SHARE in San Francisco Journal: The cloud before the Cloud

“System z was a cloud before Cloud was an [industry] term,” IBM’s General Manager for System z Doug Balog told attendees at the SHARE in San Francisco conference. He was referring to the mainframe’s 50-year history of delivering the type of flexible, scalable and cost-effective computing users are now looking to gain by moving to a cloud solution.

During his keynote speech – Smarter Computing in the New Era of IT, Balog cited IBM’s global study “The Essential CIO”, which surveyed more than 3000 technology executives from more than 70 countries and 18 industries and revealed nearly two-thirds of them ranked Cloud computing as a high priority in visionary planning. This tech C-suite focus is one reason Q4 2012 revenues from System z server products increased 56% compared to the same period a year prior. The z business line also added more than 180 new clients since late 2010. But despite conventional wisdom that Cloud adoption is about cutting computing costs, Balog believes the actual driver is “all about speed.”

“The Cloud is about agility,” he explained and touted System z as “efficient, scalable infrastructure” that is highly available and secure at its core. Great savings in operating costs come from boosting mainframe performance, not eliminating hardware, he argued.

Balog said one client discovered “just one percent better performance can mean $70 million in savings to the bottom line.”

(Watch the President’s Corner for an in-depth interview with Balog from SHARE in San Francisco.)

Still, It’s Just Computing

In one of his sessions – Win with Cloud on System z – IBM Distinguished Engineer Frank J. De Gilio, a long-time pragmatic voice on Cloud computing for the mainframe (See “Where Does the Cloud Cover the Mainframe” by President’s Corner contributor Pedro Pereira; IBM Systems Magazine, June 2012) elaborated on Balog’s point.

“Cloud is a user model, not a technology,” De Gilio said. “The challenge is: How can I manage a new and entirely different model in a very short time?”

In a later session – Cloud on System z: The Real Deal – De Gilio shared what he called “stuff we’ve actually tried” with conference participants. He and Mike Buzzetti, a Cloud Architect at IBM, evaluated half a dozen methods for deploying Cloud architecture for System z, including “build your own.”

“We know how it works, as opposed to how it should work,” De Gilio told the audience and then rated “Build Your Own,” the open-source xCAT tool, zEnterprise Starter Edition for Cloud, IBM Workload Deployer, IBM Systems Director and IBM System z Solution Edition for Cloud in terms of Time to Value and Extensibility. (Details of the evaluation can be reviewed by conference registrants at SHARE Live! –SHARE Content Center)

Regardless of hype, De Gilio counseled, Cloud computing must be approached rationally like any IT decision: Consider business requirements and learn how the characteristics of Cloud apply to your advantage.

De Gilio named five aspects of Cloud solutions to contemplate:

  • Resource Pooling
  • Broad Network Access
  • Metering & Monitoring
  • On-Demand Self-Service
  • Infinite Elasticity

“Do things because they make sense, not just because you have the capability,” he cautioned.

The Lunatic is in the Hall
(Or, in this case, the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square)

In his session – The Dark Side of Cloud – Buzzetti used lines from songs on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album to cast the pitfalls of buying enterprise Cloud services in a humorous light. He reviewed more than a dozen drawbacks mainframers should ponder when eyeing Cloud services for the enterprise, including:

  • Vendor Lock-In – You can get up quickly but not out
  • Terms of Service – Some are inflexible and immutable
  • No Influence – Not on maintenance, interface, backup and/or recovery
  • Outages – They happen, and they’re out of your control
  • Breaches – Ditto above
  • Bankruptcies – No Cloud service provider has been around as long as the mainframe
  • Hidden Costs – Junk fees are not always clear or understood
  • Denial of Service Attacks – Hackers can use Cloud services as leverage
  • Business Plans – Many cloud providers don’t have them
  • Cyberbullying, Cybercrime and Cyberterrorism – All Cloud-enabled

Despite the ominous tone of some of his points, Buzzetti remained upbeat. He reminded the audience that all business models require risk management and hiding from the spread of the Cloud is not an option for mainframers.

“Cloud will be here for a long time,” he said. In fact, like many emerging technology delivery models of the past, someday we’ll probably be calling it something else.

Communications strategist Bob Dirkes attended SHARE in San Francisco on special assignment. Follow him on Twitter @RCDirkes.  Follow SHARE on Twitter @SHAREhq. Next installment of SHARE in San Francisco Journal: Mobile Device Management (MDM) for the Mainframe is On the Move.

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