Archive for June, 2012

Social Media Gets Down to Business at Enterprise 2.0

At lasts week’s Enterprise 2.0 social networking conference in Boston, the talk got down to serious business. The fun and games of Facebook and Twitter took a back seat to using social networking for actual business work, mainly around collaboration that leads to innovation.

Here is what BottomlineIT wrote about last year’s conference. Not that it wasn’t serious, but the buzz was around networks of networks. Since then the focus has evolved. Basic social and collaboration has morphed into mobile networking and innovation with a strong focus on delivering business value.

To that end, Nathan Bricklin, head of social strategy and Wells Fargo Wholesale Services, advised attendees: “What you should have is a business strategy, and then you can layer social efforts and social tools to support the business strategy.” Nobody disagreed.

Among the vendors and speakers, several main themes emerged:  mobile everywhere, all devices welcome, connecting social to traditional business applications, and collaboration that drives business innovation.

Enterprise 2.0 this year clearly was about social for mobile devices.  If you walked around the show with a small laptop connected via WiFi you probably felt like a dinosaur. You want your social connections with you wherever you are and wherever you go. Social media has become a mobile play, no doubt.

And the products are scrambling to support any mobile device. The iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, and other tablets of all sorts. Unlike previous years where the iPhone ruled, this year any device is welcome. (Your blogger was connecting via an Android smartphone.)

The vendors apparently also now understand that to make social networking acceptable to business they have to interact with traditional business applications. You couldn’t sit through a product demo without seeing how it would connect with a company’s CRM or ERP or financial systems. Pulling customer data from the CRM system and combining it with other social content to drive sales was a frequently demoed example, so was budgeting where input from numerous managers and business units were combined in a final budget.

Finally, streamlined collaboration enabled by social networking alone apparently does not deliver sufficient business value fast enough. The big business payoff from collaboration, it turns out, comes by fueling more, better, and faster innovation.  Said one vendor: “You connect social to traditional business apps and then use social to tap innovation around the periphery of the enterprise.”

The oddball at the show was Crowd Computing Systems, which seemed only marginally social. As they explained it, they join artificial intelligence with crowd sourcing to help companies select business process outsourcing (BPO) providers.  As they put it:  “By fusing human and artificial intelligence to match specific tasks to the best resources for completing them – whether human or machine – we not only make getting work done faster, we make it more scalable, predictable, flexible and accurate.” It’s an interesting idea although I’m still not sure why they were at Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 in Boston is one of two live conferences the organization puts on each year.  The other is in Santa Clara. Starting next week the organization’s two live events will each take on their own positioning as Enterprise 2.0 Boston becomes E2 Social and Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara becomes E2 Innovate. E2 Social will continue to spotlight the technologies and market forces within social business and collaboration, whereas E2 Innovate will look more broadly to what the influences of mobile, social, data and analytics mean for next generation enterprise applications. However it shakes out, BottomlineIT will be there next year.


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IBM Hybrid Computing Choices

Hybrid computing is a concept IBM introduced almost two years ago with the zEnterprise. The idea is that the enterprise can run a variety of workloads on different hardware platforms and manage it all efficiently as a single virtualized system from one console running on the mainframe. In the case of the zEnterprise, an enterprise can mix workloads running on z/OS, Linux, AIX, and Windows on System z, System p, and System x hardware.  The payoff comes from increased resiliency and greater management efficiency.  The cost savings in labor alone could pay for the hybrid computing investment.

If one hybrid computing platform wasn’t enough, IBM now offers a choice of IBM hybrid computing options, the zEnterprise-zBX combination and the new PureSystems family.

Earlier this year, IBM introduced the PureSystems family. At this time there are two PureSystems options: PureFlex, an IaaS offering, and PureApplication, a PaaS offering. IBM implies that more PureSystems will be coming (BottomlineIT’s guess: PureAnalytics and PureTransaction). PureSystems brings System i to the hybrid party along with Power and System x but skips z/OS and z/VM. You manage this hybrid environment with the Flex System Manager (FSM), which looks very similar to the zEnterprise’s Unified Resource Manager. BottomlineIT covered the PureSystems introduction here.

The zEnterprise- zBX combination now encompasses z/OS, Linux on z, z/VM, Power blades, AIX, Linux, System x blades, Windows, and specialty blades.  You can manage the resulting hybrid platform as one hybrid virtualized system through a management console, the Unified Resource Manager. About the only thing missing is IBM’s System i, which is as part of PureSystems.

So now the challenge becomes choosing between two IBM hybrid computing environments that look very similar but aren’t quite the same, at least not yet.  So, which do you use?

Obviously, if you need z/OS, you go with the zEnterprise. It provides the optimum platform for enterprise cloud computing with its extreme scalability and leading security and resiliency. It supports tens of thousands of users while new offerings expand the z role in BI and real time analytics, especially if much of the data reside on the z.

If you must include i you go with the PureFlex. Or, if you find you have a hybrid workload but don’t require the governance and tight integration with the z, you can choose IBM PureSystems and connect it to the zEnterprise via your existing network. Tivoli products can provide the integration of business processes.

If you look at your choice of hybrid computing environments in terms of cost, PureSystems probably will be the less costly option, how much less depends on how it is configured. The entry PureFlex starts at $156k; the standard version, which includes storage and networking, starts at $217k; and the Enterprise version, intended for scalable cloud deployment and included redundancy for resilient operation, starts at $312k. Plus there is the cost of the O/S and hypervisor (BTW, open source KVM is free).

The zEnterprise option will cost more but not necessarily all that much more depending on how you configure it, whether you can take advantage of the deeply discounted System z Solution Edition packages, and how well you negotiate. The lowest cost zEnterprise-zBX hybrid environment includes the z114 ($75k base price but expect to pay more once it is configured), about $200k or more for a zBX, depending on the type and number of blades, plus whatever you need for storage.

The payback from hybrid computing comes mainly from the operational efficiency and labor savings it allows. PureSystems especially come pre-integrated and optimized for the workload and is packed with built-in management expertise and automation that allow fewer, less skilled people to handle the hybrid computing environment.

Right now the wrinkle in the hybrid computing management efficiency story comes from organizations that want both the zEnterprise and PureSystems. This would not be an odd pairing at all, but it will require two different management tools, Flex System Manager for the PureSystems environment and the Unified Resource Manager for the zEnterprise-zBX. At a recent briefing an IBM manager noted that efforts already were underway to bring the two management schemes together although when that actually might happen he couldn’t predict. Let’s hope it will be sooner rather than later.

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Edge 2012 Delivers Real-time Compression and SSD

IBM did not announce a block buster new storage product, no next generation DS8000. But the 2000 people who packed the IBM Edge conference found enough announcements of product enhancements that they didn’t leave disappointed. And the Monday night concert by rocker Grace Potter along with an open bar should have knocked their socks off regardless.

Kicking off Edge 2012 was Rod Adkins senior vice president of IBM Systems & Technology Group, with a recap of IBM’s Smarter Computing mantra. “Enterprises are dealing with data that is increasing exponentially in both size and complexity,” he noted. The world creates 2.5 exabytes of data daily, but the challenge is not just the volume but the speed it arrives. The world will see 450 billion transactions daily by 2020.

In one way or another, all the announcements at Edge 2012 tied back to the need to rein in this explosive growth in data or use the data to gain valuable insights into the business. Among the biggest announcements were the expansion of real-time compression (RTC) across more of the IBM storage lineup. This included the increase in system capacity up to 5x with RTC for SAN Volume Controller V6.4. Similarly, it extended RTC to IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center v5.1. RTC will be a powerful tool for helping organizations accommodate increasing amounts of storage without having to continuously buy more storage.

Other announcements addressed new enhancements to the Tivoli Productivity Center. Enhancements also were targeted to IBM System Storage TS76xx ProtecTIER (includes 7620, 7650 & 7650G). This included improved FSI-CIFS support for broader connectivity in NAS environments, up to 25% increased performance for the IBM deduplication gateway, and double the capacity for the SMB appliance.

Real-time Compression v3.9, itself, increases usable primary storage capacity with no performance degradation and now includes a new capacity planning tool. When applied to tape storage RTC enables storage lifecycle management of multimedia files using IBM’s Linear Tape File System, which can reduce video archive software licensing costs while slashing video tape cartridge costs up to 98%.

To drive this initiative further, IBM also extended RTC to its Storwize V7000, as well as to the IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC). As IBM explains it, unlike traditional storage systems that compress only low activity data or data not frequently accessed, RTC compresses active data by as much as 80%, increasing total effective storage capacity.

Rick Haverty, director of the information systems division at the University of Rochester Medical Center, described the center’s transition to electronic records and the ballooning sizes of medical images, an onslaught of data that was “rapidly becoming ground zero for Big Data.” The solution turned out to be a combination of IBM storage tools that leveraged built-in storage intelligence, automation, and the cloud.

IBM also is enhancing EasyTier, its automated storage tiering, by extending its capabilities to direct-attached, server-based SSDs to help customers coordinate data migration between their disk systems and servers. Easy Tier automatically moves data to the most appropriate storage, including multiple tiers of disk and SSD, based on policy and activity. In fact, expect all IBM storage products to support SSD in one form or another going forward.

This will be my final report on Edge 2012. Hope to be back next year. In the meantime, here is the legal stuff:  this post is sponsored, meaning I am being compensated, by the Storage Community for covering IBM’s Edge Conference.  However, the opinions and writing here are my own.

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