Although U.S. President Obama and Cuban President Castro announced their agreement earlier this month to normalize diplomatic relations between their countries, there remain many unresolved disputes. One of the thornier issues is that Cuba nationalized the assets of numerous U.S. companies, and many of those companies registered their losses with the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission under U.S. law. Among them: IBM World Trade Corporation. Yes, that’s right: under U.S. law, the Cuban government owes IBM payment for the IBM mainframes and other IBM assets that the Cuban government nationalized on January 26, 1961.

To be specific, the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission determined that IBM is owed $6,449,434 as of January 26, 1961, plus 6% interest compounded annually. If my math is correct, that’s about $135 million in accrued interest to date. IBM’s claim is file number CU-2155. The bulk of that claim is related to “data processing rental machinery” in Cuba that was on lease and partially depreciated but neither paid for nor returned to IBM. (Most customers leased their mainframes and other machines from IBM at that time, and many still do.) IBM’s claim is by no means the largest, but it is among the top 40 largest corporate claims on file. It’s larger than GE’s claim, as an example.

According to Gordon R. Williamson’s memoirs, “IBM Cuba was a large and thriving operation.” Then something strange happened after the 1959 revolution. Starting in late 1959 and through 1960, Cuba’s new communist government nationalized all the Cuban branches of foreign companies except IBM Cuba. “The Castro government and most of the nationalized companies were users of IBM equipment and services and the governmental authorities were concerned about their technical ability to properly operate and service the IBM installations. It reached the point where IBM was actually embarrassed and concerned the IBM company was the only remaining privately owned foreign entity. On the surface it appeared that IBM had entered into some collaborative arrangement with the communists (even though this was certainly not the case).” It turned out that IBM Cuba outlasted even the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961, yet IBM hung on for a couple more weeks.

IBM Cuba’s main office was located at 171 Calle 23 in Vedado, Havana, Cuba. Calle 23, also known as “La Rampa,” is the main street in Vedado. As best I can tell that office building is now home to the Corporación Financiera Azucarera, S.A. (“ARCAZ”). It also appears that IBM shared the building with a couple other companies including Chrysler. IBM Cuba also had a small satellite office in Santiago de Cuba.

IBM’s FCSC claim substantiates that IBM Cuba had machines on lease in Cuba manufactured as late as 1954. (There may have been newer machines, but as far as I can tell the depreciation discussion in the claim file only lists equipment manufactured through 1954.) IBM introduced its Model B typewriters in 1954, and IBM Cuba certainly leased and/or sold many electric typewriters throughout the country. Some are probably still in service. It’s quite possible an IBM 650 (or several), the world’s first mass-produced computer, made it to Cuba. (All computers back then were “mainframes.”) Certainly the IBM 604 and IBM 407 would have been relatively common workhorses.

I would have to assume that most of that 1950s IBM equipment is now retired with the exception of some IBM electric typewriters and some IBM (now Simplex) time clocks, popular in schools and factories for signaling class periods and shift changes. The outstanding U.S. corporate claims, totaling billions of dollars, also endure.

Kenya Power, Kenya’s national electricity distributor and retailer, has recently taken delivery of a new IBM zEnterprise mainframe to run its first data warehouse, business intelligence, analytics, and forecasting applications. Kenya Power thus becomes the first zEnterprise customer in all of East Africa.

It’s a beautiful day in Nairobi today, and I couldn’t be more excited and thrilled about this big step forward Kenya Power is taking on their journey to deliver reliable, clean electricity more efficiently. KP selected the most powerful, most capable, most reliable, and most secure analytics solution to help them continuously improve their business. For the first time KP’s managers will see a current, single view of their business in unified dashboards, even when they’re out in the field using mobile devices.

IBM’s Colin Page and I, along with Symphony, spent literally years working with Kenya Power to design and to refine the best, most innovative solution to meet or exceed their current and future needs. (And a score of individuals then worked/are working, sometimes round the clock, to meet KP’s February, 2015, in-service goal for their first BI services.) We arrived at a solution architecture that is at once elegantly simple and extraordinarily powerful: the IBM zEnterprise Analytics System 9710 tailored to KP’s specific needs. Everything Kenya Power needs to improve their business insight dramatically runs on their new, mission-critical zEnterprise zBC12 server.

Their server is equipped with 4 types of main processors: CPs, a zIIP, IFLs, and an ICF. They’re running z/OS 2.1 and DB2 11 for z/OS on the CPs and zIIP. They’ll use their ICF to take advantage of DB2 data sharing in the near future to support continuous service data warehousing and business intelligence. On the same machine they run IBM InfoSphere DataStage to extract, transform, and load data regularly and frequently from a variety of data sources (billing, the grid, financial planning, etc.) into their new DB2 for z/OS data warehouse. Some real time and near real time feeds into their enterprise warehouse, particularly from the grid, are planned. They also use InfoSphere QualityStage to cleanse data properly, a critical part of gaining better business insight. IBM Cognos Business Intelligence provides reporting, dashboards, and mobile services for securely accessing their warehouse from Nairobi and from across the country, out in the field. Before long well over 1,000 employees will be using this new analytics and reporting system. They also have IBM SPSS Modeler to help a few KP business planners predict trends and recommend next best actions for the organization to serve its clients better. Yes, all of these advanced capabilities run on zEnterprise, with z/VM and Linux.

They also have the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator (IDAA) powered by Netezza technology. Thus Kenya Power joins the world’s most cutting edge customers in being able to process complex, long-running business intelligence queries in seconds rather than hours or days. It’s no exaggeration to say that IDAA is revolutionizing what businesses can do with their enterprise data, dramatically raising their business performance based on quick, current, actionable insight.

The IBM DS8870 Enterprise Storage System provides Kenya Power with the reliable, high performance storage space they need to grow and the option to add much more in the future.

Kenya Power has now embarked on a journey to transform and to modernize nearly all of its business operations. We’ll continue to work with Kenya Power to achieve even greater efficiencies (including reducing their own data center’s electric power consumption) and to add new capabilities and applications to their already world class infrastructure.

Thank you, Kenya Power, and welcome to the mainframe family.

Kenya Power Sign

I’d like to report that IBM is now distributing its software development kit (SDK) for Node.js running on mainframes. Node.js is a server-side JavaScript application environment that’s gaining some popularity. Node.js is a trademark of Joyent.

IBM is offering its Node.js SDK for download at no charge. Priced support is optional and available from IBM if you want or need it.

You could (and still can) download, build (if necessary), and run any open source software projects you like on your mainframe, so Node.js on mainframes isn’t necessarily new. What is new is IBM’s distribution and the fact IBM puts some energy into testing and optimizing Node.js on mainframes.