Archive for the 'middleware' Category

Dell Software Group

Michael Dell announced this morning that John Swainson will join Dell to head up our new software group. John was one of the key executives at IBM in the creation and drive behind IBM’s Application and Integration Middleware division.

In the new world of cloud, massive scale datacenters, and the growing importance of mixed private/public cloud demand, it will be very interesting to see where John and the Exec team want to take the software group. Here is the formal press announcement from Corporate comms.

In an indirectly related announcement from earlier in the week, Dave Johnson, our Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy, announced that we were again going to expand our Silicon Valley software and R&D development and investments following our acquisitions of Force10, Scalent and many others. Marketwatch has a useful summary of Daves’ comments.

Oh, Now it’s legacy IT that’s dead. Huh?

I got a pingback Dana Gardners ZDNet blog for my “Is SOA dead?” post. Dana, rather than addressing the issue I raised yesterday, just moved the goalposts, claiming “Legacy IT is dead“.

I agree with many of his comments, and after my post “Life is visceral“, which Dana so ably goes on to prove with his post. I liked some of the fine flowing language, some of it almost prosaic, especially this “We need to stop thinking of IT as an attached appendage of each and every specific and isolated enterprise. Yep, 2000 fully operational and massive appendages for the Global 2000. All costly, hugely redundant, unique largely only in how complex and costly they are all on their own.” – whatever that means?

However, thinking about a reasonable challenge for anyone considering jumping to a complete services or cloud/services, not migrating, not having a roadmap or architecture to get there, but as Dana suggests, grasping the nettle and just doing it.

One of the simplest and easiest examples I’ve given before for why I suspect as Dana would have it, “legacy  systems” exist, is becuase there are some problems you just can NOT be split apart a thousand times, whose data can NOT be replicated into a million pieces.

Let’s agree. Google handles millions of queries per seconds, as do ebay and Amazon, well probably. However, in the case of the odd goggle query not returning anything, as opposed to returning no results, no one really cares or understands, they just click the browser refresh button and wait. Pretty much the same for Amazon, the product is there, you click buy, and if every now and again there was one item of a product left at an Amazon store front, if someone else has bought it between the time you looked for it and decided to buy, you just suffer through the email that the item will be back in stock in 5-days after all, it will take longer than that to track down someone to discuss it with.

If you ran your banking or credit card systems this way, no one would much care when it came to queries. Sure, your partner is out shopping, you are home working on your investments. Your partner goes to get some cash, checks the balance and the money is there. You want to transfer a large amount of money into a money market account, you check and there amount is just there, you’ll transfer some more into the account overnight from your savings and loan and you know your partner only ever uses credit, right?. You both proceed, a real transactional system lets one of you proceed and the other fails, even if there is only 1-second, and possibly less difference between your transactions coming in.

In the google model, this doesn’t matter, it’s all only queries. If your partner does a balance check, a second or more after you’ve done a transfer, and see’s the the wrong balance, it will only matter when they are embarressed 20-seconds later trying to use that balance, that isn’t there anymore.

Of course, you can argue banks dont’ work like that, they reconcile balances at the end of the day. You will though when that exceptional balance charge kicks-in if both transactions work. Most banks systems are legacy systems from a different perspective, and should be dead. We, as customers, have been pushing for straight through processing for years, why should I wait for 3-days for a check to clear? 

So you can’t have it both ways, out of genuine professional understanding and interest, I’d like to see any genuine transaction based systems that are largely or wholly services based or that run in the cloud.

In order to what Dana advocates, move off ALL legacy systems, those transaction systems need to cope with 1000, and upto 2000 transactions per second. Oh yeah, it’s not just banks that use “legacy IT”, there are airlines, travel companies, anywhere where there is finite product and an almost infinite number of customers.

Remember, Amazon and ebay and paypal don’t do their own credit card processing as far as I’m aware, they are just merchants who pass the transaction on to a, err, legacy system.

Some background reading should include one that I used early in my career. Around the time I was advocating moving Chemical Bank, NY’s larger transaction systems to virtual machines, which we did. I was attending VM Internals education at Amdahl in Columbia, MD. One of the instructors thought I might find the paper useful.

It was written by a team at Tandem Computer and Amdahl, including the late, great Jim Gray. It was written in 1984. Early on in this paper they describe environments that support 800 transactions per second in 1984. Yes, 1984. These days, even in the current economic environment, 1000tps are common, and 2000tps are table stakes.

Their paper is preserved and online here on microsoft.com

And finally, since I’m all about context. I’m an employee of Dell, I started work there today. What is written here is my opinion, based on 34-years IT experience and much of it garned from the sharp end, designing an I/O subsystem to support an large NY banks transactional, inter-bank transfer system, as well as being responsible for the worlds first virtualized credit card authorization system etc. but I didn’t work for Dell, or for that matter, IBM then. 

Speakers corner anyone?

Is SOA dead?

There has been a lot of fuss since the start of the new year around the theme “SOA is dead”. Much of this has been attributed to Anne Thomas Manes blog entry on the Burton Groups blog, here.

Infoworlds Paul Krill jumper on the bandwagon with a SOA obituary, qouting Annes work and say “SOA is dead but services will live on”. A quick fire response came on a number of fronts, like this one from Duane Nickull at Adobe, and then this from James Governor at Redmonk, where he charismatically claims, “everything is dead”.

First up, many times in my career, and James touches on a few of the key ones, since we were there together, or rather, I took advantage of his newness and thirst for knowledge as a junior reporter, to explain to him how mainframes worked, and what the software could be made to do. I knew from 10-years before I met James that evangelists and those with an agenda, would often claim something was “dead”. It came from the early 1980’s mainframe “wars” – yes, before there was a PC, we were having our own internal battles, this was dead, that was dead, etc.

What I learned from that experience, is that technical people form crowds. Just like the public hangings in the middle ages, they are all too quick to stand around and shout “hang-him”. These days it’s a bit more complex, first off there’s Slashdot, then we have the modern equivalent of speakers corner, aka blogs, where often those who shout loudest and most frequently, get heard more often. However, what most people want is not a one sided rant, but to understand the issues. Claiming anything is dead often gives the claimer the right not to understand the thing that is supposedly “dead” but to just give reasons why that must be so and move on to give advice on what you should do instead. It was similar debate last year that motivated me to document my “evangelsim” years on the about page on my blog.

The first time I heard SOA is dead, wasn’t Annes blog, it wasn’t even as John Willis, aka botchagalupe on twitter, claims in his cloud drop #38 him and Michael Cote of Redmonk last year. No sir, it was back in June 2007, when theregister.co.uk reprinted a Clive Longbottom, Head of Research at Quocirca, under the headline SOA – Dead or Alive?

Clive got closest to the real reasons of why SOA came about, in my opinion, and thus why SOA will prevail, despite rumours of its’ demise. It is not just services, from my perspective, it is about truly transactional services, which are often part of a workflow process.

Not that I’m about to claim that IBM invited SOA, or that my role in either the IBM SWG SOA initiative, or the IBM STG services initiative was anything other than as a team player rather than as a lead. However, I did spend much of 2003/4 working across both divisions, trying to explain the differences and similarities between the two, and why one needed the other, or at least its relationships. And then IBM marketed the heck out of SOA.

One of the things we wanted to do was to unite the different server types around a common messaging and event architecture. There was  almost no requirement for this to be syncronous and a lot of reasons for it to be services based. Many of us had just come from the evolution of object technology inside IBM and from working on making Java efficient within our servers. Thus, as services based approach seemed for many reasons the best one. 

However, when you looked at the types of messages and events that would be sent between systems, many of them could be cruicial to effective and efficient running of the infrastructure, they had in effect, transactional charateristics. That is, given Event-a could initiate actions A, then b, then c and finally d. While action-d could be started before action-c, it couldn’t be started until action-b was completed, and this was dependent on action-a. Importantally, none of these actions should be performed more than once for each instance of an event.

Think failure of a database or transactional server. Create new virtual server, boot os, start application/database server, rollback incomplete transactions, take over network etc. Or similar.

Around the same time, inside IBM, Beth Hutchison and others at IBM Hursley, along with smart people like Steve Graham, now at EMC, and Mandy Chessell also of IBM Hursley were trying to solve similar trascational type problems over http and using web services.

While the Server group folks headed down the Grid, Grid Services and ultimately Web Service Resource  Framework, inside IBM we came to the same conclusion, incompatible messages, incompatible systems, different architectures, legacy systems etc. need to interoperate and for that you need a framework and set of guidelines. Build this out from an infrastructure layer, to an application level; add in customer applications and that framework; and then scale it in any meaningful, that need more than a few programmers working concurrently on the same code, or on the same set of services, and what you needed was a services oriented architecture.

Now, I completely get the REST style of implementation and programming. There is no doubt that it could take over the world. From the perspective of those frantically building web mashups and cloud designs, already has. In none of the “SOA is dead” articles has anyone effectively discussed syncronous transactions, in fact apart from Clive Longbottoms piece, no real discussion was given to workflow, let alone the atomic transaction.

I’m not in denial here of what Amazon and Google are doing. Sure both do transactions, both were built from the ground-up around a services based architecture. Now, many of those who argue that “SOA is dead” are often those who want to move onto the emporers new clothes. However, as fast as applications are being moved to the cloud, many businesses are nowhere in sight moving or exploiting the cloud. To help them get there, they’ll need to know how to do it and for that they’ll need a roadmap, a framework and set of guidelines, and if it includes their legacy applications and systems, how they get there, For that, they’ll likely need more than a strategy, they’ll need a services “oriented” architecture.

So, I guess we’ve arrived at the end, the same conclusion that many others have come to. But for me it is always about context.

I have to run now, literally. My weekly long run is Sunday afternoon and my running buddy @mstoonces will show up any minute. Also, given I’m starting my new job, I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to respond to your comments, but I welcome the discussion!

It’s a performance double-up for Power!

That got your attention didn’t it?

We’ve announced another performance and benchmark record this week, IBM WebSphere Application Server benchmark involved more than 109,850 concurrent clients and produced 14,004.42 SPECjAppServer2004 JOPS@Standard (jAppServer Operations Per Second), which translates into more than 50 million business transactions over the course of the benchmark’s hour-long runtime. That’s a lot of clients, and a lot of transactions!

The performance run was completed on IBM POWER6 BladeCenter servers powered by two dual-core IBM® POWER6® 4.0 GHz processors and IBM DB2 Universal Database v9.5 on a System p p595 running AIX.

We ran the test over 52-processors, 2-cores per processor and with SMT on. The software config included 26 WAS instances. Now, the issue here isn’t performance, 26-instances isn’t so bad from a config and deployment perspective either. But wouldn’t it be better if you could bundle that all up into a couple of racks and use cloning, automatic deployment, recovery, scheduling etc. and on an even more consolidated, energy efficient platform.

Funnily enough, we are working on that. The IBM Press release mentions IMPACT 2008, that might be good timing, I won’t be there as I’m off to do the Machu Picchu thing at the start of April.

Prior to the new WebSphere+Power double-up, the 4Q2007 record was held by Oracle on HP-UX Integrity Server Blade Cluster, with 10,519.43 JOPS over 24 server instances on 22 2-core processors; Sun also submitted a SPARC T5120 SPECjAppServer2004 benchmark with Sun Java System Application Server 9.1 running 6-nodes, 18-server instances on 48-cores, 6-chips and only scored 8,439.36 JOPS.

You can read the full press release with links to SPEC and IMPACT 2008 here.

Appliances, Stacks and software virtual machines

A couple of things from the “Monkmaster” this morning peaked my interest and deserved a post rather than a comment. First up was James post on “your Sons IBM“. James discusses a recent theme of his around stackless stacks, and simplicity. Next-up came a tweet link on cohesiveFT and their elastic server on demand.

These are very timely, I’ve been working on a effort here in Power Systems for the past couple of months with my ATSM, Meghna Paruthi, on our appliance strategy. These are, as always with me, one layer lower than the stuff James blogs on, I deal with plumbing. It’s a theme and topic I’ll return to a few times in the coming weeks as I’m just about to wrap up the effort. We are currently looking for some Independent Software Vendors( ISVs) who already package their offerings in VMWare or Microsoft virtual appliance formats and either would like to do something similar for Power Systems, or alternatively have tried it and don’t think it would work for Power Systems.

Simple, easy to use software appliances which can be quickly and easily deployed into PowerVM Logical Partitions have a lot of promise. I’d like to have a market place of stackless, semi-or-total black box systems that can be deployed easily and quickly into a partition and use existing capacity or dynamic capacity upgrade on demand to get the equivalent of cloud computing within a Power System. Given we can already run circa 200-logical partitions on a single machine, and are planing something in the region of 4x that for the p7 based servers with PowerVM, we need to do something about the infrastructure for creating, packaging, servicing, updating and managing them.

We’ve currently got six-sorta-appliance projects in flight, one related to future datacenters, one with WebSphere XD, one with DB2, a couple around security and some ideas on entry level soft appliances.

So far it looks like OVF wrappers around the Network Installation Manager aka NIM, look like the way to go for AIX based appliances, with similar processes for i5/OS and Linux on Power appliances. However, there are a number of related issues about packaging, licensing and inter and intra appliance communication that I’m looking for some input on. So, if you are an ISV, or a startup, or even in independent contractor who is looking at how to package software for Power Systems, please feel free to post here, or email, I’d love to engage.

IBM Software and Power Systems Roadshow

In September and October 2007, the IBM Software Group Competitive Project office put on a short series of roadshows in North America and India to show some of the best aspects of IBM Middleware running on Power Systems. It’s not an out and out marketing event, but one designed and presented by some solid technical folks.

They’ve announced the first set of dates for 2008, and the events start next week. Strangely the workshop is listed on the Software/Linux web page but definitely covers AIX and Linux implementations. Here are the dates and locations, hope some of you new to Power or interested in IBM Middleware exploitation on Power can make it along.

Tampa, FL February 21, 2008
Charlotte, NC February 26, 2008
Philadelphia, PA February 28, 2008
Mohegan Sun, CT March 6, 2008
Hazelwood, MO March 11, 2008
Minneapolis, MN March 13, 2008

About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group. I was formerly Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell, and an IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.

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