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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

UNIX the latest casualty

"In the server OS market, Linux (server) was the fastest-growing subsegment in 2010 as end users adopted more open-standard systems. Within the Unix OS market, IBM AIX had high single-digit growth, but Unix generally experienced modest or negative growth," said Alan Dayley, managing vice president at Gartner. "The EOL threat for Unix OSs such as Tru64 and NetWare pushed the 'other proprietary Unix' subsegment down 39.6 percent in 2010 as some vendors retired their proprietary Unix and moved users to more open systems."

Source - 

You have to love the phrase 'negative growth' call me old fashioned but is that not the same as decline???

In the 80's and 90's it was the vogue to move away from the mainframe, for a plethora of well documented reasons, departmental servers became the platform of the future.  This led to the rise of UNIX and it's OPEN systems approach.

Wind the clock forward to 2012 and we have 3 UNIX vendors pushing increasingly 'closed' systems.  Whilst I acknowledge the skillset gap to switch between each flavour of UNIX is not huge, each system is not anymore 'open' than any other OS.  Let me elaborate...  Increasingly the 'open' systems vendors are pushing vertically integrated application focused stacks, take Exadata from Oracle/SUN as a case in point.  Larry wants nothing more than for this approach to yield the profits that the stack vendors of the 1960's and 70's saw when the were able to push everything from the application to the underlying bespoke hardware into their clients.  If you are into racing yachts you need to find ways to pay for your habit...

However if you take a look at this from a client perspective, the choices available are decreasing, so lets take a look at the ones that survive:

  • Install an appliance based architecture for every major application i.e. Exadata, Exalogic
  • Build it yourself - based on building blocks from vendors like SAP and HP
  • Consume a service from a public cloud vendor - etc...
  • Build a private cloud, again based on building blocks
  • Deploy a Hybrid computing platform
 Now the final option is one you may be least aware of, but let me explain... You want your architecture to have the following attributes:

1) Scalability - i.e. the ability to not only handle large scale applications but also have payment models that scale alongside this growth.
2) Availability - if you build an infrastructure, then you want this to be available, 5x9's should be the baseline not the ambition.
3) Commodity cost point - the ability to leverage commodity trends such as blades and x86 chip roadmaps
4) Radical simplicity when it comes to networking
5) Ability to manage multiple o/s' in a holistic way to adapt to workload, rather than system pinch points
6) Security - a simplistic model that doesn't require 'air gaps' or multiple firewalls within the system

If this sounds like nirvana, then welcome to the world of zEnterprise.  The mainframe of today (rather than 30-years ago) is able to run 4 o/s (Windows, Linux, UNIX and z O/S) is the perfect platform for private cloud deployments and is able to provide an 'open' system that doesn't care about your various o/s bias... Never thought you would hear the mainframe described as 'open' now did you....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

SAP on the Mainframe

Having worked on a number of SAP projects in my time, I had become accustomed to the various issues in sizing a SAP infrastructure.  The mythical SAPS rating and how this translates to CPU and Core sizing, is from bitter experience a black art, where very few people I have come across can manipulate the various inputs and drive a definitive sizing.  You then have to factor in the non-functional requirements such as networking, development environments etc...

Then you need to factor in the whole data management back-end.  How do you plan to back up the data? How do you ensure HA and DR?  How do you size the IOPS requirement for the storage. Then as the SAP modules grow with changing business requirements how does the  underlying infrastructure keep pace...

In recent days I have come across another approach, namely zEnterprise, or more specifically a Mainframe (either a z196 or a z114) with an attached zBX chassis with a compliment of blades.  Whilst the the issues around SAP sizing remain, a significant number of the non-functional issues are massively simplified.

Take a look at Bathwick Group's independent assessment of the benefits of moving towards a consolidated hybrid platform for SAP, namely the mainframe...*USEN,ZSL0*USEN&appname=STG_ZS_USEN_WH&additional=summary&contents=keeponlit

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

10 Top Tips for Training Courses

To vent or not to vent that is the question...

Having probably sat through 6-months of training in my 17-year career, I have been exposed to some very targeted well thought through training and I have sat through some pretty shocking soul destroying death by PowerPoint courses.  So in my humble opinion (which if you haven't already worked this blogging thing out, is why you are reading this) these are my top tips:

  1. Native English speakers make the best presenters to a multi-language audience
  2. The human brain can only absorb information in 45-minute bursts at best.
  3. The total presentation time in any one day cannot exceed 6-hours
  4. If it takes 50-slides to get a message across, then start your slides again
  5. The biggest value from any training might not be the training material, so plan for networking
  6. If the font on the slide is less than 18 to accommodate the amount of words you need, use less words!
  7. Spreadsheets don't copy and paste well into PowerPoint slides
  8. Speakers always over-run so allow catch-up time in the agenda
  9. Allow people time to recover from the 'networking' the night before, so no 8.00am starts
  10. Employ a charismatic host, any session needs levity and humour...

If you follow these simple steps then it won't necessarily be an amazing training course, but at least the people taking it will not be asleep or be constantly planning their escape from every session...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

IBM #Cloudchat

Just been involved in IBM's Twitter based Cloudchat for education (#cloudchat). 

As a father of 4-girls all 8-years and under, they way our generation interacts with IT will seem alien to our children when they are 30. Technologies we are just grappling with will be inherent in their lives.  We still look in wonder at the iPad and it's simplicity of interface.  Take a look at this link:

Now tell me that this child will not be interacting with technology in ways we haven't even envisioned yet.

Government and educators need to adopt Cloud based services as way of breaking down the barriers to entry to education.  Imagine a virtual global university, with a physical presence in various geographies that is also able to deliver courses to the remotest parts of the world.  The curriculum is interactive, collaborative, social and dynamic.  This type of institution will be the goal of universities in 20-years time and the reality in 50.

Monday, February 6, 2012

So after the 1st month of my new role it feels like my feet haven't touched the ground.  Everyday yet another IBM team brings me into a situation where their client is looking to re-evaluate their mainfame as increasingly they are seeing the industry turn towards appliance like architectures and hybrid computing platforms.

The market in my humble opinion, at least at the enterprise layer, is consolidating to a very small number of players, who more and more are able to offer the complete 'stack'.  For those of you below 40 (like me, just) look up 'stack' in your GCSE computer studies textbook and then look at how similar this is to the propositions from Oracle and IBM. Are we moving towards a new BUNCH obviously with IBM?

The industry is consolidating down to 2 players with vertical stacks:

  • IBM
  • Oracle/Sun

And then HP and Dell, with the likes of EMC/VM Ware as other key players.

For years now customers have been telling me that running key applications is too complicated, and if you have ever tried to size a SAP architecture this will resonate with you.

Key questions such as:

  • How do you size the database layer
  • What networking infratructure does this environment need
  • How do I back-up the data this environment produces
  • How do I architect this environment for HA and DR

All of these topics could quite easily be the subject of a whole day scoping workshop, and believe me I have sat through a fair few...

No wonder then that customers are crying out for platforms that collapse this infrastructure into a simple easy to manage, easy to provision easy to... either as a private cloud, appliance or hybrid system.

Parking Cloud for a moment, lets compare Appliances Vs Hybrid systems.  An appliance to my simple mind is a vertically integrated solution that delivers a plug and play experience for a single application.  Terradata have for years existed in this space and Oracle are positioning Exalogic and Exadata in this space.  IBM has some offerings planned but they are futures. However these devices are single purpose at best.

If you are looking for a general purpose, tightly integrated, highly scalable, secure system, then it is a very short list of players in the market.  You could argue that HP with it's Non-Stop servers has these qualities but I would argue these are in the main single purpose servers, supporting one mission critical app.  The UNIX space whilst still critical, is a declining market year on year, and these systems are still in the main single app, although I have seen a UNIX cloud recently, this is not the norm...

So Hybrid computing... as we move towards Cloud as the default platform for service delivery be that Private, Hybrid or Public the requirement for multi-purpose architectures increases.  When you look at the definition of cloud you can see the intrinsic linkage to Hybrid platforms, take a look for instance at:

When you review this definition, you see that the need to deliver a service based on a scalable, visualized, easy to provision architecture predicates a simplified architecture, where compute resources are easy to manage and appliance-like.  However if you focus on Private cloud then an IT organization needs to deliver multiple options to the business for application deployment, ideally on one simplified architecture.  I have seen the trend over the last 5-years to build platforms on x86 and then offer these as Private clouds, but the downside of this approach is the 'closed' nature of the o/s support, not everything runs under Windows.  Multiple o/s exist for a reason, each has its pros and cons for certain types of workloads, so ideally you need a system that can support the four major o/s (Windows, UNIX, Linux and z/OS), is massively scalable, secure, virtualized, is charged for based on utilization (ideally monthly) and has a strong heritage for governance and best practice...

Subtle hint if you are still guessing: