Mainframe Futures – Reading the Tea Leaves for Future Investments

Richard Fichera

I’ve been getting a steady trickle of inquires this year about the future of the mainframe from our enterprise clients. Most of them are more or less in the form of “I have a lot of stuff running on mainframes. Is this a viable platform for the next decade or is IBM going to abandon them.” I think the answer is that the platform is secure, and in the majority of cases the large business-critical workloads that are currently on the mainframe probably should remain on the mainframes. In the interests of transparency I’ve tried to lay out my reasoning below so that you can see if it applies to your own situation.

How Big is the Mainframe LOB?

It's hard to get exact figures for the mainframe contributions to IBM's STG (System & Technology Group) total revenues, but the data they have shared shows that their mainframe revenues seem to have recovered from the declines of previous quarters and at worst flattened. Because the business is inherently somewhat cyclical, I would expect that the next cycle of mainframes, rumored to be arriving next year, should give them a boost similar to the last major cycle, allowing them to show positive revenues next year.

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Bare Metal Clouds – Performance and Isolation Drive Consideration

Richard Fichera

I’ve been talking to a number of users and providers of bare-metal cloud services, and am finding the common threads among the high-profile use cases both interesting individually and starting to connect some dots in terms of common use cases for these service providers who provide the ability to provision and use dedicated physical servers with very similar semantics to the common VM IaaS cloud – servers that can be instantiated at will in the cloud, provisioned with a variety of OS images, be connected to storage and run applications. The differentiation for the customers is in behavior of the resulting images:

  • Deterministic performance – Your workload is running on a dedicated resource, so there is no question of any “noisy neighbor” problem, or even of sharing resources with otherwise well-behaved neighbors.
  • Extreme low latency – Like it or not, VMs, even lightweight ones, impose some level of additional latency compared to bare-metal OS images. Where this latency is a factor, bare-metal clouds offer a differentiated alternative.
  • Raw performance – Under the right conditions, a single bare-metal server can process more work than a collection of VMs, even when their nominal aggregate performance is similar. Benchmarking is always tricky, but several of the bare metal cloud vendors can show some impressive comparative benchmarks to prospective customers.
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Smart, Connected Devices Reshape Customer Experiences in Healthcare and Insurance

JP Gownder

We're living in a time when smart, connected devices -- tablets, smartphones, wearable devices, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and the like -- are being woven into the Business Technology (BT) Agenda of most companies. Nowhere is this trend more intimately applied to the customer experience than in healthcare, where devices near our bodies, on our bodies, or even inside our bodies are changing the way doctors, insurers, and other healthcare players think about patient care.

In a a major new report, Four Ways Connected Devices Improve Patient Care, we've researched how mobile, cloud, and connected devices come together to reshape the patient care experience. Technology innovations on the device and services side are creating new treatment options. And systemic changes to the healthcare system are creating both challenges and opportunities, which these emerging technologies can help address. For instance:

  • Busy doctors spend too much time on electronic health record (EHR) data entry. And when they use a traditional PC in the room with a patient, it's not always a great experience; one doctor told us he felt his "back was to the patient" too often. The solution? Moving to a Surface Pro 3 tablet, armed with better software, which allows the clinician to face the patient directly while still saving time -- and gaining accuracy -- on EHR data entry.
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It Isn’t Over Till The Customer Sings (at ONUG)

Andre Kindness

Wow. Certain networking vendors have started to declare they are winners, while others say software defined network (SDN) is over. All I have to say (in my best George Takei voice) is, “Oh, my!” I’m lucky enough to spend most of my day interacting with many end users to know that those statements clearly show how out of touch some vendors are with customers. Let me make this clear: In today’s environment, only customers can make those statements, and this is probably why some vendors don’t get it. It is a foreign concept and vendors are in the denial stage of loss, losing power to customers.

This realization hit me like a ton of bricks at Open Networking User Group conference in New York City. This hasn’t happened any time in the past within the networking world. Customers are dictating requirements. This is not the same concept as the market deciding the best technology after it gets developed, such as CDP vs LLDP, EIGRP vs OSPF, etc. In this new world, customers are defining network characteristics before the technology exists or has been developed by the vendor community. Don’t believe me? Read through ONUG’s white paper on vendor development guidelines regarding investment directions and proof of concepts (POCs) of SDN and network function virtualization (NFV) for the user community.  

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Shifting Sands – Changing Alliances Underscore the Dynamism of the Infrastructure Systems Market

Richard Fichera

There is always a tendency to regard the major players in large markets as being a static background against which the froth of smaller companies and the rapid dance of customer innovation plays out. But if we turn our lens toward the major server vendors (who are now also storage and networking as well as software vendors), we see that the relatively flat industry revenues hide almost continuous churn. Turn back the clock slightly more than five years ago, and the market was dominated by three vendors, HP, Dell and IBM. In slightly more than five years, IBM has divested itself of highest velocity portion of its server business, Dell is no longer a public company, Lenovo is now a major player in servers, Cisco has come out of nowhere to mount a serious challenge in the x86 server segment, and HP has announced that it intends to split itself into two companies.

And it hasn’t stopped. Two recent events, the fracturing of the VCE consortium and the formerly unthinkable hook-up of IBM and Cisco illustrate the urgency with which existing players are seeking differential advantage, and reinforce our contention that the whole segment of converged and integrated infrastructure remains one of the active and profitable segments of the industry.

EMC’s recent acquisition of Cisco’s interest in VCE effectively acknowledged what most customers have been telling us for a long time – that VCE had become essentially an EMC-driven sales vehicle to sell storage, supported by VMware (owned by EMC) and Cisco as a systems platform. EMC’s purchase of Cisco’s interest also tacitly acknowledges two underlying tensions in the converged infrastructure space:

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White Box Mania Distracts Everyone And Wreaks Havoc On Investments

Andre Kindness

I’m getting inundated with briefing requests from vendors either coming out with their own white box offerings or somehow supporting the white box market. While white box network solutions provide great value for some industries, more than likely, they are not for your infrastructure but for specific industries such as web scale or high-frequency trading companies. The network world is fragmenting into industry-specific solutions, and the era of Swiss Army knife network hardware is over (see figure below). Mainstream vendors are freaking out because that was their bread and butter. Now they have to figure out who they want to serve. Some uncertain vendors are placing chips on all the squares of the network roulette table; this strategy is a losing proposition for everyone.

Don’t get me wrong. White boxes/bare-metal solutions have their place, but be cautious of the irrational exuberance over this new trend. Resources are finite. The vendors chasing tail lights will at some point have to give up and lock down on a particular path. Activist firm Elliott Management has rattled the cages of some high tech firms and has basically said, “You are killing investors’ return by not simplifying and focusing.” Personally, this might not mean much if you aren’t an investor. However, as an infrastructure and operations professional, you should be concerned about solutions existing a year or two down the road from shotgun-approach vendors; worse yet, you get the effects of a mile-wide, inch-deep investment, which means the solution lags on getting the investments needed to help your company succeed today. 

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I&O leaders and members: what are your KPI's and metrics of today and in the future?

Eveline Oehrlich

Are you struggling with the "right" key performance indicators and metrics for your I&O team/subteam/function?  Let's struggle together and help each other.  We are working on a research project to establish a new I&O Balanced Scorecard for 2015 and we need your help.

We have questions like: 

(1)    What performance does your organization/company require from the I&O organization?

(2)    How do you balance both the performance focus on internal IT (systems of record) with the performance of external (systems of engagement) BT requirements?

(3)    How do you translate these performance needs into objectives for your I&O organization?

(4)    What metrics are key to track to make sure that your I&O organization is meeting its objectives?

(5)    What should a best practice I&O Balanced Scorecard (BSC) look like in 2015?

Help us and help the rest of I&O leaders to develop a new I&O Balanced Scorecard to stay and be relevant to your company.  Reach out to me via a inquiry or email me at eoehrlich@forrester.com and lets talk!

Eveline 

I Got 99 Problems & DevOps Is One- We Need Your Help!

John Rakowski

As we near the end of 2014 there is one tech management term that you will have heard over and over again - DevOps!

I can guarantee that every conference, vendor, tech analyst, tech journalist and I&O professional will have used the term DevOps at least a dozen times this year. If you haven’t -  then why not? DevOps is the pot of gold over the rainbow, the promise of a better world in which development and operations pros work together in perfect harmony making the world a better place. In fact, DevOps is the only thing that should be on your wish list this Thanksgiving and festive season! ok, ok, I am going over the top a bit - sorry, sometimes my British sarcasm takes over!

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Global Vendors Should Expand Their Ecosystem In China

Frank Liu

Back in June, I blogged about why Chinese technology management professionals have started looking more closely at domestic vendors. One reason: a government-led push away from foreign IT vendors that is forcing global vendors to expand their local ecosystem to exploit new service models and improve service delivery. Chinese tech management teams should keep an eye on new trends and be aware of the benefits they bring.

I recently attended VMware’s vForum 2014 event in Beijing. The vendor has established a local ecosystem for the three pillars of its business: the software-defined data center (SDDC), cloud services, and end user computing. VMware is working with:

  • Huawei to refine SDDC technologies.VMware is leveraging Huawei’s technology capability to improve its product feature. VMware integrated Huawei Agile Controller into NSX and vCenter to operate and manage network automation and quickly migrate virtual machines online. Huawei provides the technology to unify the management of virtual and physical networks based on VMware’s virtualization platform. This partnership can help VMware optimize its existing software features and improve the customer experience.
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Reflections on CA World 2014: CA Technologies Is Going All Disco

Eveline Oehrlich

We attended the recently held CA World 2014 in Las Vegas which we estimate had about 5000 customers. Over and over we kept asking: What’s the intention of CA Technologies for this year’s event?

It’s not just that the event had Magic Johnson speaking about his past career and how he transformed from a world class athlete to a successful business man or the Tuesday night music event by Fray, a rock band from Denver, Colorado.  It was the entire atmosphere of the showcase, keynotes and presentation styles which gave us the feeling this is really a new CA – a CA that wants to shed the image of suits and complex solutions and replace it with T-shirts, jeans and cool, digital solutions. 

Envision a large solution floor scattered with CA Technology solutions and some of their partners; coffee, food and snack stations, surrounded by presentation theaters which featured topics like Business Intelligence, DevOps, Mobility, Security and Business Intelligence.  Very different, very vogue and very modern! Most important we saw a CA which stressed that “every company is a software company and innovation is key to create a powerful advantage” (quote from Amit Chatterjee, CA Technologies during keynote on Tuesday).  Sentences like “we are living in the application economy” and “mobile, the new interface for your mainframe” puzzled and excited both legacy installed base, prospects and other clients. 

As analysts we have to say “Well done CA Technologies”.  For attendees , next steps are how to transform into the digital business.  Keynote presenters from Twitter, Facebook, Nike and Samsung made it sound like a walk in the park – reality is proving us differently, but CA is driving innovation in today’s application economy.