IBM issued a monster product withdrawal announcement earlier this week. For the record, I’m personally not fond of how IBM announces product withdrawals. Yes, IBM typically includes a “Replacement program information” section in such announcements. However, unless the new product is a literal, exact replacement, such as a new release (and sometimes not even then), IBM will often write “No replacement.” Probably because it’s easy for the copy editor to write that, and solution architects (for example) aren’t often the ones involved in drafting these withdrawal announcements. That’s frustrating. In my view, IBM should write “No exact replacement” and, better yet, provide some more useful, solution-oriented guidance about replacement options.

Let’s look at an example or two from this particular withdrawal announcement. One of the “No replacement” products listed is Cognos Business Intelligence for z/OS (5655-Y26). Fortunately there’s no emergency. IBM standard support for that product will be available until April 30, 2018, and extended support will be available to purchase thereafter (presumably). Oddly enough, that product won’t even be withdrawn from marketing until April 30, 2018. But of course there is a superb, mainframe-hosted replacement product: Cognos Business Intelligence for Linux on z Systems. Query Management Facility (QMF) for z/OS is another potential replacement, and so is IBM Cognos Analytics on Cloud. Or some combination. “Talk to your friendly IBM representative,” but no rush.

Another example is IBM Cloud Manager with OpenStack for z Systems. “No replacement.” Actually, no, there are quite a few replacement options for ICMO. Upgrading to IBM Cloud Orchestrator is one possibility. z/VM’s Cloud Manager Appliance (CMA), a no additional charge z/VM feature, is another. Again, no emergency. IBM won’t discontinue ICMO’s standard support until April 30, 2020.

How about ACF/NCP and ACF/SSP? These are classic (some would say “ancient”) networking products for SNA and even pre-SNA network topologies. Their withdrawal should not be a surprise. These products were used in conjunction with the IBM 3745 and 3746 Communications Controllers and their predecessors. “No replacement.” No, there really are replacements. The most common replacement is probably Enterprise Extender (EE), a feature within Communications Server for z/OS, a no additional charge, base component of the z/OS operating system. IBM published a helpful migration guide about 7 years ago, and Chapter 19 discusses EE. Oddly enough, none of the co-requisite products that ACF/NCP and ACF/SSP support (IBM 3745, IBM 3746, IBM Communications Controller for Linux) are still supported. (CCL was the last remaining holdout, but standard support for that product ended on March 31, 2016.) That’s probably why the end of standard service date for ACF/NCP and ACF/SSP is August 31, 2016. If I had to guess, it looks like somebody at IBM forgot to withdraw support for ACF/NCP and ACF/SSP at the same time support ended for CCL. Well, now that’s fixed.

Anyway, don’t panic if you see “No replacement” in an IBM product withdrawal announcement. Simply discuss your migration and upgrade options with “your friendly IBM representative,” and strike a mutually agreeable deal (technical and financial). There are almost always excellent replacement options, often plural, even if IBM doesn’t initially, explicitly tell you what they are in the official product withdrawal announcements.

Bitfinex, a Hong Kong-based Bitcoin exchange, had about $60 million worth of Bitcoin stolen. The exchange has halted deposits and withdrawals, leaving its customers in the lurch. It’s yet another massive security breach within the cryptocurrency world. Of course the Bitcoin shared ledger (and its underlying Blockchain algorithms) worked perfectly, as designed: they allowed the thief or thieves to pocket the stolen Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is only one Blockchain technology-based application. In my view Bitcoin is only interesting for historical reasons: it was first. For all Blockchain applications, IBM offers the most highly secure Blockchain execution environment. With Common Criteria EAL 5+ certified separation of virtual environments, FIPS 140-2 Level 4 certification, the IBM Secure Services Container architecture, CryptoExpress5 key security, and much more — all unique, all state-of-the-art, all extremely secure. LinuxONE provides the best tools available to secure your Blockchain execution environment. You really ought to do that, and now you can most easily.

IBM announced its pending acquisition of the company behind EZSource. EZSource is a set of DevOps-related tools for analyzing mainframe-hosted applications. They help developers identify application interdependencies, create accurate inventories of application assets, assess code quality and complexity, and maintain and improve applications. Many businesses and government agencies want to take advantage of fast growing mobile and API economies. EZSource helps get the job done better, quicker, easier, more securely, and more affordably.

I’m familiar with one major financial institution in my part of the world that is already using z/OS Connect to provide over 30 new APIs to its partners, including especially independent mobile application developers. They’ve leaped ahead of their competitors practically overnight, and their mainframe (and mainframe team) deserve most of the credit. EZSource can now help them add more and better APIs to their partner ecosystem, to race even further ahead of their competitors. Those APIs directly tap into mainframe applications that are rock solid, mission critical, and highly secure. There’s no excess baggage and no unnecessary complexity to slow down their APIs. They perform extremely well, with extremely low latency.

If you haven’t taken a fresh look at the modern mainframe yet, “better late than never.” How about Blockchain technologies, for example? Or real-time, every-time, in-line analytics? It’s at least getting much harder to think of something computing-related that you cannot do well or best with today’s IBM mainframe. IBM (and several other companies, and the open source community) have really been pushing the mainframe envelope over the past several years. It’s quite exciting to take advantage of even a small fraction of all the new capabilities.

Posted in IBM.