Posts Tagged ‘Connectivity’

No waiting in these queues. IBM MQ V9 and the MQ Appliance M2001 delivers fast, reliable and secure message queuing

June 29, 2016

wile_e_coyote

Recent weeks have been pretty busy on this blog, reflecting just how busy the MQ development team has been in bringing out new and updated offerings in MQ V9 and the MQ Appliance M2001 here and here. And of course in our cloud messaging options.

As both of these have been fairly full of new content I thought I would do just a short update to focus on a couple of key benefits which are specifically measurable in these 2 refreshed offerings. After all, a lot of the new and improved features can sometimes be hard to quantify in terms of the benefits they provide, but in each offering this time there are some easy to define benefits.

As you may have seen in my most recent update, the MQ Appliance M2001 added large capacity SSD storage which enables much faster throughput for persistent messages. These are the messages that get written to storage to ensure they are still available in the case of failure before the message has been successfully deliver to all consumers. At high rates of message throughput, there can be a lot of contention for access to storage with traditional hard drives. With the new MQ Appliance M2001, this potential bottleneck has been removed. You can now read the latest MQ Appliance M2001 performance report here which shows that the performance in those scenarios which saw large volumes of persistent messages sees improvement of up to 3.5 times the previous message rate.

Clearly this represents a significant improvement and given that persistent messages are used in those business critical situations where IBM MQ delivers so much value, it is a hugely important benefit.

 

In MQ V9 there were a number of enhancements but the one I specifically want to call out is, as part of the MQ Advanced package, the enhancement to MQ Advanced Message Security (MQ AMS). The change here was to add a new mode of operation – Confidentiality. This new mode changed the way in which the encryption operations are performed on the message contents (MQ AMS offers policy based encrypted message contents which ensures data at rest is protected in case of a security breach). The goal of this change was to continue to offer a strong level of security for the message contents without too big of an impact on the performance and throughput from the effects of the encryption used.

Now instead of new asymmetric keys being generated for every exchange, the feature can be configured to allow for reusable symmetric keys to be used after the initial generation of an asymmetric key. This still provides a very high level of security, but depending on the reuse count before a new asymmetric key is generated, can drastically cut the performance overhead. The benefits can see more than an order of magnitude increase in throughput. You can see a quick snap shot of some of the early results in Jon Rumsey’s blog here – which includes a small table showing performance improvements exceeding 10x gains. With everyone concerned about security these days, the ability to better protect your information and customer data with little performance impact has to be a good thing.

 

So what are you waiting for? With secure, reliable enterprise messaging for on-premise deployments, cloud deployments or physical appliances, there is no waiting with IBM MQ V9 or IBM MQ Appliance M2001.

no-waiting

[An interesting history of Wile E. Coyote here]

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Flash aaaahh – saviour of the universe: IBM MQ Appliance M2001

June 10, 2016

flash_gordon_facebook_cover_by_audrey41lorgeoux-d538dgo

Anyone who is a fan of cheesy sci-fi movies, or soundtracks by Queen will have the words “Flash, Flash I love you but we only have 14 hours to save the earth” running through their head, along with the line in the song that goes “Flash aaaaah, saviour of the universe”. And of course he did save the universe from Ming the Merciless.

But what if I told you Flash could also save your business? Not Flash Gordon of course, but flash storage, in the form of the SSDs that are now a part of the IBM MQ Appliance M2001 which is now generally available (June 10th 2016). We did cover this in an earlier blogpost, but I thought I would take advantage of our initial shipment date to cover just how critical the IBM MQ Appliance, backed by state of the art 3.2TB SSDs can be to your business.

MQ Appliance M2001

Each MQ Appliance M2001 model has 2 of the 3.2TB SSDs in a RAID 1 configuration. This means that every persistent message and all log data is written not just once to the SSD storage, but twice giving you complete redundancy of data. And a key part of the MQ Appliance functionality is the High Availability configuration – essentially nothing more than a simple menu option when creating a queue manager – allowing you to have the MQ queue manager on one MQ Appliance synchronously replicated to another MQ Appliance. This means that any message written to the SSDs on one MQ Appliance is not just copied to the second pair of SSDs but is written under the same unit of work that writes the messages on the first MQ Appliance. This therefore means you have 4 copies of the message stored for both reliability and availability.

Another part of the MQ Appliance update was the ability to do not just synchronous replication for High Availability but also asynchronous replication for Disaster Recovery to another MQ Appliance. Therefore you can point the MQ queue manager at another, typically off-site MQ Appliance and the same message will replicate there, ensuring there are another 2 copies of the message, and providing your business with a highly resilient messaging system designed to ensure optimum reliability and availability of messages.

After all, think about how important your messages are to your business. In effect, they are your business. Your messages are your business transactions, your new orders, your customer address details, your stock levels and distribution information. Lose your messages and you lose everything.

With the latest SSD technology inside the MQ Appliance you are calling on Flash to save your business – and with the MQ Appliance M2001, Flash saves the day again.

 

[Flash Gordon image title image above is from  http://orig07.deviantart.net/fc1d/f/2012/163/5/d/flash_gordon_facebook_cover_by_audrey41lorgeoux-d538dgo.jpg]

MQ in the Cloud – Your messaging ‘silver lining’

May 16, 2016

MQ clouds puttenham

As the senior product manager for a product like IBM MQ, I don’t just spend my day writing blogs – but frequently get questions from both colleagues and our many customers. And recently, one of the most common questions I get is whether MQ runs in the cloud.

The answer is “Yes” – that was easy wasn’t it.

However maybe there is some more information to share, to help describe the journey to cloud and to exploit the benefits provided by IBM MQ at every step, whether you are looking for enterprise grade business critical messaging in your private cloud infrastructure, in a public cloud (hosted or not) or a hybrid cloud spanning the combination of these.

 

Mostly the cloud environment that IBM customers I have been talking to are thinking about is best described as “Hybrid”. Almost all of our customers are starting to explore some aspects of the benefits of cloud – and what it means to them. But deployment, especially of business critical applications, is likely to happen in stages. Today many customers run virtually all application workload on-premise, but typically this will be in virtual machine environments. There is a shift to deploy selected workload in the cloud. Perhaps this might start with engagement or marketing applications, but these applications and the associated workload doesn’t run in isolation on the cloud but in conjunction with the rest of the enterprise running on-premise, or connecting to partners in the wider business ecosystem. Then as businesses shift some of their critical back office applications to cloud deployment options, the hybrid nature of infrastructure will increase.

Fundamental to the success of this change is the availability of reliable and secure connectivity to allow the safe and scalable exchange of information between applications independent of whether they are running together in the cloud, on-premise or any other combination.

How does IBM MQ work in this type of deployment? Well, as has been proven for more than 20 years, IBM MQ provides a way to exchange data in the form of messages between applications, systems and services and to do so reliably, securely, rapidly and simply. Messages are moved through MQ Queue Managers that can be deployed locally to the application – wherever that application may be, or remote from the application but accessed by MQ Clients bound to the application.

In pretty much any type of hybrid environment, MQ continues to be a critically useful middleware tool. Either the application running in the cloud environment can make use of the MQ Client to connect to a MQ Queue Manager running elsewhere (such as on-premise) or the MQ Queue Manager can itself be deployed in the cloud environment along with the application. And you might use your own tools to deploy MQ, or you could use tools such as Chef to deploy MQ. Other options for deployment include a MQ plug-in for IBM UrbanCode Deploy.

MQ offers support for running on IBM SoftLayer, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and OpenStack cloud. It leverages a Bring Your Own Software License to make it simple for customers to choose where to deploy the IBM MQ license entitlements they may already have. For deployments of IBM MQ on SoftLayer you might choose to use the MQ Advanced pattern designed for IBM PureSystems which can run on the SoftLayer environment.

In addition to this deployment style, IBM recently confirmed MQ is supported to run in Docker environments which further extends where MQ might be deployed to meet customer needs, such as hosted PaaS environments like IBM Bluemix.

Docker_(container_engine)_logo

So basically for every cloud environment, or virtualised environment, or container, your business can continue to take advantage of the benefits of IBM MQ – whether by running MQ Queue Managers in the cloud environment, or continuing to run them on-premise (perhaps as the physical MQ Appliance), or in any hybrid combination.

So what are you waiting for? For MQ on cloud – the answer is yes.

*UPDATED to add link to the AWS example – see above*

IBM MQ V9 – A fast, secure, reliable and more agile MQ

April 19, 2016

edwin-moses-getty_2129850b

Some of you reading this blog may recall the great athlete Ed Moses – who had a record 122 race winning streak in just about the hardest event – the 400M Hurdles. You need to be strong, fast, and agile just to compete, and to keep winning you need to be reliable. Well, this is how we view IBM MQ, especially with the latest release – IBM MQ V9. You may have seen a recent blogpost on here that had a Statement of Direction talking about a new way of delivering IBM MQ – one that provided a Long Term Support release, and a Continuous Delivery release. The aim of this model is to give customers more choice to select either highly stable releases with just fixes, or releases that benefitted from additional function in the fixpacks.

TRY IT: Click here to get a free trial of MQ

UPDATE: There is a FAQ on the new support model. Read it here.

On April 19th, IBM announced MQ V9 which is the first release that moves to this new more agile delivery model. As such at the initial release it delivers a small set of additional capabilities that will be available to all customers. Then subsequent mod-level updates will deliver even more updates to customers choosing the continuous delivery stream, but all customers moving to V9 will get the benefit of the new capabilities being delivered in this release.

As with previous releases of IBM MQ, customers have a lot of choice in where and how they may want to deploy this version. IBM supports deployment of MQ – and MQ Advanced pretty much on every commercial IT environment where business critical applications may be exchanging data reliably, securely, and at scale. This could be on-premise, deployed in cloud environments like IBM Softlayer, Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS. IBM also supports virtualization with many customers deploying in VM images, and also in Docker containers, which can be deployed anywhere, including in IBM’s Bluemix platform. This flexibility enables customers to make use of enterprise messaging to support deployments on-premise, on cloud or in hybrid environments.

So what are the key new features of MQ V9 being delivered in this release? Well there are a number of them that are called out in the announcement letters – so you can read the MQ V9 distributed announcement letter here. And the MQ V9 z/OS MLC announcement letter here. And you can read the MQ V9 One Time Charge announcement letter here. But below I will call out a few of the features that I think will be most important to customers.

One of the features likely to be most interesting is a change to the MQ Client Channel Definition Table (CCDT), which is needed by the MQ Client application to provide the channel definitions needed to connect to the MQ Queue Manager. This file is created automatically and prior to MQ V9 needed to be distributed to the client application prior to use. The big change from this new release is that the CCDT can be a web addressable file instead of needing to be distributed out to every client, and to then need to do that with every change. By having a web addressable CCDT accessed by URI, then there are much lower administration needs, and also the MQ infrastructure can be much more dynamic as changes can be made centrally and take effect quickly and without application disruption.

 

The second big change to the new release of MQ is in MQ Advanced Message Security (MQ AMS). This feature, which is a priced extension to MQ (available either separately or as a part of MQ Advanced) provides policy based encryption at rest of the MQ message contents. By using this capability, businesses can be assured that their message contents can only be unencrypted and read by the targeted application destination, and there is no risk of exposure should any security breach take place which provides access to the system or storage where the MQ Queue Manager holds its queues. This privacy and integrity has been assured by the generation of asymmetric keys for every exchange between client and queue manager, which provides an extremely high level of security, but can introduce a high overhead in terms of the processor cost of the asymmetric key generation.

MQ AMS performance

With MQ V9, a new mode of operation is added to MQ AMS, called ‘Confidentiality’. In this mode there is an initial asymmetric key exchange then subsequent exchanges can reuse (to an extent that can be configured) a symmetric key. This still provides a high level of security and protection for the message content, but with a dramatically lower level of overhead in terms of encryption workload cost. IBM expects that due to the increasing importance of security and protecting systems and data from breaches, that this new feature of MQ AMS will help more customers protect their message contents and therefore their business and customer data. IBM expects to produce performance data for the new AMS configuration around the time that MQ V9 is generally available. But the early testing shows considerable improvement.

 

A further change for MQ AMS is the support of non-IBM JREs for use with MQ AMS. Previously applications written in Java that relied on a non-IBM JRE wouldn’t work with MQ AMS. In MQ V9 this has now changed so that suitable non-IBM JREs can be used, as well as IBM JREs, extending the ability of more customers to use MQ AMS.

 

There are a number of other new functions and capabilities available in MQ V9, such as updates to MQ Managed File Transfer capabilities – which are described in the announcement letter, and with the movement to a Continuous Delivery model customers should expect to see more capabilities being delivered in mod levels on top of MQ V9 in the future.

 

With the recent announcement of the End of Support for MQ V7.1 – announced here – along with the related end of support of the older separate versions of MQ FTE and MQ AMS, this latest release of MQ V9, along with the recent announcement of the update to the MQ Appliance provides customers with a strong set of choices of how to take advantage of the latest new releases as they plan to move off the older releases of MQ they may be using, keeping their deployment of MQ up to date and supported.

When you are taking advantage of the benefits of IBM MQ, you may not need to have to work as hard as Ed Moses did to be #1.

UPDATE: Mark Taylor has provided one of his highly useful videos detailing more of the new function in MQ V9. Watch it here.

 

Setting out markers for MQ’s road ahead

February 16, 2016

2016-road-ahead

Working as the Offering Manager for IBM MQ and the IBM Messaging Portfolio, there are lots of parts of my day-to-day work that I can’t share on here until we announce it. However there are times when we can provide a small look ahead at what’s coming. This is called in IBM a “Statement of Direction”. And today IBM MQ has released a Statement of Direction for both IBM MQ and for the IBM MQ Appliance.

You can read the Statement of Direction here.
As you will see in reading it we are talking about a couple of important points. I will deal with the MQ Appliance statement first. As covered elsewhere in this blog, there has been a lot of interest in the MQ Appliance since we announced it at IBM InterConnect 2015 – just about 1 year ago. One of its key features has been about the High Availability function – the simple way to connect up two appliances and to allow for seamless failover between them benefitting from synchronous replication.
At the end of 2015, as detailed here IBM extended this High Availability option with asynchronous replication to other MQ Appliances, which could be deployed further away, offering Disaster Recovery. However, deployments needed to choose either one style of replication or another, on a Queue Manager by Queue Manager basis. So a Queue Manager on a MQ Appliance could be defined for High Availability, or for Disaster Recovery, but not both.
This created an obvious question when we discussed this with customers, who in some cases would want to have local MQ Appliances offering High Availability, but in the case of a whole site failure, wanted to then offer Disaster Recovery off-site. As giving forward looking statements can be an issue without legal clearance, we have ensured that with this Statement of Direction we can clearly state and assure customers that IBM indeed does intend to support the ability of Queue Managers to be configured for both High Availability and Disaster Recovery in a future update.

DR-phase2

For MQ itself the Statement of Direction covers less function, and more the delivery and support approach used for MQ itself. For many years IBM has released updates to IBM MQ every 2-3 years as major new versions, and sometimes with additional interim updates as incremental releases. But over the last few years IBM has been adding function into the regular fixpack deliverables where we also include maintenance updates alongside the new function.
While this approach allows IBM to add useful new functions between releases, and thus getting it to customers earlier, it can lead some customers to choose to keep their MQ implementations on older releases until IBM stops adding new function to that particular release. The concern is that adding new function in a release that will be used in production can create the need to have a major new testing cycle, even if IBM has designed that the new function is off by default.
As IBM thinks customers would benefit from being at the latest level of code, and certainly IBM wants to encourage customers to stay up to date with the latest fixpacks, IBM has decided to offer two separate code delivery and support options.

One option will be the Long Term Support Stream. A new version of MQ will be released, and from that point on, there will be no new function shipped on that code-stream. The fixpacks that IBM will continue to ship on a regular basis will only contain fixes to existing functions and no new functions will be added. As such it should be simpler and safer for customers to move more rapidly to this level of code and to then stay on it as fixes are rolled out, improving stability and performance.
The second option will be the Continuous Delivery option. Based off the same original code drop as the Long Term Support option, subsequent updates will be delivered containing not just fixes but also incremental new function. Each mod-level update will be designed to continue to add new function. And, important to understand, customers who choose to deploy the Continuous Delivery stream will have to keep taking the additional functional increments and fixes if they want to stay on that stream by moving to the most recent mod-level. If they decide they want to be on the Long Term Support stream then will need to change the MQ installed which will likely cause a degree of disruption as they will effectively be moving to a different release. While this continuous delivery of function will ensure that customers of MQ will have new functions that enhance MQ and the operation of their environment, those customers will need to be able to continue to update their environment with each update as it is delivered. For many customers this might be appropriate as they have a need for the new function or they may want to apply it only to a particular environment and set of applications.

LTS

After a number of functional updates to the Continuous Delivery Stream of IBM MQ, over probably a period of 2 years or so, it is expected that the incremental set of new functions delivered in the Continuous Delivery Stream will be released as the new starting point for the next version of the Long Term Support stream, and will reset the version for the Continuous Delivery Stream as well. The cycle them will repeat again, with fixes applied to the Long Term Support Stream and new mod-level updates with new function (as well as fixes) delivered to the Continuous Delivery Stream.

This new approach for delivering MQ may be significantly important for some customers as they make future plans, and IBM therefore thought it was important to set this out in a Statement of Direction prior to a future announcement of a new release of IBM MQ supporting this model.

As for when any new releases to backup these Statements of Direction are coming out? Well, keep watching this space.

When is a quantum leap not really a quantum leap?

November 3, 2015

Electronimage

A quantum leap, if I remember correctly, is the movement of an electron from one energy level to another energy level. So it is not really a big change – just the change from one discrete level to another discrete level. However the phrase “quantum leap” is often used to describe a big change, when in fact it is describing a very small change. Just like a quantum leap, MQ get updated from one fixpack to another. Sometimes this can be thought of as a small change. However in the case of the latest update to MQ V8, this change can represent significant change and new opportunities for MQ users. When an electron does a quantum leap and drops down to a lower energy level and emits a photon, let’s shine a light on the changes in the latest update to IBM MQ.

Last week, on October 23 2015, IBM brought out an update to IBM MQ V8 that included not just fixes, but some really important new features and functions. I will call out some of these here, and hopefully also link to some other sources of information to find out more about the parts I don’t cover.

The key enhancements I am going to cover are the addition of full MQ Light API support within IBM MQ, and also what we are calling the redistributable MQ Client. There are plenty of others (another interesting new feature is setting a Message Expiry Cap) and these are described in Mark Taylor’s short presentation – which can be found here 

Let’s start with the addition of the MQ Light API as a fully supported option. You can read my previous blog on MQ Light here   – but as a recap, MQ Light is a new API for messaging which is designed to allow developers working with Javascript, Ruby, PHP, etc. to make use of messaging as a part of their applications. This enables them to code microservices, and build applications making use of buffering, but doesn’t force them to learn the richer, more complex MQ API or JMS, or require them to code in C or Java. MQ Light is a good way for many enterprises to start to change some of their infrastructure into Hybrid deployments, supporting both on-premise and cloud deployments.  In this latest update, IBM MQ itself now supports the MQ Light API. So these developers can continue to script their applications making use of the MQ Light API in whichever environment they prefer, but now IBM MQ itself acts as the messaging provider. As these MQ Light  applications publish their messages or listen for their subscriptions using the AMQP protocol, this means that AMQP clients can now for the first time connect in to IBM MQ which is then receiving published messages and forwarding them on, or routing the subscriptions to the applications. By ensuring that only a single messaging runtime environment is needed, this lowers the operational burden, reducing complexity for the infrastructure team, and keeps costs down, while keeping the application developers happy with their preferred development environment and API. And the infrastructure team can ensure they support the growing demand for Hybrid infrastructure for cloud deployed applications, while still meeting their enterprise qualities of service for their middleware infrastructure.

The other key update concerns the MQ Client. The MQ Client is how many MQ customers make use of MQ, embedding the client libraries in their applications which then send and receive MQ messages. In this new update the MQ Clients are now also available as tar or zip files for easy embedding in the applications themselves. As well as removing the requirement for a separate install process, the license has been updated to allow applications that include the MQ Clients to be distributed inside and outside the enterprise without requiring permission from IBM as had been the case in the past, which had prevented the easy inclusion of the MQ Client libraries in many solutions. From now on, the MQ Client can be included in any solution, easily packaged and distributed to allow the seamless distribution and deployment of MQ connected applications anywhere required. I am looking forward to seeing many more customer and vendor applications including the MQ Client libraries from now on.

These two changes are substantial enhancements and dramatically change the options available for businesses looking to use IBM MQ for messaging, making this a real leap into the future, for both on-premise business critical applications and the rapidly changing world of Hybrid Integration.

For more details on using MQ Light and AMQP with IBM MQ to enable Hybrid deployments and more see here.

And for more information on the re-distributable MQ Client see here.

A leap into the future, and into the past was the subject of another ‘Quantum Leap’ – this time a TV series from the late 80s/early 90s. Scientist Sam Beckett would ‘leap’ from body to body throughout time. I guess that’s another example of a quantum leap not being quite a quantum leap. As he used to say when he leapt into someone else: “oh boy”.

QL-ohboy

Impact 2013 – a few notes

May 7, 2013

How to sum up an event like IBM’s annual Impact conference? Attended by thousands of IBM clients, Business partners, IBM execs and specialists, as well as analysts and press. There are obviously thousands of stories to tell. However as I am the product manager for the WebSphere MQ family I will try to cover my perspective of the week in Vegas – which is clearly going to present a messaging-centric view.

So to start with, this was a good conference for WebSphere MQ and messaging. One of the major announcements of the conference was the new IBM MessageSight appliance. Traffic in the solution center was constant with everyone wanting to talk about the new solution in the context of upcoming Mobile and M2M opportunities – and there was much discussion of how IBM MessageSight would provide a secure high performance gateway into the enterprise infrastructure.

For WebSphere MQ this was an important Impact, where IBM celebrated 20 years of WebSphere MQ (previously of course called MQSeries). On Wednesday I presented a talk looking back at the last 20 years of MQ, with a look at new opportunities and then there was a reception with food, drinks and cake to celebrate MQ. In telling the story of the 20 years of MQ it was a good chance to review how IT infrastructure has changed over the 2 decades. and I think a strong case can be made that MQ has been a key factor in the changes. Consider how 20 years ago connectivity between applications and systems was complex and haphazard – and that MQ was specifically designed to address this need, providing a simple, platform neutral API to provide reliable connectivity – and this actually led to a sea-change in the way systems were connected in virtually every business. Today all business IT infrastructure is connected together with common connectivity infrastructures, and although MQ is just one choice, alongside the continued use of FTP, home grown connectivity or HTTP, if any business was to actually draw out their ideal architecture for connecting their IT assets, having a connectivity bus would be the selection of the vast majority.

In discussions with partners, clients and IBM technical experts a number of themes did come up. One was the importance of monitoring what is happening – this is very much seen as a critical part of the solution – at least from the operation and management side. From the other side of the business, there was also a focus on developers. Clearly our recent announcement of WMQ Advanced for Developers was good for this – and there was also a lot of discussion about the needs of Mobile  and M2M developers driven by the IBM MessageSight announcement, and it was good to clarify that the MQTT clients connect to both WMQ and IBM MessageSight in the same way, letting developers run against WMQ to begin with, with it being then simple to deploy IBM MessageSight as soon as required, without any application changes.

A further good piece of news for developers was that we recently opened a new early access program called MQ for rapid application deployment – we think this will be extremely interesting for application developers – and you can ask your IBM rep to get access to this program – which should be of interest to solution providers and clients alike. More public news on this to come in the future, I’m sure.

And finally a To-Do for me. A number of discussions with clients were highly interesting as they were all running very impressive solutions that relied on MQ, but they were always keen to know how to improve them, and to look at best practices – both from a development perspective and an operational perspective. Although we have lots of good tools and utilities on our Supportpacs site, and some great documentation on best practices in our redbooks, there is always room for improvement. One avenue for this is our new Messaging Community which is a useful social resource where not only will IBM be providing content, but anyone else can also contribute and comment. Please continue to visit this, and other resources like our Facebook page, and as we produce more of these best practices and other assets, we will continue to make them available.

 

New post, new job role, long time passed

August 20, 2010

So just a quick note here. I changed roles earlier this year to move back into Product Management for WebSphere Message Broker after a number of years in Marketing. It is funny how both roles have similarities but also substantial differences. I am getting a lot more visibility to customers and sales reps in the new role which is really good, but am continuing to work closely with marketing to make sure we get the right material produced. Keeps me busy – and apologies to those who I respond to later than I should.

Was good talking a bit with Gartner earlier in the year on a couple of occasions – and hearing all the customer interest in cloud – not an area that will be going away in a hurry I think.

It has been very stimulating to work on strategy for both extending current offerings and looking at the opportunity in new segments. Lots I could say here but clearly not going to in public!

I plan to talk to some customers in Istanbul next month as part of a Hursley Comes to you event and there will also be more customer interactions in 4Q which i am looking forward to. All this while trying to get through all the Product Management day to day pieces of work – which I had better get back to.

Focus and prioritization are becoming the watchword….will try to write something more soon

WebSphere MQ, #uksnow and heating instead of plumbing

December 18, 2009

First, apologies it has been so long since I managed to find time for a blog entry. But now that I am here, what is it that I have to say. The origins of this blog topic go back to earlier in the year. We had a new wood-burning stove installed in our house – both for aesthetic reasons and to try to reduce our gas bills by heating the house using wood. Burning wood to heat your house is carbon neutral of course, and we could collect plenty of logs from the wood next to us.

So throughout the summer I have been slicing up dead trees and splitting logs, building wood sheds to build up our stock of wood, in the knowledge it would be cheaper than using our gas-fired boiler to pump water through all our radiators. Did I enjoy this? You bet I did – really makes you feel like you have achieved something, learned a skill – all that sort of thing.

And then we get to winter – and from September onwards we have been lighting the stove, and it has been great. Lots of heat – the house nice and warm. The fire looking good, and all my good work coming to fruition, with the added bonus of no heating bills with the heating off.

But then we get to proper winter as in the UK we get a cold spell with snow (currently filling up the twitterverse with the hashtag #uksnow). We found we needed the fire all day – and even though it is pumping out a lot of heat, and it sits in the center of the house, it can’t quite get all the extremities of the house warm – there are a lot of outside walls getting the heat sucked out of them, no matter how many logs we put in the stove.

So I started to think that maybe we would need to have the boiler on at least some of the time, and that maybe there was a reason that central heating with radiators has replaced fires (even efficient stoves). After all there may be a cost associated with central heating, but it is much less work, and it does ensure that the heat goes right where you want it, not spreading from one point.

Sure from an enjoyment point of view, it is less satisfying, but there is something to be said for progress, or at least a balance of solutions. And then it occurred to me that there was some similarity with the battles our customers have in deploying messaging middleware to connect and integrate applications. The programmers of course want to do it themselves, enjoy the task and it builds their skills. There is even some satisfaction at looking at what they achieve. But of course it can fail to scale up to meet the needs of the business. There might be a cost of buying WebSphere MQ, or an ESB like WebSphere Message Broker or WebSphere ESB, but the end result can be much less effort, and be more effective – at least in a number of deployment scenarios. And it doesn’t mean the programmers have to stop what they are doing – it just means that they don’t need to do all the heavy lifting – allowing them to get on with more tasks.

From a cost point of view, developers might say that it is a waste to buy a solution like WMQ, but in our heating analogy we are not talking about doing everything with the boiler, just taking advantage of its ability to heat the parts of the house the stove would find it more difficult to heat – much like WMQ can do things that roll-your-own solutions can find it difficult or complex to do. Does this seem to ring true?

In the meantime I need to put another log on the fire!

Is marketing like maths?

October 1, 2009

I was just reading my colleague Ben Mann’s latest blog entry on the need to tinker with presentations etc. and I am very much the same. No document or presentation is ever done or finished. There is always some way to improve it, to make it sing, to have a clearer message. I have been feeling this more and more this summer as I have been building new presentations to align WebSphere Connectivity with Industry solutions – something IBM’s Smarter Planet approach has been doing for our complete set of offerings.

At times it has been tough going trying to tell the story, but then things drop into place. Sometimes it doesn’t require much change to make everything work. And mostly it seems to come down to one common answer. If you are telling the right message, the right story, it should be clear and simple. Telling it, building it, explaining it should all work. And trying to change it, improve it, should be difficult. Just as A-level Maths had you work out proofs for formula, and it would all work out neatly, or you knew you had done it wrong. If we can’t tell a compelling story in marketing, then we probably need to change our approach if not what we are trying to say. If marketing is done right, it should be obvious and we shouldn’t feel the need to change it.To some extent I think that is why SOA has been successful. SOA is actually a simple idea. People had already been doing it for years. Just formalizing it, and calling it SOA allowed everyone to agree, and now of course it is accepted, and has won the argument to all intents and purposes. Also it was probably the reason WebSphere MQ was successful. It was a simple idea, simply executed, allowing for a simple message…2+2=4 if you like.

So am I there yet with my latest marketing…not quite…but I think I have the basis for the proof, now I just need to follow it through, and show my working in my neatest handwriting. Fingers crossed for a good grade!