Christopher O’Malley, Compuware’s CEO, cites some recent, extremely interesting economic analysis from Dr. Howard Rubin. Rubin studied various businesses to look at IT productivity: how much value are they getting for their IT spending? And how does that value vary depending on where they spend their IT dollars (and euro, and yen, etc.)? In particular, if they emphasize mainframe-based IT, how much “bang for the buck” do they get versus mainframe avoidance?

The answer is that “mainframe heavy” businesses simply get a lot more bang for the buck.

As examples, when Rubin looked at retailers, he found that the mainframe-based companies averaged $194.09 in total IT spending per SKU (stock keeping unit). In contrast, retailers that relied more heavily on distributed servers spent an average of $252.27 per SKU on IT. Among insurance companies, the mainframe-oriented insurers spent $56 on IT per claim, and the distributed server heavy insurers spent $92 on IT per claim. There’s also some evidence that the value gap is widening, and Rubin offers some interesting hypotheses explaining why that might be happening including “starburst effects” associated primarily with fast growing mobile interactions.

O’Malley argues strongly in favor of the “post-modern mainframe.” I like that term. I would interpret the post-modern mainframe (and modern enterprise architecture) as:

  • the centralized (or re-centralized!) enterprise System of Record;
  • also acting as the enterprise security hub providing common security services;
  • still running well maintained, progressively enhanced and encapsulated, concurrent batch and online business logic of whatever vintage(s) that still has value to the business;
  • with additional, popular run-times and expanded cloud capabilities;
  • with additional, on-platform System of Engagement and System of Interaction capabilities (including especially real-time/every-time analytics);
  • closely paired with cloud-based System of Engagement and System of Interaction capabilities where they make sense.

Technically that’s not hard to do, really. Much of this formula you get if you simply stay reasonably current in your software versions. For example, you get the WebSphere Liberty Profile with the latest CICS Transaction Server releases. O’Malley is optimistic that leading companies are abandoning the “hairball” deployment architectures. There’s some evidence of that.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that “Safe Harbor” provisions as they’ve existed for about 15 years are not adequate to protect Europeans’ data privacy interests. The BBC has posted a fairly extensive story on the ruling, and IBM has an official reaction.

If I understand IBM’s official reaction correctly (and the reactions of other technology companies), there’s great concern about regulatory uncertainties and, in particular, inconsistencies. That’s perfectly understandable and sensible. Nobody wants to deal with 28 or more unique data protection rulesets and legal regimes. According to the BBC’s report, the European Commission seems at least aware of that potential problem, which is encouraging.

In the wake of the ruling, businesses and other organizations must have “model contract clauses” in place (and obey those clauses!) in order to transfer personal data from Europe to the United States (and, I assume, to any other countries outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland). Those model clauses require the parties to take due care in how they use and secure Europeans’ personal data — the “rules of the road” for protecting privacy. For about a decade and a half, between Europe and the U.S. specifically, businesses could rely on a single “master” set of rules called “Safe Harbor,” but no more. Fifteen years ago European regulators feared that commercial entities would abuse personal data, inspiring “Safe Harbor.” Now the ECJ recognizes that governments are potentially or actually infringing individuals’ privacy rights, so the Court ruled that “Safe Harbor” isn’t enough.

So what does all this regulatory turmoil have to do with mainframes? As I’ve written before in various ways, businesses and other organizations handling personal data simply need to become much better stewards and protectors of those data. That was true before the ECJ ruling, and it’s even more true now. Mainframes and their middleware (e.g. DB2 for z/OS) are extraordinarily powerful, effective tools to help protect personal data and only to authorize access strictly according to complex, evolving rulesets. Mainframes uniquely minimize data movement and data duplication since they facilitate complex, concurrent information and application processing across a single instance of data. They are also excellent “cloud outposts” if/when they need to be. A single mainframe, even the smallest zBC12 model, is a whole “data center in a box.” The mainframe uniquely offers strict (and certified) security “zones” to preserve personal data separations within a single footprint. So if you build at least the privacy-protecting “System of Record” parts of your cloud infrastructure on IBM z Systems, you can much more easily and cost-effectively roll with evolving regulatory punches.

That’s not to say people like to have to worry about regulatory turmoil, especially if you already haven’t been adequately protecting personal data. (The IT industry has a lot to answer for in this respect, and so do regulators. There’s much work ahead, though only some of that work is a result of this ruling.) Fortunately there are some powerful tools available, mainframes included. Regulators (and courts) get concerned and act when industry fails, so, first and foremost, let’s not fail. Hopefully everybody can agree that privacy and protection of personal data are really, really important. Consistently important we also hope.

IBM has a particularly big load of Big Data-related announcements this week (the first full week of October, 2015). It seems like a great time to take stock of what IBM has been up to lately.

  • IBM is unveiling Version 5.1 of the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator (IDAA) with new in-database analytics, in-database transformation, and accelerator-only tables. There’s literally nothing else like IDAA and its marriage of the world’s best, most secure Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) database with state-of-the-art, real-time analytics, warehousing, and business intelligence in a single, integrated information system. I literally don’t know of anybody who isn’t thrilled with their IDAA since it’s so thoroughly democratizing real-time, every-time analytics all the way out to end-users and mobile devices. This might be IBM’s biggest “killer app,” so do check it out.
  • Is DB2 12 here already? Almost. Yes, IBM is previewing its latest version of the flagship DB2 for z/OS. Among my favorite new features, DB2 12 will significantly improve its in-memory database capabilities and take more advantage of those many terabytes of system memory in the IBM z13 machines. There’s a great deal of emphasis on improved cloud provisioning capabilities including “SQL as a Service” (SQLaaS) RESTful interfaces. The new SQL TRANSFER OWNERSHIP statement is intriguing and mighty useful for maintaining security control over sensitive data. (And what isn’t sensitive data?) The efficiency improvements look unusually impressive, too, with IBM tossing out some bigger numbers than I’ve seen before. This’ll be a version you’ll have even more reason to get onto as quickly as possible even if only to pick up the efficiency gains, though you will likely have to allocate some more memory — an excellent trade to make. (Over-economizing on memory is false economy and a very bad idea.) If you’re interested in getting an early start on DB2 12 then IBM is putting out the call to sign up for the Early Support Program (ESP).
  • Version 8.8 of IBM’s Operational Decision Manager should be generally available in a couple months. Not only is this version particularly lucky in China, it’s particularly useful everywhere for its new “Decision Server Insights” feature that helps improve ODM’s ability to make snap decisions based on even complex rules and events. ODM for z/OS at least starts to imbue new, emerging cognitive computing and analytic capabilities into enterprise transactions and concurrent batch flows. As before it’s also a powerful, high performance way to cut down on application maintenance and, again, to democratize what used to be traditional application development. ODM is available for several platforms, but it’s an exceptionally strong fit with unique run-time benefits on z/OS and on Linux on z.
  • CICS Transaction Server Version 5.3 for z/OS is particularly notable for its new and enhanced cloud services capabilities, and the Java-related improvements are also impressive. No matter what programming languages you prefer — or non-programming approaches to building solutions — CICS TS probably has you covered and covered extremely well.
  • IMS Version 14 becomes generally available later this month, and (in particular) it includes several improvements that help assure continuous business service in what are among the most critical business and government systems in the world.
  • z/VSE users, this is your week, too: a new version of z/VSE and of CICS Transaction Server for z/VSE, both with lots of useful improvements. As before, I recommend pairing your z/VSE environments with Linux on z and/or z/OS to tap into those solution portfolios too, and IBM has a lot of options built into z/VSE to help you do that cost effectively.

To read up on these and other IBM announcements, visit IBM’s announcements Web site at http://www.ibm.com/common/ssi.

Posted in IBM.