Tag Archives: Suite

Will Operations Management Suite boost confidence in Office 365?

Despite the continued success of cloud-based business operations and the growing trend of migration to the cloud,…

many companies remain skeptical and even untrusting of cloud-based operations, and of Office 365 in particular.

Microsoft only has itself to blame for this hesitation, as the past five years of its Azure cloud’s history includes a litany of underperformance complaints, app crashes, me-too feature rollouts and customer frustration over the opacity of availability failures. Azure isn’t a bad cloud environment by any means; in fact, it has become a pretty good cloud environment. It just isn’t yet great — or is it?

This year’s Ignite conference was Microsoft’s opportunity to demonstrate that recent improvements to Azure, and Office 365 in particular, meaningfully address customer concerns about Office 365’s back-end accessibility and Azure’s need for transparency.

The core problem — that customers become uncomfortable when business processes are interrupted or are not performing as expected, and that they do not have access to the servers running them — is what Microsoft needed to address.

Change monitoring and configuration services. A huge issue with trusting software and storage to vendor servers is having to cross your fingers when a vendor introduces patches and upgrades in their own environment. Will those patches and upgrades sink any client apps? This can happen (too frequently) in SharePoint-hosted custom code, even if that code conforms to the now ubiquitous app model standard.

The Microsoft Operations Management Suite now features services that address this server blindness and surprise factor. Changes in the server environment can now be observed by the customer, which is tremendously useful, even though the customer still can’t touch the servers themselves. With the Operations Management Suite, customers can more easily foresee outages and anticipate degraded service. Moreover, root cause analysis — until now, a leading barrier for customers to deploy apps in O365 — is finally being accommodated, significantly reducing time to resolution when apps fail or underperform.

Log analytics and automation. Because cloud users can’t see or touch the servers on which they’re running their operations, they don’t have access to the activity logs that are so invaluable for troubleshooting apps and diagnosing issues. This has been a common complaint of Office 365 users, and a barrier for many who might otherwise adopt it.

Whatever is said in public, the reality is that no cloud provider really wants customers nosing around in logs that might betray an actionable error or any malfeasance on the part of the provider.

Microsoft’s middle ground here is customer access to searchable, real-time and historical machine data in Azure. This enables customers to troubleshoot app crashes, diagnose performance issues and set up automated responses to real-time problems.

The catch here is that Operations Management Suite is designed for non-specialists, with canned code and an obscure schema. It’s reasonable to predict that its effectiveness will be somewhat limited — but even so, it’s a big step forward.

Also, while living in Azure, this product also works in VMware, Windows Server and other OS environments.

Detecting system and service issues. BlueStripe has been renamed the Application Dependency Monitor in the Operations Management Suite. In an effort to get their arms around the transition of the service from a custom code ‘sandbox’ to a new (more efficient) app model, Microsoft has redesigned it to centralize connections between customer apps, services and data sources, even between clouds.

If the Application Development Monitor works as advertised, it will be a major relief for those wishing to deploy custom functionality within O365 (and Azure in general), even in the case of complex business processes that touch many different servers and sources.

As a diagnostic aid, this is a significant step forward: Understanding and monitoring traffic between system components in an environment that is essentially server blind to the user was beyond reach until now. Mapping dependencies, let alone making them monitor-friendly, could make troubleshooting apps, processes and systems far more doable in the cloud than it has ever been before.

Application disaster recovery. Finally, a major issue with trusting the cloud for app deployment is the customer’s helplessness when systems crash. If they can’t touch the servers, they can’t control the recovery. This gets even more complicated in the hybrid cloud world, where apps/processes are integrating ground-to-cloud or cloud-to-cloud.

The Operations Management Suite now features dedicated Azure Site Recovery, which simplifies recovery planning, time and expense. In the case of fully customized apps and processes, this is an ideal solution, and makes recovery faster and cheaper than is usually possible with on-premises solutions. Moreover, this is an inexpensive and truly viable dev and test alternative.

In the case of Office 365 app deployments, it’s not so clear cut. Office 365 apps live in a more controlled environment where many customers share the same servers; disaster recovery, when it’s software-specific, is aided by the new functionality detailed above — but physical server issues impact more than one customer. As a result, recovery is more obscure from the user’s standpoint.

Even so, this is real progress. The announcement of the Operations Management Suite at Ignite signals that Microsoft is listening to existing and potential Office 365/Azure customers. This gives customers good reason to expect meaningful change in the cloud leading to growing user confidence.

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Open Mind: Microsoft’s Visual-Studio-like suite for machine learning

Microsoft has been on a bundling binge as of late, bringing together more of its disparate products and services into suites.

openmindqilu Open Mind: Microsoft’s Visual Studio like suite for machine learning Image: Microsoft

There looks to be yet another suite in the cards called Open Mind Studio. Open Mind is a Visual Studio-like suite for machine learning, according to slides from an August 2 talk by Microsoft Executive Vice President of Applications and Services Qi Lu.

Setting Up a PC for Azure Cortana Intelligence Suite Development

Some development aspects of the Cortana Intelligence Suite can occur in the Azure Portal. There are also some additional client tools which are helpful, or potentially required, to fully create solutions. This is a quick checklist of tools you probably want to install on a development machine for purposes of working on the analytics, BI, and/or data warehousing elements of Azure.

1. SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS)

The latest version of SSMS is recommended for compatibility with Azure services, as well as backwards compatible with all SQL Server versions back to 2008.

Download SSMS:  https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt238290.aspx

2. Visual Studio 2015

The latest 2015 version of Visual Studio is recommended for full functionality for the newest components. If you choose to do a customized VS installation, be sure to select the option to install Microsoft Web Developer Tools. (If you don’t, when you try to install the Azure SDK later it won’t install properly because prerequisites are missing. Yeah, yeah, I’ve been there.)

If you don’t have a license available, look into using the VS Community edition.

Download VS 2015: https://www.visualstudio.com/downloads/download-visual-studio-vs 

Note: in addition to “Visual Studio 2015,” there’s also a “Visual Studio 15 Preview.” The 15 Preview is *not* the same thing as Visual Studio 2015, even though 15 is in its name. So, just watch out for that in terms of naming.


3. SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) for Visual Studio 2015

Here’s is where you gain the ability to create BI projects: SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). These SQL Server BI projects aren’t considered part of Cortana Intelligence Suite, but if you’re creating an analytics, BI, and/or data warehousing solution you may need at least one of types of BI projects as part of the overall solution.

With the latest version of SSDT for VS 2015, you’ll also be able to interact with all versions of SQL Server, as well as Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Data Warehouse.

Example of what an Azure SQL Data Warehouse cloud resource looks like from within Visual Studio (SSDT):

 Setting Up a PC for Azure Cortana Intelligence Suite Development

4. Azure SDK

The Azure SDK sets up lots of libraries; the main features we are looking for from the Azure SDK right away are (a) the ability to use the Cloud Explorer within Visual Studio, and (b) the ability to create ARM template projects for automated deployment purposes. In addition to the Server Explorer we get from Visual Studio, the Cloud Explorer from the SDK gives us another way to interact with our resources in Azure. 

Example of what the Cloud Explorer pane looks like in Visual Studio (by Resource Group, and by Resource Type):

 Setting Up a PC for Azure Cortana Intelligence Suite Development

Example of what you’ll see related to Azure Resource Groups after the Azure SDK is installed:

 Setting Up a PC for Azure Cortana Intelligence Suite Development

Example of various QuickStart project types available (none of these are directly related to Cortana Intelligence Suite, but might factor into your overall solution):

 Setting Up a PC for Azure Cortana Intelligence Suite Development

5.  Relevant Visual Studio Extensions

These are important extensions for working with Cortana Intelligence Suite at this time:
-Microsoft Azure Data Lake Tools for Visual Studio 2015 <–Automatically installed as part of the Azure SDK
-Microsoft Azure HDInsight Tools for Visual Studio 2015 <–Automatically installed as part of the Azure SDK
-Microsoft Azure Data Factory Tools for Visual Studio 2015

At the time of this writing (June 2016), Azure Data Factory Tools are not automatically installed with the Azure SDK. That will probably change at some point I would guess.

Example of the Cortana Intelligence Suite projects you’ll see after the Azure extensions are installed (a U-SQL project is associated with the Azure Data Lake Analytics service):

 Setting Up a PC for Azure Cortana Intelligence Suite Development

6.  Microsoft Azure Storage Explorer and/or AzCopy

I really like the new standalone Azure Storage Explorer for uploading and downloading files to Azure Storage. AzCopy is another alternative – AzCopy is a command line utility instead of a graphical UI, so it’s better suited for automation and scripting purposes. 

Example of what Azure Storage Explorer looks like:

 Setting Up a PC for Azure Cortana Intelligence Suite Development

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Building Blocks of Cortana Intelligence Suite in Azure

 Building Blocks of Cortana Intelligence Suite in Azure

I’ve been really enjoying learning more and talking with customers about hybrid analytics and data warehousing solutions. The services which are evolving as part of the Cortana Intelligence Suite are really amazing. I’ve put together a new presentation called the Building Blocks of Cortana Intelligence Suite.

I’ll be presenting it for the first time at SQL Saturday Atlanta in May, followed up by the Charlotte BI Group and Carolina IT Pro Group in June. This will be a fast-moving introductory session wherein I’ll introduce each component of the suite and discuss its purpose and use cases. I’ll also call out important requirements for expertise, such as key tools and languages.

Each section will wrap up with an example of the ‘building blocks’ to formulate a solution. Although these ‘building blocks’ examples are greatly simplified, my hope is it will generate ideas for how the different Azure components can fit together for formulating hybrid solutions. 

The materials will changing over time as I refine the presentation and as new capabilities in Azure evolve and mature, so check back later for updates.

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What is the Cortana Intelligence Suite?

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OpenText content management gets boost in OpenText Suite 16

Today, OpenText Corp. released upgrades to its OpenText Suite 16, including enhancements to Content Server for enterprise content management (ECM) and Process Suite for business process management, as well as its Experience Suite for Web content management (WCM) and content analytics.

The OpenText content management updates are designed to help companies build applications on top of OpenText in a standard HTML5 environment, to get better performance out of Experience Suite and to be able to embed analytics applications in a variety of apps for easier use and decision making.

The upgrades to OpenText Suite 16 enable ECM and WCM capabilities.

1. Entity modeling release. In the Process Suite, nonprogrammers can build applications on top of the OpenText platform without having to write code, cutting costs of enlisting developers to build apps. These apps can migrate processes and data from a smattering of custom applications to reduce the costs of operating and maintaining these apps.

“Previously, the developer needed to know Java,” said Muhi Majzoub, OpenText’s senior vice president of engineering. “You needed to know all the ins and outs of how you build procedures and rules on top of the business suite. And now, we’ve taken that complexity and raised it up a level to provide a user-friendly application that they can drag and drop to build with very simple rules.”

2. Experience Suite upgrades. With upgrades to the Experience suite, Web content management users can create websites that handle peak traffic loads without a hindrance to performance and integrate media management capabilities for digital asset management. On game day, the Australian Football League gets up to 5 million hits on the site in three hours without degrading performance, Majzoub said.

3. Embedded analytics platforms. OpenText’s analytics can ingest data from multiple data sources — sources can come from Salesforce’s CRM application, for example — and present the data in dashboards embedded in a variety of applications. “I can embed the dashboard in an application that is proprietary to me. Dashboard, reports [and] charts show up in your native app — whether it’s Salesforce, Workday or a proprietary app,” Majzoub said.

OpenText will announce these enhancements at Enterprise World 2015 in Las Vegas Nov. 8-13.

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Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

Azure Data Catalog is one of the components of the Cortana Analytics Suite.  This post is as of September 2015; at this time the Azure Data Catalog is still in public preview so we can expect many changes coming soon.

 Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

If you saw the data catalog that was part of V1 Power BI (for Office 365), then you are familiar with the first iteration of this tool. Customer feedback was good, but that they didn’t want to go through the trouble of registering data sources for use with just one application. So that’s the motivation for pulling it out of being a Power BI feature and into being a full-fledged element of the Cortana Analytics Suite.

The Azure Data Catalog is two things:

  • Enterprise-wide catalog in Azure that enables self-service discovery of data from any source (on prem or cloud, Microsoft or non-Microsoft, structured or non-structured)
  • A metadata repository that allows users to register, annotate, discover, understand, and consume data sources

I’m very excited to have a metadata repository like this which can save people time, help find the info they need, share what the data means as well as issues and advice, and potentially decrease duplication of effort for things which already exist. Check out this Azure Documentation page for some very useful scenarios and use cases for Azure Data Catalog:  https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/data-catalog-common-scenarios/.
    
The primary activities in the Azure Data Catalog: Publish (aka Register), Discover, and Annotate. The publishing process currently uses a click-once app in a web browser, and the discovery and annotation process is done via a web page (unless you prefer to use the open APIs).

 Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

Publishing / Registering Data Sources in Azure Data Catalog

When a user registers a data source, the catalog extracts out the connection string and metadata for column names and data types.  It also will extract descriptions / extended properties if present in the source. Optionally, the person handling the data source registration can choose to show a preview of the data (up to 20 records), and/or a profile of the data. Other than the optional 20-record preview, none of the actual data contents are moved to Azure – it’s metadata only.

 Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

The above screen shot shows the data sources supported currently in the public preview. Due to customer feedback, the development team started with on-premises SQL Server (relational) and Analysis Services (both multidimensional and tabular). It’s also very interesting that Reporting Services reports can be cataloged here as well.

Lots more data sources will be coming soon – their aim is to be able to register all enterprise data sources after all. The list of supported sources can be found here: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/data-catalog-frequently-asked-questions/.

 Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

Discovering Data Sources in Azure Data Catalog

When looking for a data source that has been registered, users can search by term, tag, object type, source type, and/or an expert assigned as having knowledge of the source. (This expert can be a person or perhaps a support group.)

 Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

The web interface includes nice functionality to select multiple items on a page and assign tags, for instance, to them all at once.

If the “Include Preview” checkbox was selected when the data source was initially registered, this is what the Preview pane looks like:

 Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

Note that individual columns can possess their own tags and descriptions for search ability (in addition to the tags and descriptions at the database & table levels). This is what the Columns pane looks like:

 Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

If the “Include Data Profile” checkbox was selected when the data source was initially registered, then table and column profiling is done with respect to number of rows, number of distinct values, min & max values, number of nulls, etc. Following is what the Data Profile pane looks like:

 Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

Annotating Data Sources in Azure Data Catalog

Users are encouraged to make annotations about usefulness, column meanings, friendly names, etc. The development team refers to this as a crowdsourcing approach because anyone can contribute useful information that may be of great assistance & time savings to colleagues.

Tags can also be used very effectively. For example, I saw a demo recently where an e-mail address column was annotated with a PII tag to alert users to use caution when distributing personally identifiable information.

If users of the Azure Data Catalog make the time investment to add rich information related to data sources, then this type of metadata tool can be extremely helpful to self-service users who are searching for the correct data to use. 

 Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite


Things to Know about Azure Data Catalog

There is a web portal interface to Azure Data Catalog is located at http://azuredatacatalog.com. However, there are also open APIs as well if you would rather integrate the publishing, discovering, and annotation activities with a custom application. 

The Azure Data Catalog permits a data source to be registered only once. This was a purposeful design decision to avoid duplicates. Visibility to a select number of objects (ex: views for particular sets of users) can be set with security (in the Standard version only, not the free version).

Currently the system allows only a single Data Catalog per Azure subscription. The design team has envisioned the Azure Data Catalog as being enterprise-level, so permitting departmental use would diminish the value. It’ll be interesting to see over time how the subscription model tends to align within decentralized customer organizations.

The default for a new data source is for this metadata (and data preview, if selected) to be available to everyone. Visibility can be set to specific users and groups (Standard version only, not the free version).

There is a free version, and a paid version that is referred to as the Standard version. The free version shows all registered data sources to all users – if you need to restrict visibility by users & groups, that requires the Standard version. The free version allows up to a max of 50 users, whereas the Standard version is unlimited and is priced (as of Sept 2015) at $ 50/per month/per 100 users. Pricing details are here:  https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/data-catalog/.

If a user doesn’t have permission to access a data source, the Standard version (not free version) allows you to submit a request to gain access to that particular data.

Azure Active Directory integration is required. You cannot use a Microsoft account (ex: user@outlook.com) with Azure Data Catalog. Also, you have to log into the portal on a machine where you are logged in as the Windows user. For most users this won’t be an issue (for me, it means I need to remote desktop into a VM where I can log in with an Azure AD account that my Azure test environment will understand & I launch the Azure Data Catalog web portal from within the RDP session).

Anyone can try to register a data source. However, for it to be successful, the person registering needs to be able to read the schema for the underlying data source (i.e., read definition permission). If the checkbox to show a preview is selected, the person registering also needs select permissions on the underlying data source.

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What is the Cortana Analytics Suite?

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What is the Cortana Analytics Suite?

Since I’m a data nut, I’m intrigued with Microsoft’s new offering referred to as the Cortana Analytics Suite (which I’ll call CAS for short).

First things first, CAS is not a product in and of itself, though it will have its own pricing. CAS can be thought of as a bundle of integrated products and services. It’s somewhat similar to the idea of the Office suite or the SQL Server suite, both of which contain various components that are interoperable (at least to a certain extent). I get the feeling with CAS that interoperability/integration will be a huge emphasis. Another big emphasis will be on the availability of templates and preconfigured solutions in CAS which should accelerate and simplify development for particular scenarios.

Since CAS isn’t officially available yet, most of what can be found right now are marketing materials – though most of the components are available individually now and have varying levels of technical documentation available. I’m excited to be attending the CAS Workshop in September in Seattle, where I’m hoping to learn a lot more about the integration points, interoperability, accelerators, and overall capabilities.

What are the Components of Cortana Analytics Suite?

Knowing this is a bundle of tools with an emphasis on integration and automation, for the purpose of advanced analytics, what are the components of the suite? 

 What is the Cortana Analytics Suite?

The documentation lists the following as elements of Cortana Analytics Suite:

  • Azure Machine Learning
  • Azure HDInsight
  • Azure Stream Analytics
  • Azure Data Lake
  • Azure SQL Data Warehouse
  • Azure Data Catalog
  • Azure Data Factory
  • Azure Event Hub
  • Power BI
  • Cortana
  • Face, vision, speech and text analytics
  • Preconfigured solutions for recommendations, forecasting, churn, etc.

There are other Azure components that will play a part in data-oriented solutions as well; I’m showing some of these key components in the image above (in orange towards the bottom) even though they aren’t “officially” part of Cortana Analytics Suite.

Why is Cortana in the Name?

One of my first questions when this was announced:  Why is Cortana in the name? The idea here is that the personal assistant, Cortana, will be able to provide information upon request or proactively. Something such as:  “Hey Cortana, what is the total of yesterday’s sales?” appears to be the next evolutionary step of the Q&A natural language capabilities first seen in Power BI. A public demo indicated that Power BI will be just one way to expose data to Cortana.

 What is the Cortana Analytics Suite?

Source for image: July 2015 Webinar by Joseph Sirosh

Here’s a very interesting quote from a TechCrunch article:

“As for Cortana, which is the Microsoft voice-driven personal assistant tool in Windows 10, it’s a small part of the solution, but Sirosh says Microsoft named the suite after it because it symbolizes the contextualized intelligence that the company hopes to deliver across the entire suite.”

So, we have an extremely broad platform with Cortana Analytics Suite. Stay tuned for my follow-up posts where we start looking at the individual components.

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NetSuite Announces Suite Engage Forum for Channel Partners in Asia

NetSuite Executives and its Partners across Asia Converge at All-Day Event

SINGAPORE—9 February, 2015—NetSuite Inc. (NYSE: N), the industry’s leading provider of cloud-based financials / ERP and omnichannel commerce software suites, today announced it will be hosting its Suite Engage partner forum in Singapore at the NetSuite Asia headquarters on Thursday, 12 February. This day-long event will celebrate the ongoing success NetSuite and its partners are realizing as they work closely together to meet the ever-increasing customer demand for NetSuite’s cloud-based business management suite across Asia. Through events like Suite Engage, NetSuite continues to demonstrate its very strong commitment to growing its channel partner network across the region.

“Organizations in Asia are eager to transform their businesses by adopting NetSuite’s single unified cloud-based business management suite,” said Reginald Singh, Vice President and General Manager, NetSuite Asia. “By working closely with our channel partners in Asia, we and they are optimally positioned to serve our joint customers with our combined deep expertise in cloud computing and end-to-end business process as well as our in-depth regional, global and industry knowledge.”

Suite Engage will provide an opportunity for NetSuite’s partners from across Asia to meet and network with NetSuite management and their channel peers and for all attendees to learn from each other’s experiences and to share best practices around selling, solution consulting and marketing. NetSuite’s Singh will welcome attendees and share NetSuite’s vision for 2015 and beyond. The event will feature a morning general session including an update on NetSuite’s product roadmap as well as a choice of afternoon breakout sessions on topics such as staff recruitment and development. NetSuite partners will also receive hands-on training on designing and implementing NetSuite solutions and NetSuite will highlight its highly successful partner programs—NetSuite Solution Provider Program and the SuiteCloud Developer Network.

Launched in 2002 and earning a 5-Star ranking in the 2014 CRN Partner Program Guide, the NetSuite Solution Provider Program is the industry’s leading cloud channel partner program, providing hundreds of channel partners with a cloud solution to offer prospective customers and grow their businesses, as well as industry-leading margins and innovative incentive programs. With cloud computing at the forefront of the hottest trends and cloud ERP leading the way, channel partners representing on-premise products from vendors such as Microsoft, SAP and Sage are continuing to build new practices based on NetSuite’s superior cloud business management suite. Designed to help solution providers transform their business model to fully capitalize on the revenue growth opportunity of the NetSuite cloud, the NetSuite Solution Provider Program delivers unprecedented benefits that begin during recruitment and range from business planning, sales, marketing and professional services enablement, to training and education. For more information about the NetSuite Solution Provider Program, please visit www.netsuite.com/solutionproviderprogram.

About SuiteCloud
NetSuite’s SuiteCloud is a comprehensive offering of cloud-based products, development tools and services designed to help customers and commercial software developers take advantage of the significant economic benefits of cloud computing. Based on NetSuite, the industry’s leading provider of cloud-based financials/ERP software suites, SuiteCloud enables customers markets quickly with newly-created mission-critical applications built on top of mature and proven business processes.

The SuiteCloud Developer Network (SDN) is a comprehensive developer program for independent software vendors (ISVs) who build apps for SuiteCloud. All available SuiteApps are listed on SuiteApp.com, a single-source online marketplace where NetSuite customers can find applications to meet specific business process or industry-specific needs. For more information on SuiteCloud and the SDN program, please visit www.netsuite.com/developers.

Today, approximately 24,000 companies and subsidiaries depend on NetSuite to run complex, mission-critical business processes globally in the cloud. Since its inception in 1998, NetSuite has established itself as the leading provider of enterprise-class cloud financials/ERP, CRM and omnichannel suites for mid-sized organizations, large enterprises and divisions of large enterprises seeking to upgrade their antiquated client/server ERP and other systems. NetSuite continues its success in delivering the best cloud ERP/financials suites to businesses around the world, enabling them to lower IT costs significantly while increasing productivity, as the global adoption of the cloud is accelerating.

For more information about NetSuite, please visit www.netsuite.com.

Follow @NetSuite on Twitter for NetSuite news and real-time updates.

NOTE: NetSuite and the NetSuite logo are service marks of NetSuite Inc. Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.
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Introducing MFX 2.1 & ZPSaver Suite: Mainframe Innovation for a Big Data World

After fifty years of mainframes, in a world where Big Data seems to capture all the attention, what’s left to do? Some companies may have run out of ideas long ago, but not Syncsort – after all, we created one of the most reliable, most trusted third-party software packages for IBM’s z/OS operating system. Even today, after decades of mainframe innovation, our MFX developers continue to find new ways to improve their product.  As a result, we’re happy to announce the General Availability of Syncsort MFX Release 2.1 and the new ZPSaver Suite.

Once again, the new release of MFX is packed with performance & functionality enhancements to make MFX even faster and developers more productive, but there is something more unique in this announcement. MFX 2.1 is the foundation for a new product, the ZPSaver Suite.  This set of utilities provides a way to offload COPY and SMS compression workloads from General Purpose Processors to zIIP engines.

Several years ago after analyzing a number of customer’s MFX usage, we discovered that many sites rely heavily on the COPY function with our data manipulation features to transform their data.  A good percentage of customers actually had more COPY executions than SORTs.  This was an area ideally suited for zIIP offload.  As long as we were going to be making major changes we decided to redesign the entire process and introduce other enhancements as well. By including Syncsort’s unique DASD Parallel Access Volume (PAV) support we could improve the elapsed time of these COPY applications as well as reduce the billable CPU time. We are able to reduce CPU time by over 90% for COPY applications with features by offloading that workload to a zIIP engine. Provided the input and output for these COPY applications are on DASD devices, our PAV support will reduce the elapsed time by 25%.  This has been available for a little over a year with a product called ZPCopy.  Starting in MFX release 2.1, this functionality will be part of the ZPSaver Suite.

Due to the acceptance of ZPCopy we looked to see what other workload we could offload to a zIIP engine. SMS compression was an obvious target. The benefits of compression are well known, but there is a high price to pay. For sorts that use compressed input and output, it is not uncommon for the decompression and compression to use more than four times the amount of CPU time than the sort.   This CPU cost is split among TCB time and SRB time.  If this work could be pushed to a zIIP, customers would realize enormous savings. Now they can, thanks to the ZPSaver Suite. Best of all, you can realize the benefits without making any changes to individual applications.

We are not done developing the ZPSaver Suite. There is a development roadmap that includes enhancements to existing processing as well as completely new functionality. The plan is to roll out these enhancements as they become available instead of waiting for a formal release boundary.

So, how do you know if ZPSaver is right for you? To help with this question, we have developed a tool that will determine how much of this type work is done and estimate the potential savings. Request your Free ROI Assessment at www.syncsort.com/ROI-Assessment.

Syncsort MFX 2.1 provides the foundation for the new ZPSaver Suite; however, you will find a lot more in the new release of MFX.

First, There are multiple performance improvements such as:

  • Exploitation of EC12
  • Exploitation of the High Performance FICON (zHPF) channel architecture
  • Fine tuning of MFX OPTMODEs
  • Optimization improvements

There are also numerous enhancements to a variety of the data manipulation features. Last but not least, we have improved the way the product’s installation options are managed. Now the installation options can be set in a parmlib member making it easy to maintain multiple different sets of options for different systems. No longer will it be necessary to be concerned about installation options while performing routine maintenance.

Yes, mainframe innovation is still going strong at Syncsort and our latest release packages something for everyone.   We look forward to working with you on upgrading to Syncsort MFX 2.1 and realizing some saving with the new ZPSaver Suite.  Want to learn more? Go to www.syncsort.com/MFX . You can also register for tomorrow’s webcast by clicking here.

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