic changes that are just at the horizon.

Ten things I learned about CA

May 5, 2008 Leave a comment

I spent part of last week at CA’s (Computer Associates in the old days) industry analyst meeting. My overall impression is very positive. CA is a complicated company with a complicated history. Often when a company has a near death experience, it either dies or changes. I have seen many companies that wither away — even if they don’t die completely. CA seems to be one of the exceptions. While it is hard to translate two full days of discussions and interactions into a couple of hundred words, I will put it in context with some of the ten key things I learned.

One. A focused approach. CA has selected three areas of concentration: enterprise management, governance, and security. This is a far cry from past decades where CA focused on hundreds of markets with thousands of product offerings. CA still has a boatload of mainframe products that it still sells but it has moved these products under a separate business unit.

Two. Enterprise IT Management remains a lynch pin offering. Management software has long been at the core of CA’s product offerings. The company has now divided its management portfolio into six discrete areas: service management, project and portfolio management (Clarity), application performance management (Wily), infrastructure management, security management, and datacenter automation (built on performance management and configuration management). Like IBM, CA is putting forth the idea that a customer can start with any one of these areas and then move to the next. Perhaps the fact that CEO, John Swainson started life inside IBM had something to do with that change. CA is building a case that it is architecting these product areas with a common foundation. It is an ambitious goal but a necessary one.

Three. The mainframe is still a money maker. CA remains committed to the mainframe market. It is experiencing strong growth — especially with the introduction of the z10.

Four. Focus, focus, focus. CA is getting very pragmatic under the operational leadership of president and COO, Mike Christenson. The company is focusing on its top 4,000 customers.

Five. Focus on systematizing governance. OK, so everyone is selling governance. CA is making good use of its Niku acquisition (reborn as Clarity) to become a player. In addition, the company is using some of its management technologies to support automation of governance. This is clearly an area where CA is investing.

Six. Security as core. The Netegrity acquisition has served CA well. It plays well in everything from SOA, governance, and virtualization. Securing highly distributed environments never goes out of style. ID Management is one of the key enablers across the portfolio.

Seven. Data Center Management is the most mature area of Enterprise Information Technology Management. I sat through a two hour deep dive about CA’s datacenter management offering. This is a big area, not just for CA but for everyone in the management space. The overall “vision” is to provide an overall unified infrastructure management platform. The offerings range from traditional systems management to network management. The focus of the team seems to be on providing integration points between modules across the product line — an ambitious plan.

Eight. CA likes Virtualization. CA is focused on virtual systems management. They are working to integrate virtualization management into their own offerings as well as offerings from partners. CA’s focus is around packaging management as a service — an obvious requirement if you are going to be a player in virtualization.

Nine. Getting focused on business services. CA is focusing a lot of attention on the area of business service management. I liked the approach of having a formal policy based automation engine. CA claims its differentiator is its ability to implement dynamic server provision.

Ten. CA does SOA. CA has been relatively quiet about SOA in the past. It was interesting that rather than producing a SOA product offering, CA is retooling its technology offerings as a set of SOA services with web services interfaces. Obviously, creating the interfaces is the easy part. But it is a step in the right direction.

The bottom line. CA is clearly a company on the move. It is living in a rough neighborhood with tough competitors. But I am impressed with some of the new thinking and some of the architectural approaches that are the foundation for the company’s product directions. CA has made the right acquisition moves that are paying off. Now, the proof will be in what acquisitions come next and the way CA will execute on the vision and directions.