IBM's SoftLayer and MobileFirst Portfolios Create Leadership Position In Latest Gartner Magic Quadrant Report

Gartner recently recognized IBM as a leader in its 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Managed Mobility Services (MMS). The distinction is noteworthy for several reasons.
First is the scale of the report. Gartner evaluated 14 vendors, and among them, IBM was the only leader based on what Gartner described as “completeness of vision” and “ability to execute.” To distill it a bit more, IBM’s suite of services, including SoftLayer cloud services, delivers a top-to-bottom mobile support and integration solution – very important for shops that don’t want the hassle of mix-and-match technology and platforms.
IBM’s mobility services fall within its IBM MobileFirst portfolio – an enterprise initiative that is the first product of the recently announced partnership between Apple and IBM.  MobileFirst enables clients to build and deploy mobile applications, and at the same time protect and manage the mobile infrastructure and engage customers in context. Think of it as a ground-up mobile approach – not a simple “desktop migration.”
Even though IBM continues to invest in its mobile-support and enablement portfolio, the Gartner report clearly shows the importance of a growing Soft Layer investment combined with the MobileFirst focus. That strategy continues to be strengthened with further acquisitions including the purchase of Fiberlink, which specializes in mobile-device management and security.
Interested in a new way to develop and manage mobile? TxMQ is an IBM Premier Partner with capabilities across IBM’s mobile platforms. Contact vice president Miles Roty for more information: (716) 636-0070 x228, [email protected].
(Photo by Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.)

MQ Capacity Planner FAQ: Six Questions About The Tool

TxMQ will debut is new MQ Capacity Planner (for IBM WebSphere MQ) next week at the MQ Technical Conference in Sandusky, Ohio. This new tool allows for the testing of a virtually unlimited number of messages from any number of concurrent applications. It reveals micro details and offers a powerful lens to inspect, diagnose and performance-tune your MQ.
In anticipation of the pilot release, here’s a brief FAQ.
Which message patterns can MQCP measure?
MQCP can measure simple and multi-threaded Put: Local and Remote Queues, as well as  Simulated Request/Response using UTurn and MQ-Triggered Process/Publish/Subscribe.
What specific metrics does MQCP deliver?
MQCP captures elapsed time in milliseconds, message size and number of threads to calculate TPS (transactions per second) and volume throughput. It also produces all statistical values to the 90th percentile to offer a more accurate measure of your environment’s Queue Manager/Infrastructure.
Does MQCP measure system usage?
Yes, MQCP measures CPU usage and wait times (using tools like Nmon for Linux and AIX and Perfmon for Microsoft platforms) from MQCP test cycles.
What are some of the customization options?
There are many. Some of the most important include options for configuration relating to the Queue Manager and Queues to be used, MQ Client Connection options, Application Message Size options, and Application Reflection. Additionally, MQCP dynamically invokes the required application for getting and putting messages
Are there any features to be added that are not found in the pilot release?
Yes, we are currently working to add a Trigger Monitor process, which is a custom Java Trigger Monitor supporting the Request/Response flow tests. The Trigger Monitor is a configuration and is a production-ready process. We’re also adding publish/subscriber processes to support both JMS and native MQ Java processing. These publisher processes are configurable for multi-threaded publishing and message sizes.
Is TxMQ willing to address general questions about the product?
Yes, TxMQ will continue to discuss the product and respond to questions before, during and after the rollout. We encourage anyone with questions to contact us. Communications are always confidential.
Interested in trying the MQCP? Contact TxMQ president Chuck Fried and ask about the MQCP Pilot Program: (716) 636-0070 x222, [email protected].
(photo by Taber Andrew Bain, Creative Commons license)

So You Want To Be A Writer?  Here's Some Advice From A Veteran

By the 8th grade I knew I was going to be a writer. It’s funny the way that happens – how some of us know exactly what we want to do at such a young age. Even funnier that I find myself telling my kids now that they’re “way too young to know what they want to do,” even though my oldest starts college next September.
Back then  – which was about 1982, to date myself – it was a good thing I decided so early to become a writer. The industry was fairly closed. It was tough to make it. Opportunities were limited and you had to find some way into the walled pillars of publishing. So you had to prepare yourself to fail, and you had to prepare yourself to make very little money. But if you worked incredibly hard and were one of the very gifted few, you could eventually be anointed and live the rest of life on Easy Street.
How times have changed. The market is now exploding with opportunities for writers. Each assignment pays less – sometimes pennies compared to the dollars of old – but there’s incredible opportunity to volume-write. Every company needs content. Every market segment needs bloggers. Every IT department needs documentation. Every club needs publicity. Every social-media platform needs an opinion leader. Five stories a day at $50 each adds up quickly.
If you want to be a writer in today’s world (and really, it’s never too late to start),  then you need to choose English or journalism or composition as a minor. There’s just not enough to teach about writing that demands a $100,000 college investment. Solid grammar, effective sentence structure, an active writing voice, well-scripted bridges and a focused topic can be learned with tools like the AP Manual of Style, a few good books and a dependable mentor. The study of Literary History, which is the English major, is an awesome degree that transports you into the center of the written record of the world’s greatest thoughts and works of art, but it’s more of a combined history/philosophy degree that has little to do with practical writing.
If you truly want to make a living writing, then major or co-major in a broader field such as engineering or biology or business or mathematics, then use your English minor or co-major to become a leading voice in a subject area you know and love.
Want to write novels? Every great novelist, including Mark Twain,  had a dayjob. You’ll need one too. Which is why today’s writing trade is so exciting. You can actually find that dayjob and earn a living by writing content and human interest for a biotech firm, or an architecture firm, or a marine-biology firm, or a chemical company, or a retail chain, or a sustainable-tech startup.
That’s a wholly new phenomenon. It’s a byproduct of the Internet and the new service-driven economy.
The market for writers has never, ever been stronger. But if you don’t have an area of specialization, you’ll have trouble breaking in and you’ll face a steep climb toward a decent living and better jobs down the line. Trust me: That novel you want to write? It’ll be much easier to write with the peace of mind that comes with a comfortable chair, a decent meal, a livable apartment and a great health plan.
 (Photo by David Turnbull / Creative Commons license)

Shellshock / Bash Bug Vulnerability Bulletins And Fixes

Today’s breaking news of the Unix “Shellshock” vulnerability reminds me instantly of the famous auror-turned-Hogwarts-professor Alastor Moody, who preaches that the fight against the dark arts demands “Constant Vigilance.” Same for cybersecurity. Constant Vigilance.
Consider: The Heartbleed issue affected potentially 500,000 machines worldwide. The new Shellshock (or “Bash Bug”) could potentially affect 500 million.
Cures for the Shellshock vulnerability, at the time of this writing, are still being sorted out. It affects Unix-based operating systems such as Linux and Mac OS X, which in some non-default configurations could allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code on an affected system. The weakness lies within the Bash (for Bourne-Again Shell) command prompt.
The simplicity of an attack is what scares system admins the most: The vulnerability is truly easy to exploit.
The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) is tracking the issue (see Bourne Again Shell (Bash) Remote Code Execution Vulnerability.) Following is CERT’s list of vendors that are confirmed to be exposed to the vulnerability. This list is initial and is expected to grow.

US-CERT recommends the following system-specific pages for hardening and patch info:

US-CERT aldo recommends users and administrators review TA14-268AVulnerability Note VU#252743 and the Redhat Security Blog for additional details and to refer to their respective Linux or Unix-based OS vendor(s) for an appropriate patch. A GNU Bash patch is also available for experienced users and administrators to implement.
Not sure where to start, or if your systems are affected? Contact TxMQ president Chuck Fried for an immediate and confidential consultation: (716) 636-0070 x222, [email protected].

Go 'Lite" With Liberty Core Option For IBM WebSphere Application Server

Sometimes less is more. So beware of companies and consultants who want to sell you too much. Application-server software is a perfect example. If you’re a smaller shop, or a shop that runs lightweight apps, you probably don’t need a full-suite server-software deployment. TxMQ often advises clients to lighten up. Within an IBM environment, we commonly recommend WebSphere Application Server (WAS) Liberty Core rather then a full WAS Liberty Profile deployment.
Liberty Core offers an entry-level price point for smaller shops like small businesses and independent software vendors. But it’s also popular for larger enterprises – especially larger IT-development shops – where rapid app dev and deployment are the prime directives. The nice thing about opting for Core is the ease with which you can then upgrade into the entire WAS product sphere. There’s no penalty for starting small.
To lay out the Liberty Core option a bit more,  the software helps you:

  • Leverage the integrated tooling to increase development productivity and complete projects much more quickly – all while adhering to open standards.
  • Save money through the more efficient use of resources – both human and metal. Think lightweight functionality that drives stout production.
  • “Future-Proof” your apps through the easy addition of custom or 3rd-party components.

As of this writing, Liberty Core was in version 8.5.5 with documented support for AIX, HP-UX, Linux, Solaris, Windows, IBM i and Mac OS.
TxMQ is ready to answer any and all of your application-server questions. Initial consultations are free and always confidential. Contact vice president Miles Roty: (716) 636-0070 x228, [email protected].

MQ Capacity Planner: More Info About MQ Monitoring

TxMQ is set to debut its new MQ Capacity Planner (MQCP) utility next week at the MQ Technical Conference in Sandusky, Ohio. We’re offering two live-demo sessions with MQCP author Allan Bartleywood:

  • Monday, Sept. 29 at 11:15 a.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 11:15 a.m.

For those who can’t attend, MQCP is a brand-new, proprietary MQ monitoring and testing utility for MQ message flow. More specifically, MQCP is a multithread testing tool for IBM WebSphere MQ environments that is capable of testing any volume of application-data messages generated by any number of concurrent application instances assigned to any number of queue managers in order to obtain highly detailed performance reports of queue times and package priorities measured against total message capacity, CPU loads and throughput times.
Results provide accurate estimates of optimal message sizes to better diagnose bottlenecks and boost overall MQ, network and application performance.
To dig a bit deeper into functionality, MQCP’s strength is in the detail. Typical MQ test scripts simply can’t offer the insight and absolute detail of MQCP, which essentially allows the user to shine a light into the dark corners of an MQ environment to reveal any cobwebs that slow down performance. And the tool is indispensible for network change control: Anytime you change out a network configuration item, run MQCP again and compare performance to the previous baseline to measure how an implementation truly affects MQ performance. It’s really that simple.
More details on MQCP will emerge over the following weeks. There’s additional information included on our MQCP page (click here to visit).
Interested in trying the MQCP? Contact TxMQ president Chuck Fried and ask about our MQCP Pilot Program: (716) 636-0070 x222, [email protected].

Reduce Your Liability Exposure With A Systems Security Health Check

The Home Depot data breach isn’t going away anytime soon. News continues to pour out about the theft of credit card info from Big Orange, and the tally currently sits at 65 million credit and debit cards compromised.
Several credit unions have sued Home Depot under claims that the retailer knew ahead of time that its systems were out of date and that hackers had access to the data for months before the breach came to light – claims that of course would need to be proven in court. Customers that suffered a loss are able to recoup their losses from Home Depot, and the retailer is offering a free year of credit monitoring to affected customers.
Although the breach doesn’t seem to have hurt Home Depot’s valuation and business the way it hurt Target – maybe because Home Depot deals more in necessities whereas Target deals more in frills – the lesson is resonating throughout North America. We certainly hear the chatter in the IT industry.
The big takeaway, and the advice we give clients, is to avoid potential liability exposure by upgrading any out-of-date systems or software. Note the accusation in the lawsuit I referenced above: That Home Depot knew it was using an out-of-date system.
The truth is that all systems are vulnerable to some degree. Passwords aren’t the ultimate protection. And we do trade risk for convenience whenever we use plastic to for online or in-store purchases. But companies that take every step to protect their data are much less exposed should a problem occur.
Sometimes system servers need a new round of hardening. Sometimes fix-packs or version upgrades are mandatory. Sometimes a vulnerable machine needs to be taken out. The first step is always to scope the current state of your security and compliance, then develop a plan from there. And keep in the mind that SMBs are the most vulnerable, because a single, successful liability lawsuit could signal the end of business.
TxMQ specializes in security and security upgrades (click here for our recent Webinar). Initial consultations are free and confidential. Contact vice president Miles Roty: (716) 636-0070 x228, [email protected].
(Photo by Scott Schiller under Creative Commons license.)