Monday, 28 August 2017

Continuing leadership in enterprise and cloud data protection

IBM Spectrum Protect™ has been named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Data Center Backup and Recovery Solutions report for 2017. This is the seventh consecutive year that IBM Spectrum Protect has earned this honor, and the 12th time dating back to 1999.

IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications, IBM Guides, IBM Learning

A member of the IBM Spectrum Storage family of software-defined storage solutions, IBM Spectrum Protect provides a wide range of backup, snapshot, archive, recovery, space management, bare machine recovery and disaster recovery capabilities. It can help protect data on systems of all sizes – from a single point of control. It can make advanced data protection possible for current and next-generation environments, including cloud, virtualized and software-defined environments. IBM Spectrum Protect helps recover individual items, complex systems and entire data centers.

What does it mean to be a leader in backup and recovery solutions? According to Gartner, leaders have the highest combined measures of Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision. Leaders have the most comprehensive and scalable product portfolios.  They have a proven track record of established market presence and financial performance. For vision, they are perceived in the industry as thought leaders, and have well-articulated plans for enhancing recovery capabilities, improving ease of deployment and administration, and increasing their scalability and product breadth.

Does IBM Spectrum Protect have these leadership qualities? Peter Nielsen, CEO and Co-Founder of Frontsafe, a dedicated backup service provider that manages more than 12,000 servers through 150 OEM-branded partners using IBM Spectrum Protect and Frontsafe Cloud Portal software, states:

“When we tested data protection solutions, we discovered that IBM Spectrum Protect backed up data 60% faster than the alternatives. Additionally, we estimate that Spectrum Protect has enabled us to reduce our backup infrastructure costs by around 50 percent.”

Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) and other cloud-based data protection approaches are gaining plenty of market traction these days, and IBM Spectrum Protect developers have responded.

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“IBM Spectrum Protect is a powerful, well-designed data protection solution that enables us to manage large and complex landscapes with a high degree of efficiency,” states Clayton Weise, Director of Cloud for Key Information Systems (KeyInfo), an IBM Business Partner that delivers hybrid cloud data protection solutions using IBM Spectrum Protect. image of man holding cloudWe’re not standing still. IBM is leading the way into the future of data protection. We’re delivering new capabilities in IBM Spectrum Protect that are making that future of data protection a reality. In the last year alone, we have made it dramatically easier to backup to the cloud with new cloud support. And we have enhanced support for our own IBM cloud and IBM Cloud Object Storage. We’ve introduced new features to enhance virtual environment data protection. But we’re just getting started. Make sure to join us at VMworld Las Vegas (booths 506 and 1225) VMworld Barcelona (booth D315) where the next revolution in data protection and availability will be unveiled.

IBM Business Partners, customers and respected analysts all agree that we are a leader in the backup and recovery solutions market. It’s no wonder IBM has achieved this honor, year after year.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Thinking about data protection and backup software?

Gartner suggests that organizations usually change backup applications for familiar reasons:
  1. Simplicity
  2. Speed
  3. Scale
  4. Savings
  5. Support
In my experience, there is an additional criterion:  Trust.  If you can’t trust your backups, you must make a change.


Data protection solutions must be easy to deploy, learn and use.  Organizations need to know if there is a risk of data loss because of backup issues.


Backups need to complete within the backup window, and be restored as fast as the business requires.  Critical data may require snapshot-based backups or remote mirroring.


Scalable data protection solutions require less maintenance and cause less disruption as data grows.  Data almost always grows, so scalable is better.


Inefficient data protection applications can waste resources, stifle innovation and reduce competitiveness.


Most organizations don’t need backup application support often, but when they do it has to be right.


Organizations need to know their backup data is safe and can be recovered in the event of any emergency.

Data protection solutions from IBM

If your backup application isn’t meeting your needs, consider IBM Spectrum Protect.  Why?  I manage IBM Spectrum Protect developers.  I know their skills, experience and dedication.   Consider the following capabilities:


IBM Spectrum Protect provides a single data protection platform for virtual environments, big data, core applications, file systems and physical machines.
IBM Spectrum Protect has optimized interfaces for data owners, VM administrators, cloud service providers and backup administrators.


IBM Spectrum Protect delivers:
  • High performance in-line deduplication, similar to deduplication appliances.
  • High Speed Data Transfer built with Aspera FASP that replicates data faster over high-latency, high-loss networks.
  • Near-instant snapshot backups and restores for VMware, core applications and storage systems.
IBM Tutorials and Certifications, IBM Guides, IBM Learning


IBM Spectrum Protect is built with scalable components such as a DB2 backup catalog, and is available on large-scale IBM Power Systems and IBM z Systems.  Many large enterprise clients are managing multiple petabytes of backup data.


Switching to IBM Spectrum Protect can reduce backup infrastructure costs by 53 percent on average, based on IBM assessments using Butterfly software.  IBM has performed over 1,300 Butterfly assessments.


IBM Spectrum Protect offers legendary code quality and customer support.  Experienced IBM Spectrum Protect development and support staff helps promote each client’s success.


IBM’s business is built on core values designed to earn your trust.  More than two thirds of the world’s Fortune 100 enterprises rely on IBM Spectrum Protect for data protection.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Expanding cloud options

According to industry analysts, more than 50 percent of IT spending will be cloud-based by 2018. IBM research confirms that 75 percent of enterprises in the US plan to increase cloud investment. It’s clear that cloud computing has become a foundational part of 21st century IT infrastructure solutions.

Data protection is one area that has significantly benefited from the move to the cloud. Using public cloud resources, organizational leaders can dramatically streamline data protection solutions. Resources can be purchased only as needed, with few capital outlays. Data can be quickly and easily backed up to the cloud across a wide variety of cloud providers. Connecting to the cloud, however, can create very complex and daunting management challenges. These include copying and moving massive data sets, maximizing network performance, using the most cost-effective cloud and on-premises storage tiers and scheduling and monitoring and tracking backups among many other tasks.

These reasons are why enterprises turn to IBM Spectrum Protect.

Expanding cloud options, IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications

IBM Spectrum Protect provides a wide range of backup, snapshot, archive, recovery, space management and disaster recovery capabilities. It can help protect and manage data on systems of all sizes – from a single point of control. It can help to advance data protection for many different types of environments being used today, including cloud, virtualized and software-defined environments. IBM Spectrum Protect helps recover individual items, complex systems and entire data centers.

With the introduction of container technology to IBM Spectrum Protect nearly two years ago, IBM helped make cloud-based data protection solutions simpler to deploy, extremely efficient and cloud friendly. IBM Spectrum Protect has steadily expanded its list of supported clouds and in version 8.1.2, it has expanded further to include Microsoft Azure (hot or cold) Blob storage as a target for cloud-container storage pools. Now that incorporating cloud-based data protection has become less complex and more open, enterprises can shift the focus of their decision-making processes toward selecting the right cloud provider. They carry the knowledge that it will be supported by their data protection architecture.
The new IBM Spectrum Protect version 8.1.2 helps teams to more effectively address these questions. It provides expanded cloud service provider options and makes data protection management in the cloud even easier through many new enhanced features and capabilities such as:
  • Expanded cloud options
    • Native Microsoft Azure Blob storage support integration
  • Enhanced virtual environment capabilities
    • vSphere Web Client Native HTML5 support
    • Enhanced monitoring capabilities native to the vSphere Web Client
    • Persistent snapshot management of VMware virtual volumes (VVOLs)
    • Optimized recovery for VMware environments
    • Support for Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2016 Resilient Change Tracking (RCT)
  • Improved data protection management
    • At-rest encryption for directory-container storage pools
    • Performance enhancements for multi-session, no-query restores from container storage pools
    • Configuration wizard for scheduling SQL Server and Exchange Server backups
    • Ability to send NetApp NDMP backups to container storage pools
    • Improved integration and performance when using IBM Spectrum Protect and IBM Spectrum Scale together
The addition of support for Microsoft Azure Blob storage as a target for cloud-container storage pools is an excellent example of the increased flexibility and expanded options provided in the new release. IBM customers can now use hot or cool Blob tiers to optimize data economics. Then, IBM Spectrum Protect adds its powerful inline data deduplication, compression and encryption to lower costs even further.
“Microsoft Azure Blobs are an easy and cost-effective way to store hundreds to billions of objects, in hot or cool tiers, depending on how often data access is needed,” notes Sarah Muckler-Visser, the Global Alliance Director with Microsoft. “Now IBM Spectrum Protect enables organizations to leverage the advantages of Azure Blob storage to build agile, cost-effective data protection solutions on the Microsoft Azure cloud. As more and more customers take their backups to the cloud, we think this new, cloud-ready capability from IBM is critical for data protection in the modern data center.”
IBM remains a leader in data backup and recovery software. We are also one of the top cloud services providers on the planet. With a pedigree like that, it’s easy to understand how cloud and data protection naturally came together in IBM Spectrum Protect. Now, we are once more expanding cloud-based data protection options and capabilities, providing more flexibility for our customers and helping them gain greater benefits from cloud-based data protection solutions.

[1] IDC FutureScape: WorldWide Cloud 2016 Predictions – Mastering the Raw Material of Digital Transformation
[2] IBM Center for Applied Insights, “Global Tech Hot Spots: A country-level look at big data & analytics, cloud, mobile and social.”

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

VM protection and availability made easy

There is too much complexity in backup and data protection. Even the solutions that tout their simplicity can take weeks to setup and hours to recover – even if you’re a backup expert. However, there are fewer backup and storage specialists. As organizations move toward agile processes that embrace cloud and virtual machines, backup is the responsibility of the infrastructure and application administrator. Data protection and retention are vitally important to protect against human error, ransomware and failures. Ideally, VM administrators, application administrators and backup administrators can work together to respond to threats and protect the business.

IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications, IBM Materials
Administrators need a solution that is ACTUALLY easy to use and deploy. Organizational leaders want a solution that is useable by more of their IT teams to share the workload between their backup specialists and infrastructure staff. And they deserve a solution that adds value to backup data by enabling new uses such as cloning, deployment and DevOps workflows.

IBM Spectrum Protect PlusIBM has just introduced the next generation in data protection and availability for virtual environments,  and it is a game changer. IBM Spectrum Protect™ Plus is the newest addition to the IBM Spectrum Storage family of software-defined solutions, which delivers VM data availability for businesses of all sizes. It deploys in minutes as a virtual appliance. It can help non-backup specialists create and manage backup jobs using SLA-based configuration policies. It employs role-based management of the backup and recovery process so that anyone can use it, but administrators can limit people on the actions they can take. It can create and provide a familiar searchable catalog of protected VMs and files so that recovery works the way people expect. It is available as a stand-alone solution and can integrate with IBM Spectrum Protect to allow long-term offload of backup copies for data governance and compliance requirements. And it provides an API that can be used to automatically create copies for non-backup use cases such as analytics activities and DevOps.

After sharing the latest development from IBM, Jason Buffington, Principal Analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group had this to say:
“IBM has been a leader in data protection for many years, so it should come as no surprise that as production platforms and business expectations continue to evolve, so would the IBM offerings. IBM Spectrum Protect Plus is aimed to address a few of the most critical data protection challenges facing IT organizations of all sizes: virtualization and recovery agility. Even today, virtualization protection and recovery is often hampered by complexity, which is addressed by IBM’s completely reimagined ease-of-use experience for virtual environments. With its SLA-centric design, organizations have a refreshingly new and compelling alternative for modern data protection and availability that many should take a good look at.”

Is it easy to manage?

Yes!  IBM Spectrum Protect Plus operates with pick, click and done simplicity. It is as easy as selecting the recovery service level that a VM requires. An administrator can either pick from one of the predefined gold, silver and bronze SLAs, or custom-create a policy to meet their needs.  Then they can apply that service level to one or more virtual machines. If any VMs are missed, the dashboard view will quickly identify the missed machines so that the administrator can easily correct and protect those VMs.

IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications, IBM Materials

How does search and recovery work?

Part of the secret sauce behind IBM Spectrum Protect Plus is a meta-data catalog that indexes and records all backups and VMs, giving administrators a unified, Google-like search capability across the entire backup environment. They can optionally index files as well for fast file-level search and restore. It even lets you search across VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V environments in a single operation. This global search is a significant advancement over other solutions that only allow you search within a single virtual machine.

IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications, IBM Materials

Is it fast and efficient?

IBM Spectrum Protect Plus uses a block-level, incremental forever backup model that results in fast, low-impact backups, whether using VMware or Hyper-V. Rather than the appliance approaches that force you into deploying new hardware, IBM Spectrum Protect Plus can allow an administrator to use any storage, from speedy all-flash to disk-based block storage or NAS. Backups are stored as immutable snapshot images that can’t ever be overwritten. This provides the kind of protection security organizations need to always return to a captured data point.

How can it unlock the value of backup data?

While data protection is the main use case for Spectrum Protect Plus, it’s more than just a backup solution. Organizations can use it to derive real business value from backup data. With Protect Plus, administrators can quickly and easily spin up virtual machines or mount VMDKs based on read-write clones. These can then be used for any situation where users need access to data. Examples of this are test-dev, reporting or analytics. Because Spectrum Protect Plus is also enabled with a RESTful API, it can even be used as part of a DevOps workflow, helping to enhance modern, automated software development processes.

I have IBM Spectrum Protect, how should I use this new solution?

IBM Spectrum Protect Plus is a great solution for day-to-day operational recovery, but many organizations still need to keep data for longer periods of time to meet regulatory or compliance goals. If this is the case, IBM Spectrum Protect Plus offers integration with IBM Spectrum Protect. Data is copied directly from IBM Spectrum Protect Plus to IBM Spectrum Protect, and from there it can moved to any of the numerous storage tiers supported by Spectrum Protect, including disk, a wide range of tape devices, multiple cloud data stores, and object storage, including IBM Cloud Object Storage. Recovery from any of these tiers is a single-step operation.

For IBM software-defined infrastructure, simplicity and agility aren’t buzzwords, they are engineering objectives. The proof is provided by IBM Spectrum Protect Plus. Most importantly, the proof is in the protection.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Data security is a must for building a digital business

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller said in 2012, “There are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked and those that will be.”

Companies - both business-to-business and business-to-consumer - are driven more than ever to rapidly adapt to digital business. The ways companies and their customers seek and consume information, make purchase decisions, and buy and sell goods and services have undergone rapid changes.­­­­

Monday, 21 August 2017

5 ways cloud can help you innovate

Despite the prevailing wisdom that cloud is disrupting established business - and it is - many business leaders are uncertain  about how to take advantage of cloud computing’s benefits.

Cloud, IBM, IBM IOT, IOT, SaaS

Friday, 18 August 2017

Protection in the cloud with a two-pronged approach

Hacking often conjures images of malicious criminals breaking into computer systems to steal and sell data for monetary gain. More recently, hacking has become known as a weapon that can cause public embarrassment and wreck reputations.

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Cyber-extortion and the threat to expose sensitive information are on the rise. In a recent IBM report, “Ransomware: How consumers and businesses value their data,” almost half of executives (46 percent) reported that they’ve had some experience with ransomware attacks in the workplace, and 70 percent of those respondents paid to get data back.

Such threats and the news stories they generate are primary reasons why security is a top concern for businesses. However, executives at the forefront of implementing hybrid cloud strategies say they are overcoming this challenge, according to the report “Growing up hybrid: Accelerating digital transformation.” Extending the same level of security controls and best practices they have in place for traditional IT to the cloud is one way to reduce risk. Assigning business-critical work to on-premises resources is another. In fact, 78 percent of these executives say that hybrid cloud is actually improving security.

As the benefits of cloud computing — agility, innovation and efficiency — become undeniable, information security is taking on greater importance. The best defense is to cultivate security as a behavior. Technology alone cannot protect companies. There must be a cultural change in the way all employees think about security.

Expanding cloud computing

Market demands are shifting the way CIOs think about data storage and security, says Roy Illsley, chief analyst with the digital consultancy firm Ovum. Most companies still store their most sensitive data in mainframes. However, Illsley expects that to change in the next five to 10 years as consumers insist on instant access to data.

“If you’ve got everything in a mainframe and it’s stored in Frankfurt, all nice and secure, but you’ve got customers all over the world, the latency of that from someone traveling in China is probably too great to be of any use to them,” he says.

Andras Cser, an analyst with Forrester Research, says financial concerns also weigh heavily. “You can’t choose to have a legacy system because of the cost,” he says. “The cloud is so much more inexpensive. The question isn’t whether a company should move to the cloud, it’s how.”

Cloud computing is no longer limited to just the world of computer servers, data storage and networking. Increasingly, it is core to mobile devices, sensors, cognitive and the Internet of Things (IoT). As innovations like cognitive and IoT become widespread, cloud computing is seemingly everywhere.

Outsmarting the hackers

As more information is digitized, security awareness needs to increase. Hackers gain entry to secure systems via phishing attacks in which employees click on malicious attachments or visit websites that download malware onto their machines. Organizations must take a two-pronged approach to security that uses tech-based solutions, and requires workers to change how they use technology.

For instance, encryption protects email, but employees also need to be careful about what they say in their emails. It goes back to human behavior. Is that the right medium for that communication or should you just pick up a phone? That decision is made by an individual.

Many high-profile email attacks that splashed across headlines were partly the result of inadequate technology, such as not using the right email signatures, and a misguided use of the medium. It all boils down to each user’s level of security consciousness and the best practices that he or she has internalized as a behavior. The adversary is getting cannier, so security relies upon individual actions and decisions.

Security requires a strong technical defense as well. Standard defenses include encryption and geofencing, which builds a virtual fence around data and monitors employees’ comings and goings. It’s not enough to merely have such technologies on hand, however. The key is to examine how well they are configured.

Organizations need people who not only know how to secure the system, but also stay ahead of emerging threats. One positive trend: companies are beginning to work together to fight hackers.

Such cooperation shows that security has become a global issue. Never before have businesses and public personalities had a better reason to work collaboratively to thwart cybersecurity threats.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

What new IBM APM capabilities deliver to your business

Today’s business environment increases the pressure on nearly everyone to go beyond their traditional roles. Everyone from infrastructure and operations professionals, application owners, application developers and DevOps team members now need  to help drive continuous innovation to meet business objectives.

Continuous innovation is driven by continuous delivery of new and updated applications. It is easy to see why application performance management (APM) tools have become such a necessity. IBM has long been recognized as an industry leader in application performance management.

This week, we’re aiming to strengthen our leadership position with new enhancements to our IBM Cloud Application Performance Management offering.

Here’s what the latest version of IBM APM delivers:
  • Custom UI builder. Create your own dashboards to hand tailor the exact monitoring experience you need
  • Monitor your APIs. Ensure availability and performance of exposed APIs from your secured enterprise services, and determine root cause for problematic transactions that span through multiple backend services
  • Expanded coverage of application environments. This includes new support for IBM Middleware on Linux on Power LE and Linux on System z and other popular offerings.
  • Data retention. Retain and visualize data for trend analysis and export reports
We’ve also simplified the APM portfolio to two core offerings. IBM Cloud APM, Base is for IT operations teams. The other offering is IBM Cloud APM, Advanced for app owners, developers, DevOps teams, and IT Operations teams. Why? Each offering customizes more relevant performance information than ever before.

Here are some additional capabilities specific to each offering.

Cloud APM, Base

  • Create custom views with choice of metrics, the time frame, and the type of chart in which to display the data. These dashboards can also be exported to reports in a variety of formats
  • Receive Linux on IBM z Systems support for monitoring the Linux operating system, IBM WebSphere Applications Server, IBM DB2, IBM MQ, and IBM Integration
  • Monitor the Linux operating system, IBM WebSphere Application Server, and IBM DB2 with Linux on IBM Power Systems (Little Endian) support

Cloud APM, Advanced

Receive all of the capabilities mentioned for the Base offering, plus:
  • Unlock resource monitoring and transactions tracking of IBM API Connect environments
  • Also unlock resource monitoring and deep diagnostics for Java Platform, Standard Edition (J2SE) runtimes
  • Track transactions and get deep diagnostics for Red Hat JBoss runtimes, added to the existing resource monitoring capabilities
For more information on IBM Cloud Application Performance Management, feel free to reach out to me. You can also take a look at our demo video showing how to easily identify slow website transactions and isolate the cause.

We also have industry-specific white papers taking a look at Application Performance Management and DevOps for the following:


Friday, 11 August 2017

How to unbox your dynamic operations

Today’s smartphones frequently offer larger screens with smaller bezels. Their manufacturers claim an uninterrupted view of the world. Conceptually, this “unboxing” is exactly what’s needed to manage dynamic infrastructure and services.

Looking back for a moment, service delivery used to happen at a slower pace. IT teams would spend a lot of time designing services, getting the hardware to run them and finally bringing them into a long-running steady state with a bit of assurance tagged on. Combined with how businesses structured themselves, this approach resulted in pronounced silos of IT, network, storage and app management. Staffing, procedures and tooling were managed within those silos, often only integrated by phone calls between teams. Still, at least we knew what had to be managed within those silos and their discontinuous views of the world.

Then, along came the great enablers of modern services: virtualization, containerization, cloud services and line-of-business autonomy. Now the teams in those silos faces some problems:
  1. Programmatic control, automation and ease of choice mean that infrastructure, services or tooling can be very unpredictable due to things like autoscaling. How can operations teams be confident and certain that they’re working on the right view of the world if it can change in a heartbeat?
  2. The ability to consume traditionally specialized workloads, such as network or storage, in new ways means that those siloed teams may be insufficient to fully manage such services given their additional IT dependencies. One network service provider I spoke to put it this way: “To our network SMEs, virtual routers look no different to their physical counterparts, but they can behave very differently when under load. Which means getting the IT guys involved as the network team doesn’t understand IT virtualization.” The net result is that organizations are having to restructure their operations teams.
  3. Service delivery schedules are greatly compressed because the time from conception to having to manage a service is greatly reduced. Assurance must be integral to the design and implementation of a service as a lack of it cannot be an inhibitor to rapid service delivery. Inline management Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) are a good example of how assurance can be woven into the fabric of a service:
IBM, Apps, Cloud

Does your environment look like this?

Operations teams now have additional issues to contend with: cross-pollination of infrastructure and workload, increased sets of dependencies and unpredictable behavior and dilution of tribal knowledge. Coupled all of this with pressure from the business to restructure their teams and improve collaboration. Therefore  there’s a great need for trustworthy context and surety across silos even when developers or change agents in the environment are not keeping operations in the loop.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Cloud-based mainframe services supports 24/7 business expansion

One of IBM’s long-standing clients in the UK retail sector was looking to expand its business internationally. To support this, it needed a new suite of applications to support 24/7 business operation. In addition, the client was a longstanding mainframe customer – one of the first to migrate to zCloud mainframe services – and was embarking on a joint innovation program with IBM to drive additional mainframe modernisation.

Rather than pursue an initial Windows-based solution to support its expansion and 24/7 operation, IBM devised a parallel sysplex solution using the zCloud mainframe services which distributed the workload so that there would be no outage if one system was unavailable. A key enabler for the solution was the migration of the client to DB2 on the mainframe.Key solutiopicture5n components then included:

IBM Certifications, IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM guides

  • additional LPARS in zCloud configured as a parallel
  • sysplex
  • middleware, network and data access changes to exploit
  • sysplex operation
  • Websphere Application Server and Liberty Profile in CICS
  • supporting new java applications

Client benefits:

  • a platform established to develop and deploy Java applications with the required quality of service to support 24/7 international business
  • avoided investment in new software through exploitation of existing infrastructure
  • expanded operations with the client’s existing applications and associated skills base

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

How to put the IBM built-in data scientist to work for you

In modern IT operations teams, one of the biggest challenges is monitoring an increasingly complex environment—across many different tools—with fewer people. On top of that, teams face more pressure to avoid outages. And due to the immediacy of social media, outages can become very public, very quickly, negatively affecting customer sentiment of the company’s brand.
Some companies are choosing to employ data scientists to help them overcome challenges like these. The data scientist can use machine learning libraries to build a custom solution to help monitor their environment for potential problems.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

DataLift 360 serves up optimized ads with the help of IBM Cloud

The ultimate goal of advertising is to spark interest and elicit a of meaningful reaction from the audience. In the offline world, there is an abundance of ads because they’re not targeted. Think about a newspaper. Half of the pages are printed ads that most people don’t look at.

Digital marketing has the potential to be more targeted than print advertising, but it’s often just annoying. Web and mobile app users frequently can’t wait to close an ad and get back to their content as quickly as possible.

The better targeted ads become, the fewer ads must be served for advertisers to meet their goals. Users are no longer bombarded with ads. They simply see a few, very relevant and very targeted ads, which provide a good ad experience and create an environment where users find value because ads fit their needs.

IBM Cloud

But how do advertisers serve the right ads to the right people at the right time?

Maximum return on ad spending

AppLift has a data-driven solution called DataLift 360, which empowers advertisers to acquire and retain users. AppLift clients are primarily large app developers and game publishers who seek to grow their user bases.

They run ads through the DataLift 360 platform to inform users about new content in the apps or related products or offers. The solution is deeply integrated with advertisers’ customer data. It can detect what users do in the apps and why they use the apps. This data informs the ad buying decisions and helps advertisers maximize the return on their ad spending. DataLift 360 helps AppLift customers get hundreds of thousands of app installs across iOS and Android each day.

Powerful solution

DataLift 360 is provisioned in an IBM hybrid cloud infrastructure that includes both IBM Bluemix bare metal servers and virtual resources located in data centers around the world.

AppLift chose IBM Cloud because of its global presence and high performance, as well as the flexibility to turn servers on and off quickly to meet demand due to seasonal traffic peaks or increases in partner business.

While AppLift’s customers are fairly equally split between the Americas, EMEA and the Asia-Pacific region, the global infrastructure is key to supporting the users to whom the ads are served, whom could be anywhere in the world. When there’s an ad request, the user must be served immediately. AppLift must  have service in physical proximity to where the users are to provide the low-latency, high-frequency environment advertisers demand. It’s a failure if a user opens an app and they’re supposed to see an ad but instead see a black screen or a loading screen. That’s a bad user experience.

Massive traffic

AppLift’s customers include a global network of more than 500 premium app advertisers. The company is provisioned to store and process more than 2 billion user profiles, which basically means it can cover every user who owns a smart phone worldwide.  The company stores, processes and uses that data in the forming of the decisions.

DataLift 360 computes tens of billions of opportunities to serve ads every day, meaning it makes decisions regarding whether to serve an ad to a specific user, which ad to serve, and for which price it is willing to serve the ad. With the IBM Cloud technology supporting it, the solution can horizontally scale to more than one million queries per second if necessary.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Picking a PEPPOL Provider Part II

I blogged on How to select a PEPPOL Provider, and that advice is still fully relevant.

It makes sense to revisit this now, as the September 2016 deadline looms for NHS suppliers to pick PEPPOL provider.

Lately, I’ve heard of cases where some service providers suggested to hospitals that they will only benefit fully from PEPPOL, if all suppliers to that hospital sign up to that same PEPPOL provider. This is known as “Lock-In”, and in my opinion, has no place in the PEPPOL world.

The theoretical benefits to the hospital could be better analytics, or tighter control of trade if all relationships are central. It sometimes sells as “free-of-charge trade” for the hospital, with the  hidden intent of recovering cost by charging suppliers extra. That only works, however, if all suppliers sign up with the same eBusiness provider.

“3 Corner” Model

Traditionally, electronic trade often worked on a principle called the 3-Corner Model. This is represented below as a Triangle, comprising Buyer, Seller, and the Service Provider as the intermediary. He was the pivot through whom everything must flow, making him the most important link in the relationship. Adding more buyers and sellers just created further standalone triangles. Overlaps or synergies to save buyers or sellers complexity and cost were rare.

PEPPOL, IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications

Such a model often appeared when a large business decided to “go electronic”. This usually meant forcing trading partners to adopt a proprietary standard from a single Service Provider.

Generally, this is a highly customised environment, according to the very specific needs of that big client. Non-compatibility with other systems was a often a design feature.

Creating and selling “unicorn-style” systems with no scope for re-use and compatibility and forced adoption can be a lucrative business. There is much more to earn from perpetuating diversity than promotion of reusable standards.

The commercial theory behind “3-Corner” often saw driving participants get access free or a large discount. Trading partners could end up paying something extra per transaction to make up the difference. Sometimes, more unfairly, the charge applied based on value of the transactions. Either way, they would be subsidising the electronic trade of the bigger partner.

The Service Provider would first receive the big company’s trade partner list. Then the race would begin to beat them into adopting the new method quickly.

The “carrot” would have been faster and more efficient trade, but the “stick” would also be present. The threat was loss of trade if speedy compliance was not forthcoming.

The main beneficiary of the 3 Corner model was often the Service Provider. He could lock in all parties to a very specific way of doing things , typically for the long haul. Due to the level of customisation, he had further revenue potential. As soon as any changes were ever needed at either side, additional billable hours restored connectivity.

This is NOT the PEPPOL operating model, and if someone tries to pitch you PEPPOL connectivity on this basis, be very cautious!!


This where Buyer and Seller get to choose their Service Providers according to their own criteria. The aim for both is finding the PEPPOL provider that best suits their technical and commercial business needs. This makes “choice” the foundational principle behind PEPPOL.

PEPPOL, IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications
PEPPOL 4CornerTrade

By design, Buyers and Sellers get to choose which service provider they use to gain access to PEPPOL. They can also decide which electronic format they prefer to interact with their service provider. Their Service Provider handles data transformation services between the preferred preferred formats and PEPPOL. The fact that back-end data is in the standardised UBL format does not concern most buyers and sellers.

This means that a multinational can be using a fully automated connection, deeply embedded into their ERP system, can trade via PEPPOL with a small business, who is using a free-to-use, self-service web portal. That may offer none of the bells and whistles of the multinational’s PEPPOL setup, but may perfectly suit the low volume and low cost needs of the small trader.

It could even turn out that a Buyer and Seller end up by accident selecting the same PEPPOL provider, thus creating a kind of 3-Corner situation. There is nothing wrong with that, because both have had the freedom to pick the best solution for their needs.

In the case of the NHS in England, if both Buyer and Seller end up picking the same Service Provider, their traffic will nonetheless need to go via PEPPOL, and somewhat reduce the 3-Corner impact.

Why Care?

Commercially, PEPPOL Buyers and Sellers generally pay their own costs for connection and use of the network. That sits uncomfortably with those accustomed to receiving such services subsidised by locked-in relationships. Service Providers who built their businesses on the premise of lock-ins will feel threatened by PEPPOL.

The difference facilitated by the new way of doing things is a much wider adoption than possible with older electronic methods. Also many businesses will reuse PEPPOL to phase out older trade methods now made redundant.

If a hospital ended up paying a higher cost for PEPPOL than for traditional methods, they should see more benefit accrue from having hundreds or thousands of suppliers all using a common standard instead of maybe tens of suppliers using older methods. Sellers will benefit from reaching ALL hospitals through a single connection instead of needing to navigate many trading systems and formats. This can which can lower their cost of trade, and facilitate enhanced competitiveness.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The new IBM Knowledge Center

The new IBM Knowledge Center

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about IBM Knowledge Center, but I hope it’s been worth the wait!

Working with many IBM Knowledge Center end-users and IBM customers, and following an IBM Design Thinking process, we are about to release the next major version of IBM Knowledge Center! So we’ve been busy listening, designing, and building a better technical content framework!

Brand new and easier to use

The new version of IBM Knowledge Center has a simplified interface that’s more consistent with the rest of We’ve focused a lot on helping you find the information you need more quickly than ever, and getting “out of the way” of the content. In this new version, you can:
  • view content more easily in the default full page view. By default, if you follow a bookmark or search result from Google or Bing, you’re going to see just the topic you’re looking for, but linked “breadcrumbs” on the topic will help tell you where you are. If you want the full Table of Contents, it’s still there: just click the TOC icon on the left of the breadcrumb.
  • find the right version of a topic faster than ever. Every topic now shows its version in a drop down menu. To switch to the same topic in another product version, just select it and go.
  • navigate through topics quickly with previous / next controls on every page. Every topic now has previous / next buttons on it, so you can navigation through topics without showing the table of contents.
  • find your products more quickly. The new Product Finder doesn’t have IBM categories or brands anymore. Just type the name of your product and we’ll take you to its welcome page, where you can select a version.
  • preview hits in search before leaving your search results. When you search in IBM KC, you can quickly compare results by expanding or collapsing the result in place–you don’t even need to leave search to read a topic!
  • find more relevant results, find products, and remember previous searches for you. This version of IBM KC has a more relevant and simple search experience, where you can quickly look across all of IBM Knowledge Center or in a product. You can also go to a product home page quickly, and we’ll even remember previous searches for you from the type-ahead drop-down! You will see even more refinements and improvements in the months to come.
IBM Knowledge Center

Stable and fast

Underneath the covers, we’ve also been working to improve the performance of IBM Knowledge Center, no matter where in the world you may be located. We deliver millions of pages of IBM technical documentation daily in hundreds of countries and in many languages. We’ve spent a long time creating a faster and more stable platform for that content. and more improvements are on the way.

Stay tuned for more! This new version of IBM Knowledge Center is only our first step, and we have lots more planned for the months ahead!

IBM Knowledge Center