IBM introduces a new mainframe computer targeted to some markets better served by clusters of smaller servers

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIBM debuted its z Systems line of mainframe computers in January, 2015. The product line is targeted to a hot segment of enterprise computing consumers, organizations with a burning need to manage mobile devices, users availing of cloud computing offers and, above all, secure online data processing.

Readers can learn more about this product line on its website, IBM z Systems. A quick glance at the marketing communications content reveals some popular and absolutely current computing themes:

  • mobile computing
  • enterprise social computing
  • real-time analytics and “in-transaction” analytics
  • secure, cloud computing

Video product presentations are available on the product website, along with a traditional datasheet in PDF format. A quick glance at the datasheet exposes a cluster approach to delivering the computing power of a typical high performance computing (HPC) system. No problem so far, but how does the introduction of a hardware computing platform with these capabilities align alongside IBM’s announced effort to become a major player in the public and private cloud market for IaaS, PaaS and SaaS? Does it make sense for developers building solutions for Hadoop, Map Reduce, and other cluster architectures optimized for lots of comparatively much smaller CPUs to focus on porting these applications over to IBM’s platform?

Notable on the datasheet is IBM’s suggestion about development platforms. The recommendation is for Java. But a lot of the most promising sector of app development, in, admittedly, very early 2015, is built on scripting languages, with JavaScript getting the most attention. There is also some substantial mention of traditional mainframe computing languages (COBOL) on the datasheet.

So one needs to question just how this product line adds value to IBM’s effort to catch up with its peers in the cloud computing business with systems like these. Certainly a review of the website for these new products is recommended given the themes articulated by the press releases about the z System computers. The most prominent of these are all allusions to mainframe computing, which, in 2014, seems to be something of anathema. Big iron is, unfortunately, no longer the recommended way for most enterprise businesses to proceed, at least not for the ones already committed to Azure, AWS and Google Compute Engine.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved


Are IBM’s Watson Product Problems the Result of a Confusing Market Message?

Spencer E. Ante recently wrote an article about IBM and its Watson super computer for the online Wall Street Journal. In an article titled IBM Struggles to Turn Watson Computer Into Big Business, He contends sales for this product have failed to meet up to expectations.

The revenue shortfall appears to be very significant. Mr. Ante recounts how “IBM Chief Executive Virginia “Ginni” Rometty . . . told executives she hopes Watson will generate $10 billion in annual revenue within 10 years, according to an October 2013 conference-call transcript reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.” (quoted from Mr. Ante’s article, a link to which has been provided above). But sales of the product were reported to be only $100Mil earlier in the same month.

But what kind of product is Watson? Are we talking about a super computer challenging the television game show “Jeopardy”, or are we talking about ” . . . a development platform in the Cloud to spur innovation and fuel a new ecosystem of entrepreneurial software app providers who will bring forward a new generation of applications” (this quote is excerpted from the front page of IBM’s online presentation of the Watson product. Or are we talking about ” . . . analytical software [with an] ability to ‘learn.'” (quoted from Mr. Ante’s article)

Markets don’t handle ambiguous products very well, and purchase them on a very slow schedule. Perhaps IBM product managers should take a step back to objectively sample marketplace perception of what Watson, the product, is all about, and redesign promotional messaging to better convey the message markets need to hear.

In 2014 enterprise consumers can select solutions from a variety of sources for any of the services it appears Watson can offer. Perhaps IBM is aware of the urgency and is moving, expeditiously, to clean up the brand for this product. If not, it makes sense for them to do so as quickly as possible.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved