Dinosaurs and Comfort Food
by Claus Mikkelsen on Mar 19, 2010
It’s been a really busy week for me (which, these days is a good thing) but I’m still trying to get a post out before the weekend.
The week started with a couple of days in Seattle to attend the SHARE conference. For those of you unaware of this twice-a -year gathering, it’s the only surviving (I think) general purpose mainframe conference, and mainframe’ers from around the US and the globe were there.
I started attending SHARE again a few years ago after about a 12-year absence and I must admit having walked in with an acute awareness of the demographics. Where are the dinosaurs? Many still believe that the mainframe has been relegated to the Mesozoic era. Not true at all. The demographics were not a lot unlike that of any other conference I attend and I certainly spotted a share of tattoos and oddly colored hair (well, gray and none at all, too), but normal, very normal, on the demographics side.
I’ve been spending the majority of my time over the past few years (who hasn’t been) working on the Open Systems side, since that’s where most of the challenges reside. And I must admit many of the challenges we’re having these days on open systems storage bring a “déjà vu all over again” feeling to me.
But what I really enjoy is a return to the lingo at SHARE for a few days: DASD, data sets, UCB’s, SMS, Sysplex…that’s the “comfort food” since that’s where I was living when I grew up and it’s always great to go home again. Think of an OS that can go years without having to be re-booted (er, IPL’ed). It’s very stable stuff, and a lot of lessons can be learned from this, regardless of the platform.
The session I’m involved in at SHARE has become a lot of fun. It’s a format I’d like to see more of at all conferences, since here we get the “Big 3” storage vendors (HDS, IBM, and EMC…there are no others on z/OS) essentially locked in a panel for an hour, sometimes longer. The idea is to have a face-off in front of our customers.
Years ago on mainframe, the main question was always one of storage compatibility with this IBM-owned operating system. We (HDS and EMC, in this case) had to be 100% compatible to play in this arena. And that is still extremely important and we work hard at that. But what has changed over the years is that we (speaking only for HDS, here; I’ll let EMC chime in on their own strategy), are feeling more empowered to come up with different and more innovative approaches to address the problems du jour. We can work on FlashCopy compatibility and continue to enhance our ShadowImage to provide improved function. We can work on XRC compatibility and at the same time develop HUR to provide additional benefits. You get the idea.
So this is an environment that has dramatically changed from who’s the most compatible to who has the better functionality. If I were to draw a Venn diagram here (I won’t; I’ll leave that up to marketing) you would see 3 mostly overlapping circles with 3 protruding arcs indicating our respective differentiators (I’d argue that the HDS arc is quite a bit larger, but that can be fodder for another blog). But that’s why competition is good, and why this SHARE panel is fun, since it’s a very open debate on who has the better solutions. We can jab, annoy, frustrate, berate, and debate each other in public, and then share (SHARE?) a drink together afterwords. Nothing should be personal, ever. The gloves come off after the camera fades.
So to those of you that think we’re dinosaurs, we’re not, and we continue to collectively pursue better solutions on all other platforms, given the experience we’ve acquired.
But in the meantime, many of us still enjoy returning for some of that good ol’ comfort food, dinosaurs that we may be perceived as being. Long live z/OS!