The Buzz


Oct 17, 2011

Congratulations to the Champions

The list of 2011 IBM Champions keeps growing. We want to congratulate Troy Coleman, Susan Gantner, Rob McNelly and Jon Paris for being selected to the prestigious list.

All four of these deserving individuals author weekly blogs on our IBM Systems Magazine website and Coleman, Gantner and Paris are IBM Systems Magazine technical editors. All four of these IBM Champions also write regularly for IBM Systems Magazine.

According to IBM, an IBM Champion is an advocate for IBM solutions and software who has made exceptional contributions to the technical community over the course of a year. Contributions take a variety of forms, such as blogging, speaking at conferences and events, moderating forums, leading user groups, and authoring books and magazines. (IBM Champions are members of the IBM developerWorks community, but they are not IBMers.)

IBM Champions are classified under six categories, including: Business Analytics, IBM Collaboration Solutions, Enterprise Content Management, Information Management, Power Systems and Rational Software. Gantner, McNelly and Paris are IBM Champions under the Power Systems category. Coleman is an IBM Champion in the Information Management category.

There’s no question that these four individuals are passionate evangelists for their respective platforms and operating systems. More importantly they’re a valuable resource to the IBM Systems technical community. Their committed practice of generously sharing their expertise has benefited thousands of IBM Systems customers and the organizations they work for.

Thank you and congratulations to these and all of the other IBM Champions. For a complete list of 2011 IBM Champions and their profiles visit:

Mar 02, 2011

A Potpourri of Computational Entertainment

A Potpourri of Computational Entertainment

Who would have predicted that a Watson wager would elicit brisk laughter from the estimated 250 IBMers at a three-day Rochester, Minn., viewing party for the “Jeopardy!” IBM Challenge?

Attendees had come to the afternoon event to watch Watson. And when “Jeopardy!” contestants pick a Daily Double question, they are asked how much of their winnings they would like to wager on the answer. Contestant responses are generally rounded to the nearest $100, $50 or $10. Not our dear Watson. Having approximately $8,400 in the bank, the computer wagered not $2,000 or even $2,100, but $2,127, on a $400 nonfiction-category question. Watson lost.

Watching Watson miss a beat was almost refreshing. It had built a dominating lead at the close of the second day of competition. And the wagering exactitude was the type of geeky quirk that helped endear viewers to IBM’s latest supercomputer, a technological marvel driven by a frontal lobe of POWER7 processors, the same that reside in the IBM Power Systems servers manufactured at the Rochester facility.

My favorite Watson response was one he didn’t have the opportunity to audibly answer. The question was: “Name the VO5 hair conditioner that averages $1 online.”

Another contestant beat Watson to the punch. But, in an entertaining twist, the three answers Watson was contemplating were visible to the audience throughout the tournament. Watson’s top answer? “What is butter?”

I was secretly hoping to see Watson compete against Bill Gates and Larry Ellison. Instead, the competitors were past “Jeopardy!” champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. In the three-part “Jeopardy!” IBM Challenge, Watson dispatched of both.

For the final day of the Challenge, IBM Systems Magazine sent a video team to Rochester to record the viewing party. Our team also heard IBMer Mark Olson’s insight on the processing technology that Watson shares with the servers many IBM Power Systems customers rely on to keep their businesses running. You’ll find the video on our website.

In addition to the video, don’t miss the March issue of our Power Systems edition, which features an interview with Dr. David Ferrucci, Watson principal investigator, IBM Research.

One of the questions Watson uncovered on the final day of the competition was: “A poor workman blames these ...” Watson’s correct answer: “What are tools?” The IBM brainiac certainly had the tools to impress “Jeopardy!” viewers and it will be even more exciting to see how these transforming computer technologies will affect our future.

Jun 15, 2010

Mainframe: Making Movies

I enjoy movies. I dig popcorn. I look forward to the trailers. I crave history, so when we contemplated the notion of producing a documentary video on the history of the IBM Mainframe, I was jazzed.

Challenges ensued, but it was fun and in the end, I am proud of our team and what we accomplished. Here’s another plus, I learned some things. The video, which we produced in collaboration with IBM mainframe solution provider CA Technologies, covers computational history from tally sticks to the first System 360 to the latest System z mainframe and beyond.

As I mentioned, it was an educational experience. I had the opportunity to learn about the ground-breaking nature of the IBM System 360, which debuted in 1964. I knew it was integral to the Apollo 11 launch, but I didn’t realize that up to the mid-1960s, business computers were often custom designed and engineered for large corporations and governmental agencies. However, because of its compatibility, the 360 line could be deployed across multiple and diverse businesses and governmental agencies with far less customization.

What was emphatically driven home to me while working on the video, is how the IBM mainframe regularly featured (and still features) the latest and greatest computer technology. It is the original source of some of the most significant computer technology on the planet. Virtualization is frequently cited as the most important technology launched on the IBM mainframe, functionality that up until recently has been absent from most other computing platforms.

What was also hammered home was the loyalty of not only IBM mainframe customers, but also IBMers, mainframe business partners, consultants, pundits and anyone else who has or does work in the mainframe universe. Talk about passion, this group rivals Macintosh and AS/400 customers when it comes to devotion to a computing platform. It was refreshing to experience that type of vigor, especially from some of the young mainframers we interviewed for the video. They’re fired up about their future and I can understand why.

I always knew that IBM mainframes still managed the majority of the world’s data, provided the firepower that runs most of the globe’s financial institutions, not to mention retailers and global governments. It’s a horse. I just never knew what a groundbreaker the system was. Now I do. Pop some corn, silence your cell phone and check out the video. Who knows, you might learn something, too.

You can view the video in its entirety or in individual segments on our website:

Sep 23, 2009

Letter from Orlando

Here’s my report from hot and sticky Orlando where I am attending the IBM Power Systems Technical Conference, located at the beautiful and newly opened Orlando Hilton. How new is this hotel?  No, I won’t be taping and mudding sheet rock this afternoon, but I did have to program the TV channels before catching the last half of Monday night’s Colts/Dolphins tilt. They’re nice digs.


The event’s keynote speaker Monday morning was Rod Adkins, senior vice president, development and manufacturing, IBM. Adkins spoke about the future of innovation and how IBM plans on being in the center of it, from medical imaging, network security and threat management, financial analytics, energy efficiency, analytics with online transaction processing and much more.


Adkins’ slides portrayed a frenetic future, with scores of challenges, including diminishing natural resources, increased and sometimes disruptive integration (social, commercial, intellectual, government, etc.) and coincidentally plenty of opportunity. Naturally, IBM and its Smarter Planet solutions plan to be a key problem solver in all of it.


Here are stats from the conference.


  • 216 unique sessions supported by five tracks (AIX, Linux, Power, IBM i and lab courses). The 216 sessions feature 51 AIX sessions, 101 IBM i sessions and 64 sessions that cover topics relevant to both.


  • 811 attendees (649 customers, business partners and 162 IBMers).


  • Adkins keynote session had an estimated audience of 650 people



Monday night was very busy at our magazine “booth”. At times we had attendees five deep who were interested in subscribing to one of our magazine editions. Interestingly, I would say 75 percent of those requesting a magazine were asking for the AIX edition. IBM must have been anticipating more IBM i attendees (see number of sessions above) than AIX customers and maybe that is indeed how the attendee interests shake out; however, from our niche perspective the majority of the attendee base is primarily interested in AIX.


There aren’t many RPG or other System i-related programming sessions offered at this conference. That may account for what appears to be a heavy AIX-centric crowd.


The general buzz at this show is positive. Our magazine team has attended a number of IT conferences this year, and of the ones I have attended this one has strong vendor attendance in the solution center and a decent and upbeat attendee base. Is it an economic sign of good things to come? I certainly hope so.


However, then there’s this: A person I spoke with here at the show told me that in the months prior to its grand opening, the Orlando Hilton, where this conference is being held, had 4,000 job applications for 300 positions. Tourism activity is down in Florida and people are obviously looking for work. All I know is that the first and last bottle of water I bought at the hotel “market” was $3. That’s a traffic killer if I ever saw one.

Jul 30, 2009

Hello Moon

It was my father who swept me from bed on the night of July 20, 1969, escorted me downstairs and invited me to camp in the glow of a black and white Zenith television set to witness Armstrong and Aldrin bounce on the moon. It was the first and last time my parents awakened me in the middle of the night to view a momentous occasion on our aging TV.

The Apollo 11 mission rocketed astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. into space, with Armstrong and Aldrin being the first humans to plant their boots in the moon’s grey ash. Command module pilot Michael Collins spun alone in the silver capsule above the flag-planting festivities, and the step for man and the leap for mankind, hoping for a safe reunion with his companions.

There were scores of people behind the scenes who helped that team of astronauts travel to the moon. One company that assisted in making the moon landing possible was IBM and its System/360s. IBM has a long history of helping man catapult into space. If you know of some interesting Apollo 11-related Web sites you believe others would be interested in visiting please share your URLs in the comments field. 

Natalie Boike, IBM Systems Magazine managing editor, has secured a few photos and provided some text that serves to celebrate the Apollo 11 mission and IBM’s participation in that remarkable event. You can view the slide show here.

Here’s to those rare moments when we were pulled dazed from our beds by our fathers to view history. Experiences warranting such an occasion happen far too infrequently in a lifetime.