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.