Posts Tagged ‘MQTT’

Life’s too short to drink bad coffee?

February 4, 2014

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It has been a lot longer than I wanted since I last wrote an entry on this blog. I guess I have been searching for inspiration. The problem of course being that I work on a lot of things that I can’t talk about until they are ready to announce. So what can I say about what we already have in the market?

I was struck last week with some inspiration. I don’t recommend getting your inspiration the same way, as I was off sick for a couple of days with a temperature of 104F, but it did give me a couple of days thinking time, on a restricted diet. One of the things I was missing was my espresso and cappuccino. I have, for reasons that don’t matter here, two separate espresso machines. A manual La Pavoni and a Gaggia Classic. For either to make decent espresso you need freshly ground coffee, ideally from freshly roasted beans.

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I buy my beans from a small UK roaster called hasbean, and have been for a number of years. But here’s the thing. Until a few months ago, I had just bought the same ‘espresso blend’ of beans from them. I went to their website, clicked on their ‘blends’ page, selected the espresso blend I chose, and bought it. Again and again. I was perfectly happy with my choice. The beans were roasted that day and posted out. I would drink my coffee and be happy. Except (and you knew that was coming) I gradually thought there might be something more. Maybe my coffee could be better. I knew it was already way better than the coffee providers on the high street. In fact it was rare I would drink a coffee outside the house that I liked as much as mine. But my feeling persisted. And maybe what I might have done would have been to find another roaster. But all of a sudden, when I was on the hasbean website about to buy some more coffee, I looked a little closer at the website – and clicked on one of the tabs for a specific coffee region…in this case I clicked on America. And there a whole world opened up. Yes there was Brazil, which I knew provided many of the beans in my chosen blend. But there were options for Bolivia, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador. The list went on. And click a country, and there was even more choice. Individual producers. Detailed notes of the crop, the harvest conditions, the processing method, and tasting notes. A whole world of choice ready to be roasted and posted.

This was what I had been missing, and it was there for me all along, right in front of my face. Now I am selecting a range of individual beans, drinking different, better coffee, but from the same roaster, and mostly at the same price I was paying. There was even an option to pay a little more for some exceptional beans. Truly a win-win.

So is this relevant for WebSphere MQ users? Well I did visit a long standing customer last month who admitted that they didn’t use any publish-subscribe. Now IBM has been suggesting trying out publish-subscribe for years. It is there in the product. There is no additional cost to use it. And for many uses, you get far more flexible deployments.

Then there is security. Changes made in the V7.1 release back in 2011 gave the product far more usable security, but still customers continue to use exits which now ought to be redundant thanks to the same or better function in the product. Then there are transactional clients, improvements in clustering, API options, etc. etc. And that’s before I even start mentioning Telemetry support, Managed File Transfer and Advanced Message Security options.

Now I understand that WebSphere MQ isn’t a cup of coffee, even if an espresso machine can be complex to use well. Applications connected with WebSphere MQ are systems that run for years, or even decades. And it can take quite a bit of work to consider changing them. But with features like multi-version install, and even the new ability to download the entire WebSphere MQ Advanced stack at no cost for development use, we have been working to make it easier to try new ways of using WebSphere MQ. So at no additional cost, you could be making your applications more flexible, more robust or more secure. You could be simplifying your administration tasks, and reducing the overhead of recurring operational activities. And for a little more you could be encrypting messages end to end without changing your applications, or using your MQ network to move your file data, and to make better use of it. I am pretty sure that with MQTT you could even hook up your coffee machine to your smartphone. 

Now that I have been trying the new coffees I won’t be going back to less variety. Why shouldn’t you be trying some of the good stuff too? Tomorrow morning I’ll be drinking for the first time some Colombian El Meridiano Rioblanco Washed. What are you going to be trying tomorrow?

 

WebSphere MQ. You want it? It’s yours. For free.

October 4, 2013

No kidding. Image

That’s right. WebSphere MQ for free. In fact even better than that. WebSphere MQ Advanced. Not just the industry leading simple, reliable, rapid and secure messaging engine of WebSphere MQ. Not just that. Including Managed File Transfer with WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer. Including end to end encryption of message contents with WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security. And connectivity to mobile and M2M devices with WebSphere MQ Telemetry. 

All of that capability. For you to download. From today. For free. What”s the catch? No catch. It is actually our WebSphere MQ Advanced for Developers offering we made available earlier this year. That is still available for development and Unit Test use, priced per Single User, with IBM Support. This is the exact same product, also limited to development and unit test use, but without IBM Support. But that means you can download it for free. Develop apps for free. Build your skills for free. Get a jump start on everything you want to do. 

What’s the most innovative thing you can do with WebSphere MQ Advanced on your laptop? What projects can you dream up? Tell us what you are thinking of.

So what are you waiting for?

Go here to download it

Go on – go!

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TV or not TV. The benefits and risks of open source software

July 5, 2013

Everyone likes free right? Free food. Free drinks. Free money. Free software. Except when it is free you always need to look for the catch don’t you? After all there is no such thing as a free lunch is there? If it is free, then follow the money. What is being sold? Is it you? Is it your future? Is it a risk you are willing to take?

Let’s start with TV. About 10 or 11 years ago, here in the UK, I bought one of the last Tivo Series 1 boxes that was sold. Tivo was ahead of its time in the UK market. People were still struggling with the concept of recording TV on anything other than VHS tapes, so Tivo sadly failed to capture a market which was then exploited by UK satellite TV provider Sky, with their Sky+ boxes, which did pretty much the same thing.

Now I liked my Tivo box – it did what I wanted it to do – worked nearly flawlessly – and the only problem was that they weren’t around to sell me updated hardware that might record more channels or a higher resolution. And so last year, it finally got decommissioned, to be replaced not with a commercial offering, but with a home-built MythTV solution. We bought a basic PC, stuck in a 4-tuner HD card, and installed and configured MythTV on Mythbuntu – an open source free TV recording software solution that pretty much again meets our needs.

So is this a parable that we can compare against the market for commercial middleware solutions? After all buying from Tivo all those years ago, only to be effective marooned would be pretty much like buying a promising product from some fledgling software company only to see the company go out of business leaving you high and dry.

(I must point out at this point that Tivo re-entered the UK PVR market a year or so ago in partnership with cable TV firm Virgin, and also that they continued to support their old TV boxes for many years – so did much better than many firms would.)

So when looking for middleware solutions, should businesses be looking at free and open source solutions, rather than taking a bit of a punt on a small commercial provider who might be gone in 6 months, or change their market focus even if they do stay around?

Well, let’s look at our MythTV solution. Are we happy with it? Does it do the job. Yes, and Yes. But still there are issues. It records pretty much as many programs as we want, and we can stream them direct over the home network to the TV. We didn’t pay a penny for the software – just the hardware, and on a regular basis it tells us there are fixes to be installed. But here’s the thing. As good as it is there is a recurring, seemingly random error with the TV tuner card being ‘lost’ by the software so it tries to record, but has a blank recording. We have figured various ways round it, so on the whole it’s survivable. But it is not something I would put up with in a commercial offering. It would have gone back. In fact the only reason we went with MythTV was that no commercial offering did what we wanted.

So why do we put up with it? As I mentioned above, we can work around it, and on the whole it does what we want. And let’s face it, the worst thing is we don’t get a TV program recorded. And at the end of the day, that’s not important. What is important is your customers, your business data, your transactions, your partner orders. These are not something you take a risk on. These are something that when you are handling in your business you take care of.

So when you are evaluating your middleware software – maybe comparing WebSphere MQ to other solutions that promise you ‘free’ or ‘open source’, then maybe you need to figure out what it is for. Is it for something you care about? Does it matter to you? Maybe you actually ought to invest in it a little to ensure you get the best. The companies producing these software solutions need to invest to build and support them. Providing them as open source, or free is simply one distribution option – but the goal is still to make money.

IBM recently contributed the MQTT standard, and the source for our MQTT clients to the Eclipse Paho project. It is actually rewarding that this standard has been picked up by many vendors, who are producing their own clients and support. And this was essential for the success of the protocol. In order to be taken up by M2M vendors, and to better penetrate the mobile space, a wide range of support was needed. And this was accelerated by making it a standard and providing source code. It is a means to an end. Just like in the TV world if you subscribe to Sky, they give you a Sky+ box – something I needed to buy from Tivo all those years ago. They can offer this for free because it provides you with a stronger reason to be committed to buying their TV subscription. Stop doing that and you lose the benefit of your free solution. Not so free then after all.

So when looking at your middleware options, make sure you think carefully, about the value your place on your business, and the need you have for freedom of movement for your business and its future, rather than free software for todayImage.

By the way, if anyone wants 4 (yes 4) old Tivo Series 1 boxes, please let me know.

A few notes on WebSphere MQ and Clouds

June 27, 2013

A bit of a different blog post from me – not directly about a new announcement but more a few notes on WebSphere MQ and deploying on private clouds and virtual machines.

Living in the UK where WebSphere MQ is developed, we are well accustomed to clouds, and rain. Wind too. Basically any weather that might ruin your plans to sit out and enjoy yourself, maybe have some friends round, and fire up the BBQ. However for pretty much everyone in IT, clouds now have a different meaning. One that many believe means the future of IT.  And if the future is coming, or indeed already here, how does WebSphere MQ help to connect applications and systems in clouds, just as it does for existing on-premise systems?

To explain this more, let’s narrow down what we are looking at, as the term cloud has a lot of different meanings for IT infrastructure. For now, let’s focus on the way many businesses are looking to make the most out of their existing infrastructure, as virtualized environments, or private on-premise clouds. Here there are substantial savings to be made if systems can be provisioned and made available more quickly with the right configuration, either for development, system test, or even for production. After all, these businesses have already invested in hardware, and it will not just frustrating to have it sat idle, but costly.

And it is not just frustrating and costly to have hardware sat idle, but doubly so to have invested in software such as WebSphere MQ, and to not have it readily available when you have an urgent need for a new system ready to go. And in these days of ever more pressing deadlines, alongside ever more capable software, you don’t want to have to install and then configure what might be multiple settings in the software to meet the specific needs of your deployment.

What you need is effectively a push button rapid deployment of your software – in this case WebSphere MQ, onto your waiting systems, to meet the dynamic needs of your business. With WebSphere MQ you can get just that – however you want it.

For example you might have seen the value in IBM PureApplication System which provides a flexible scalable system designed for transactional workload. We have a specific version of MQ – WebSphere MQ Hypervisor Edition, which is optimized for deployment into the virtualized platform offered by IBM PureApplication System.

WebSphere MQ Hypervisor Edition V7.5 is a packaged offering with the choice of either AIX or Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server as the operating system, which is deployed at the same time as WebSphere MQ itself – providing a repeatable deployment pattern for MQ to lay down as a clean image. What’s nice about this is that you can deploy the image, configure it how you want, and then recapture the same image. So that now, when you subsequently deploy it, you have got a tailored image to match your exact requirements, all deployed on a fresh Virtual Machine in around 5 minutes.

Note that you aren’t restricted to just capturing WebSphere MQ by itself. If you have license entitlement to WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer Edition, WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security or WebSphere MQ Telemetry, these can also be deployed, configured and recaptured for subsequent deployment. In this way, your virtualized environment can be configured and deployed ready for you to bring up a development, test or production instance at a moment’s notice. There is no faster way to get the complete messaging infrastructure you need when you need it.

Some of the benefits of taking the WebSphere MQ Hypervisor Edition as the offering to deploy into private clouds and virtualized environments are that you get the integration with the IBM Workload Deployer appliance or the IBM PureApplication System hardware. So if you are choosing either, or both of these, then using WebSphere MQ Hypervisor Edition in conjunction with them is great, both from an integrated deployment point of view and also from the license management that they provide. You then have an easy way to configure and capture tested WebSphere MQ configurations to meet your deployment needs at every stage of your application lifecycle.

However if you simply want to manage and deploy your own virtualized environments then you can do this by creating your own scripts to deploy the WebSphere MQ environment of your needs. Clearly this will require more skills and expertise than making use of the WebSphere MQ Hypervisor Editions, but for some virtualized deployment environments, this would be normal practice – aligning with the typical MQ administrator behaviour over many years. 

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.

 

Bringing it all together – WebSphere MQ Advanced

October 9, 2012

The last 12 months have been very busy for WebSphere MQ. First, in November 2011 there was a great new functional release with WebSphere MQ V7.1, bringing improvements to performance, security, install and more on all platforms including z/OS. Then we brought out a major shift in how we packaged and delivered the whole WebSphere MQ family with WebSphere MQ V7.5 in June 2012. And now we follow up both of those with the announcement of WebSphere MQ Advanced V7.5 and WebSphere MQ Advanced for z/OS V7.1

So what are these new offerings, how do they build on the other recent releases, and why are they important and of benefit for our clients – they many thousands of MQ users?

First, a quick restatement of the reason for using WebSphere MQ – IT infrastructure becomes ever more complex as it is more inter-connected. More applications, more systems, more services. All looking to exchange information rapidly, simply, reliably, securely. And the truth is that no matter how robust you make your infrastructure, failures inevitably occur, which means your applications that move and exchange data need to cater for all types of potential failure. This introduces complexity, potential errors and vastly increases the time and cost to both implement and maintain each and every application. 

So WebSphere MQ exists on virtually every commercial IT platform to allow developers to focus their applications on the business logic, and to leave the handling of the data movement to WebSphere MQ, where failures can be managed and handled without logic in the applications. 

WebSphere MQ was able to be extended to add additional value, generally for fairly general use-cases, such as managed file transfer using MQ as a transport, and for end-to-end encryption, and also extending the MQ infrastructure to more lightweight, infrequently connected devices.

In WebSphere MQ V7.5 we changed how we made all this MQ content available, by shipping all of it within the core WebSphere MQ package. All content was separately installable and separately entitled, but it was all available to all WebSphere MQ users as a part of the package, and hence a core part of the whole MQ value proposition. This was how IBM would be delivering WMQ content from now on – as a whole package. And customers could easily trial any of the features in the offering to see if they were of interest to their business. 

But it was then clear that part of the value of the WebSphere MQ V7.5 package could be progressed further, by making it even simpler for customers to move up to use all of the WebSphere MQ capabilities, by enabling customers to buy and install all of the capabilities more easily. So we are today – October 9th 2012 – announcing WebSphere MQ Advanced V7.5, which will be available on October 12th 2012. This part provides entitlement to WebSphere MQ V7.5, and also WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer Service, as well as WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security. If you buy 1000PVUs of WebSphere MQ Advanced you get entitlement to 1000 PVUs of each of those 3 offerings. Customers who buy any entitlement to WebSphere MQ Advanced also get unlimited entitlement to deploy WebSphere MQ Telemetry, allowing the standard WMQ Telemetry clients to connect to any of their WMQ Servers. 

The addition of WebSphere MQ Advanced to the licensing options available to customers (none of the existing licenses are being removed) will make it easier for customers to buy and deploy all the WebSphere MQ capabilities they need, without worrying about whether they are actually entitled to deploy them.

Buying and deploying WebSphere MQ Advanced will also encourage more developers to take advantage of the use-cases around WebSphere MQ Managed File Transfer, WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security and WebSphere MQ Telemetry, which will allow WebSphere MQ users to get more benefit from their existing WebSphere MQ investment and help that network drive those benefits more deeply into their business. 

An important aspect of this announcement is that we have not just announced WebSphere MQ Advanced V7.5 for distributed platforms but also WebSphere MQ Advanced for z/OS V7.1. When we announced WebSphere MQ V7.5, it was just for distributed platforms as it made substantial changes and fixes to the specific install procedures on the distributed platforms which weren’t an issue on the z/OS platform. However with WebSphere MQ Advanced we wanted to deliver on z/OS something as similar as possible to the plan for the distributed platforms. As on the distributed platforms the z/OS versions of WMQ Advanced Message Security and WMQ File Transfer Edition depend on WebSphere MQ being available. However unlike the distributed platforms where multiple WMQ servers may be deployed on multiple different physical machines, on z/OS you would tend to see WebSphere MQ deployed on a z/OS partition with numerous other applications. As such the best way to provide the aggregated and integrated value of the wider WebSphere MQ family on z/OS is to combine both WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security and WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition in a single package, where WebSphere MQ for z/OS is a pre-req, but otherwise customers buying this new offering will gain entitlement to both WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security and WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition. 

We believe both of these announcements will help our customers better understand the wide set of WebSphere MQ capabilities and find it easy to gain entitlement to all the functions they need. Customers can of course continue to buy and use the separate WebSphere MQ parts already available, and buy WebSphere MQ Advanced as they see the need.

One last item before I finish this blog update. There was a recent item on the MQDev Community Blog about how you can use the MQTT protocol in a Hybrid android mobile app developed using IBM Worklight Studio. This is a great example of the exciting ways in which both the MQTT protocol, and also WebSphere MQ Advanced can be used going forward. 

Now what shall we do next with WebSphere MQ? Watch this space!