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Elisabeth Stahl on Benchmarking and IT Optimization

The Old College Try

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Today is a very big day for many high school seniors. At midnight tonight, early deadline college applications are due. And yesterday, the web portal used by more than a million students a year to submit these applications started having performance and availability issues and then shut down.

Needless to say, for many of these students Halloween was super scary in a real world sort of way. There’s already so much stress involved in applying to college and something like this impacts students, parents, high school professionals, colleges, and numerous others worldwide. And in my opinion, this didn’t have to happen.

I talk with many organizations about something called Best Execution Venue or Fit for Purpose. The concept is basically that you should choose the best technology for your workload based on local factors like non-functional requirements (such as performance and availability), architecture, skills, security and even politics. The best technology might be a mainframe. It might be an OpenPOWER system. It might be a public cloud. Or some architecture involving all of the above.

In this case, the college application site said that the portal ran into trouble because of “unusually large and intermittent spikes in system activity.” What a surprise. The use of this college application tool has been growing fast over the years and it is surely obvious that there would be a peak at this time. We have peaks in retail before the holidays. We have peaks in sporting events as they go live. And we have peaks in college applications right before the deadline.

It turns out that this site uses a public cloud (AWS). For the purpose of handling these peaks. Maybe this isn’t the best venue for performance and availability at this critical time.

One frustrated student tweeted “Does AMAZON Shut Down Hours Before Christmas? Does it Crash?” Ironically, he probably didn’t realize that he really was talking about Amazon.

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The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of IBM or IBM management.

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Written by benchmarkingblog

November 1, 2017 at 11:02 am

Posted in Amazon

Encrypting Everything Really Really Fast, 12 Billion Transactions per Day, at Less Cost !

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Many of us don’t think of it every day but the IBM Mainframe actually supports:

  • 87 percent of all credit card transactions and nearly $8 trillion payments a year.
  • 29 billion ATM transactions each year, worth nearly $5 billion per day.
  • Four billion passenger flights each year.
  • More than 30 billion transactions per day – more than the number of Google searches every day.
  • 68 percent of the world’s production workloads at only six percent of the total IT cost.

And now it’s here. The new IBM Z !!!

With the new z14, IBM takes TRUST to a new level by adding the ability to pervasively encrypt data on the platform. IBM Z pervasive encryption is a data-centric approach to information security — a transparent and consumable approach to enable extensive encryption of data in-flight and at-rest to substantially simplify and reduce the costs of protecting data and achieving compliance mandates.

With the z14 and pervasive encryption, organizations can:

· Encrypt all of the data associated with an application or database on IBM Z, whether at-rest or in-flight.
· Reduce the cost and complexity associated with implementing and maintaining encryption since no changes to the applications themselves are required.
· Protect data without impacting transactional throughput or SLAs.
· Transition from un-encrypted to encrypted databases without disrupting business operations (DB2 and IMS high availability databases).
· Drastically simplify compliance by quickly demonstrating to auditors that all data is protected.

This awesome new system can support > 12 billion encrypted transactions per day on a single system ! It can also encrypt data 18x faster at 5% of the cost of x86-based solutions [1].

IBM Z has been a leader in security with hardened capabilities architected into the hardware, OS and middleware for more than five decades.

Contact the IBM Systems Client Centers for more information or assistance.

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(1) Source: “Pervasive Encryption: A New Paradigm for Protection,” K. R. E. Lind, Chief Systems Engineer, Solitaire Interglobal Ltd., June 30, 2017.

The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of IBM or IBM management.

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Written by benchmarkingblog

July 17, 2017 at 11:43 am

Posted in Uncategorized, Z, z14

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A Journey to Blockchain

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So you’ve heard about blockchain, know you want to get started with it, would really like to reduce costs, risk and process time. What are some of the keys to a successful adoption of blockchain?

In many cases work with blockchain starts as an experiment. A first test should be a relatively easy one – for example, a digital thank you for employees. That success can lead to pursuing a few Use Cases such as Payments, Fraud, Tracking, etc. It is critical to partner with a close distributor, business partner, supplier, friend, who will work with you. IBM did exactly this with our IBM Global Financing adoption of blockchain to reduce disputes — Lenovo was an initial partner.

Proof of Concepts and Use Cases are key to the blockchain journey. The best Use Cases are ones that are not too easy but not too hard. A purely internal use case is almost useless. You want a first Use Case that contains only a few nodes but that will create a large enough ROI to demonstrate a successful business case.

A cultural shift is a large part of the process, using the 80-20 rule: 80% shift of business processes and 20% technologies. I always say that the technology is the easier part; governance is harder.

That’s why it is beneficial to create a “Center of Excellence” to focus on blockchain:
1) To get your hands dirty
2) To explore Use Cases
3) To create a dedicated team and management

Challenges in the journey may include:
* Platform selection
* Lack of enterprise standards
* Lack of licensing models standards
* Management of organizations
* Quantitative validations of business cases
* Lack of skills

IBM Client Centers can assist with all of these challenges to make it a smooth journey. From taking advantage of the open source aspects of the Hyperledger Fabric and IBM Blockchain implementation to helping you choose the right Use Cases to architecting your applications.

So get going now on the journey to blockchain !

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The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of IBM or IBM management.

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Written by benchmarkingblog

April 17, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Blockchain, Uncategorized

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When You Wish Upon a Star – A New Performance Website !

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When I was in college, one of my favorite places to go (to get away from my theoretical math classes) was the city art museum. I would leave my dorm really early in the morning — it must have actually been about 11AM — walk over the bridge, through many deserted city blocks and then over to the museum, grabbing a hot pretzel along the way. The journey seemed to take forever, much of it through an urban wasteland.

One of my dreams during this time involved a shortcut of sorts. In this dream, I would leave campus, cross the bridge and immediately take a short stroll along the river over to the museum. And it certainly was a dream – as the area where this supposed trail would be consisted of old train tracks, trash, brush, debris, waste, refuse, rubbish, litter, scrap, flotsam and jetsam, rubble and detritus.

Many years later, I returned to my alma mater. And found myself crossing the bridge once again to go to my favorite museum. But this time as I approached the end of the bridge I suddenly saw a stairway the went down to the river. And I took it. And lo and behold, there it was — the path of my dreams, a bike and hike paved trail that followed along the river, directly to my beloved art museum.

These amazing things don’t happen very often but when they do you can’t really believe it. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about a new awesome website from IBM.

For many years, as some of you know, I worked on industry standard benchmarks, writing articles about IBM and other results and highlighting comparisons. First it was in a newsletter, then an internal company website, then this blog — but I always dreamed that there would be a one-stop shop for everyone to go to see all the new and exciting benchmark results. And now we have it.

You can now find detailed IBM Power Systems performance data proof points. This brand new website contains test results for several different IT area workloads:

• Big Data and Analytics:  Showing faster time-to-value of big data. Discover how hadoop innovation can deliver faster, more affordable business insights
• Technical Computing:  See how IBM Power Systems solutions deliver faster time to insight and offer accelerated performance for demanding HPC workloads
• Cloud:  Find how to run swiftly and smoothly on a high performing global infrastructure. Deploy global cloud infrastructures rapidly on virtual servers
• Virtualization:  See how new virtualization technology makes deploying applications easier
• Online Transactional Processing and Enterprise Resource Planning:  IBM and SAP industry-leading performance across multiple workloads.

 

Sometimes dreams do come true.

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The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of IBM or IBM management.

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Written by benchmarkingblog

August 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Posted in Performance

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Blockchain on my Mind

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It’s really hard to believe but I actually used to go hiking in jeans. That’s right, blue jeans. 100% cotton blue jeans.

Long before “cotton kills” became the mantra of the North Face set, everyone hiked in jeans. For years — mostly in the beautiful sunny summer, south of the Mason-Dixon line — it was actually just fine.

Until one day I got caught in a giant frigid rainstorm on Cannon Mountain in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I quickly became soaked with icy water, my jeans drenched and hanging heavy. I’ll never forget getting off that mountain, jeans glued to my chilled skin. And then stripping down in the mountain parking lot, spreading everything on top of the car to dry out in the warm sun that had suddenly appeared.

A few years later I discovered these new zip-off hiking pants that could get wet and then dry almost instantly. This technology became a game changer for me. Suddenly, I achieved a decrease in unpleasant hiking time, a reduced risk from illness, and lower costs by avoiding a bad day on the mountain.

Blockchain, the distributed ledger that is everywhere in the news, is similar. Like with the zip-offs, some of us may be early adopters, some of us may have not even heard of it yet. But it’s a groundbreaking technology that is changing business at a breakneck speed.

Blockchain is a technology for applications that establishes trust, accountability and transparency while streamlining business processes. Approvals for items like letters of credit, invoices, mortgage verifications, clearings, and money transfers can now be done right away — and not take days to weeks to even months.

And don’t think that blockchain is just for the financial industry. The ledgers and smart contracts have great value cross-industry including supply chain, healthcare, government, retail. I’ve seen it work for shipping companies. I’ve seen an excellent use case for insurance companies.  I’ve seen it replace lawyers.

IBM is part of the Hyperledger Project, a collaborative effort created to advance blockchain technology by identifying and addressing important features for a cross-industry open standard for distributed ledgers that can transform the way business transactions are conducted globally.

IBM can help with understanding which of your applications will benefit from blockchain and how to get started. Some sure indicators that a workload could benefit from blockchain include managing contractual relationships between more than two parties, complex business logic, and looking to reduce cost.

Using high end systems such as IBM z and Power systems for blockchain implementations is key. Blockchain can be deployed on these systems or connect to these systems to take advantage of the fast processors, memory, cache, hardware accelerators and cryptography, security and integration. The GoLang APIs, the RocksDB database, and the security and consensus algorithms, all on which blockchain relies, can really benefit from these features.

(In fact, lately I’ve been finding it hard to stop thinking about blockchain. True story: Late last night I was innocently reading a book on the couch about Rosemary Kennedy while someone in my family was fixing our kitchen door. And suddenly he started talking about the block plane he was using . . .)

Blockchain addresses 3 of the most important things in the world: Time, Cost, and Risk. So pick a project and get started. Like zip-offs, the world will never be the same.

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The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of IBM or IBM management.

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Written by benchmarkingblog

May 24, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Blockchain, Uncategorized

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Oracle Meets That ’70s Show

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Last week I made the annual spring break pilgrimage to my childhood home in the shadows of the cherry blossoms.

What always strikes me when I visit — and you’ve probably had the same experience — is how nothing, almost nothing, has changed since I lived there four decades ago. Yes, there’s a huge TV with cable now. And a cell phone, though not so smart yet. And an iPad that always needs something done to it. But other than these few new features, the general layout and beauty of the interior is essentially the same.

Which I love. Why get new kitchen cabinets when you can take the beautiful solid wood ones and have them refinished? Why buy new cheap chairs when 50’s Danish Modern is built so well and gorgeous to boot?

But one of the best examples of this retro environment, hands down, has to be the downstairs bathroom. When entering you are transported to the time of Nixon and Sonny and Cher. The colors are tremendous – bright bright yellows and oranges. Big plaid wallpaper. And wicker accessories. A 70’s dream of a bathroom. And you know what — it still looks great. The glamour of everything from the 70’s has returned in full force in this one tiny room.

But some things are not meant to come back. And that includes the way some vendors compare systems and benchmarks.

I recently saw a comparison from Oracle comparing the SPARC T7-1 vs. the IBM Power System S824. It brought me right back to when I started blogging almost ten years ago, when we were all inundated with benchmark flaws. Let’s take a look at some of the details :

  • The tool Oracle used to compare the systems is NOT an industry standard benchmark audited by a third party. It is a tool that can be used by anyone. Oracle ran all tests themselves.
  • The tool used is adapted from the TPC-C benchmark, which Oracle themselves has stated in the past that they feel is dated.
  • The disks used in the systems compared are not the same – HDD vs. SAS.
  • The logs and database files for the IBM test were not run on the IBM system – they were run on a different Oracle system.
  • Solaris 11.3 was used for the logs and database file systems on the Oracle side; Solaris 11.2 was used for the IBM configuration.

 

A photo of my childhood downstairs bathroom was Instagrammed recently. It received 35 likes, over half of them from students at the best design school in the country. That makes sense. Oracle’s benchmark comparisons don’t.

 

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Oracle and Java are registered trademarks of Oracle and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.
TPC-C ,TPC-H, and TPC-E are trademarks of the Transaction Performance Processing Council (TPPC).

The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of IBM or IBM management.

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Written by benchmarkingblog

March 23, 2016 at 10:07 am

Posted in Oracle, POWER8, SPARC

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Embracing the Cognitive World Every Day with IBM Systems

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Read the full article here

OK, so it was time. I didn’t have an excuse anymore. That I had a report due at work, or that the holidays were coming, or that I had to go to the dentist.

It was finally time to do something that I had avoided for almost a year. Something that was even worse, if you can believe it, than preparing my taxes. It was time to make the dreaded updates to my insurance policy.

These were not the sort of quick changes that I could easily do online or rapidly with a phone call. These were excruciatingly detailed updates to all of my policies–home, auto and personal. They came with multiple liabilities, multiple schedules and multiple riders. I would need to block out many hours of the day for this one. And suffer the nightmare involved in these complex negotiations with my insurance agent to hedge against the risk of an ugly, contingent, uncertain loss.

As it turned out, my foray into policy updates ended up taking weeks, not hours. The complexity of the millions of arcane rules around these types of policies is mind-boggling. Are you living in the state of Ohio with 3 1/2 baths? How many boats do you own? Gosh forbid you have any male teenage drivers. Or a dog.

But this very situation is actually a typical everyday situation where cognitive computing can really shine . . .

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The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of IBM or IBM management.

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Written by benchmarkingblog

March 2, 2016 at 11:06 am

Posted in Cognitive, Watson

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