Study Shows IBM i Has Big Cost Advantage Over Alternatives

According to an August 2017 study conducted by Quark + Lepton, an independent research and management consulting firm, IBM i on Power Systems servers provides a substantial TCO (total cost of ownership) advantage over equivalent Windows or Linux platforms.

For the study, which was funded by IBM, Quark + Lepton used three different server/database configurations: an IBM Power Systems server running IBM i Operating System V7.3 with DB2, an x86 server running Windows Server 2016 and SQL Server 2016 and an x86 with Linux and Oracle Database 12c. TCO estimates were based on the costs of hardware acquisition and maintenance, OS and database licenses and support, system and database admin personnel salaries and facilities expenses. Several different use cases were analyzed.

A Big TCO Advantage

The results of the study showed the projected three-year TCO for the three setups to be as follows:

  • Power Systems/IBM i/DB2 – $430,815
  • x86/Windows/SQL Server – $1.18 million
  • x86/Linux/Oracle – $1.27 million

The study concludes that “costs for use of IBM i on Power Systems are lower across the board”. For example, initial hardware and software acquisition costs for the IBM i systems averaged 8% less than the Windows systems, and fully 24 % less than the Linux systems.

Perhaps the most surprising factor in the stark differential between the IBM i solution and the others was in the cost of required support staff. Based on a 300-user scenario, IBM i required 0.3 FTE (full time equivalent) support personnel, compared to 0.5 FTE for the Windows setup and 0.55 FTE for Linux.

But the biggest differential in staff costs arose from the fact that IBM i admins could handle both the OS and the database. Those double-duty IBM i personnel commanded salaries of about $86,000, while Windows and Linux sysadmins were paid $71,564 and $86,843 respectively. However, the Windows and Linux setups also required the support of separate database admins, adding $100,699 (SQL Server) and $103,283 (Oracle) to the personnel costs for those solutions.

Simplicity

In its conclusion the report notes that while the industry is trending toward ever-greater complexity, the simplicity of IBM i makes it by far the most cost-effective platform on which to base an organization’s IT infrastructure.

What Is Cognitive Banking?

Cognitive banking is the use of advanced technology to make banks more effective. By using machine learning, AI and data science, financial institutions use data gathered from customers and internal sources to optimize processes.

How Does Cognitive Banking Work?

Banks already collect significant data on interactions and events. Cloud-based machines that understand natural language can learn from all of this data. A machine that has accumulated considerable knowledge can give evidence-based advice to both customers and bank employees. By using these techniques, a bank can provide more value to customers while improving its internal procedures.

Benefit to Customers

When a cognitive system analyzes real customer interaction data, it can gain insights from data by identifying patterns that lead to customer satisfaction. When banks allow it to interact directly with their clients, further learning continues with each new interaction. The system can learn how to provide a better user experience. It gives smart advice to users on how to optimize their finances using the products the bank offers. In this way, cognitive systems can provide true value to clients.

How Banks Benefit

Banks that adopt cognitive banking strategies are well prepared to adapt to a changing future. Hard-coding of procedures becomes unnecessary as they are constantly evolving to fit the needs of the bank. Smart machines are on the front line of customer interaction instead of human operators. This both saves money and has the potential to provide a more optimized experience for clients. Smart machines can also learn banking regulations and security protocols to determine in real-time how well the bank is meeting these requirements. Employees receive notifications if the system needs changes to meet regulations or improve security.

Conclusion

In the rapidly evolving banking industry, banks need strategies to stay competitive. The use of cognitive banking techniques improves customer satisfaction while allowing banks to run more efficiently. For more information on cognitive banking, check out this page from IBM.

The Role of IT in the Retail Industry – Adapting to Trends

IT has a substantial role to play in the modern retail industry. This has been the case for a long time. However, the world of information technology changes quickly enough that individuals working in retail have had to adapt to various trends.

Mobile Apps for Retail Stores

Many experts today are now urging all retailers to create apps that specifically pertain to their products and even their store locations themselves. This is one of the biggest trends with regards to IT in the retail industry. All of these apps are incredibly different, however.

RetailSome makeup stores will offer apps that enable users to test products in advance in a whole new way. Some of the apps will offer customers convenient discounts right at their fingertips.

People can use apps in order to get a sense of where different items are located and whether or not they’re currently available. As such, there are apps that will truly help people overcome some of the most frustrating parts of shopping in the first place.

Cloud Computing in Retail

Thanks to cloud computing, it is much easier for retailers to consistently monitor their inventory. They can quickly get a sense of what they have in stock and what’s going on with orders. Losing large amounts of data is much less likely in the era of cloud computing. While this makes the technical side of the equation easier, it also means that retail workers can place more emphasis on customer service.

IT helps improve efficiency in the retail industry. The retail industry may also be able to fulfill more of its primary objectives thanks to modern information technology trends.

IT Personnel Management Tips

IT personnel management is not easy. Even some of the most seasoned professionals in this field will struggle. However, if IT personnel managers keep a few things in mind, they can expect much better results from their team members.

Learn Flexibility

Many people are promoted into IT personnel management positions after they’ve excelled by working independently. When working with other people, it’s important to make sure that they have some control over the process. Working with subordinates means adapting to their needs, ideas, abilities, and suggestions. Managers who can be more flexible will be more successful in general.

Develop Conflict Resolution Skills

IT personnel managers will run into emotional and disordered conflicts no matter what they do, regardless of the intelligence and maturity of their subordinates. They cannot respond by avoiding the conflict or escalating the conflict by ridiculing the people involved. IT personnel managers must become experts at diffusing the conflict and trying to find a way to satisfy as many people as possible by keeping their concerns and abilities in mind.

Create Professional Relationships

Being a manager of any kind requires high-level social skills and the ability to develop solid working relationships. Managers who are able to do this will often find that everything else will fall into place as a result. Managers do have to avoid being too involved with what their subordinates are doing, of course. However, they also can’t be too distant. Striking a balance and caring about the needs of employees helps lead to good relationships between employees.

It isn’t easy to get promoted into IT personnel management. However, many people will learn the requisite skills in time.

Wanting to improve your management and people skills? Take a look at the 2017 Fall Conference & Expo Focused Education Roadmap – Developing Business Skills.

IT in Manufacturing: Industry 4.0

Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology have grown up side by side. Modern manufacturing equipment has been on a collision course with standard IT for decades as more computerization is added to the machine tools used in manufacturing. With the emergence of convergence between the technologies, the manufacturing sector is beginning to become more reliant on the same skills that have traditionally been used in IT. Along with the skill set of hardware technological support and programming support, IT leaders going forward will need to understand the operational mindset of the managers they interact with.

Metrics

Industry 4.0, an initiative that began in Germany in 2011, sometimes called Manufacturing 4.0, represents the convergence of activities. Manufacturing activities have always been metric centric. How many widgets can be made by a piece of equipment in a given time with what rate for rejected pieces is used to calculate the effective throughput of a given device. This calculation is added to the BOM (Bill of Material) and employed in planning calculations within MRP.

In the past, this information was manually determined and entered into the BOM. The Internet of Things (IOT) has created the means to provide this information electronically, allowing for better measurements and quicker reactions to variations than ever before.

Quality metrics based on the throughput and yield are also impacted by the ability to communicate this data in real-time. Sensors being built into systems that perform the SPC (Statistical Process Control) activity provide up to the minute data for analysis.

Production Line

Reporting

Still, this is only the beginning of the ways in which the data can be used. Data from these two areas can be used to create analytical studies for finance departments to better understand the depreciation and efficient use of capital investments. Engineers can design better more efficient processes and sales, forecasting and customer service departments can get more insightful information to provide customers better delivery dates, and inventory level information.

Operational leaders who are looking into or actively implementing robotic manufacturing depend heavily on interconnected systems with automated reporting to reduce cost and improve throughput in the manufacturing environment. Smart factories that practice Lean Manufacturing take advantage of the analytical reporting generated by the interconnected operations technology to shift labor and operational staff to areas to maximize their production staff and increase capacity.

Security

The adoption of IOT has resulted in more wired and wireless factory shopfloor connected devices, remote access, programming, and set-up operations. Manufacturing machines with embedded operating systems, usually have a “lite” version of the operating system with a limited capacity to configure and execute sophisticated commands. This lower technological threshold has resulted in security breaches which, if part of a fully connected network, lead major systems to be compromised. While it is IT Security’s responsibility to address these vulnerabilities, IT must also ensure that manufacturing can still continue to run on a 24X7 basis. This applies in particular as robotic devices replace manually administered equipment.

Production Support

As the manufacturing moves into the digital world, IT will increasingly be called upon to support production equipment at the same level that it supports end users. The data from this equipment will make its way to senior managers who make decisions on customer pricing, continuing existing relationships with suppliers and customers, the fate of manufacturing facilities and product lines. Our service delivery for software and infrastructure support as well as user education and assistance will need to encompass all levels within the organization from shop floor and assembly line staff to the C-suite.

IT Education – Preparing for a Career in Data Science

Data Science

Do you love mathematics? Do phrases like “data warehousing” and “v-lookups” bring out the inner nerd in you? If any of this sounds familiar, you might want to steer your direction toward a career in Data Science.

According to Patrick Circelli, a senior recruiter for the IT recruiting firm Mondo, “Data Science is all about mathematics, so having that type of degree — mathematics, information science, computer science, etc. — is especially key for these roles. Hiring managers really love that.” Circelli goes on to describe the must-haves for anyone preparing a resume for a career as a data scientist. His list includes:

  1. A degree in Information Science, Computer Science or Mathematics
  2. Microsoft Excel, specifically the use of pivot tables and v-lookups, and knowledge of SQL queries and stored procedures
  3. Programming skills in any of the following languages: C++, Java, Python, R, or SAS
  4. Concepts such as predictive analysis, visualization and pattern recognition, i.e. understanding how data operates, and skills that could come from data visualization tools like Tableau
  5. NoSQL database environments like MongoDB, CouchDB or HBase
  6. Data warehousing

Although there are many areas in IT that require data science skills, thanks to relentless cyber attacks, the growth rate in security data science specifically, is booming at 26%, with the security analytics market set to reach $8 billion by the year 2023. Anyone who can create a resume listing Circelli’s recommendations, along with a desire to focus pointedly on data security to combat hackers and cyber attacks, can probably write their own ticket in the tech world for decades to come.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) Now Runs on IBM Power Systems

Stefanie ChirasToday’s corporate data centers are using more and more compute and storage resources to meet rapidly increasing operational requirements. Because traditional data center architectures are experiencing great difficulty in meeting these new demands, an alternative technology is swiftly gaining acceptance. Hyperconverged Infrastructure, or HCI, is on what Stefanie Chrias, IBM’s VP Power Systems, calls “a rapid growth trajectory.” And now, for the first time, this new technology that is so swiftly penetrating enterprise data centers is available to run on IBM’s Power Systems platforms.

But what, exactly, is hyperconverged infrastructure?

HCI takes the fundamental elements of the data center, servers, data storage, and networking, and packages them together in a single unified appliance. The entire unit, as well as its component parts, is controlled entirely by sophisticated software under the direction of detailed policies established by IT administrators. Both the compute engine and the storage controller run on the same server platform, and each appliance functions as a node in a cluster.

The constituent parts of the HCI appliance are hidden behind a unified “single pane of glass” software interface. So, there is no need for users or applications to deal directly with the hardware or its particular characteristics. The software can automatically and transparently carry out tasks such as performing data backups, scaling out (simply by adding nodes) to provision additional storage as needed, or swapping out nodes that fail. This approach greatly simplifies the IT management task.

Part of the appeal of HCI is that it was designed to run on inexpensive industry-standard x86-compatible servers and storage devices. But that meant IBM’s RISC-based Power Systems line was shut out of this fast-growing market.

HCI and Power Systems

IBM Power SystemsNow, however, IBM has announced that it is partnering with Nutanix, which 451 Research has named as the leading HCI provider, to market appliances based on the Power Systems line rather than x86 servers. Because of the superior compute and data handling capabilities of the Power architecture, IBM believes this new platform will allow enterprise customers to “run any mission critical workload, at any scale, with world-class virtualization and automation capabilities.” The platform is particularly suited to running high performance database, analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence applications.

For IBM, HCI is “a fundamentally different approach to enterprise application needs.” It also represents an important emerging market that IBM didn’t want to be left out of.


Looking for Power Systems education? Take a look at COMMON’s online offerings.

Layers of a Scalable Cloud Architecture

Cloud

The cloud computing ecosystem is huge and consists of several technologies. Many companies rely on these varying cloud infrastructure to deliver their products and services efficiently. This brings up the question, how scalable is your cloud architecture?

Using the right architecture is extremely crucial for your entire cloud’s operation. It is important that organizations understand the specific requirements of their servers, and if they are already using a cloud platform, decide on the type of cloud architecture that would be best for their business logic.

Before choosing a cloud computing architecture, the first thing that’s required is a scalable structure. Cloud computing is scalable when all its components are independent of each other. This independence allows systems to scale at exceptional levels and is usually implemented at the design stage.

Features of a Scalable Cloud Architecture

Typically, cloud computing systems involve different cloud components communicating with each other on a system that functions like a messaging lineup. How these components interact is what determines the scalable nature of your infrastructure. There are two layers that make up a scalable cloud architectures:

1. The Client / Front-end

The client structure is where all users interface with the target platform. This is usually the mobile or web application that manages users, sessions and pages. The client usually makes API calls to the server.

The front-end comprises of single user or a network of users. Note that some front-ends will not look like the regular applications we see everyday. The main thing to remember during the design stage is that this is the layer that communicates with the back-end. Therefore RESTful calls to the back-end is the main purpose during the front-end design stage. Whatever visual design you build into your cloud’s front-end, making API calls to the server is the main focus at this stage.

2. Server / Back-end

Your server comprises of data, caching services and all services that interact directly with your server applications. This interaction is necessary for data delivery.

Your server applications drive your business functions and can include apps like CRM, inventory, accounting, reservation system and much more. Adding new applications is part of scalability, so as you add new applications, the demands of higher traffic and computing loads must be anticipated. Your front-end will not automatically scale to size unless you ensure that your back-end accommodates the new load and traffic.

For best practices in maintaining and protecting client’s data, a cloud computing structure requires a high level of redundancy than is necessary for a system hosted locally. The backup created by this redundancy means that the back-end server can jump in and access backup images for quick restoration of data.

In a highly scalable cloud computing architecture, applications are managed, controlled and served by the back-end. The strength of the back-end is how it manages security protocols, traffic and system files. If the applications on your server are broken down and classified into sub-components of the main server, your cloud infrastructure will deliver limitless efficiency and possibilities, making scalability much easier.

Should IT Career Professionals Worry about Generation Z?

If you have IT skills, you’re likely in a pretty cushy position right now. You can find work just about anywhere in the developed world, and you can demand a decent salary even when you’re just starting out. If you have skills in some of the top programming languages like Ruby on Rails, you might find yourself earning six figures in less than two years, (after starting out at over $70,000 per year). That’s nothing to sneeze at. The IT industry is one of the highest paid there is in the marketplace today.

However, there are some key reasons for this:

  • Almost no one understands what you do
  • Everyone needs you to keep their technology running and safe
  • Everyone needs you to explain their technology
  • Almost every business needs you to thrive and keep pace with the competition
  • People who do understand what you do are either older, seasoned technology professionals, secure in a career path headed for retirement or Millennials enjoying the gig economy and the freedom it affords them

Generation ZHowever, more research is starting to show that Generation Z members are quite different than their predecessors:

  • Unlike Millennials, they are looking for secure jobs and long-term careers
  • Like Millennials, they don’t remember life without modern technology – they understand it (this means many of them will be able to do what you do)

In addition, Generation Z expects technology to work on demand. They watch whatever TV seasons they want when they want without commercials. They download albums in just a few minutes. They want customer service and networking to primarily occur over social media. They will demand the most from technology and strive to make it happen. They are more modern, yet at the same time when it comes to money and work, they’re traditional.

If you’re sitting comfortably in the IT industry, you would do well to learn some additional programming languages and do all you can to ensure your IT career or at least your financial future is secure. It might not be a bad idea to start a second business while you have cash flow coming in. You might want to work much harder for that position on the management team. You might also want to consider entering the field of higher education at least part-time in case you have to transition later.

There are many ways to start preparing for financial security. Now might be the time for you to find the right one for you. Five or ten years from now might be too late.

How to Be a Better IT Personnel Manager

Team

Chances are, if you are a manager in IT, you want to become better at your job. You want a team that works well together and you want to be able to inspire them to greatness. If this sounds like you, we can help. Here are some tips on IT personnel management that will help you succeed at becoming a better leader.

Lead First, Manage Second

A team needs a leader more than it needs a manager. But what is the difference between a manager and a leader? A leader isn’t just concerned with a list or an agenda, though those things are important. A leader is concerned with a direction. A leader’s job is to move his team into new territory and to inspire to greatness.

Inspire

As a manager, you should seek to be an inspiration to your team. Don’t just tell your team what to do, give them the motivation to do it. Encourage open communication with your team so that you are the kind of person they want to look to for leadership and inspiration.

Be a Good Communicator

Your team deserves to know what’s going on, it’s the only way they’ll be able to perform as they need to. Being a good communicator will improve the effectiveness of your team’s performance.

Being a good manager is key to good business. If you’ve found this post helpful, be sure to share it.


Looking for more personal development opportunities. Check out the Developing Business Skills sessions at the 2017 Fall Conference & Expo.