Data Center Apparatus

March 21, 2012  9:01 AM

Hack the memeframe, er, mainframe

Tom Walat Tom Walat Profile: Tom Walat

 The shrinking number of workers who can program and administer a mainframe, sometimes referred to as the “red-haired stepchild of IT,” are members of an exclusive club with a language and sense of humor all their own.

 We’ve compiled a few of our favorite mainframe-related jokes and catchphrases from the Internet. Be forewarned that some are groaners, but if you’re a mainframer — or even if you’re not — you might just chuckle.

 Old mainframers never die. They just take a dump and re-ipl.

 Elvis and Jesus are editing their programs on TSO when the system crashes. Who lost his files?
Elvis, because Jesus saves.

 It might be a mainframe:

·         If you can fit a bed and mini fridge inside.

·         If the power supply is bigger than your car.

·         If the only “mouse” it has is the one living inside it.

·         If you need earth-moving equipment to relocate it.

 You might be a mainframer:

·         If the phrase “green card” doesn’t make you think of immigration.

·         If you think all computers belong on a raised floor.

·         If your definition of “bursting” has nothing to do with too much turkey on Thanksgiving.

 A systems programmer is at lunch with some data processing auditors. The waitress asks the sysprog what he wants to order. “Pork chops,” he says. “What about the vegetables?” she asks. The sysprog says, “Oh, they can order for themselves.”

 Now it’s your turn. Mainframers who want to ride the crest of the latest meme wave, send us your jokes and other, er, “sh*t mainframers say” by adding them via the comments button on this post.

 Send longer anecdotes or links to videos relating to mainframes and the folks who love them to site editor Tom Walat at so we can compile and share them with the masses.

February 23, 2012  4:16 PM

Is IBM stealing HP server market share?

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

HP reported its fiscal first quarter 2012 earnings last night, and the results weren’t pretty.

Overall revenue of $30 billion was down 7% from the previous year and overall profit declined 44% compared with the previous year. Hewlett Packard’s (HP) Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking (ESSN) revenues declined 10%.

“Industry standard servers revenue was down in a highly competitive environment that was compounded by the hard disk shortage,” said HP CEO Meg Whitman on the company’s earnings conference call. “Business critical system revenues also declined as we continued to address the Oracle Itanium situation.”

Adding insult to injury, IBM issued a note to press claiming it has taken substantial server business away from HP and Oracle / Sun Microsystems. IBM said it recorded nearly 2,400 competitive displacements in 2011 for its servers and storage systems. Almost 40% of the displacements came from HP and more than 25% came from Oracle/Sun, according to an IBM press release issued Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Dell also reported earnings this week. Like HP, Dell experienced a hard drive shortage during the fourth quarter of 2011, due to flooding in Thailand

The flooding “forced us to sell lower or less configured, lower-end systems and prevented us from accessing higher-margin, more highly configured systems,” CFO Brian T. Gladden told analysts on the earnings call.

Still, Dell reported that its server and networking revenues grew 6% year-over-year.

February 1, 2012  11:21 AM

Property of “disgraced ex-media tycoon” becomes data center

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

A property holdings company in the UK has an interesting hook to attract attention to its new £35 million ($56 million) data center — the property once belonged to a notorious celebrity.

PMB Holdings, a commercial real estate company founded by property developer Peter Beckwith, has demolished Maxwell House to make way for a new data center. Maxwell House was once the property of the late publishing executive and former Member of Parliament (MP) Robert Maxwell. Maxwell was the owner of an extensive publishing empire whose death in 1991 revealed wide-scale fraud.

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December 5, 2011  3:55 PM

Data center infrastructure management on the move

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

With the Gartner Data Center Conference in full swing this week in Las Vegas, several players in the data center infrastructure management (DCIM) space took the opportunity to announce new versions of their wares. Here’s a roundup of recent DCIM news.

IO offers “data center OS” as stand-alone software
IO has released DCIM software it uses in its proprietary modular data centers as stand-alone software. The IO OS “data center operating system” gathers mechanical, power, cooling and electrical usage data in real time, maintaining that data and integrating it with ticketing systems and audit trail processes. IO OS can display data center assets according to a number of perspectives – physical, logical and infrastructure – and includes views of supporting systems such as generators, switchgear, paralleling systems and chillers. With this information, IO OS provides a single pane of glass from which data center operators can establish and maintain quality of service, while optimizing data center utilization and operating costs, the company said.

Sentilla adds business planning and analytics functions
At Sentilla Corp., the holy grail of DCIM is not so much to collect information about the data center, but to do something with it. As such, the latest Sentilla 4.0 includes financial and infrastructure planning modules, plus new asset analysis capabilities. The new version also supports the ability to support multiple data centers from one interface, and its asset database features improved importing and discovery capabilities. Sentilla continues to add modeling information for systems from Dell, HP, IBM, NetApp and Sun/Oracle to its database, and offers improved support for facility infrastructure from Eaton, Emerson, APC and Schneider Electric, plus management software from BMC and HP.

iTRACS ties in with Intel Data Center Manager
iTRACS, another DCIM player, is working with Intel to integrate Intel Data Center Manager software with its Converged Physical Infrastructure Management (CPIM) suite, improving its collection, management, and analysis of CPU power, temperature, and environmental information. As a result, iTRACS will be better able to perform capacity planning, improve rack densities, identify inefficient IT assets, pinpoint cooling issues, optimize IT equipment lifecycle and prevent outages.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, Executive Editor at, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.

October 19, 2011  3:56 PM

Risks of data center maturity

Stephen Bigelow Stephen Bigelow Profile: Stephen Bigelow

Of all the mandates faced by an enterprise data center, the mandate of “maturity” is perhaps the most treacherous and self-defeating. The early life cycle of a data center is typically based on functional stability, making the investment in operational basics needed to keep the shop open and deliver essential IT services. These so-called operational basics include infrastructure, such as servers, storage and networks; security planning, such as Active Directory configuration and malware support; and core application support, such as Exchange Server.

But data centers mature and grow over time. It’s not enough for IT managers to deploy Web and email servers, check for alerts and sip their afternoon coffee. Every data center must “mature” to some extent so that it becomes a business partner or collaborator rather than just a cost center.

The problem is that the path to data center maturity is clouded by technologies, strategies and initiatives that wind up getting in the way of everyday things that data centers and IT staff do well. As businesses refocus their attention on things like enterprise architecture, business intelligence and project management, there is a disturbing tendency for the business (and IT) to lose focus on the underlying infrastructure and operational aspects that got IT a seat at the executive table in the first place.

The result is that IT maturity unexpectedly sputters and stops–-usually at a point just before it emerges as a real differentiator for the business. Consider the high-end systems management framework that takes 12 months to configure before it’s able to provide any useful insight, only to be obsolete and worthless three months later because it costs too much and takes too long for the IT team to keep the framework updated. Or, the new enterprise architecture project that bogs down or stalls because the necessary infrastructure documentation is lacking. Sound familiar?

Yes, every tie-wearing, desk-wielding CIO longs to reach the mountaintop–the day when their IT department can become some sort of mystical “transformational force” in the business. And yes, this type of lofty goal will demand a substantial level of IT maturity (and a substantial financial investment to match). But it’s unwise for any business to pursue maturity path strictly for its own sake. It’s more important for IT to provide value within the roles that business wants and needs–and stay focused on the basics that will facilitate future growth when a meaningful opportunity to mature finally arrives.

October 18, 2011  1:38 AM

Cisco Fabric Extender finally available for HP BladeSystem

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

HP c-Class BladeSystem shops will finally be able to connect their systems to a Cisco Unified Fabric, using the new Cisco Nexus B22 Fabric Extender (FEX) for HP announced on Friday.

This is not a corner case. Despite stiff competition, HP BladeSystem still leads the market for blade servers, as Cisco leads the enterprise 10Gb Ethernet switching market with its Nexus 5000 and 7000 switches. But competition between the two vendors over the past couple of years have shut these two worlds off from one another, as Cisco hoped to push its network customers to Unified Computing System (UCS), and HP tried to lure its BladeSystem users to its 3COM gear.

Now, the two companies appear to have reached a détente. With the Nexus B22 FEX in place, HP BladeSystem users can consolidate multiple 1Gb Ethernet links on to a single 10Gb link, reducing cabling, NICs, power consumption, and operating expenses. The FEX also enables support for Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), and enables a single point of management in to Nexus 5000 and 7000 series switches.

The Nexus B22 FEX is currently available from HP and its partners for a starting price of $9,799.

October 17, 2011  12:40 PM

IT innovation by rethinking applications

Stephen Bigelow Stephen Bigelow Profile: Stephen Bigelow

As a technologist, it’s easy to focus on technology–-the servers, storage, networks and other hardware that make IT work. The problem that technologists face is that technology simply isn’t enough. The drive to manage an ever-increasing number of systems with fewer staff and tighter budgets has a point of diminishing returns.

Vendors tout tools like systems management and automation as vehicles to handle this burden, and it’s the right end game. But, unfortunately, it’s not enough by itself. Systems management, automation and other IT tools are just too complicated. Just consider how long it took your organization to select, deploy, configure and use that last software investment productively. It’s not uncommon for a software framework to take six to 12 months before an organization can use it productively. And even then, inevitable changes and reconfiguration (even patches and updates) can prove disruptive, leaving the IT organization vulnerable.

There are many innovations on the horizon for IT, but few innovations hold the promise of “people-centric software design.” IT management software designers need to take a page from other aspects of the mobile intelligent application industry and focus their efforts on context-sensitive computing. I’m not talking about a fancy new user interface. I mean software designers must rethink the way that they approach design and create a new generation of management tools with the high-level intelligence that can multiply an IT administrator’s efficiency.

We see this in the future of commercial applications. Take a picture of a gadget on a store shelf with your mobile phone, and quickly see the specs and reviews for that device, and then (based on your inquiries) receive coupons or links to other devices. There are countless other examples where application designers are developing software that makes decisions based on factors, like location, user activity patterns or search habits, and even gathers information from social media sources.

Consider an administrator responsible for 1,000 servers across three data centers. A new reporting application might look at the administrator’s location and present status information on the systems in the closest or current facility. That administrator might run performance analyses much of the time, so the new app might also present performance data on those local servers, identifying poor performers and suggesting potential fixes without being asked. Quick links to server manufacturers’ forums or social media outlets might then allow the administrator to share concerns or ask questions of the user community.

Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that IT administrators start managing their global server farm through Facebook. But, IT administrators must manage a spiraling amount of infrastructure using a greater diversity of devices. Software makers absolutely must re-imagine their IT management products in order to simplify it, make it smarter and allow busier administrators to handle more information using a greater array of mobile and tablet devices.

September 28, 2011  1:07 PM

Avoiding disaster with IT vendors

Stephen Bigelow Stephen Bigelow Profile: Stephen Bigelow

The biggest impediment to successful IT operations is often IT product vendors. Modern IT hardware and software vendors seem to go out of their way to confuse buyers with outlandish claims and lock them in with draconian licensing, rather than assist them with tangible guidance and support realistic business needs in a heterogeneous setting.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve watched vendors–often large, world-class vendors–tout their wares as a universal solution to every business problem. “Just sign here,” they say with a smile. “Our new widget will make all your problems go away. We promise.” And IT, often overworked, understaffed, and fending off pressure from the C level, foregoes some portion of due diligence, assuaged by vendor claims of interoperability and support.

And after that sparkling new product is deployed, you find that it doesn’t work the way that the vendor claims, at least, not in your environment and not without additional capital-intensive upgrades. Assuming that you manage to discuss the matter with vendor support, the onus usually winds up on you to identify the root cause. Wasted time, wasted money, frustration…sound familiar?

The reality is that the business role of IT is more important than ever, but most IT departments no longer have the staff or funding to wrestle with vendors. IT departments also cannot deal with vendors’ deployment catastrophes after the fact. IT and C-level executives simply cannot afford to risk the server farm on a vendor’s promises.

There are two crucial messages here.

First, (pay attention all you C-levels out there) IT is not about “firefighting.” The true value of IT is in its ability to identify, integrate and manage technologies that allow your business to function and generate revenue. So for the love of God, step off and let IT do its job. IT is always busy, and it may take time to evaluate the best solutions for your business problems, but IT can find the best solutions for you if you support them in that goal. Bring IT into those executive planning meetings and solicit IT feedback and input on new company initiatives. Edicts from the top almost never translate well into a data center. C-level executives that play golf with a vendor and push their new widget on IT the next day are undermining IT efforts–and jeopardizing the entire business.

Second, IT administrators will also need to show more backbone. Folding under pressure to purchase products is a guarantee of sleepless nights and long weekends, usually spent listening to Musak versions of “Muskrat Love” and waiting on hold for vendor support. Push back on vendors and talk business objectively with your own executives. Get those new products on extended loan and tackle the due diligence testing in lab and limited production environments. Compare similar products, see what works and what doesn’t, and put those vendors on the spot. Make the time up front–you won’t regret it.

Avoid the path of least resistance. It’s the only way that IT and the business will be successful.

September 19, 2011  6:38 AM

The importance of innovation in the data center

NicoleH Nicole Harding Profile: NicoleH


The constant evolution of data center technology makes it difficult for many business owners and IT managers to stay up to date with the latest industry trends. However, upgrading your systems and equipment is a valuable endeavor, and periodic technology refresh cycles cannot be avoided. 

Why staying current is essential

Continuing to use outdated equipment and software not only makes it harder to maintain a thriving business, it can also put you at risk for virus and security threats, lead to employee frustration and reduce overall productivity. Deploying systems with sufficient processing power, ample memory, appropriate backup devices and current software will pay off in dividends.


“In the IT world, being lax on up-to-date information creates a stagnant environment filled with inefficiencies. The rule is simple: Complacency in IT is extremely detrimental to both careers and data centers,” said Bill Kleyman, virtualization architect at MTM Technologies Inc., based in Stamford, Conn.


Although staying current with the latest trends is crucial, it isn’t necessary to deploy the most recent data center products on the market as they are released.  


“IT managers need to maintain full awareness of what the industry is offering so they can make prudent decisions when existing equipment limitations start to stifle business growth,” said Robert McFarlane, principal in charge of data center design at Shen Milsom & Wilke, based in New York.


It’s also important to remember that everything is interrelated—hardware, software, space, power and cooling. “The industry is rife with stories about IT managers who bought racks of new blade servers to save money, only to find that it cost several times their projected savings to upgrade the power and cooling systems to support them. Everything must be considered in moving forward, which requires up-to-date knowledge,” McFarlane said.


Balancing innovation and IT budget

But just wanting the latest technologies may not be enough. You may find that the current economic climate is a deterrent to new deployment plans. However, with proper planning, there are numerous ways that an existing budget can work in your favor, producing immediate and long-term savings.


“There are always great deals on servers and networking products. Smart purchases focusing on long-term savings can include buying things like a Cisco Unified Computing System blade environment to consolidate and virtualize an environment,” Kleymen said. “By removing a hardware footprint that includes old servers hosting legacy applications, you create savings in both hardware maintenance and energy consumption.”


Another important consideration that can affect budget is a product’s flexibility. Buying “cheap” products will only lead to premature replacements, because not all of your business and system requirements can be satisfied, added McFarlane. “Flexibility is the watchword in today’s data centers, and flexibility is what will enable an operation to keep up with demands, while also staying within budget.”


Selecting the right products

Choosing the right products for your data center is crucial. Deploying the wrong products quickly leads to lost revenue, decreased productivity, and might potentially injure your business. It’s also important to remember that no one product can fulfill all of your infrastructure needs.


“In most cases today, there is more than one way to address a need, so the ’right‘ decision may hinge as much on things like available service or existing familiarity as on technological superiority,” McFarlane said. “But the selected technology, whether for computing or infrastructure, still has to be appropriate for the job.”


When choosing a product, don’t choose it just because it has the same make or type that already exists in the data center, or because it has a friendly salesman, or an apparent lowest initial cost, McFarlane added.


“A company must conduct thorough research into a product before going with it. This includes, but certainly is not limited to, deep-dive, proof-of-concept projects, presales training, return on investment analysis, cost and benefit breakdown, integration methodology, and so on,” Kleyman agreed.’s Product of the Year awards

Even grizzled data center gurus need help identifying the best products for their next technology refresh, and is here to help. Our annual Products of the Year (POY) awards evaluate and score countless new products, and select gold, silver and bronze winners in infrastructure, computing and systems management categories.


We expect the 2011 competition to be challenging. To win, a product must exceed expectations across judging criteria, such as performance, innovation, integration, functionality, user feedback and more. Each nomination will also be scored by a panel of independent industry judges, and we will announce the top products in January 2012.


Do you have a product that should be nominated for the 2011 POY? Check out the judging criteria, and then submit your online nomination form here.


Take a look at our Products of the Year 2010 award winners.


September 7, 2011  2:49 PM

RISC servers for data center efficiency

NicoleH Nicole Harding Profile: NicoleH


If you think RISC servers are taking a back seat to specialized mainframe transaction processors and inexpensive, general-purpose x86 processors, think again.


RISC microprocessors specialize in handling a limited and specific set of instructions and have fewer transistors, making them cheaper to use, more energy efficient and an ideal option for faster performance. The chips are most widely deployed in printers, mobile phones, video game consoles, hard drives and routers, but data centers are now paying greater attention to servers stuffed with Tilera, Intel Atom or other RISC-type processors.

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