Wednesday, November 26, 2014

IT in Transition

By Rich Ptak

I’ve spent more than a few years working with technology vendors, business and enterprise IT staffs as they work together to effectively deploy IT infrastructure and resources to achieve enterprise goals. Change, to a greater or lesser extent, is ongoing, and that make IT’s job of fast, reliable service delivery challenging and frustrating, but ultimately rewarding.

We’re now at a time when changes in technology, knowledge, market conditions and ability to exploit technology are upending even basic operations of IT and the enterprise in fundamental ways. Technologies themselves are shifting and evolving, becoming easier to access and apply – altering market dynamics as they eliminate the barriers that kept competition at bay even as they enable ever more complex solutions and accelerate product life-cycles.

These same technologies, ironically enough, increase IT’s ability to deliver new services with capabilities that allow them to do more, process faster and analyze better than ever – even as it is forcing them to rethink how they create and apply it to solve enterprise problems.

For IT, the change is even more critical as they face escalating expectations of rapid response and short delivery cycles at the same time that they face increasing competition from agile, rapid development service providers.  Service providers that may, in fact, be already working inside their enterprise as contractors – gaining intimate knowledge of the problems frustrating business managers.

No market segment is exempt – financial, research, manufacturing, retail, etc. – all are challenged by radical, disorienting alterations in operational processes, tactics and relationships forced on them in all aspects of their business – while it may be more dramatically and easily visible in some situations, the changes are pervasive.

Users expect faster, near immediate response to requests for new services or changes to existing ones. Once a weeks- or months-long process, now creation, development and test of a new app has been condensed to: Code (or equivalent process) first – Implement – Fail and Fix as needed. AND, the market is accepting this. Not that major crashes or mistakes don’t happen, they do. It’s that if the recovery is quick enough, the impact is minimized and consumers move on. Of course, this isn’t true for all situations, but it is a real phenomenon.

Established enterprises find themselves facing new, more agile and aggressive competitors that come from surprising directions – think about how the markets for telephones, communication services, video content creation and access has changed in the last few years - enterprises are forced to develop and define new ways to create products, deliver services and how they generate and account for revenue – IT is caught squarely in the cross-hairs and must adapt.

On the positive side, advances in existing and emerging technologies allow more to be done even as increasing knowledge and maturation has led to advances in the methodologies of development, deployment, testing and management. These increase the capabilities and efficiencies of IT staff to do much more and to get it done quickly. But, it is up to IT to educate itself and work with business colleagues to acquire the insight and understanding of cross-enterprise operations that will enable IT to apply their efforts to benefit the enterprise. That, after all, is the only real reason for having an IT group.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Challenge of Hybrid Infrastructure – pick your partner carefully

        The Challenge of Hybrid Infrastructure – Pick Your Partner CarefullySubmitted by Richard Ptak on Nov 20, 2014. IT is being challenged to rapidly reallocate resources in response to unpredictable fluctuations in demands for services. Demands to increase the quality and quantity of IT services while at the same time having to speed up the development cycle for evolving those services are not new. The problem is the speed and scale of response now necessary to satisfy these demands.

Read the rest at:

Monday, November 10, 2014

IBM Enterprise2014 – Infrastructure, System z and Power in the spotlight

 BY Rich Ptak

IBM’s Enterprise2014 attracted 3600 (35%) more participants than last year, even without the attraction of System x (now part of Lenovo). The theme ‘The Infrastructure for Cloud, Data & Engagement’ highlighted the vital role IT infrastructure plays in successful enterprises of all types.  It focused on how infrastructure can and does benefit all enterprise operations. Customers elaborated on IT-enabled contributions from development through to delivery and support of services/products. IBM® executives Tom Rosamilia, SVP for IBM Systems & Technology and IBM Integrated Supply Chain, his direct reports, business (marketing, sales, etc.) and technical staff were accessible during and after meetings, presentations and forums.
The event brought together an Executive Summit, an MSP/CSP Summit and 3 Technical Infrastructure Universities covering System z, Power Systems and System Storage. Senior executives, operations staff and academics mingled during breakouts and out-of-hours sessions. It was clear to us that attendees enjoyed and benefitted from the event.

General Observations
The Solutions and Services Showcase spotlights the innovative utilization of infrastructure by IBM and its partner to create solutions for education, monitoring, management, development, operations, analytics, Big Data, mobility, etc. Product knowledgeable experts dealt with pointed questions to provide insight into the abilities and application of the infrastructure.

The showcase was complemented by sessions on new products, solutions and initiatives that discussed practical business issues as well as took deep-dives into technologies, solutions and services. A significant majority of sessions were by customers and partners discussing and demonstrating how their enterprise activities were improved, more effective and productive due to IT infrastructure. Especially valuable were the practical insights gained from the presenters from Q&A and post-presentation chats.

We found Linux, System z and Power particularly interesting. Let’s take a look at Linux first.

New initiatives and more focus on Linux. IBM is aggressively pursuing the Linux[1] market. Numerous customer success stories attested to the level of Linux interest and activity.  Power and System z staff members, involved in strategy, development and products, spoke enthusiastically of current and planned initiatives targeting Linux. For the mainframe, IFLs (Linux for System z) already represent 40% of total MIPs shipped in FY13[2] including net new customers and workloads. Adding Linux focus to power should make next year’s number significantly higher.

IBM’s Power and System z offerings bring real strengths to Linux, for example: 1) support for all significant Linux versions, 2) two modern, platform architectures covering the market from mid-size to largest enterprise, 3) documented easy movement of (thousands of) existing Linux applications, 4) impressive performance figures, 5) Power Systems eliminate ‘endian’ issues (for those that care), and 6) delivering new-to-Linux capabilities such as LPARs, I/O caching). These plus making clear the case for business value will help them build market share.

System z supports mobile, analytics, Linux and more. System z[3] continues to increase MIPs shipped by adding net new customers, net new workloads and new usage cases. Despite mainframe ‘Gloom & Doomers’, IBM and, more significantly, its customers show considerable interest in the System z for intensive computing. Studies from multiple sources indicate any massive exit off-the-mainframe is not eminent.

Enterprises want IT support in agility, cloud, hi-speed data/analytics, security and mobile services. For right scale operations, the mainframe offers competitive advantages in each of these[4]. Customers describe benefits in real-time, high-speed, analysis of transaction data as well as in cloud services.
IBM continues efforts to lower the cost of mainframe computing where software licenses are based on MIPs used. One example, for selected software, IBM allows basically cost-free increases in MIPs consumption if the increase results from mobile apps accessing the mainframe. More than one customer indicated to us that this was a very good deal for them.

System z can simultaneously run every major Linux version in VMs. Demonstrated the ease to quickly moving multiple thousands of Linux applications to zLinux clinches its role as major platform for that market.

Post-event financials showed flat mainframe revenues. Year-over-year and quarter-to-quarter increases in MIPs shipped are more reflective of increasing compute capacity at lower prices than a dying market. We expect the announcement of a new family of mainframes in the next fiscal year will lead to better numbers.

Power® Systems on the rise. Watson, POWER8 processer, CAPI (Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface), more Linux moves – Power Systems[5] have had a busy year. Watson expanded into new business roles including concierge travel (planning) services, predicting meteor positioning, high-powered analytics and providing cloud-based services. Depending upon whether you agree with Elon Musk on the existential risk in the rise of cognitive computing, you will either be appalled or thrilled to hear that Watson is questioning (arguing with) itself during its learning process.

IBM introduced mid-size POWER8-based[6] systems last spring. Now, large Enterprise[7] systems will begin shipping November 18th with increased performance, computational speeds and power. One example, Power S824L systems (up to 8 TB of memory) run data-intensive tasks on POWER8 processors, offloading other compute-intensive workloads to GPU accelerators.  IBM also targets Power systems at specific market segments (private/hybrid cloud, hi-availability, VM management, analytics, security, etc.) They have attractive trade-up and transition packages from Power7 and Power7+ to Power8 systems that should boost sales.

IBM positions POWER8 as the evolutionary successor to the x86. Support of open standards, public APIs, OpenStack[8], OpenPOWER™ Foundation[9] and licensing the POWER8 chip to third-party development partners is attracting more users to POWER8. It is the only fully open architecture shipping today. It has 62 foundation members are developing solutions based on it.

Speed of service, economics and efficiency remain major enterprise and IT concerns. Sophisticated data/analysis capabilities are critical in getting actionable insight and information to users. Recent research has shown just the high cost of data moves and conversions (ESL) among different platforms.  Collecting and processing data on a single platform makes sense.

IBM is promoting ‘do your analysis where the data sits’. To that end, IBM made sure that both System z and Power Systems have exceptional abilities in data acquisition, data storage and analytics. Both teams endorse the message. Even more reassuring, they help the customer decide which platform is appropriate to their situation.

We’ve got next year’s Enterprise2015, May 11-15th, Las Vegas in our calendar. We suggest that you do the same. 

Infrastructure Orchestration – IT’s path to customer satisfaction!

By Rich Ptak

Consumers are rapidly adopting mobile computing. This is forcing solution and service providers to turn to cloud, sophisticated analytics and emerging technologies to speed the development and delivery of new services. The resulting disruption of enterprise and IT operations makes staff utilization, efficiency and infrastructure optimization a major issue. The solution lies in increasing orchestration[1], integration and automation across the enterprise.

What’s the source of all the complication? It comes from:

1.     Data centers that automatically expand and contract services to meet ‘spikey’ service demands;

2.     Trading-floor apps that be rapidly evolved to maintain a competitive edge longer than 72 hours; ;

3.     Complex process automations that ease access to technology are altering market dynamics by expanding consumer choice and raising competition to global levels;

4.     Users a click away from alternative services, suppliers and products.

These combine to drive demands for faster delivery of evolving solutions/services while forcing prices and costs down. To compete, the enterprise and IT must be fast, agile and adaptable. Traditional automation can only provide a starting point. Focusing on isolated tasks leaves IT and enterprise operations susceptible to bottlenecks, inconsistent response times and sporadic failures.

 IT itself, infrastructure and operations are now primary influencers of the customer experience. This alters IT performance metrics forcing process changes in everything from development to delivery. Each process step must execute smoothly and quickly to meet enduser expectations. Infrastructure must be able to adapt and redirect quickly. It must scale up or down to match changing conditions. Workloads must be shifted, new systems spun up to meet unpredictable transaction volumes, service requests or unexpected shifts in computing demand.

Integrated end-to-end orchestration provides the answer by bringing together multiple interdependent tasks and functions (both business and IT) to operate more effectively. For example, in dev/ops it can start with automating system configuration and provisioning for development then extend to test, deployment and production. Or, combining business and IT functions; IT automate and  centralize data collection, using a mobile device able to read inventory data collected by walking around a warehouse – transmitting data to a centralized repository for inventory control, capacity planning, purchasing, accounting, etc.

IT, focusing on user expectations, must now operate in a mode of continuous innovation breaking traditional patterns. Service requests for new systems, services, or development environments must be satisfied in near real-time.
Orchestration provides IT the opportunity to breakdown and work across functional silos that isolate enterprise functions. IT and business functions work together to identify opportunities to apply existing expertise and procedures to resolve the problems and challenges inherent in enterprise operations.
As interest grows, tools and solutions for piecemeal automation proliferate. A number of ‘integrated’ solutions exist, that, in reality, integrate, only at the ‘pane of glass’ UI. There are also solutions composed as hastily assembled collections of tools lacking any coherent, supportive architecture.
Implementation of a comprehensive orchestration solution requires significant experience and sophistication along with an investment in software and hardware. Until recently such an investment was affordable only by large enterprises. This is changing as vendors scramble to satisfy interest.

 The larger, experienced vendors, such as IBM[2] (sponsor of this blog) are making access to their latest orchestration solutions easier and more attractive to a wide range of customers. New offerings are appearing all the time. Interested buyers should exercise due caution as they review their options and investigate this rapidly evolving pathway to that provides competitive advantage today, and necessary for survival tomorrow. You can follow our comments and observations on orchestration here.

[1] Follow our video and white paper commentaries on orchestration here:

[2] IBM sponsored this paper; see more on their offerings at:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hybrid Application Performance Testing - Apica

Introduction and Primary Challenges

Today, IT finds itself at the crossroad of major game-changing technology shifts: the explosive rise of cloud and mobile computing.
The promise of cloud scalability, flexibility and agility is driving enterprises to move applications out of the office and into the cloud. Simultaneously, mobile computing and social media are transforming and increasing interactions between companies and their customers/end users. Organizations are developing new mobile and social media applications that reach out to engage users as digital extensions of their sales, marketing and customer service efforts. These modern, hybrid applications must be flexible enough to perform reliably across a variety of devices and computing environments, and scalable enough to maintain peak performance under heavy loads.
As IT staff move applications to the cloud and mobile, many discover that capacity testing is not the same as it would be testing applications in traditional environments. Applications cannot always scale up, even when running on scalable cloud infrastructures. This becomes painfully clear when applications which performed adequately in traditional environments “break” when subjected to higher loads and dynamic scalability in the cloud.
Hybrid application performance testing must look seamlessly at end-to-end application performance as it travels across diverse environments, and performance must be optimized for each environment along the application delivery chain. This requires advanced, proactive planning and QA testing throughout the development lifecycle. Just as suspension bridge engineers painstakingly test and build strength and resiliency into bridge designs to handle the weight loads of actual use, modern application developers must also meticulously test and build performance-ready hybrid applications.

The unique nature of modern, hybrid applications running across diverse environments demands a different approach for testing performance.
This paper examines some of the most important considerations for modern application performance testing and planning.

A Multi-Faceted Performance Testing Approach

Performance testing must use a multi-faceted approach that goes beyond solely measuring response time. This approach is outlined in the sections below.

Understanding Application Characteristics:

The first step to hybrid application performance testing is understanding the performance characteristics of your application.
Knowing how an application performs under various load levels and in each environment (cloud, mobile, traditional data center, etc.) enables managing a hybrid application’s performance proactively, in support of business goals.

The Load Curve

A load curve is the most important measurement of a load test. Understanding how your application performs along the load curve enables operational IT staff to know when increased resources are required to prevent unacceptable performance degradation and poor end-user experiences.
The load curve diagram (graph at the top left) shows application response times versus increasing loads. If throughput doubles at the same rate as the number of users doubles, response times will stay constant. Performance testing helps identify when infrastructure capacity limits begin impacting performance, enabling IT operational staff to proactively avert issues.

To read the full paper, click on this link:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

BMC Engage2014 – it’s a whole new game!

By Rich Ptak
BMC Engage 2014 is a customer-oriented event. This year it included an analyst event, the first under the new owners, so interest was high. Also, it’s been a year since BMC went private with private equity sponsors led by Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital. We’d been briefed and written about BMC and new products[1] several times over the last year. Now we had the opportunity for close-up discussions with executives from CEO, Board Chairman Bob Beauchamp on down. The event also provides a platform for customers, executives and operations staff, to speak frankly about their experiences with BMC products. Their stories contained a lot of very good news for BMC. We came away impressed with the changes made, the BMC sponsors’ investment decisions and optimistic about BMC’s future. Here’s why.                  

BMC has reshaped itself over the past year. It has a new logo, updated strategy, messaging focused on user experience, and aggressive marketing for an expanded solutions set. All supported by a reorganized, extended executive management team with some new players. It is organized into the following solution areas: Cloud and Data Center Automation, Performance and Availability, Service Support, Workload Automation, and ZSolutions and Select Technologies.

The team’s focus is on innovation in IT solutions and services targeted to provide an exceptional user experience. All devoted to enabling customers’ success in ‘Digital Business’. A new organization under the direction of a Chief Customer Officer will help maintain focus on the customer. It will coordinate and be responsible across-BMC products and services for efforts directed at assuring (and verifying) customer success as well as customer focused product improvement e.g. the new user interface.

All of these changes are reflected in BMC’s “Living IT[2]” strategic initiative. The message is clear. In today’s Digital Economy, IT is fundamental and necessary to the success of the business whatever the market being served. As BMC puts it, they will create and deliver a completely “new technology experience for employees and IT managers through smart, next-generation social and collaboration tools that enhance productivity, simplify administrative tasks and enable digital services that directly engage customers, partners and stakeholders.”

BMC is focusing on the important fundamentals which include verifying customer achievement of their identified needs. There are three things customer CTO and IT organizations need to succeed where BMC can help. These are: 
  1. Ability to quickly deliver infrastructure solutions;
  2. Ability for high-speed innovation in creating solutions;
  3. Industrial-strength (industrialized) solutions to help them operate effectively.

BMC is committed to providing all three. Using existing and expanding expertise in technological innovation, BMC will deliver the products, services and solutions necessary to make that happen. 

Four consolidated product/solution areas support this new positioning:
  1. BMC Remedy with Smart IT – an ITSM solution providing “an intelligent, mobile, and beautiful” [3] user experience enabling the application of mobile and social technologies to improve service delivery and intuitive access to technology across the enterprise. (Look for the new UI here!)
  2. BMC TrueSight – a new product family, TrueSight combines multiple BMC performance and availability products with new IT analytics capabilities to optimize service levels, reduce ownership costs and improve IT productivity, while improving the employees’ experience. (Easier to use technology!)
  3. Smartflow Solutions – a new family of industrial-grade, integrated solutions built on BMC products to combine the power of multiple (including non-BMC) management applications that allows IT to simplify complex tasks and exploit new relationships between teams, systems, and information. (BMC makes a smart commitment focused on strengthening ITOM integration within its own portfolio and in support of mixed vendor solutions here.)
  4. Automation Passport – a new automation framework derived from best practices across more than 1,000 BMC automation customers. The framework offers tools to develop custom automation roadmaps, guidelines to maximize automation value, and access to BMC’s new Automation Center of Excellence laboratory. (This looks to us like a really valuable customer asset. Watch for our more detailed comments coming up.)

In addition, the ZSolutions business group is using a significant part of the sponsors’ increased investment to enhance and expand their offerings. We’ve written about the R4 products (see footnote 1 above). This group of products, announced during the last year, focus specifically on automating the reduction of software licensing costs. Customers have seen savings of up to 20% in some licensing costs.

All of these (and more) were topics of discussion and presentation during the recent event. The impression left is of a better capitalized, more focused and energized company increasing its level of competition and success in well-defined, targeted market segments.

Part of the impetus behind BMC’s clearly evident confidence and energy are a series of actions by the BMC sponsors; actions that are clearly demonstrating they saw in BMC a business with significant potential for profitable growth and return on investment. The evidence includes the infusion of significant additional investment, much of it directed to long-term investments in R&D to add and build-out products, as well as spending to increase market presence and visibility. Incidentally, this belief in BMC, its management team, product portfolio and revenue potential is in the process of being validated by financial performance that so far this fiscal year[4]  has exceeded all the committed benchmark metrics.

Another major impetus comes from BMC’s own history of commitment to identifying, understanding and solving their customers’ operational and administrative challenges. Early on, BMC’s focus was on providing tools and solutions that were simple to implement and use while delivering prompt returns as they facilitated monitoring, management and administrative tasks for both mainframe and distributed systems. They were among the earliest innovators at consolidating tools into integrated solutions. Because their solutions were focused on ‘back-end’ and infrastructure problems, Line-of-Business and financial managers didn’t easily understand their business justification. BMC stepped up to help their technology savvy consumers to justify purchases in terms of business contributions. They have been at the forefront of efforts to automate IT infrastructure operations and management.

All this contributes and pays tribute to their proven ability to comprehend and respond to the needs of their target customers. And, this ability becomes especially important as demand escalates for productivity and speed of response even as consumers of technology become less technical in a world that is increasingly mobile, technologically complex and rapidly evolving.

We’ll have more to say after we’ve had some time to review the Automation Passport and other areas. It is no surprise to us to see BMC focusing on solutions to make the power of digitalized technology more accessible to and easily consumable by both IT and business customers.

Bob Beauchamp, CEO, indicated one of the real advantages of being a private company was that they now have the ability to invest in projects that will take more time to realize a return but will yield a very significantly greater payback when completed.

However those investments turn out, it was clear from both the customers and BMC that they are seeing some satisfying benefits and financial payback today. We think the next few years will continue to be very interesting and rewarding for BMC and its customers.

[3] These are BMC’s own words!
[4] BMC’s fiscal year begins in April.