You Are The Network

First there was the Stone Age. Then we learned how to manipulate and smelt metals, develop tools for hunting and farming implements, which led to an Agrarian age. From there, machines helped bring about the Industrial age, then the Space Age. So where are we now?
Shall we call it the Network Age?
Robert Metcalf co-invented Ethernet, the idea of a packet based, distributed network, and formulated Metcalf’s law, which states (paraphrased): “the value of a network, is proportional to the square of the number of connected users.” Or stated more simply, the utility of a connected ‘thing’ increases as more and more ‘things’ are connected. The telephone acts as an easy example. One phone by itself is a paperweight, but one million connected to the same network is immeasurably powerful.
We live in a day of increasing connectivity, and increasing expectations we have as a result. Think back to just a few years before the ubiquitousness of the internet. How did we look up information? A phone book for a phone number? An encyclopedia for random information? How did we we find more targeted information? How well did a movie perform on its opening weekend? Who won the academy award for best actress in 1980? What was the high temperature in Nagasaki yesterday? These questions required real research. Today, they require only a smart phone, tablet or any web connected device. Even a smart watch will provide you with answers in milliseconds. We expect this, therefore we ARE changed by this new reality.
In short, the very nature of a thing changes with connectivity. This applies to us as well. As people, we are changed as a result of our ready access to a near limitless supply of information, facts, anecdotes and even dumb cat memes on social media. It’s not just the availability of this information, it’s how we live our lives knowing we have this access.
I remember years ago, likely in the late 80’s, working with a customer and arguing for the utility of networking their office PCs. At the time, each person had their own printer and files were moved from desk to desk via floppy. I failed in making my case and, I’ll note, they were out of business a few short years later. I am not implying causality, but a company today that doesn’t see the change in the world around them will likely see a similar fate in their future.
No one of us can pretend to live, work, or play in isolation any longer. Whether we are a fisherman in southern China or an executive on wall street, we are connected to each other by virtue of our connections to technology.
By extension, the isolationist aims of some politicians simply fail to recognize our world today. Some foreign governments have tried to shut down some internet sites or censor access entirely. Some succeed, while many fail, while still others have been overthrown. Remember the Arab Spring? No, the Egyptian situation wasn’t the fault of internet censorship, but the power of a network community of people gave voice to a populace in a way not previously seen. In addition, this connectivity has brought about a profound change in many third world countries. To stop jobs from moving overseas one would have to shut down the Internet to prevent companies from using overseas labor.
As a result of this increased connection, this ease by which we can communicate across vast distances instantaneously, we have seen a gradual leveling of the playing field. In many of these lands, education levels are improving, as are employment opportunities, even while standards of living improve. With a good network connection, one can live anywhere, and work for anyone that doesn’t require onsite employees. This connectivity has fundamentally shifted the balance of power in the world, by increasing opportunities for everyone.
We can no more become isolationist than we can revert to a stone age society. Not one of us would stand for it. Life and history only move in one direction.
To fully grasp our connectivity, we must look at the speed of life today. How long did it take someone to research an article, paper, or book 50 years ago? How long did it take to travel to Europe 100 years ago and at what cost? How much did a long distance call cost only a generation ago? Today, anyone can make a video call with someone anywhere on the globe instantly, and at an effective cost of zero. How has this changed us?
Speed has a profound effect on our lives. From expectations of traffic when traveling or commuting, to responsiveness of websites when shopping, to knowing our bank balance in real time, at any time of day. Speed is an extension of convenience. Would you rather go to a mall to purchase a book today, or order one online from Amazon? Better yet, log on with your kindle and have it instantly. Retail bookstores, and ultimately retailers in general, began to close their doors with a few years of each expansion of Amazon’s offerings.
Similarly, in years past, we chose to live based on schools for our children and where we worked. Today, a growing number of people work remotely, while still more take advantage of online schooling. Speed, and our expectations of it, has changed everything.
At the same time, we always demand more speed. We are hardwired to be more efficient, even to be lazy. To do more, in less time, with less effort. Build a bigger, wider, highway and more traffic will find it. Increase the speed of a network, more people will use it. Unsure about this? Try driving through traffic in LA or Toronto.
These changes have negative consequences as well as positive ones. Napoleon realized the value of the third dimension when mounting his armies. He recognized that air superiority could win the day, and so he introduced artillery and other air-born weapons not yet seen by his rivals. Similarly, the United States leveraged the air to save the day in World War I. In the 20th century, nations battled nations, and the winner, while both carrying superior resources, numbers and power, was ultimately the victor by recognizing a strategic advantage before their enemies.
Today, the nature of power has shifted, and world leaders face an ugly future if they fail to see it. So too must business leaders recognize this paradigm shift in the world and, by extension, in their customers, partners, and even employees. Amazon killed far larger retailers with their business model. Apple’s iTunes fundamentally changed the music industry, while Netflix forced the shuttering of Blockbuster stores. The common theme is seeing a different future brought about by connection. A world simply not possible prior to a widespread, universally accessed network. The power is in the network, and those who understand and leverage this, will rule the future.
Sadly, the ugly side of this is that many terrorist networks have figured out how to leverage networks and connectivity before our traditional world leaders. Just as military strength ruled the day in the previous century, network power and understanding it, will rule tomorrow’s world.
At the same time, we must also recognize we are the sum of our connections. As the network grows, so grows our value. The tide is rising and so to are all the ships. Each additional point or connection to us, no matter how remote or small, increases the overall value of us and our collective networks.
As we look to the future, we must understand this is more than another ‘paradigm shift’ in our society. This amounts to a redistribution of power in ways heretofore unknown in human experience.
In days gone by, power was concentrated among the few. Military leaders, the clergy, and wealthy merchants controlled most of the worlds power up until the 17th century. The industrial age saw power slowly redistributing as capitalism took hold, and led to the rise of the middle class.
Today however, networks both concentrate power among those who control networks, while also distributing it to users. More power has been placed in the hands of ‘everyman’ than ever before.
Networks are also made up of many complicated pieces. Routers, servers and switches make up the technical backbone. These are complicated items, but predictable and understandable. Together, they make up a complex system. Complex things are randomized, and unpredictable. A car is complicated, but predictable (at least to some extent). Traffic is complex. Both have complicated pieces, but complex things are more unpredictable. Like the weather, ocean currents, or storms.
In addition, complex systems lead to the creation of things previously unfathomable. Think about LinkedIn, Facebook or Snapchat as contemporary examples. Without their network of users, they are single web pages. They are nothing. Similarly, Uber, Airbnb, and other examples have led to the creation of new systems previously unimaginable. These businesses have also arisen with remarkable speed, and created immense riches for their founders.
Sadly, terrorist groups have also formed upon these network backbones. Isis emerged from this complexity. This process of creation of the unimaginable, is only just accelerating.
Networks contain enormous power at their core. To control such a system is arguably to control anyone connected to it, or at least to dramatically influence those users or connections. When we do a Google search, do we trust the results implicitly or second guess them?
Today’s networks are increasingly led by a young, technically savvy group of Technorati with limited experience with our world history, its politics or philosophy. Yet our world is led by a group of leaders with no experience with these new networks. We cannot go back, we can only look forward.
To quote Joshua Cooper Ramo, author of ‘The Seventh Sense’, who does a wonderful job of summarizing this new world order, “One thing is clear. If we are going to play a role in shaping our world. We don’t have much time.”
And remember, you are the network.

Oracle Announces End of Support For JD Edwards EnterpriseONE Technology Foundation

Long title. What’s this about?
In short, back in 2010, Oracle announced the withdrawal of JDE EnterpriseOne Technology Foundation. The final nail in this coffin comes on September 30, 2016, when technical support officially ends.
What this means is that for many customers (and I’ll get into particulars shortly) there’s a requirement to make a critical decision to either move to Oracle’s Red Stack, or procure new IBM licenses in order to remain on IBM’s Blue Stack.
There’s a variety of customers running the stack, and nearly as wide a variety of options for how companies may have deployed their JDE solution. WebSphere with DB2 is the original and most common. WebSphere with Oracle as the backend is another common combo. And there’s a variety of other blends of supported web/application servers, database servers and related middleware.
Regardless of the configuration, in most cases, these products were part of the bundled solution that customers licensed from Oracle, and now a decision point’s been reached.
This doesn’t mean Oracle’s dropping support for IBM products. This does mean there’s a change in the way they’re licensed.
So what is “Technology Foundation”?
To quote from Oracle’s documents verbatim: Technology Foundation is an Oracle product that provides license for the following components:

  • JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Core Tools and Infrastructure, the native design time and runtime tools required to run JD Edwards EnterpriseOne application modules
  • IBM DB2 for Linux, Unix, and Windows, limited to use with JD Edwards EnterpriseOne programs
  • IBM WebSphere Application Server, limited to use with JD Edwards EnterpriseOne programs
  • IBM WebSphere Portal, as contained in JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Collaborative Portal

Technology Foundation is also referred to by the nickname “Blue Stack.”
If your license for JD Edwards EnterpriseOne applications includes an item called “Technology Foundation” or “Technology Foundation Upgrade,” this affects you.
If there are any other terms like “Oracle Technology Foundation,” then this change does NOT affect you. This is also different then the foundation for JD Edwards World.
So what now? In short, if you have Blue Stack, you should contact TxMQ or IBM immediately to acquire your own licensed products to continue to run your Oracle solution. TxMQ can offer aggressive discounts to Oracle customers subject to certain terms and conditions. Contact us for pricing details. We can help with pricing, as well as with any needed migration planning and implementation support.
Contact for immediate price quotes and migration planning today.
Image from Håkan Dahlström.

MQ, The Digital Economy & You

IBM MQ continues to evolve to meet the expanding needs of the digital economy. We encounter many organizations that have yet to take full advantage of the capabilities they’ve invested in their MQ backbone. Learn about the new MQ physical appliance, as well as the MQ virtual appliance (available exclusively from TxMQ). Other topics include secure transfer, cloud messaging and more.

MQTT – Valuable Then and Now

In 1999, Dr. Andy Stanford-Clark of IBM and Arlen Nipper invented a simple messaging protocol designed for low bandwidth, high-latency networks. They named it MQ Telemetry Transport, better known as MQTT. This pub/sub, lightweight protocol adds a heightened security element to messaging via highly unreliable networks. It requires minimal network bandwidth and device resources, while ensuring MQ’s noted reliability and assured delivery standards.
What makes MQTT still valuable today? This protocol has dramatic implications and growing use cases for the Internet of Things (IOT), where the world of connected ‘things’ connects an endless variety of devices, sometimes with minimal power availability. In other words, as all these devices “talk” via the Internet, the MQTT  transport protocol ensures that these conversations stay secure and private. In order to understand how MQTT can improve your company’s ability to navigate the digital economy, you’ll need to get more acquainted with the nuts and bolts of the protocol.
Standards: While in the process of undergoing standardization at OASIS, the protocol specification is openly published and is royalty free.
SCADA and MQIsdp: SCADA Protocol and MQ Integrator SCADA Device Protocol are both old names for what is now known as MQTT.
Security: You can pass a user name and password with a MQTT packet in V3.1 of the protocol. Encryption is independent of MQTT and typically handled with SSL, though this does add network overhead. Keep in mind there are other options outside of the base protocol.
Implications and use cases: One of the oft-cited use cases, likely due to the underlying popularity of the application, is the Facebook messaging application.
When Facebook engineer Lucy Zhang was looking for a new messaging mechanism for their app, she knew she had to address bandwidth constraints, power consumption and platform variety (iOS, Android, Windows, etc). She turned to MQTT. While a truly innovative use for the protocol, this type of messaging isn’t the most typical use case.
M2M: MQTT’s true power lies in machine-to-machine communication. It’s specification to cover device communications enables any device to communicate information to any other system or device. Smart meters are an excellent example of an MQTT use case. This lightweight messaging protocol excels in communication among multiple sensors, often in remote locations, with limited power and inconsistent network connectivity.
In the case of smart grids, utilities companies can use MQTT to better predict where crews need to be in advance of weather events. In addition, transportation authorities can monitor road conditions to modify routes in advance of storms or accidents and detour commuters around construction sites.
Conclusions: MQTT has only recently come into its own as a mature, supported, reliable transport protocol to enable communication in a truly connected world – a world where meters can feed their data into analytics systems, combining with other data like weather information or social media trends, to perform predictive analytics.
TxMQ is working with a number of companies on next generation use cases for MQTT that better drives the digital economy, improves outcomes in healthcare, enhances lives and improves our planet for all of us.
Get in touch today for information on how we can partner with you on your digital evolution.
Chuck Fried is the President and CEO of TxMQ, a Premier IBM Business Partner supporting customers in the US and Canada since 1979.

How it Works: KPIs and the future of your business

How do you measure your business goals?
For some companies, success is measured mostly by profits. For others, the key indicator is customer satisfaction. Some companies measure their success by the success of their products. For each of them, however, there is one guarantee – success is never measured by just one criteria.
Not only is it essential to learn what drives success, but smart business executives must also understand why. That means you can’t just collect data, you have analyze it to learn what the information means to your bottom line. Keeping track of all this nuanced information, however, can become extremely overwhelming. That’s why businesses of all sizes turn to software that collects and analyzes key performance indicators, or KPIs.
KPIs help you monitor and manage the metrics that impact company growth. For example, maybe you’re a retailer looking to boost sales by 10% in Q3. KPIs can be used to help you project how to adapt labor and product costs to achieve this goal. KPIs aren’t just for overall company goals. They bring insight into individuals and departments, too. For example, your social media manager should have a list of KPIs that determine whether or not the company’s campaigns are successful at generating qualified leads. Your helpdesk team would work more productively if they had KPIs that kept track of how quickly and effectively they resolve tickets.
Most likely, your business uses KPIs in some form or fashion, but it’s how you utilize the data that makes the real difference. The whole process can even be automated, so your executives don’t need an IT degree to interpret data. Business activity monitoring tools harness big data analytics to bring insight to a broad range of users, from line-of-business to accounting to administrative. This means easy access for the people who need to apply the data toward decisions that impact the whole company.
IBM’s business activity monitoring solution not only provides you with current data, but it also helps you predict future situations by analyzing potential “what-if” scenarios. You can empower your company with analysis-driven strategies, becoming more proactive and less reactive.
The IBM solution isn’t the only one out there, but what set it apart is it’s flexibility. It works for companies of all sizes—from large-scale enterprises to SMBs. So whether you’re a small retailer looking to bring in more customers or a Fortune 500 ready to start a rebranding process, KPI software solutions can help you transform slow and expensive processes into strategies that help you grow.

IBM WAS Enhancements Deliver Internet-Scale Clustering For Applications

IBM recently announced enhancements to its WebSphere Application Server (IBM WAS) version 8.5.5 that deliver more functionality and services to the Liberty and full profiles. The enhancements are geared toward both development and production environments and are said to provide “significant enhancements in terms of developer experience and high-end resiliency.”
The features can largely be installed optionally from the WebSphere Liberty Repository and used in conjunction with features previously available and active.
Developers now have new programming models and tools. The result: A better developer climate that should result in a more rapid pace of application deployments. Administrators and businesses can leverage new Intelligent Management and security features to lower the administrative overhead of managing, scaling, and securing servers.
WAS in general is gearing itself more and more toward cloud and mobile development and deployment, hence the rollout of these new features.
Specific enhancements to WebSphere Liberty include:

  • Java EE 7-compliant programming model support for WebSockets 1.0 (JSR 356) and Servlet 3.1 (JSR 340) to enrich applications with responsive dynamic content
  • Additional Java EE 7 components in support of APIs for processing JSON (JavaScript] Object Notation) data (JSR 353) and Concurrency utilities (JSR 236)
  • Auto-scaling capabilities to dynamically adjust the number of Java virtual machines (JVMs) that are based on workload and auto-routing to intelligently manage your workload
  • Improved operational efficiency of large-scale, clustered deployments of tens of thousands of Java virtual machines (JVMs) in a Liberty Collective
  • Configurable, global Web Service handlers for extending and customizing payloads to Web Service applications
  • REST connector for non-Java clients to extend client access to Java Management Extensions (JMX) administration infrastructure through a RESTful API.
  • Simplified configuration processing for feature developers to enable customization of WebSphere Application Server Liberty profile capabilities
  • Enhancement to the distributed security model using OpenID and OpenID Connect to simplify the task of authenticating users across multiple trust domains
  • Enhancement to WebSphere Liberty Administrative Center for usability and management of large collectives of application servers
  • Enhancement to WebSphere Application Server Migration Toolkit – Liberty Tech
  • Preview includes new binary scanning capability to quickly evaluate applications for rapid deployment on WebSphere Liberty.

TxMQ is an IBM Premier Business Partner and we specialize in WebSphere. For additional information about IBM WAS and all WebSphere-related matters, contact president Chuck Fried: 716-636-0070 x222,
TxMQ recently introduced its MQ Capacity Planner – a new solution developed for performance-metrics analysis of enterprise-wide WebSphere MQ (now IBM MQ) infrastructure. TxMQ’s innovative technology enables MQ administrators to measure usage and capacity of an entire MQ infrastructure with one comprehensive tool. Visit our MQ Capacity Planner product page.