Archive for December, 2007

Have a great Christmas!

[Edit: Jan/8/2008. Removed graphic, you can see it here.]

I’ll be posting at least on one topic over the holidays, although a few have got me sparked up, @monkchips post on Erlang and why Amazon doesn’t need IBM, at least.

Not sure how much access to my ibm email I’ll have. I’m heading back to Europe today with four laptops, this one, the two I’ve been using for grid and web services development, and my prior IBM UK laptop. Turns out they want them all back.

Taking four laptops through security was fun! If you need to get in touch urgently either contact me through Twitter, or use google to find my personal email address. It’s not hard but I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader.

On a clear day, can you see a cloud?

It’s not very often these days I get to escape my bunker in IBM Austin. On December the 6th I was asked to speak at the NCOIC Conference and work group in St Petersburg, Florida.

The invitation came in a roundabout way, via Massimo Re Ferre from IBM Italy, and Bob Marcus at SRI. The agenda and speakers looked interesting, and so I decided to take the opportunity and go run some of the current thinking by an influential audience. Speaking right before me was Roger Smith, CTO of the US Army PEO STRI division, and he gave a fascinating talk on warefare simulation and training.

I decided to talk about the evolution of Grid, On Demand, SOA and the Blue Cloud implementation of a Service Oriented Infrastructure. We had a useful discussion on what could be done now, net answer, pretty much all of it. You can’t buy it as a product or solution, but you can build it from either IBM or open standards/source parts now.

What’s made the difference is the ability to build around a common, composite infrastructure for management. Previously we’d tried to build and deliver this everywhere, now it’s much more focussed on platform by platform based implementation. Get it right in one place, move it to another.

I’ve posted the slides on here and I’ve also put the PDF on wordpress for download, here.

Is it so hard to work with IBM?

via James Governors feed, I read a pretty disappointing blog post on Don MacAskill CEO and Chief Geek of SmugMugs, SmugBlog.

Reading some of his past posts it’s easy to accuse Don of being a bit of a Sun fanboy. He recently ran a server bake-off to get some new servers for SmugMug, and decided to go with Sun, fair enough. I can’t dispute that Sun have a good offering in the web space, and being based out on the West Coast, get a lot of face time and word of mouth endorsements with many of the startups, especially in the web 2.0 space.

I know how important this can be. Back in 2000, I hung out a lot at the Silicon Valley World Internet Center and then, late in 2005, early 2006 worked out of the IBM office in Palo Alto with a number of key virtualization partners to get some direction and development work started.

What troubled me was not the Don had chosen Sun for his servers, but his comment “One of the attendees, who spends obscene, ungodly amounts of money with IBM, can’t even get engineering staff on the phone. Apparently, IBM has a big sales force who’s trained to buffer customers away from the engineers.”

“shurley shome mishtake”? My whole career before I joined IBM, was littered with experiences with sage and helpful IBM engineers. Either through the numerous user groups, or best of all, when the products broke, and after talking to level-1 and level-2, you’d get through to the level-3 folks. I remember to this day having a discussion with someone called, I think, Linda Iannella, who worked up in Kingston in the mid-1980’s. She knew code like no one I’d ever spoken to, when I asked how she was so sage, she replied, “I work on this code 10-hours a day, every day”. Adrian Walmsley, a former IBM UK employee was probably the most influential, and I’m delighted to have worked with him later on.

Have things changed so much that you can’t get in touch with the technical team at IBM anymore, or was Don’s experience atypical? Is it a west coast versus east coast thing, or just becuase IBM is so big these days?

I have to admit, getting things actually done these days can be difficult at times if you approach a novice IBMer, but we have an excellent kStart team out in the valley working with some startups, and most of the blue coud work is being done in Almaden and SVL.

Let me know what your experience has been. Can I help ??

About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I am a Fellow of the British Computer Society ( I'm an information technology optimist.

I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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