As somone that has covered the mainframe market for 10 years, now, a mere blip in 360-time, I am always interested in seeing how mainframe communities adopt, and adapt to, new technologies and business models. In the ten years since I was given MVS as a reporting beat IBM has seldom been aggressive enough, to my mind, in positioning, and repositioning zSeries.
Under Linda Sanford, now On Demand transformation Senior VP, the mainframe business was a model citizen within IBM. It didn’t tread on other groups’ toes, and it knew its place (the data center back end). These days there is more overlap between different parts of IBM Server business though, and more contention to manage (and possibly leverage).
So what are some cool mainframe things? Rather than starting with the obvious, Linux on the mainframe, I would call out the Asian telecommunications company that adapted the venerable though just refreshed TPF engine as the heart of an instant messaging platform (sadly IBM says it cant reference the firm). “What, I hear some of you cry. A mainframe for IM? How stupid, how ridiculous, how expensive…
Well that is the way of prejudice, isn’t? The mainframe is an easy target for doubters and or outsiders. But zSeries is proven platform, and managed correctly can underpin services at lower cost than many other platforms. Take Univar, the Canadian arm of the largest chemicals handling handling firm in the US, with a small IT staff, and a far lower IT budget than most IT shops.
Back to TPF though. What is it? Its the messaging system behind Sabre, the thing that gets your tickets booked when you make a change to your travel itinerary, or worse, the airline lets you down, as Virgin did rather catastrophically to me recently. Sabre handles ludicrous numbers of small messages in guaranteed fashion; so why not use it for instant messaging? I must be a TPF freak though – when i land i am going to used blogdigger, a blog search engine, on TPF, and see what comes up – i bet i am one of the only people out there talking about it… yup. People are still hiring TPF programmers though. Here is a blog that cited TPF in a Linux context (new constituents, eh) Perhaps blackbeard could move to an RSS feed and widen his net a little.
I don’t want to give the impression the zSeries resurgence is all about tiny niches though. Linux and or SOA on the frame are major memes. But who is blogging it? Its about modernizing the platform, and improving Linux TCO. Yes improving it – for shops that understand centralized management and virtualization, why not manage Linux in that way – i call it mainframe slice and dice. Folks at Microsoft love to ding the frame and say the Linux mainframe phenomemon is a scam.
I am not the only person in the industry covering IBM mainframes that doesn’t have grey hair, although sometimes it feels like it. Note that IBM has lots of mainframe developers in places like Hursley that are so fresh they make me look grizzled. But the analysts and reporters on the zEcosystem beat do tend to be a bit more-how shall i say?–traditional than I am.
There are some really good communicators in the space – folks at firms like Sageza, or Mark Lillycrop. Geoff Norman is a mainframe storage guru, over at Scrittore (note to Geoff, if you blogged google would do a better job of finding your homepage). Are these communicators blogging though? Are they heck. How about the chaps down under at ITG (another research firm google can’t find, or at least not quickly enough. Get blogging and linking, you’ll be easier to find). if you know how to find them then please post as a comment. As far as i am concerned ITG remains the high bar when it comes to getting the facts on mainframe ownership for packaged apps such as PeopleSoft and SAP. Fat lot of good if you can’t find the firm online though.
Why do the biggest SAP shops in the world run on mainframe DB2 on zSeries? I still vividly remember the answer given to me by the head of service delivery at the British Post Office retail operation a couple of years ago when I asked him why zSeries. “Because Unix isn’t scalable enough [in terms of data management]“.
Hear that – Unix isn’t scalable enough….
Other names? Barry Graham at Arcati?
How about a Domino guy called Richard Schwartz?
When i first started blogging, and occasionally thereafter, i have checked to see if anyone is blogging on mainframe issues, but not much luck so far. I did find one blog called All The Mainframe Things, but i ended up unsubcribing becasue a. it had nothing to do with mainframes and b. it was very seldom updated.
So now IBM says its is joining the blog party and i really hope some good mainframe bloggers come out of the woodwork. What might the cluster look like? Writing this column almost makes me want to start a second blog called Mainframe Bigot. maybe i will. Someone should….
So what about people at ISVs like BMC (Bronna Shapiro, Jonathan Adams) and CA (Guy Harrison or someone on his team).
John Albee- some good entries and take it to CA rhetoric. But go with the original name, John, the new one is wimpy and doesn’t do the platform justice. You were right to call it Mainframes Never Die in the first place.
Peter Armstrong is a “boring old pedant”, and makes him well worth a read. Business Service Management, mainframes and golf stories. What more could you ask for? Stuff like this:
The thing that really cheeses me off though is when people ignore 30 years of experience. Running mainframes has taught us how to handle processes like Change Management, Service Levels, Backup and Recovery, Security and many others. Ignoring what has been learnt here, which many customers and educational establishments seem prone to do, strikes me as crazy. One customer I met puts every new employee (who thinks C++, Java, Linux and CTL-ALT-DEL are the centre of the universe) into the mainframe department for 6 months. Not to learn MVS or JCL, but to learn how to run a production environment correctly.
Fred Johannessen though is still stuck on Hello World… heh. Come on Fred…
What about a mainframe-savvy storage blog from Gary Tidd at Teracloud?
And where are the users, the operators and sysprogs? You guys are constantly misrepresented, so lets hear your voices. The systems you run often *are* the business, paying the salaries of the folks running from break fix to distributed break fix like demented monkeys, before chattering about how the company should offload some more workloads from zSeries. Its expensive to be fashionable. Unless that is, we’re talking about blogging, which is a cheep and cheerful way to ride buzz.
If mainframe people want to grow their share of the market, they will need to reach out to new constituences. Blogging is a great way to do just that. How about the IGS folks in Colorado that have built IB’s uber-SOA platform? How did you do it? What were your experiences? What should customers know?
Mainframes can do things other can’;t – mixed workloads is where the rubber meets the road. Other platforms may be cheaper for a specific service, but when you want to chew through batch and OLTP, chuck data around with abandon, run acid transactions across a single database. Well show me the cheaper alternative. The mainframe is a big ugly gurning beast that will take what you throw at it and come up grinning for more. I would like to see IBM run a number of different benchmarks on z at the same time – SAP SD, TPC-CC, and so on… then challenge anyone else to do the same thing. For single purpose benchmarks other platforms are cheaper or more performant, sure, but when it comes to mixed workloads zSeries can knock anything else into a cocked hat.
If markets are conversations, as the Cluetrain says, then its time for mainframers to jump in. Have you got something to say, or will you let the doubters have a free run? They were throwing stones long before i was on the scene, covering z. Why not throw some back and find some peers with good economic arguments and stories to tell.
Irving WB recently posted about the mainframe, Enduring Value, but he won’t be doing so all the time. Note to Irving though, why not link to your blog from your corporate bio – many journalists are now sourcing stories from blogs so why not make yours more obvious?
Come on IBM; bring out your mainframe voices. And that doesn’t mean bring out your dead… Here is a zecosystem blogger from that wants to help with modernization and collect useful links. Go IT Kee.
Don’t let the only mainframe blogs and conversations be about mainframe migration. Unless you let Microsoft and others win, that is.
I keep meaning to post this, and not finalising it, so i might as well just push the snowball and see if it gets some momentum. Basically i would very much like it if you know of any mainframe bloggers if you could fire over some details.
Meanwhile i am just as happy if you want to tell me why mainframes suck. Its a conversation after all.
But here are some links that talk to mainframe relevance, from IBM’s press releases in the last week or so.
So jump in mainframers.