Gold Consultants go Behind the Scenes in Silicon Valley

By Julian Stuhler

Wow, what a week. A couple of months ago I was thrilled to receive an invite to IBM’s annual zIM Bootcamp at the Silicon Valley Labs in California, the home of DB2 (and many other IM products) . The bootcamp is the main source of information for IBM mainframe technical professionals around the world and usually open to IBM internal staff only, but this year a few Gold Consultants and Information Champions were also invited and I was fortunate enough to be among them.

Unfortunately most of what we learned during the week was under non-disclosure and will have to remain under wraps until it is formally announced over the coming months. However I can share a few of the general themes:

– DB2 10 for z/OS remains very popular, and the trend for customers migrating to the new release much more aggressively than usual continues. A good number of sites are already in full production and many others are planning to be there by the end of 2012. The imminent withdrawal from service of DB2 V8 this April is a big contributor to these timescales, but DB2 9 has now been available for nearly 5 years and the clock is definitely ticking for that release too – expect an announcement very soon that will set an end date on DB2 9 support and focus the minds of those V9 customers who have not yet made their DB2 10 migration plans.

– Meanwhile, work is well under way for the next major release of DB2 for z/OS, codenamed Sequoia. IBM will of course share more details of specific new functionality as the content of the release is finalised, but in the meantime you can expect a continuation of the excellent scalability and performance work delivered in DB2 10. One interesting tidbit – if you’re one of those sites suffering from “rebindaphobia” with plans or packages dating back several releases/decades, you need to finally mend your ways. From Sequoia onwards the only plans/packages supported will be from in-service DB2 releases (meaning DB2 9 and DB2 10). You have been warned.

– For many years, the DB2 performance monitors provided by the various vendors (including IBM) all did a pretty good, but pretty similar, job. One of the ongoing challenges is monitoring and problem diagnosis for distributed applications, where the DB2 monitor can only show part of the story – if the end user is experiencing a slowdown it could be down to the client, the app server, the network, DB2 or many other things (although in my experience it is usually the poor DB2 guy that gets the blame first!). During the bootcamp I had the opportunity to learn about and use the Extended Insight feature of IBM’s Omegamon Performance Expert tool, and I was very impressed with the ability to display information on the end-to-end response time for distributed applications. It’s not perfect, but it’s a huge leap forward from the traditional piecemeal approach and a real competitive differentiator for IBM’s toolset.

– An amazing amount of work has been done in enhancing the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator (IDAA, previously known as IBM Smart Analytics Opimizer, or ISAO). Less than 15 months after completing the acquisition of Netezza, IBM has V2 of the innovative DB2 for z/OS query offload system on the market and this removes many of the restrictions imposed by its predecessor (such as the need to use a star schema). Early customer results are very positive, with results of 2000x elapsed time improvements being quoted. This technology promises to deliver some unique business benefits for z/OS customers, but will undoubtedly pose additional DB2 technical challenges as well. I’ll be following its progress with great interest, and look forward to helping customers evaluate and maybe even implement it sometime soon.

I’ve been to the SVL labs quite a few times over the years but I never fail to be impressed by both the facilities and the beauty of the rolling countryside in which they reside. Couple that with an unseasonably warm week of Californian sunshine and I’m really not looking forward to facing the English winter when I fly back this afternoon. However the trip back also represents an opportunity to put all of my new experiences to good use and that is a much more tempting prospect.

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