% fortune -ae paul murphy

Of snow, rocks, a book, and another partisan attack on IBM

Merry Christmas!

I'll be out of town later this week so I'm writing this on Wednesday - between staring out the window at gently falling snow and contemplating the tragic reality that if the present solar minimum leads to massive crop failures around the world next summer, Gore et al won't be among the two billion or so facing starvation as a result of policies they advocate - policies favoring the conversion of food to SUV fuel, the doubling of fertilizer prices, and the near elimination of critical pesticides and herbicides.

Speaking up for IBM.

Here's a bit from an article by Information Week's senior editor Bob Evans about a justice department decision to go after IBM on anti-trust charges:

I was going to say that it's almost incomprehensible that Justice is preparing to once again mount a vague, circumspect, and generally unsubstantiated attack on one of the most creative, innovative and valuable companies in the world, but that would be unfair. Because there's no "almost" about it - to anyone outside of the Justice Dept.'s giant-shoe red-nose horn-honking clownish view of the world, this grandstanding effort to attack IBM and teach the company its proper place is completely and 100% incomprehensible.

If it weren't so pathetically and potentially misguided, it would almost be funny. But it's not -no, not by a long shot.

Perhaps I'm out of phase on this, and perhaps all of us should sleep more comfortably knowing that our Attorney General's trust-busting warriors are out there protecting all of us from IBM's devious schemes to dominate -yes, to monopolize -the mainframe market.

While I think that IBM regularly resorts to non market means (e.g. the courts, the press, financial markets, and politics) to go after competitors they can't beat in the marketplace and that this often amounts to legal but dishonorable conduct, the reality is that Evans is right here. For the U.S. Justice Department to after IBM on its mainframe business is unfair, unreasonable, and utterly perverse because that monopoly is not sustained by anything IBM does - on the contrary, from the Future Systems project to PowerLinux, IBM has repeatedly and honorably invested real money and corporate goodwill in trying to break customers out of that ghetto - but by the insistence and loyalties of a customer base that's forty years out of date and absolutely refuses to advance.

The bottom line on this is simple: if the customer demands the right to buy mainframes at dollars to the value penny, then the customer's bosses should fire him but IBM's executives owe it to their shareholders to take the money and run - and if Holder wants to prosecute somebody on this, he could perhaps be reminded that most data processing managers are middle aged white guys who pay taxes and vote Republican.

That Sun TPC/C thing

The single best report I've seen so far from the Oracle OpenWorld techfest is by Ben Rockwood. Here's what he says about Sun's TPC/C benchmark result:

Larry drove the point about synergies between Oracle and Sun home in 2 ways. The first was talking about the previously released Sun/Oracle ExaData v2 product (pictured above). The second was to show that Sun's technology today, pre-acquisition, is the best platform available for Oracle even against IBM's monster POWER 595 system which consumes 76 standard racks. Sun's solution that beat it consumes only 9 racks, is fault tolerant, based on SPARC (Niagara), got 25% more throughput, gets 16 times better response times, and obviously uses a hell of a lot less power to boot.

I had a conversation with the PAE guys there and got a lot of great details on the configuration and how they made it work. Here are some highlights...

So the Sun system that beat out the 595 was based on T5440 (UltraSPARC T2) systems connected to the new F5100 Flash Array. In order to make all this work in a fault tolerant way COMSTAR was used and throughout the process required absolutely no modification! Apparently the biggest "problem" they ran into [required] some some minor tweeking in the mpt and sd drivers because they weren't designed to hand the extreme number of IOPS coming from the flash arrays. More shockingly, when they got the TPC-C number that beat IBM the CPU's were 50% idle! And, if you can believe it, during the whole time Sun was working on this benchmark of all the flash modules involved, only a single one failed! Just one!

Ok, it's not ROCK (which technologies by the way, are up for resurrection!) but beating IBM with a production ready, off the shelf system, providing nearly instantaneous response at 50% CPU use sure rocks.

Oh, and the most interesting thing at OpenWorld for non Sun users? Oracle 11gR2 has a flash memory extension of the SGA - add:

db_flash_cache_file = /lfdata/lffile_raw
db_flash_cache_size = much more than ram (e.g. 128GB)

to your set-up file, mount an F20 Flash Accelerator card in a PCIe slot - and those nasty OLTP transactions that access some enormous working set suddenly go a lot faster. This is dumb in a Solaris/ZFS environment, but brilliant everywhere else because it makes the system's biggest bottleneck disappear for peanuts.

Blackbelt IT?

And, speaking of opportunities for failure .. things are a little slow right now, so I'm about to dive into the long delayed business of rewriting the infamous Unix Guide to Defenestration series as a single book.

Since it really has two messages and two audiences: a strategic one aimed at senior executives telling them that IT should be delivered by IT professionals but run by user management; and a tactical one describing how Unix can be combined with smart displays to provide the efficiencies of centralized processing with the business value of fully decentralized control; pulling this together is going to be a neat trick - and one that probably requires a new title.

I'm wondering about "Blackbelt IT", but if anyone has a better suggestion (and no copyright aspirations), I'd sure be happy to hear it.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.