Some job titles can be vague. Have you ever given your title to a person at a cocktail party, only to have to explain exactly what you do? With a title like "IBM Master Inventor and Senior Managing Consultant", this happens to me all the time. To help explain what we do at the Tucson Executive Briefing Center (EBC), I use the following analogy.
People who want to see or interact with animals have several options. One option is to go visit the animals in their natural habitat. A more convenient option, however, is to visit the animals in a zoo. Zoos bring together a wide variety of animals, making it convenient to visit all of them at one time.
I did not fully appreciate the advantage of zoos until I took a safari in Kenya, Africa a few years ago. The word safari means "long journey" in Swahili. For two weeks, we drove around in a Land Rover on bumpy roads across the country. The best time to see the animals was early in the morning and late in the afternoon. We would drive around for hours looking for a type animal we had not seen already. Most came to see the so-called "Big Five": Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhinoceros. After two weeks and hundreds of miles, we had seen the "Big Nine" which extends the Big Five to include the Cheetah, Zebra, Giraffe and Hippo, as well as seeing a variety of other, lesser known animals.
When it comes to zoos, there are two kinds.
- Self-guided -- offering the basic zoo experience where you are handed a map to visit the animals on your own.
- Docent-guided -- offering a richer zoo experience where the docent provides added value, leading visitors around the zoo, answering questions, providing education, and comparing the differences between the animals.
Over the past 15 years, IBM has been consolidating storage development in Tucson, Arizona moving storage-related projects from San Jose, CA, from Rochester, MN, and from Raleigh, NC. Tucson has the largest collection of IBM storage hardware and software development in North America. I am one of the three local "docents", guiding the clients that come to Tucson to visit the developers.
(Note: I have seen other analogies to discuss groups of developers. There is an old adage: engineers are [like mushrooms: kept in the dark, covered with manure, and then canned when they are old enough]. In 2008, I had a popular blog post relating [Software Programmers as Bees]. In referring to developers as animals in the zoo in this post, I am treating them in high esteem as the star attractions of the zoo. This blog is not meant as commentary on their hygiene.)
Here are some of the types of developers that our clients ask to interact with:
- Research Scientists
A was hired into IBM back in 1986 as a Research Scientist. When clients want to hear about IBM's future direction over the next 10-15 years, we bring in someone from IBM Research.
- Hardware Engineers
While disk systems may seem no more complicated as arranging books on a shelf, clients often want to talk to hardware engineers related to IBM's tape libraries, especially the IBM System Storage TS3500 library and the High-Density frame that can store multiple cartridges per slot in a spring-loaded manner.
- Software Engineers
I have a Bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering and Master's degree in Electrical Engineering, so I am able to speak both sides of the hardware/software divide. Software engineers here in Tucson develop the microcode that runs on disk and tape hardware, the various GUI, CLI and SMI-S API interfaces, as well as Tivoli Storage software, especially Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) and Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
IBM Tucson has a huge test lab, and our testers are very familiar with all of the subtle nuances of interoperability between servers, HBAs, switches and storage devices. We have system and function testers for the individual products, ISV testers to validate software compatability, performance testers, and environment testers to verify the storage devices can handle extremes in temperature, humidity, vibration and noise.
- System Architects
IBM has architects for each product line to help decide which features and functions are developed for each product release. While many software engineers have expertise narrowly focused on an individual component, the system architects need to have a broad awareness of the entire environment. Earlier in my career, I was the chief architect for DFSMS, the storage management element of the z/OS mainframe operating sytsem, and chief architect for what we now call Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
- Product and Portfolio Managers
Product and Portfolio managers are helpful to explain to clients why IBM invested more in some products than others. I had served as the Portfolio Manager for IBM tape systems. When clients want to talk about the business side of our products, such as pricing, licensing and leasing issues, we bring the product and portfolio managers in.
- IBM Executives
For some clients, high level executives want to speak to their counterparts at IBM, vice president to vice president, executive to executive. Our local IBM executives often help kick off the briefing in the morning, or provide the executive summary and discuss next steps at the end of the day. Golfing, dinners and drinks, of course, are always a popular scheduing option.
On behalf of the rest of the Tucson EBC, I would like to thank all the developers who have helped us last year with client briefings. There are too many to mention, and most are too humble to let me put their names in this blog. Team, your assistance is very appreciated!
Many IBMers consider Tucson to be the headquarters for storage, and I have heard IBM executives refer to Tucson as the center of the universe for storage products. However, IBM is a global company. Just as zoos do not pretend to be complete collections of animals, IBM storage development is not entirely contained in Tucson. IBM Research for storage is also done in Almaden CA, Yorktown Heights NY, and Haifa, Israel. Hardware development is also done in Japan, Europe and Israel. Tivoli Storage has locations in Beaverton, Oregon, and Austin, Texas, to name a few. IBM is a big company, so if I left your favorite location off the list, let me know in the comments below.
Some clients, sales reps and business partners have complained that Tucson is not the most convenient location to get to. I get that. One rep asked why we don't have briefing centers somewhere more accessible, such as Chicago or Atlanta, both cities offer a major airline hub. As much as I personally enjoy cities like Chicago or Atlanta, people don't visit zoos just to see the docents, they come to see the animals. Having docents located in Chicago or Atlanta, standing sadly in front of empty cages with no animals to interact with, makes no sense at all.
With over 350 days of sunshine per year, Tucson is actually a well-kept secret. Clients who have never been to Tucson discover the wonders of the Sonoran desert. Coyotes chase roadrunners across our parking lot. Several clients who have come to visit us have ended up buying retirement homes here. If you haven't been to Tucson, or it has been a while since your last trip, I encourage you to [schedule a briefing]. The weather right now is ideal!
technorati tags: IBM, Tucson EBC
Mark your calendars! If you work in IT and have an interest in storage, then there are two upcoming conferences you might be interested in attending!
Join a network of your peers at
[IBM Pulse2012] who are fundamentally and cost-effectively changing the economics of IT and speeding the delivery of innovative products and services. With four days of top-notch education, Pulse 2012 will help you react with agility in changing competitive landscapes, reduce vulnerability throughout the service lifecycle, and continuously improve the business impact of the technology.
I presented at the very first IBM Pulse back in May 2008, which was a combination event to cover Tivoli Storage, Maximo and Netcool. For a bit of nostalgia, read my 2008 blog posts:
In 2009, IBM decided to launch its "Dynamic Infrastructure" initiative at Pulse. Here were my blog posts:
In 2010, IBM announced [Tivoli Storage Manager v6.2].
In 2011, I was unable to attend, so I sent my colleague Tom Rauchut as my on-the-scene correspondent. At this event, IBM launched its Smarter Computing initiative.
The IBM Pulse conference has certainly evolved over the past few years! The agenda is not yet finalized, so I don't know if I will be there again this year.
The second event has a new name. [IBM Edge2012] is the premier storage event that brings together innovative IBM technologies, world class training, leading industry experts, and compelling client success stories and best practices. Edge2012 is dedicated to helping you design, build and implement efficient storage infrastructure solutions.
We started doing these back in the mid-90s, entitled the "IBM Storage Symposium", then later the "IBM System Storage and Storage Networking Symposium". In 2007, I was there in Las Vegas presenting on a variety of topics. See my blog post [Storage Symposium 2007 recap].
In 2008, we had a version of the Storage Symposium down in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Not only did I present, but it was also a "book signing" event for my first book [Inside System Storage: Volume I]. Here were my blog posts: [Introduction], and [Conclusion]. We also had an event in the United States, as well as Montpelier, France, but since I already went to the one in Mexico, I let my colleagues go to these other ones instead.
In 2009, IBM experimented with combining two conferences under one roof in Chicago, IL. The IBM System Storage and Storage Networking Conference was combined with the IBM System x and BladeCenter Technical Conference. The idea was that server people would probably also be interested in storage, and storage admins might also be interested in x86-based servers. See my blog post
[Storage Symposium 2009 recap].
In 2010, System Storage and System x were once again combined, held in Washington DC, but the conferences were renamed to IBM System Storage Technical University and the IBM System x Technical University to give them a common look and feel. See my blog post [Storage University 2010 review].
In 2011, not satisfied that two data points was inconclusive, IBM continued the experiment, hosting both System Storage and System x conferences in Orlando, Florida. Here were my blog posts:
The results are now in. While I think it is admirable to run multiple conferences at the same time in the same place can help reduce costs and consolidate adminstration, it can have its drawbacks also. In the case of System Storage and System x, we learned a few things:
- Having System x and Storage in the same conference gave the appearance that the conference was not focused on either. At smaller companies, there might be people who manage both x86 servers and storage, but at larger companies, servers and storage are managed by separate people, often in separate departments with different travel budgets.
- Nearly all of IBM's storage attaches to IBM System x servers. However there are some clients that run AIX, IBM i or System z mainframes that might not have considered attending this conference, thinking that it was focused on storage for System x servers.
- Both conferences were considered technical education, and might not have appealed to upper IT executives and directors as something to help make purchase decision from a business perspective, or to nework with peers of other decision makers.
The solution - IBM Edge. This conference is focused 100 percent on storage. There will be "Executive Edge" for decision makers to network with their peers, and "Technical Edge" for the storage admins to get the technical education they are looking for on IBM System Storage and Networking products and solutions. Please note that this conference was held in July or August in previous years, but will be held in June this year.
I am very excited about this new direction, and plan to be there in June 4-8 for this event!
technorati tags: IBM, Pulse2012, Edge2012
My how time flies! The month is almost over, and people are asking if I plan to discuss my [New Years' Resolutions]. For those readers new to my blog, you can review the [resolutions I made in prior years]. I started blogging about my New Year's resolutions back in 2007 because IBM has a "black-out" period before it announces its year-end financial results, and I can't talk about IBM itself during that time.
Two articles gave me some insight.
Derek Silvers writes in his blog post [Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them.] Here is an excerpt:
"Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.
Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you're less motivated to do the hard work needed.
In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a 'social reality', even if the solution hadn't actually been achieved."
The solution for this? Spread out your resolutions throughout the year. That is the advice from Jonah Lehrer in his Wall Street Journal article [Blame it on the Brain]. Here is an excerpt:
"Willpower, like a bicep, can only exert itself so long before it gives out; it's an extremely limited mental resource.
Given its limitations, New Year's resolutions are exactly the wrong way to change our behavior. It makes no sense to try to quit smoking and lose weight at the same time, or to clean the apartment and give up wine in the same month. Instead, we should respect the feebleness of self-control, and spread our resolutions out over the entire year. Human routines are stubborn things, which helps explain why 88% of all resolutions end in failure, according to a 2007 survey of over 3,000 people conducted by the British psychologist Richard Wiseman. Bad habits are hard to break—and they're impossible to break if we try to break them all at once."
Based on those two articles, I focused last year on a single resolution, to lose weight. It worked, I lost some weight, not as much as I wanted, and certainly not for the usual eat-less/exercise-more reasons.
First, I tried Tim Ferris' [Four Hour Body] diet, and I had every intention to post about my progress throughout the year, but that didn't happen. The diet involved eating a restricted diet for six days--including beans, green vegetables, and lean meats--then having one cheat day where you eat a whole bunch of the bad foods you weren't allowed the prior week. The problem I had was that I got so used to eating the same way six days a week, that I forgot to cheat! On this diet, cheating is not optional, it is mandatory. Mo, on the other hand, had no problem with the cheat days, and even extended this to cheat afternoons and cheat evenings!
Mid-year, I saw the movie [Forks Over Knives]. I consulted with my doctor, and switched over to a plant-based, whole-foods diet with his approval. This is basically [dietary veganism]: no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no poultry. What's left? Lots of slow carbs like beans, spinach and quinoa, that I had already learned to cook and eat earlier on Tim Ferriss' diet, without the stress of remembering to cheat on the weekend.
The nice thing about this diet is that you can eat a lot more than usual, so you are never hungry. The bad news is that I developed a vitamin deficiency, and so my doctor asked me to switch to a relaxed mostly-vegetarian diet, with some eggs, some fish, some meat, and lots of vitamin supplements.
I thought I would start 2012 with a bunch of funny resolutions, like the ones in [Chuck & Beans], but I decided to keep things on a serious level. If you've made resolutions, do not tell anyone what they are, and try focusing on a single one at a time.
For all of you who had a bad year in 2011, I hope you have a much better one in 2012!
technorati tags: Timoth Ferriss, Four-Hour Body, diet, Forks Over Knives
This week I was aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California! This was a business event organized by [Key Info Systems], a valued IBM Business Partner. Key Info resells IBM servers, storage and switches.
The Queen Mary retired in 1967, and has been converted into a hotel and events venue. The locals just parked their car and walked on board, but I got to stay Tuesday through Thursday in one of the cabins. It was long and narrow, with round windows! There were four dials for the bathtub: Cold Salt, Hot Fresh, Cold Fresh, and Hot Salt.
Stepping on the boat was like walking back in time through history! If you decide to go see it, check out the [Art Deco bar at the front of the Promenade deck. The ship is still in the water, but is permanently docked. It is sectioned off to prevent the ocean waves from affecting it, so we did not have the nauseous moving back and forth normally associated with cruise ships.
(It is with a bit of irony that we are on the Queen Mary just days after the tragedy of the [Costa Concordia], the largest Italian cruise ship that ran aground near Isola de Giglio. The captain will have to explain how he [fell into a lifeboat] before he had a chance to wait for everyone else to get safely off the shipwreck. He was certainly no [Captain Sulley]! I am thankful that most of the 4,200 people survived the incident.)
- Executive Welcome
Lief Morin, Founder and Chief Executive for Key Info Systems, kicked off the meeting with highlights of 2011 successes. I have known Lief for years, as Key Info comes to the Tucson EBC on a frequent basis. This event was designed to give his sellers an update of what is the latest for each product line, and what to look forward to in the next 12-18 months.
- Power Systems
My colleague Pat O'Rourke from Austin EBC presented [IBM Power Systems], from the smallest [POWER-based blade servers for BladeCenter] to the largest [Power 795 server]. When it comes to UNIX servers, IBM is [kickin' butt and takin' names], leaving HP and Oracle/Sun to fend for scraps.
- Vision Solutions
The next speaker was from Vision Solutions that provides High Availability solutions for IBM i on Power Systems. In 2010, their company nearly doubled in size with the acquisition of Double-Take, which provides data replication for x86 servers running Windows, Linux, VMware, Hyper-V and other hypervisors. The capabilities of Double-Take sounded similar to what IBM offers with [Tivoli Storage Manager FastBack] and [Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments].
- Dinner at Sir Winston's
Rather than take the "Ghosts and Legends" tour, I opted for dinner at the Queen Mary's signature restaurant, Sir Winston's. This is a fancy place, so dress accordingly. If you want the Raspberry soufflé, order it early as it takes 30 minutes to prepare!
- System Storage
I presented on a variety of storage topics:
Storage is an important part of the Key Info Systems revenue stream, so I was glad to have lots of questions and interactions from the audience.
- Murder Mystery Dinner
The acting troupe from [Dinner Detective] put on quite the show for us! With all that is going on in the world, it is good to laugh out loud every now and then.
In other murder mystery dinners I have participated in, each person is assigned a "character" and given a script of what to say and when to say it. This was different, we got to pick our own characters. I chose "Doctor Watson", from the Sherlock Holmes series. Several attendees thought it was a double meaning with [IBM Watson], the computer that figured out the clues on Jeopardy! television game show, and has since been [put to work at Wellpoint] to help out the Healthcare industry.
After the "murder" happened, two actors portraying policemen selected members of the audience to answer questions. We didn't get a script of what to say, so everyone had to "ad lib". I was singled out as a suspect, and had fun playing along in character. One of the attendees afterwards said he was impressed that I was able to fabricate such amusing and elaborate responses to their personal and embarassing questions. As a public speaker for IBM, I have had a lot of practice thinking quickly on my feet.
- Fibre Channel and Ethernet Switches
The next two speakers gave us an update on Fibre Channel and Ethernet switches, and their thoughts on the inevitability of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). One of the exciting new developments is the [Brocade Network Subscription] which creates a flexible pay-per-use Ethernet port rental model for customers. This is especially timely given the Financial Accounting Standards Board proposed [FASB Change 13] that affects operating leases in the balance sheet.
With the Brocade Network Subscription, you pay monthly for the ports you are using. Need more ports, Brocade will install the added gear. Use fewer ports, Brocade will take the equipment back. There is no term endpoint or residual value like tradtional leasing, so when you are done using the equipment, give it back any time. This is ideal for companies that may need to have a lot of Ethernet ports for the next 2-3 years, but then plan to taper down, and don't want to get stuck with a long-term commitment or capital depreciation.
The last speaker was from VMware. IBM is the #1 reseller of VMware, and VMware commands an impressive 81 percent marketshare in the x86 virtualization space. The speaker presented VMware's strategy going forward, which aligns well with IBM's own strategy, to help companies Cloud-enable their existing IT infrastructures, in preparation for eventual moves to Hybrid or Public cloud deployments.
Special thanks to Lief Morin for sponsoring this event, Raquel Hernandez from IBM for coordinating my travel, and Pete, Christina and Kendrell from Key Info Systems for organizing the activities!
technorati tags: IBM, Queen Mary, Key Info, Art Deco, Costa Concordia, Lief Morin, Pat O'Rourke, Power 795, DS8000, XIV, SONAS, Tape, TS1140, LTFS, Storwize V7000, Unified storage, FCoE, BNS, VMware, Cloud Computing
Happy New Year, everyone!
I hope everyone had a nice Winter break. For my birthday last month, my good friends at [StarTech.com] sent me a nice [double-headed USB combo cable] that has both Micro-USB and Mini-USB connectors. I am always looking to reduce the number of cables I take with me on trips, and this one is perfect, as I have a Samsung 4G smart phone that uses the Micro-USB connector, and a Canon PowerShot digital camera that uses the Mini-USB connector.
(FTC Disclosure: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this a "celebrity endorsement" for StarTech's product. I have used the cable and it works as expected. My review is based on my own experience using the cable, and information publicly available. IBM and StarTech are independent companies. Aside from giving me this nice cable at no cost, I have not received any payment from StarTech or any other third party to mention them or their product on this blog, I am not affiliated with StarTech in any way, nor do I have any financial interest in their company.)
When the [Universal Serial Bus] standard first came out in the mid-1990s, my colleagues and I were all excited that this will finally put an end to all the proprietary plugs and cables that each manufacturer seemed to waste their time re-inventing the wheel with yet another cable connector. For the most part, USB has simplified this, and the USB cable can be used for both data transfer and for power charging.
Today, there are many alternatives to using a cable for data transfer, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but people are finding that their smart phones and other devices run out of juice way too often. At various conferences, I have seen several people panic looking for an electrical outlet to charge their device, and a few brazen enough to ask other attendees, "Can I plug my phone into your laptop?"
(Caution: Be careful allowing strangers to plug their device into your USB port, as this can provide data transfer in addition to power charging, spreading viruses or other malicious intent. On my Lenovo Thinkpad T410, one of the USB ports is colored yellow and is always powered on, even when my laptop is in suspend or hibernation mode. This would be a safe way to allow someone to charge off your power without concern for data transfer in either direction.)
Recently, I have flown on airplanes where each seat had a USB charging port, ideal if you want to listen to music or watch a video on your device. I have also driven a rental carthat had USB charging ports in addition to the traditional cigarette lighter option, especially useful if you need to make an emergency phone call at the side of the road, or if you are using the GPS navigation feature to find your way. These are both a good step in the right direction!
Carrying one cable instead of two might not seem like much of a big deal, but if you think about it, complexity in the IT industry is all about the number of cables admins have to deal with. The push from 1GbE to 10GbE can help reduce the number of cables. Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) takes it one step further, allowing NFS, CIFS, iSCSI and FCoE to all flow over a single cable. This can greatly reduce complexity in your IT environment.
If you are interested in reducing the complexity in your IT environment, contact your local IBM Business Partner or sales representative.
technorati tags: IBM, USB, StarTech, Samsung, Canon, Lenovo, Thinkpad, T410, Micro-USB, Mini-USB, GPS