Thursday, July 23, 2015

Compuware’s Topaz for Java Performance enhances mainframe productivity!

By Rich Ptak

Figure 1 A new tagline for Compuware

Last January, Compuware CEO Chris O’Malley committed to delivering significant enhancements to their mainframe software management portfolio. As part of that commitment, he promised the company would:

1.      Build innovative products highly valued by their customers;
2.      Build solutions that enable the next generation of mainframe workers;
3.      Identify and focus on the most critical needs of their customers;
4.      Assume shared responsibility to advocate and demonstrate leadership for the mainframe platform;
5.      Provide thought leadership for innovative uses for the mainframe platform.

As stated at the time, we were impressed with both the Compuware strategy and their aggressive timeline for the design and delivery of products, services and solutions. We also liked their plans for their Topaz management product, which we characterized as “Mainframe Software for the 21st Century”[1] in our write-up. We reviewed the motivation and market forces driving the strategy in the earlier piece. Those forces continue unabated, and need no repetition here.

We are now two quarters past that initial announcement of Topaz for Enterprise Data.  Chris and Compuware met their commitment deadline for April with the release of Topaz for Program Analysis. They continue to do so now with the announcement of Topaz for Java Performance on July 1st. We’ve seen the product in action; it is clear to us that the Compuware team is living up to their commitment.  Here’s why that is so.

Topaz for Java Performance overview
Topaz for Java Performance provides detailed, comprehensive visibility into the performance and behavior of Java Batch programs and WebSphere transactions running on the mainframe. It focuses on providing a solution that will enhance the productivity of millennial developers as it leverages and complements the expertise of experienced staff and QA teams. The goal is to speed the process of identifying, debugging and resolving mainframe application performance problems.
 IT staff will realize benefits from automation and application insight that results in a more effective utilization of resources and speedier execution. This also frees up the time of experienced staff that can then focus on more complex problems and problem avoidance.
Topaz for Java Performance provides programmers with a one page view of their JVM performance. Specifically designed to work with Java Batch and WebSphere, it provides a hierarchical representation of calls showing the method-to-method progress within the program. It also enables the staff to visualize the heap memory behavior of their program. In both situations, the viewer can zoom in and out to display more or less detail to represent specific portions of the performance data. It allows measurements to be taken across separate systems, LPARs and JVMs from a single web based measurement page. See Figure 2 below.

Figure 2 Measurements of CPU Utilization, Heap Memory, Java Classes and Threads  

It provides views and detailed insights into the peak CPU utilization of specific Java methods and classes.  With this ability, new and experienced staff can spot, investigate and resolve “garbage collection” issues such as memory leaks, trouble-shoot excessively long collection intervals as well as identify those threads that are blocked or not actually doing useful work.

This is all just the beginning as Compuware plans for the evolution of Topaz to become a comprehensive suite of next-generation development products for the next-generation of mainframe development.

Enhancements to other Topaz products
In the meantime, also included in this release are enhancements to the earlier releases. The enhancements include:
·         Topaz for Program Analysis has been enhanced to provide intuitive, accurate visibility into the flow of data within COBOL or PL/I applications. This includes showing how data gets into a field; how a field is used to set other fields; and how a field is used in comparisons. Such “data flow” information helps developers to design better, smarter applications. 
·         Topaz for Enterprise Data can perform high-speed, compression-enabled host-to-host data copying by exploiting IBM z Systems zIIP processors. The load and burden on the general processors are reduced which can help delay/avoid an expensive upgrade. Also, developers can complete their work more quickly at lower costs.

The Final Word
There is much more that can be said and shown about this release that can be covered by Compuware. We highly recommend you see this video[2] and visit their website[3] for additional information
Compuware is delivering on its promises. They not only provide much needed and highly effective solutions, they are living proof of the high efficiency and agility that can be accomplished in mainframe computing by delivering high quality solutions at an unheard of pace. Congratulations to them.
They are also contributing to the general ‘heat-up’ in the mainframe marketplace. We see more interest in the mainframe among a larger and more varied set of users. We see more aggressive and innovative activity among the players as a result of increased competition. And, there is interest resulting from the opening up of the mainframe ecosystem to a wider audience. We think Compuware’s positioning itself as “The Mainframe Software Partner for the Next 50 Years” may turn out to be quite prophetic!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

HP aims high as it raises the stakes in HPC

By Bill Moran and Rich Ptak

Recently, Bill Mannel, the new VP and GM of HPC[1]/Big Data for HP Servers Group, personally provided a review of their new HPC strategy. Usually, briefings of this sort have the executive say a few words; they then turn the briefing over to marketing and technical staff that provide details. Clearly this isn’t Mannel’s style. He not only personally presented the entire briefing but also very ably answered all the analyst’s questions; a reflection of his engineering background. (He held technical positions in the US Air Force, NASA and SGI before joining HP.) It was a very impressive performance. Now, let’s review the strategy with our comments on its implications.

Every strategy briefing includes an overview of important market issues. Mannel chose to focus on the effect of major industry trends on HP and HPC. Device proliferation (IoT) is happening and accelerating now. These always on-line devices generate vast quantities of data; much of which requires speedy, real-time analysis. Adding to the traffic are humans operating billions of cell phones world-wide. While the trends are not new; HP’s response is.

IT has a key role in every data-related activity from creation thru to service delivery in today’s enterprise. Mannel and HP are convinced that IT must transform itself from a cost center to a creator of competitive advantage. As a cost center, IT is a target for cost cuts. As a creator of competitive advantage, IT drives revenue; its budget becomes an investment in technology, not an overhead expense. HP is a partner/provider of services, guidance and products that improve IT’s effectiveness in the enterprise.

Mannel’s discussions with customers spotlighted HPC’s link to Big Data. Asked about using a system 1000x times more powerful than today’s most powerful supercomputers, a weather researcher foresaw no problem scaling calculations. His concern was with the months required to process the resulting volume of data output. Clearly, HPC and Big Data must work in tandem; thus Mannel’s responsibilities spans all HPC/Big Data-related solutions and partnerships.

Mannel skillfully wove-in additional data from customer executives with HPC responsibilities. A key insight was that HPC users believe that “one size fits all” has failed them; standard X86 architectures have run out of gas. General purpose hardware cannot deliver needed performance; it’s too slow and too expensive.

Mannel’s conclusion: Big Data/HPC environments are ripe for tailored solutions. Common thinking in commercial computing for some time, it was now gaining ground among HPC professionals. No single vendor can provide everything needed alone.  A critical part of the HPC strategy is expansion of the HPC Partner Ecosystem to cover storage, networking and accelerator options. Examples include Intel, Mellanox, NVIDIA and Seagate along with ongoing support of and contributions to OpenStack.

The recently announced HP/Intel Alliance for HPC which includes jointly sponsored benchmarking centers supports the overall strategy. These will help to advance customer innovation while expanding accessibility of HPC for enterprises of all sizes. Centers will include facilities for benchmarking, performance issue analysis, code analysis and code modernization. Replying to a question, Mannel stated the alliance with Intel was not exclusive; HP retains the option to collaborate with others, e.g. AMD. We are sure that this is correct, but it is also obvious that the existence of joint centers provides Intel a clear advantage.

Early focus will be on customers in Financial Services, Oil & Gas and Life Sciences. ISVs such as Schlumberger, ANSYS, Gaussian, Simulia, and Redline are also targeted for support. We expect customer demand to expand the list.

Mannel’s plans call for systems able to penetrate the very high end of the Top 500 supercomputer list.[2] (As of June 2015, HP has 178 entries listed, mostly clustered at the low end.) HP’s Apollo 8000 systems have the potential to reach the very top brackets currently dominated by IBM and Cray.[3] We predict very intensive activity in the support centers to make that happen.

We believe that HP’s new strategy has a very good chance for success. Bill Mannel strikes us as a capable executive with a lot of HPC experience. His apparently successful blending of a technical engineering background with manufacturing/business management skills is great preparation for his current position. He communicated the HP strategy very clearly and effectively. He gave excellent answers to every question thrown at him. The briefing was among the best we’ve ever had with HP.

At this point, we can’t judge Mannel’s success at navigating the internal politics that exist at HP (and all large companies). However, based on what we’ve seen so far, we expect he will do just fine. It is our opinion that HP made a very good move in choosing him to lead their HPC efforts. We wish him and HP good hunting during the coming months.

[1] High Performance Computing
[2] See
[3] Although the #1 system in the world is Chinese-built on Intel processors.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Siliconscapes: Finds development faster, easier with Linux, CAPI and POWER8

By Bill Moran and Rich Ptak

Are you skeptical of tales describing easy ports of code to new platforms? Do you say “It can’t be that easy; that wouldn’t happen with a complicated program.”? Well, we have a story about the conversion of complicated technology to POWER8 that will interest you. Meet Dr. Kevin Irick, founder of SiliconScapes.

Dr. Irick formed SiliconScapes[1] to provide real-time image and video analytics systems. Initially, they used x86-based systems to host the FPGAs[2] needed to achieve the high processing speeds required for video analytics. Each different project required changes in the FPGAs, usually involving a lengthy development process, followed by a difficult integration. Shifting to POWER8 with IBM’s CAPI interface[3] eliminates the problem while offering the potential of a significant speed boost from POWER8.

SiliconScapes built a framework to integrate accelerators; moving the framework to POWER8 to access CAPI made sense. Prior to receipt of the system, an IBM software simulator was used to debug code for CAPI. Integrating HW acceleration into a system using CAPI reduces development costs and time, increasing customer satisfaction. Overall, it took several months[4]. IBM’s simulation tools also proved to be very useful and critical.

The effort was worthwhile. POWER8’s power and speed allows real time performance; its stability permits always-on video analytics with very high reliability and up-times. Faster, easier integration with CAPI reduces development costs and time, increasing customer satisfaction.

SiliconScapes’ experience demonstrates a migration to POWER8 delivers ease-of-use, speed and robustness as well as the benefits of open standards, even for very complicated programs with significant hardware dependencies. Other lessons-learned by the developers include:
·        It helps significantly to be thoroughly familiar with the existing technology before attempting a port to a new system.
·        For maximum benefit and efficiency, take time to learn the new POWER8 environment including new technology like CAPI.
·        IBM simulation tools are very useful.
·        It is worthwhile to request help from IBM, SiliconScapes received excellent support.

Kevin Irick, founder/developer of SiliconScapes, is an enthusiastic supporter of OpenPOWER systems, Linux, CAPI and Open Standards. With IBM’s help and support, the migration went faster than he anticipated; providing a win all-around. Developers interested in more details about this port can contact Dr. Irick directly at or through the SiliconScapes website.

[1] For more details see
[4] A delayed delivery of the loaner system slowed the process. It went quickly with the installed system