IBM LinuxONE; what’s in a name?

So the new IBM LinuxONE has now been officially launched. And not to put too fine a point on it, the Lustratus opinion is that it is pretty much the best Linux server around. In fact, to really stiEmperor_300x230ck my neck out, the LinuxONE could become the premier Linux server of choice in the next 5 years. As long as IBM doesn’t trip over its own feet to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory…

Let’s just take a moment to reflect on what IBM’s got. The LinuxONE currently comes in two sizes, the full-scale enterprise Linux server (Emperor) and an entry level server (Rockhopper). Cunning use of penguins to stress the link to Linux 😉 . LinuxONE offers a range (if two is a range) of Linux servers with outstanding reliability, security and non-disruptive scalability coupled with probably the best data and transaction handling facilities in the world. Bold words, but there is proof (see later).

But the LinuxONE also offers the openness and productivity support expected in the Linux world. Customers can choose between Red Hat, SuSE and Ubuntu environments, a range of hypervisors such as KVM and PR/SM, familiar languages such as Python, Perl, Ruby, Rails and Node.js, various databases like Oracle, DB2, MongoDB, MariaDB. In addition, LinuxONE adopts open technologies extensively, including Openstack, Docker, Chef and Puppet.  Even the financiang for the LinuxONE is more aligned with Linux and Cloud expectations, with a usage-based fixed monthly charge or even a rental option being offered. The LinuxONE is even the basis of an IBM community cloud being rolled out now.

So how can anything go wrong? And anyway, how can I make those claims about reliability, security and so on? Well of course, the secret is that the IBM LinuxONE is based on the IBM mainframe, arguably the most proven server the world has ever known for reliability, availability, data and I/O handling, transaction processing and enterprise serving. To this base, IBM has been able to build on its extensive experience over the last few years of running Linux workloads and serving Linux needs with z/Linux, providing the ideal launchpad for delivering the ultimate Linux servers. Fortunately IBM has not tried to resist the march of open technologies, taking the opportunity to bring open, non-IBM and IBM offerings together with the aim of delivering the premier Linux server environment.

The ‘but’ is that IBM cannot manage to tear itself away from its pride in the mainframe. Rightly, IBM is very proud of its mainframe technology and its long history of success under the most demanding environments. Perfectly understandable. And so I suppose it is only natural that IBM would want to refer in all its marketing literature to the fact that the LinuxONE is an enterprise Linux mainframe, and to stress that it IS a mainframe, albeit with significant Linux and open technology support added. But from the outside, this makes no sense. let’s split the world up into three camps; mainframe fans, those who do not know about mainframes and the mainframe ‘haters’. Perhaps ‘haters’ is a bit strong, but there is absolutely no doubt that there are a significant number of companies across the world who for various reasons see ‘mainframe’ as almost a derogatory word; old-fashioned, expensive, etc.. So how will the three markets react to the LinuxONE? IBM mainframe fans don’t need to be told it is a mainframe; they know, and they will also usually have an IBM rep who will be pointing it out with great frequency! The uninitiated who know nothing of mainframes would not see any plus or minus from being told the LinuxONE is a mainframe; they will simply want to look at what the LinuxONE can do for them, what tools and environments it supports etc.. But the third category can only see the ‘mainframe’ word as negative.

I can almost hear some people pointing out that this is a silly argument. That anyone who starts to look at the LinuxONE and who knows anything will quickly work out it is essentially an IBM mainframe. But I would submit that is not the point. Reaction to the mainframe word is to put the third group off from taking a closer look. Once they do look, as long as the server has the tools and offers the capabilities they need, and they can carry it forwards in their company without overtly exposing the ‘mainframe’ word, the strength of the LinuxONE offering will carry it through.

So I make this plea to IBM. Please, please, remove ‘mainframe’ from all the literature. Replace it with ‘server’ or ‘Linux server’ or enterprise Linux server’ or whatever. LinuxONE should be associated with being the best, most reliable, most productive, most scalable, most effective and safest range of Linux servers in the world, not with being a Linux-enabled mainframe.

Calling all integration experts!

Remember the old Universal Translator as modeled here by the late Mr. Spock? One of the first (or perhaps future?) examples of integration solutions, and certainly one of the most fondly remembere! But at its heart, it is also an almost perfect representation of the integration challenges today. Many years ago, there was EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) which was all about integrating homegrown applications with purchased package applications and/or alien applications brought in from Mergers and Acquisitions activity. The challenge was to find a way to make these applications from different planets communicate with one another to increase return on assets and provide a complete view of enterprise activity. EAI tools appeared from vendors such as TIBCO, SeeBeyond, IBM, Vitria, Progress Software, Software AG and webMethods to mention just a few.

Then there came the SOA initiative. By building computer systems with applications in the form of reusable chunks of business functionality (called services) the integration challenge could be met by enabling different applications to share common services.

Now the eternal wheel is turning once again, with the integration challenge clothed in yet another disguise. This time it is all about integrating systems with completely different usage a resource characteristics such as mobile devices, IoT components and traditional servers, but also applications of completely new types such as mobile apps and cloud-based SaaS solutions. In an echo of the past, lines of business are increasingly going out and buying cloud-based services to solve their immediate business needs, or paying a third-party developer to create the App they want, only to then turn to IT to get them to integrate the new solutions with the corporate systems of record.

Once again the vendors will respond to these user needs, probably extending and redeveloping their existing integration solutions or maybe adding new pieces where required. But as you look for potential partners to help you with this next wave of integration challenges, it is worth keeping in mind possibly the most important fact of all; a fact that has been evident throughout the decades of integration challenges to date. Every single time the integration challenge has surged to the top of the priority list, the key differentiator contributing to eventual success is not the smarts built into the tools and software / appliances on offer. Rather it is all about the advice and guidance you can get from people with extensive experience in integration challenges. Whether from vendors or service providers, these skills are absolutely essential. When it comes down to it, the technical challenges of integration are just the tip of the iceberg; all the real challenges are how you plan what you are going to do and how you work across disciplines and departments to ensure the solution is right for your company. You don’t have the time to learn this – find a partner who has spent years steeped in integration and listen to what they have to say!

Why did IBM produce the MQ Appliance?


So IBM has delivered an MQ Appliance (the IBM MQ Appliance M2000 to give it its handy IBM name). For the uninitiated, this is MQ in a box (literally!). But why? Obviously, appliances often appeal from a security point of view, since they are often tamper-evident and anyway pretty hard to hack if they are physically locked up. But MQ is all about delivering messages; OK, the messages in the queues might have value, but they are probably encrypted anyway if they are sensitive. Now a security gateway, well sure an appliance makes sense. Stop all those undesirables coming into your enterprise with a secure box. But MQ?

Turns out there are some pretty damn convincing reasons why numerous companies are going to be very interested in the MQ Appliance. Think about MQ and where/how it is used. MQ usage is pretty much pervasive in most large companies, often providing the enterprise backbone for all application to application communications. It offers assured once-only delivery and is particularly good at dealing with hostile networks where connectivity is sporadic. Messages are simply queued and then delivered when the connection is available. As a result, it is often the most attractive way to communicate between applications all the way out to the fringes of the enterprise. When dealing with countries that have limited communications infrastructure the asynchronous nature of MQ makes it an ideal communications mechanism. However there is a drawback; often these sorts of locations are also the ones with the fewest available IT skills locally. Setting up MQ queue managers and queues is not a trivial operation.

But it is now! Instead of having a software stack that needs to be installed, companies can simply deliver the MQ Appliance to all their key locations. The recipients plug it in, turn it on and then specialists can configure it remotely. It is now ready to run; no wait, no messing, no opportunity for accidents, no need for expensive maintenance and support resources, just start messaging straight away. Maintenance is quick and easy and can be handled by a single team; each box is consistent and maintenance is applied as a single firmware upgrade to all devices. In terms of capacity, the MQ Appliance has a pretty vast RAID array for holding the messages in queues until they have been delivered, and if availability is critical then by simply having two MQ Appliances and three cables between them you instantly have duplex queues ensuring that any hardware failure does not cause an outage.

Having a uniform appliance for all the major MQ nodes also ensures that there is consistency in terms of configuration and operations. This makes results predictable and speeds up problem determination if there are any application or usage issues. Seems to me that just about any enterprise that has adopted MQ as its messaging backbone will be interested in the MQ Appliance.

And the best bit? It has to be that cool ‘MQ Appliance’ label just under the display!

2015 Middleware Market predictions are out now!

The Lustratus Middleware Market Insight for 2015 is now available at no charge from the store. Every year Lustratus makes its predictions; that’s the easy bit. But each year Lustratus also looks at how the previous year’s predictions fared; no hiding for us!


The 2015 predictions can be downloaded here

Operational Decision Management (ODM) and Analytics Decision Management (ADM) Research Published

Lustratus trains its focus on ODM and ADM

Lustratus has been carrying out considerable research over the last year on the emerging areas of Operational Decision Management, combined with its sister market area of Analytics Decision Management.

As part of this drive, Lustratus has released an introduction to ODM, which can be downloaded through the link below.

See Operational Decision Management

2014 Research

In 2014, Lustratus has been carrying out research into how software purchase decisions are made, in order to provide the best possible guidance to companies trying to drive software purchases through the organization. Samples of this material are generally available, and more will be published at a later date. For example, one analysis followed a major insurance company’s decision over whether to choose an application server platform from IBM(Websphere) or Redhat(JBoss). See Choosing between WebSphere and JBoss, available at no charge from the Lustatus store.