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The story so far.... In 1975, Ed Roberts invented the Altair personal computer. It was a pain to use until 19 year-old pre-billionaire Bill Gates wrote the first personal computer language. Still, the public didn't care. Then two young hackers -- Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak -- built the Apple computer to impress their friends. We were all impressed and Apple was a stunning success. By 1980, the PC market was worth a billion dollars. Now, view on.....
We are nerds.
Most of the people in the industry were young because the guys who had any real experience were too smart to get involved in all these crazy little machines.
It really wasn't that we were going to build billion dollar businesses. We were having a good time.
I thought this was the most fun you could possibly have with your clothes on.
When the personal computer was invented twenty years it was just that - an invention - it wasn't a business. These were hobbyists who built these machines and wrote this software to have fun but that has really changed and now this is a business this is a big business. It just goes to show you that people can be bought. How the personal computer industry grew from zero to 100 million units is an amazing story. And it wasn't just those early funky companies of nerds and hackers, like Apple, that made it happen. It took the intervention of a company that was trusted by the corporate world. Big business wasn't interested in the personal computer. In the boardrooms of corporate America a computer still meant something the size of a room that cost at least a hundred thousand dollars. Executives would brag that my mainframe is bigger than your mainframe. The idea of a $2,000 computer that sat on your desk in a plastic box was laughable that is until that plastic box had three letters stamped on it - IBM. IBM was, and is, an American business phenomenon. Over 60 years, Tom Watson and his son, Tom Jr., built what their workers called Big Blue into the top computer company in the world. But IBM made mainframe computers for large companies, not personal computers -- at least not yet. For the PC to be taken seriously by big business, the nerds of Silicon Valley had to meet the suits of corporate America. IBM never fired anyone, requiring only that undying loyalty to the company and a strict dress code. IBM hired conservative hard-workers straight from school. Few IBM'ers were at the summer of love. Their turn-ons were giant mainframes and corporate responsibility. They worked nine to five and on Saturdays washed the car. This is intergalactic HQ for IBM - the largest computer company in the world...but in many ways IBM is really more a country than it is a company. It has hundreds of thousands of citizens, it has a bureaucracy, it has an entire culture everything in fact but an army. OK Sam we're ready to visit IBM country, obviously we're dressed for the part. Now when you were in sales training in 1959 for IBM did you sing company songs?
Former IBM Executive
BOB: Well just to get us in the mood let's sing one right here.
SAM: You're kidding.
BOB: I have the IBM - the songs of the IBM and we're going to try for number 74, our IBM salesmen sung to the tune of Jingle Bells.
Bob & Sam singing
'IBM, happy men, smiling all the way, oh what fun it is to sell our products our pruducts night and day. IBM Watson men, partners of TJ. In his service to mankind - that's why we are so gay.'
Now gay didn't mean what it means today then remember that OK?
BOB: Right ok let's go.
SAM: I guess that was OK.
When I started at IBM there was a dress code, that was an informal oral code of white shirts. You couldn't wear anything but a white shirt, generally with a starched collar. I remember attending my first class, and a gentleman said to me as we were entering the building, are you an IBMer, and I said yes. He had a three piece suit on, vests were of the vogue, and he said could you just lift your pants leg please. I said what, and before I knew it he had lifted my pants leg and he said you're not wearing any garters. I said what?! He said your socks, they're not pulled tight to the top, you need garters. And sure enough I had to go get garters.
IBM is like Switzerland -- conservative, a little dull, yet prosperous. It has committees to verify each decision. The safety net is so big that it is hard to make a bad decision - or any decision at all. Rich Seidner, computer programmer and wannabe Paul Simon, spent twenty-five years marching in lockstep at IBM. He feels better now.
Former IBM Programmer
I mean it's like getting four hundred thousand people to agree what they want to have for lunch. You know, I mean it's just not going to happen - it's going to be lowest common denominator you know, it's going to be you know hot dogs and beans. So ahm so what are you going to do? So IBM had created this process and it absolutely made sure that quality would be preserved throughout the process, that you actually were doing what you set out to do and what you thought the customer wanted. At one point somebody kind of looked at the process to see well, you know, what's it doing and what's the overhead built into it, what they found is that it would take at least nine months to ship an empty box.
By the late seventies, even IBM had begun to notice the explosive growth of personal computer companies like Apple.
The Apple 2 - small inexpensive and simple to use the first computer.....
What's more, it was a computer business they didn't control. In 1980, IBM decided they wanted a piece of this action.
Former IBM Executive
There were suddenly tens of thousands of people buying machines of that class and they loved them. They were very happy with them and they were showing up in the engineering departments of our clients as machines that were brought in because you can't do the job on your mainframe kind of thing.
JB wanted to know why I'm doing better than all the other managers...it's no secret...I have an Apple - sure there's a big computer three flights down but it won't test my options, do my charts or edit my reports like my Apple.
The people who had gotten it were religious fanatics about them. So the concern was we were losing the hearts and minds and supply me a machine to win back the hearts and minds.
In business, as in comedy, timing is everything, and time looked like it might be running out for an IBM PC. I'm visiting an IBMer who took up the challenge. In August 1979, as IBM's top management met to discuss their PC crisis, Bill Lowe ran a small lab in Boca Raton Florida.
Hello Bob nice to see you.
BOB: Nice to see you again. I tried to match the IBM dress code how did I do?
BILL: That's terrific, that's terrific.
He knew the company was in a quandary. Wait another year and the PC industry would be too big even for IBM to take on. Chairman Frank Carey turned to the department heads and said HELP!!!
Head, IBM IBM PC Development Team 1980
He kind of said well, what should we do, and I said well, we think we know what we would like to do if we were going to proceed with our own product and he said no, he said at IBM it would take four years and three hundred people to do anything, I mean it's just a fact of life. And I said no sir, we can provide with product in a year. And he abruptly ended the meeting, he said you're on Lowe, come back in two weeks and tell me what you need.
An IBM product in a year! Ridiculous! Down in the basement Bill still has the plan. To save time, instead of building a computer from scratch, they would buy components off the shelf and assemble them -- what in IBM speak was called 'open architecture.' IBM never did this. Two weeks later Bill proposed his heresy to the Chairman.
And frankly this is it. The key decisions were to go with an open architecture, non IBM technology, non IBM software, non IBM sales and non IBM service. And we probably spent a full half of the presentation carrying the corporate management committee into this concept. Because this was a new concept for IBM at that point.
BOB: Was it a hard sell?
BILL: Mr. Carey bought it. And as result of him buying it, we got through it.
With the backing of the chairman, Bill and his team then set out to break all the IBM rules and go for a record.
We'll put it in the IBM section.
Once IBM decided to do a personal computer and to do it in a year - they couldn't really design anything, they just had to slap it together, so that's what we'll do. You have a central processing unit and eh let's see you need a monitor or display and a keyboard. OK a PC, except it's not, there's something missing. Time for the Cringely crash course in elementary computing. A PC is a boxful of electronic switches, a piece of hardware. It's useless until you tell it what to do. It requires a program of instructions...that's software. Every PC requires at least two essential bits of software in order to work at all. First it requires a computer language. That's what you type in to supply instructions to the computer. To tell it what to do. Remember it was a computer language called BASIC that Paul Allen and Bill Gates adapted to the Altair...the first PC. The other bit of software that's required is called an operating system and that's the internal traffic cop that tells the computer itself how the keyboard is connected to the screen or how to store files on a floppy disk instead of just losing them when you turn off the PC at the end of the day. Operating systems tend to have boring unfriendly names like UNIX and CPM and MS-DOS but though they may be boring it's an operating system that made Bill Gates the richest man in the world. And the story of how that came about is, well, pretty interesting. So the contest begins. Who would IBM buy their software from? Let's meet the two contenders -- the late Gary Kildall, then aged 39, a computer Ph.D., and a 24 year old Harvard drop-out - Bill Gates. By the time IBM came calling in 1980, Bill Gates and his small company Microsoft was the biggest supplier of computer languages in the fledgling PC industry.
'Many different computer manufacturers are making the CPM Operating System standard on most models.'
For their operating system, though, the logical guy for the IBMers to see was Gary Kildall. He ran a company modestly called Interglactic Digital Research. Gary had invented the PC's first operating system called CP/M. He had already sold 600,000 of them, so he was the big cheese of operating systems.
Founder Digital Research
Speaking in 1983
In the early 70s I had a need for an operating system myself and eh it was a very natural thing to write and it turns out other people had a need for an operating system like that and so eh it was a very natural thing I wrote it for my own use and then started selling it.
In Gary's mind it was the dominant thing and it would always be the dominant of course Bill did languages and Gary did operating systems and he really honestly believed that would never change.
But what would change the balance of power in this young industry was the characters of the two protagonists.
Founder West Coast Computer Faire 1978
So I knew Gary back when he was an assistant professor at Monterrey Post Grad School and I was simply a grad student. And went down, sat in his hot tub, smoked dope with him and thoroughly enjoyed it all, and commiserated and talked nerd stuff. He liked playing with gadgets, just like Woz did and does, just like I did and do.
He wasn't really interested in how you drive the business, he worked on projects, things that interested him.
He didn't go rushing off to the patent office and patent CPM and patent every line of code he could, he didn't try to just squeeze the last dollar out of it.
Gary was not a fighter, Gary avoided conflict, Gary hated conflict. Bill I don't think anyone could say backed away from conflict.
Nobody said future billionaires have to be nice guys. Here, at the Microsoft Museum, is a shrine to Bill's legacy. Bill Gates hardly fought his way up from the gutter. Raised in a prosperous Seattle household, his mother a homemaker who did charity work, his father was a successful lawyer. But beneath the affluence and comfort of a perfect American family, a competitive spirit ran deep.
President, The Paul Allen Group
I ended up spending Memorial Day Weekend with him out at his grandmother's house on Hood Canal. She turned everything in to a game. It was a very very very competitive environment, and if you spent the weekend there, you were part of the competition, and it didn't matter whether it was hearts or pickleball or swimming to the dock. And you know and there was always a reward for winning and there was always a penalty for losing.
CEO Corporate Computing Intl.
One time, it was funny. I went to Bill's house and he really wanted to show me his jigsaw puzzle that he was working on, and he really wanted to talk about how he did this jigsaw puzzle in like four minutes, and like on the box it said, if you're a genius you will do the jigsaw puzzle in like seven. And he was into it. He was like I can do it. And I said don't, you know, I believe you. You don't need to break it up and do it for me. You know.
Bill Gates can be so focused that the small things in life get overlooked.
Former VP, Corporate Comms, Microsoft
If he was busy he didn't bathe, he didn't change clothes. We were in New York and the demo that we had crashed the evening before the announcement, and Bill worked all night with some other engineers to fix it. Well it didn't occur to him to take ten minutes for a shower after that, it just didn't occur to him that that was important, and he badly needed a shower that day.
The scene is set in California...laid back Gary Kildall already making the best selling PC operating system CPM. In Seattle Bill Gates maker of BASIC the best selling PC language but always prepared to seize an opportunity. So IBM had to choose one of these guys to write the operating system for its new personal computer. One would hit the jackpot the other would be forgotten...a footnote in the history of the personal computer and it all starts with a telephone call to an eighth floor office in that building the headquarters of Microsoft in 1980.
At about noon I guess I called Bill Gates on Monday and said I would like to come out and talk with him about his products.
Bill said well, how's next week, and they said we're on an airplane, we're leaving in an hour, we'd like to be there tomorrow. Well, hallelujah. Right oh.
Steve Ballmer was a Harvard roommate of Gates. He'd just joined Microsoft and would end up its third billionaire. Back then he was the only guy in the company with business training. Both Ballmer and Gates instantly saw the importance of the IBM visit.
You know IBM was the dominant force in computing. A lot of these computer fairs discussions would get around to, you know, I.. most people thought the big computer companies wouldn't recognise the small computers, and it might be their downfall. But now to have one of the big computer companies coming in and saying at least the - the people who were visiting with us that they were going to invest in it, that - that was er, amazing.
And Bill said Steve, you'd better come to the meeting, you're the only other guy here who can wear a suit. So we figure the two of us will put on suits, we'll put on suits and we'll go to this meeting.
We got there at roughly two o'clock and we were waiting in the front, and this young fella came out to take us back to Mr. Gates office. I thought he was the office boy, and of course it was Bill. He was quite decisive, we popped out the non-disclosure agreement - the letter that said he wouldn't tell anybody we were there and that we wouldn't hear any secrets and so forth. He signed it immediately.
IBM didn't make it easy. You had to sign all these funny agreements that sort of said I...IBM could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and use your secrets however they - they felt. But so it took a little bit of faith.
Jack Sams was looking for a package from Microsoft containing both the BASIC computer language and an Operating System. But IBM hadn't done their homework.
They thought we had an operating system. Because we had this Soft Card product that had CPM on it, they thought we could licence them CPM for this new personal computer they told us they wanted to do, and we said well, no, we're not in that business.
When we discovered we didn't have - he didn't have the rights to do that and that it was not...he said but I think it's ready, I think that Gary's got it ready to go. So I said well, there's no time like the present, call up Gary.
And so Bill right there with them in the room called Gary Kildall at Digital Research and said Gary, I'm sending some guys down. They're going to be on the phone. Treat them right, they're important guys.
The men from IBM came to this Victorian House in Pacific Grove California, headquarters of Digital Research, headed by Gary and Dorothy Kildall. Just imagine what its like having IBM come to visit - its like having the Queen drop by for tea, its like having the Pope come by looking for advice, its like a visit from God himself. And what did Gary and Dorothy do? They sent them away.
Gary had some other plans and so he said well, Dorothy will see you. So we went down the three of us...
Former Head of Language Division, Digital Research
IBM showed up with an IBM non-disclosure and Dorothy made what I...a decision which I think it's easy in retrospect to say was dumb.
We popped out our letter that said please don't tell anybody we're here, and we don't want to hear anything confidential. And she read it and said and I can't sign this.
She did what her job was, she got the lawyer to look at the nondisclosure. The lawyer, Gerry Davis who's still in Monterey threw up on this non-disclosure. It was uncomfortable for IBM, they weren't used to waiting. And it was unfortunate situation - here you are in a tiny Victorian House, its overrun with people, chaotic.
So we spent the whole day in Pacific Grove debating with them and with our attorneys and her attorneys and everybody else about whether or not she could even talk to us about talking to us, and we left.
This is the moment Digital Research dropped the ball. IBM, distinctly unimpressed with their reception, went back to Microsoft.
BOB: It seems to me that Digital Research really screwed up.
STEVE BALLMER: I think so - I think that's spot on. They made a big mistake. We referred IBM to them and they failed to execute.
Bill Gates isn't the man to supply a rival a second chance. He saw the opportunity of a lifetime.
Digital research didn't seize that, and we knew it was essential, if somebody didn't do it, the project was going to fall apart.
We just got carried away and said look, we can't afford to lose the language business. That was the initial thought - we can't afford to have IBM not go forward. This is the most exciting thing that's going to happen in PCs.
And we were already out on a limb, because we had licensed them not only Basic, but Fortran, Cobol Assembler er, typing tutor and Venture. And basically every - every product the company had we had committed to do for IBM in a very short time frame.
But there was a problem. IBM needed an operating system fast and Microsoft didn't have one. What they had was a stroke of luck - the ingredient everyone needs to be a billionaire. Unbelievably, the solution was just across town. Paul Allen, Gates's programming partner since high school, had found another operating system.
There's a local company here in CL called CL Computer Products by a guy named Tim Patterson and he had done an operating system a very rudimentary operating system that was kind of like CPM.
And we just told IBM look, we'll go and get this operating system from this small local company, we'll take care of it, we'll fix it up, and you can still do a PC.
Tim Patterson's operating system, which saved the deal with IBM, was, well, adapted from Gary Kildall's CPM.
So I took a CPM manual that I'd gotten from the Retail Computer Store five dollars in 1976 or something, and used that as the basis for what would be the application program interface, the API for my operating system. And so using these ideas that came from different places I started in April and it was about half time for four months before I had my first working version.
This is it, the operating system Tim Patterson wrote. He called in QDOS the quick and dirty operating system. Microsoft and IBM called it PC DOS 1.0 and under any name it looks an awful lot like CPM. On this computer here I have running a PC DOS and CPM 86 and frankly it�s very hard to tell the difference between the two. The command structures are the same, so are the directories, in fact the only obvious external difference is the floppy dirive is labelled A in PC DOS and and C in CPM. Some difference and yet one generated billions in revenue and the other disappeared. As usual in the PC business the prize didn't go to the inventor but to the exploiter of the invention. In this case that wasn't Gary Kildall it wasn't even Tim Paterson.
There was still one problem. Tim Patterson worked for Seattle Computer Products, or SCP. They still owned the rights to QDOS - rights that Microsoft had to have.
Former Vice-President Microsoft
But then we went back and said to them look, you know, we want to buy this thing, and SCP was like most little companies, you know. They always needed cash and so that was when they went in to the negotiation.
And so ended up working out a deal to buy the operating system from him for whatever usage we wanted for fifty thousand dollars.
Hey, let's pause there. To savour an historic moment.
For whatever usage we wanted for fifty thousand dollars.
It had to be the deal of the century if not the millenium it was certainly the deal that made Bill Gates and Paul Allen multi billionaires and allowed Paul Allen to buy toys like these, his own NBA basketball team and arena. Microsoft bought outright for fifty thousand dollars the operating system they needed and they turned around and licensed it to the world for up to fifty dollars per PC. Think of it - one hundred million personal computers running MS DOS software funnelling billions into Microsoft - a company that back then was fifty kids managed by a twenty-five year old who needed to wash his hair. Nice work if you can get it and Microsoft got it. There are no two places further apart in the USA than south eastern Florida and Washington State where Microsoft is based. This - this is Florida, Boca Raton and this building right here is where the IBM PC was developed. Here the nerds from Seattle joined forces with the suits of corporate and in that first honeymoon year they pulled off a fantastic achievement.
After we got a package in the mail from the people down in Florida...
As August 1981 approached, the deadline for the launch of the IBM Acorn, the PC industry held its breath.
Supposedly, maybe at this very moment eh, IBM is announcing the personal computer. We don't know that yet.
Software writers like Dan Bricklin, the creator of the first spreadsheet VisiCalc waited by the phones for news of the announcement. This is a moment of PC history. IBM secrecy had codenamed the PC 'The Floridian Project.' Everyone in the PC business knew IBM would change their world forever. They also knew that if their software was on the IBM PC, they would make fortunes.
Please note that the attached information is not to be disclosed prior to any public announcement. (It's on the ticker) It's on the ticker OK so now you can tell people.
What we're watching are the first few seconds of a $100 billion industry.
After years of thinking big today IBM came up with something small. Big Blue is looking for a slice of Apple's market share. Bits and Bytes mean nothing try this one. Now they're going to sell $1,000 computers to millions of customers. I have seen the future said one analyst and it computes.
Today an IBM computer has reached a personal......
Nobody was ever fired for buying IBM. Now companies could put PCs with the name they trusted on desks from Wisconsin to Wall Street.
When the IBM PC came and the PC became a serious business tool, a lot of them, the first of them went into those buildings over there and that was the real ehm when the PC industry started taking off, it happened there too.
Can learn to use it with ease...
Former IBM Executive
What IBM said was it's okay corporate America for you to now start buying and using PCs. And if it's okay for corporate America, it's got to be okay for everybody.
For all the hype, the IBM PC wasn't much better than what came before. So while the IBM name could create immense demand, it took a killer application to sustain it. The killer app for the IBM PC was yet another spreadsheet. Based on Visicalc, but called Lotus 1-2-3, its creators were the first of many to get rich on IBM's success. Within a year Lotus was worth $150 million bucks. Wham! Bam! Thank you IBM!
Time to rock time for code...
IBM had forecast sales of half a million computers by 1984. In those 3 years, they sold 2 million.
Euphoric I guess is the right word. Everybody was believed that they were not going to... At that point two million or three million, you know, they were now thinking in terms of a hundred million and they were probably off the scale in the other direction.
What did all this mean to Bill Gates, whose operating system, DOS, was at the heart of every IBM PC sold? Initially, not much, because of the deal with IBM. But it did supply him a vital bridgehead to other players in the PC marketplace, which meant trouble in the long run for Big Blue.
The key to our...the structure of our deal was that IBM had no control over...over our licensing to other people. In a lesson on the computer industry in mainframes was that er, over time, people built compatible machines or clones, whatever term you want to use, and so really, the primary upside on the deal we had with IBM, because they had a fixed fee er, we got about $80,000 - we got some other money for some special work we did er, but no royalty from them. And that's the DOS and Basic as well. And so we were hoping a lot of other people would come along and do compatible machines. We were expecting that that would happen because we knew Intel wanted to vend the chip to a lot more than just than just IBM and so it was great when people did start showing up and ehm having an interest in the licence.
IBM now had fifty per cent market share and was defining what a PC meant. There were other PCs that were sorta like the IBM PC, kinda like it. But what the public wanted was IBM PCs. So to be successful other manufacturers would have to build computers exactly like the IBM. They wanted to copy the IBM PC, to clone it. How could they do that legally, well welcome to the world of reverse engineering. This is what reverse engineering can get you if you do it right. It's the modest Aspen, Colorado ski shack of Rod Canion, one of the founders of Compaq, the company set up to compete head-on with the IBM PC. Back in 1982, Rod and three fellow engineers from Texas Instruments sketched out a computer design on a place mat at the House of Pies restaurant in Houston, Texas. They decided to manufacture and market a portable version of the IBM PC using the curious technique of reverse engineering.
Reverse engineering is figuring out after something has already been created how it ticks, what makes it work, usually for the purpose of creating something that works the same way or at least does something like the thing you're trying to reverse engineer.
Here's how you clone a PC. IBM had made it easy to copy. The microprocessor was available off the shelf from Intel and the other parts came from many sources. Only one part was IBM's alone, a vital chip that connected the hardware with the software. Called the ROM-BIOS, this was IBM's own design, protected by copyright and Big Blue's army of lawyers. Compaq had to somehow copy the chip without breaking the law.
First you have to decide how the ROM works, so what we had to do was have an engineer sit down with that code and through trial and error write a specification that said here's how the BIOS ROM needs to work. It couldn't be close it had to be exact so there was a lot of detailed testing that went on.
You test how that all-important chip behaves, and make a list of what it has to do - now it's time to meet my lawyer, Claude.
Silicon Valley Attorney
BOB: I've examined the internals of the ROM BIOS and written this book of specifications now I need some help because I've done as much as I can do, and you need to explain what's next.
CLAUDE: Well,the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to go through the book of specifications myself, but the first thing I can tell you Robert is that you're out of it now. You are contaminated, you are dirty. You've seen the product that's the original work of authorship, you've seen the target product, so now from here on in we're going to be working with people who are not dirty. We're going to be working with so called virgins, who are going to be operating in the clean room.
BOB: I certainly don't qualify there.
CLAUDE: I imagine you don't. So what we're going to do is this. We're going to hire a group of engineers who have never seen the IBM ROM BIOS. They have never seen it, they have never operated it, they know nothing about it.
Claude interrogates Mark
CLAUDE: Have you ever before attempted to disassemble decompile or to in any way shape or form reverse engineer any IBM equipment?
MARK: Oh no.
CLAUDE: And have you ever tried to disassemble....
This is the Silicon Valley virginity test. And good virgins are hard to find.
CLAUDE: You understand that in the event that we discover that the information you are providing us is inaccurate you are subject to discipline by the company and that can include but not limited to termination immediately do you understand that?
MARK: Yes I do.
After the virgins are deemed intact, they are forbidden contact with the outside world while they build a new chip -- one that behaves exactly like the one in the specifications. In Compaq's case, it took l5 senior programmers several months and cost $1 million to do the reverse engineering. In November 1982, Rod Canion unveiled the result.
What I�ve brought today is a Compaq portable computer.
When Bill Murto, another Compaq founder got a plug on a cable TV show their selling point was clear 100 percent IBM compatibility.
It turns out that all major popular software runs on the IBM personal computer or the Compaq portable computer.
Q: That extends through all software written for IBM?
A: Eh Yes.
Q: It all works on the Compaq?
The Compaq was an instant hit. In their first year, on the strength of being exactly like IBM but a little cheaper, they sold 47,000 PCs.
In our first year of sales we set an American business record. I guess maybe a world business record. Largest first year sales in history. It was a hundred and eleven million dollars.
So Rod Canion ends up in Aspen, famous for having the most expensive real estate in America and I try not to look envious while Rod tells me which executive jet he plans to buy next.
ROD: And finally I picked the Lear 31.
BOB: Oh really?
ROD: Now thart was a fun airplane.
BOB: Oh yeh.
Poor Big Blue! Suddenly everybody was cashing in on IBM's success. The most obvious winner at first was Intel, maker of the PCs microprocessor chip. Intel was selling chips like hotcakes to clonemakers -- and making them smaller, quicker and cheaper. This was unheard of! What kind of an industry had Big Blue gotten themselves into?
Former Head, IBM PC Division
Things get less expensive every year. People aren't used to that in general. I mean, you buy a new car, you buy one now and four years later you go and buy one it costs more than the one you bought before. Here is this magical piece of an industry - you go buy one later it costs less and it does more. What a wonderful thing. But it causes some funny things to occur when you think about an industry. An industry where prices are coming down, where you have to sell it and use it right now, because if you wait later it's worth less.
Where Compaq led, others soon followed. IBM was now facing dozens of rivals - soon to be familiar names began to appear, like AST, Northgate and Dell. It was getting spectacularly easy to build a clone. You could get everything off the shelf, including a guaranteed-virgin ROM BIOS chip. Every Tom, Dick & Bob could now make an IBM compatible PC and take another bite out of Big Blue's business. OK we're at Dominos Computers at Los Altos California, Silicon Valley and this is Yukio and we're going to set up the Bob and Yukio Personal Computer Company making IBM PC clones. You're the expert, I of course brought all the money so what is it that we're going to do.
OK first of all we need a motherboard.
BOB: What's a motherboard?
YUKIO: That's where the CPU is set in...that's the central processor unit.
YUKIO: In fact I have one right here. OK so this is the video board...
BOB: That drives the monitor.
BILL LOWE: Oh, of course. I mean we were able to sell a lot of products but it was getting difficult to make money.
YUKIO: And this is the controller card which would control the hard drive and the floppy drive.
And the way we did it was by having low overhead. IBM had low cost of product but a lot of overhead - they were a very big company.
YUKIO: Right this is a high density recorder.
BOB: So this is a hard disk drive.
And by keeping our overhead low even though our margins were low we were able to make a profit.
YUKIO: OK I have one right here.
BOB: Hey...OK we have a keyboard which plugs in right over here.
BOB: People build them themselves - how long does it take?
YUKIO: About an hour.
BOB: About an hour.
And where did every two-bit clone-maker buy his operating system? Microsoft, of course. IBM never iniagined Bill Gates would sell DOS to anyone else. Who was there? But by the mid 80's it was boom time for Bill. The teenage entrepreneur had predicted a PC on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software. It was actually coming true. As Microsoft mushroomed there was no way that Bill Gates could personally dominate thousands of employees but that didn't stop him. He still had a need to be both industry titan and top programmer. So he had to come up with a whole new corporate culture for Microsoft. He had to find a way to satisfy both his adolescent need to dominate and his adult need to inspire. The average Microsoftee is male and about 25. When he's not working, well he's always working. All his friends are Microsoft programmers too. He has no life outside the office but all the sodas are free. From the beginning, Microsoft recruited straight out of college. They chose people who had no experience of life in other companies. In time they'd be called Microserfs.
Chief Programmer, Microsoft
It was easier to to to create a new culture with people who are fresh out of school rather than people who came from, from from eh other companies and and and other cultures. You can rely on it you can predict it you can measure it you can optimise it you can make a machine out of it.
I mean everyone like lived together, ate together dated each other you know. Went to the movies together it was just you know very much a it was like a frat or a dorm.
Everybody's just push push push - is it right, is it right, do we have it right keep on it - no that's not right ugh and you're very frank about that - you loved it and it wasn't very formal and hierarchical because you were just so desirous to do the right thing and get it right. Why - it reflects Bill's personality.
And so a lot of young, I say people, but mostly it was young men, who just were out of school saw him as this incredible role model or leader, almost a guru I guess. And they could spend hours with him and he valued their contributions and there was just a wonderful camaraderie that seemed to exist between all these young men and Bill, and this strength that he has and his will and his desire to be the best and to be the winner - he is just like a cult leader, really.
As the frenzied 80's came to a close IBM reached a watershed - they had created an open PC architecture that anyone could copy. This was intentional but IBM always thought their inside track would keep them ahead - wrong. IBM's glacial pace and high overhead put them at a disadvantage to the leaner clone makers - everything was turning into a nightmare as IBM lost its dominant market share. So in a big gamble they staked their PC future to a new system a new line of computers with proprietary closed hardware and their very own operating system. It was war.
Start planning for operating system 2 today.
IBM planned to steal the market from Gates with a brand new operating system, called - drum roll please - OS/2. IBM would design OS/2. Yet they asked Microsoft to write the code. Why would Microsoft help create what was intended to be the instrument of their own destruction? Because Microsoft knew IBM was was the source of their success and they would tolerate almost anything to stay close to Big Blue.
It was just part of, as we used to call it, the time riding the bear. You just had to try to stay on the bear's back and the bear would twist and turn and try to buck you and throw you, but darn, we were going to ride the bear because the bear was the biggest, the most important you just had to be with the bear, otherwise you would be under the bear in the computer industry, and IBM was the bear, and we were going to ride the back of the bear.
It's easy for people to forget how pervasive IBM's influence over this industry was. When you talked to people who've come in to the industry recently there's no way you can get that in to their - in to their head, that was the environment.
The relationship between IBM and Microsoft was always a culture clash. IBMers were buttoned-up organization men. Microsoftees were obsessive hackers. With the development of OS/2 the strains really began to show.
In IBM there's a religion in software that says you have to count K-LOCs, and a K-LOC is a thousand line of code. How big a project is it? Oh, it's sort of a 10K-LOC project. This is a 20K-LOCer. And this is 5OK-LOCs. And IBM wanted to sort of make it the religion about how we got paid. How much money we made off OS 2, how much they did. How many K-LOCs did you do? And we kept trying to convince them - hey, if we have - a developer's got a good idea and he can get something done in 4K-LOCs instead of 20K-LOCs, should we make less money? Because he's made something smaller and faster, less KLOC. K-LOCs, K-LOCs, that's the methodology. Ugh anyway, that always makes my back just crinkle up at the thought of the whole thing.
When I took over in '89 there was an enormous amount of resources working on OS 2, both in Microsoft and the IBM company. Bill Gates and I met on that several times. And we pretty quickly came to the conclusion together that that was not going to be a success, the way it was being managed. It was also pretty clear that the negotiating and the contracts had given most of that control to Microsoft.
It was no longer just a question of styles. There was now a clear conflict of business interest. OS/2 was planned to undermine the clone market, where DOS was still Microsoft's major money-maker. Microsoft was DOS. But Microsoft was helping develop the opposition? Bad idea. To keep DOS competitive, Gates had been pouring resources into a new programme called Windows. It was designed to provide a nice user-friendly facade to boring old DOS. Selling it was another job for shy, retiring Steve Ballmer.
Steve Ballmer (Commercial)
How much do you think this advanced operating environment is worth - wait just one minute before you answer - watch as Windows integrates Lotus 1, 2, 3 with Miami Vice. Now we can take this...
Just as Bill Gates saw OS/2 as a threat, IBM regarded Windows as another attempt by Microsoft to hold on to the operating system business.
We created Windows in parallel. We kept saying to IBM, hey, Windows is the way to go, graphics is the way to go, and we got virtually everyone else, enthused about Windows. So that was a divergence that we kept thinking we could get IBM to - to come around on.
It was clear that IBM had a different vision of its relationship with Microsoft than Microsoft had of its vision with IBM. Was that Microsoft's fault? You know, maybe some, but IBM's not blameless there either. So I don't view any of that as anything but just poor business on IBM's part.
Bill Gates is a very disciplined guy. He puts aside everything he wants to read and twice a year goes away for secluded memorizing weeks - the decisive moment in the Microsoft/IBM relationship came during just such a retreat. In front of a log fire Bill concluded that it was no longer in Microsoft's long term interests to blindly follow IBM. If Bill had to choose between OS2, IBM's new operating system and Windows, he'd choose Windows.
We said ooh, IBM's probably not going to like this. This is going to threaten OS 2. Now we told them about it, right away we told them about it, but we still did it. They didn't like it, we told em about it, we told em about it, we offered to licence it to em.
We always thought the best thing to do is to try and combine IBM promoting the software with us doing the engineering. And so it was only when they broke off communication and decided to go their own way that we thought, okay, we're on our own, and that was definitely very, very scary.
We were in a major negotiation in early 1990, right before the Windows launch. We wanted to have IBM on stage with us to launch Windows 3.0, but they wouldn't do the kind of deal that would allow us to profit it would allow them essentially to take over Windows from us, and we walked away from the deal.
Jack Sams, who started IBM's relationship with Microsoft with that first call to Bill Gates in 1980, could only look on as the partnership disintegrated.
Then they at that point I think they agreed to disagree on the future progress of OS 2 and Windows. And internally we were told thou shalt not ship any more products on Windows. And about that time I got the opportunity to take early retirement so I did.
Bill's decison by the fireplace ended the ten year IBM/Microsoft partnership and turned IBM into an also-ran in the PC business. Did David beat Goliath? The Boca Raton, Florida birthplace of the IBM's PC is deserted - a casualty of diminishing market share. Today, IBM is again what it was before - a profitable, dominant mainframe computer company. For awhile IBM dominated the PC market. They legitimised the PC business, created the standards most of us now use, and introduced the PC to the corporate world. But in the end they lost out. Maybe it was to a faster, more flexible business culture. Or maybe they just threw it away. That's the view of a guy who's been competing with IBM for 20 years, Silicon Valley's most outspoken software billionaire, Larry Ellison.
I think IBM made the single worst mistake in the history of enterprise on earth.
Q: Which was?
LARRY: Which was the manufacture - being the first manufacturer and distributor of the Microsoft/Intel PC which they mistakenly called the IBM PC. I mean they were the first manufacturer and distributor of that technology I mean it's just simply astounding that they could ah basically supply a third of their market value to Intel and a third of their market value to Microsoft by accident - I mean no-one, no-one I mean those two companies today are worth close to you know approaching a hundred billion dollars I mean not many of us get a chance to make a $100 billion mistake.
As fast as IBM abandons its buildings, Microsoft builds new ones. In 1980 IBM was 3000 times the size of Microsoft. Though still a smaller company, today Wall Street says Microsoft is worth more. Both have faced anti-trust investigations about their monopoly positions. For years IBM defined successful American corporate culture - as a machine of ordered bureaucracy. Here in the corridors of Microsoft it's a different style, it's personal. This company - in its drive, its hunger to succeed - is a reflection of one man, its founder, Bill Gates.
Bill wanted to win. Incredible desire to win and to beat other people. At Microsoft we, the whole idea was that we would put people under, you know. Unfortunately that's happened a lot.
Computer Industry Analyst
Bill Gates is special. You wouldn't have had a Microsoft with take a random other person like Gary Kildall. On the other hand, Bill Gates was also lucky. But Bill Gates knows that, unlike a lot of other people in the industry, and he's paranoid. Every morning he gets up and he doesn't feel secure, he feels nervous about this. They're trying hard, they're not relaxing, and that's why they're so successful.
And I remember, I was talking to Bill once and I asked him what he feared, and he said that he feared growing old because you know, once you're beyond thirty, this was his belief at the time, you know once you're beyond thirty, you know, you don't have as many good ideas anymore. You're not as smart anymore.
If you just slow down a little bit who knows who it'll be, probably some company that may not even exist yet, but eh someone else can come in and take the lead.
And I said well, you know, you're going to age, it's going to happen, it's kind of inevitable, what are you going to do about it? And he said I'm just going to hire the smartest people and I'm going to surround myself with all these smart people, you know. And I thought that was kind of interesting. It was almost - it was like he was like oh, I can't be immortal, but like maybe this is the second best and I can buy that, you know.
If you miss what's happening then the same kind of thing that happened to IBM or many other companies could happen to Microsoft very easily. So no-one's got a guaranteed position in the high technology business, and the more you think about, you know, how could we move faster, what could we do better, are there good ideas out there that we should be going beyond, it's important. And I wouldn't trade places with anyone, but the reason I like my job so much is that we have to constantly stay on top of those things.
The Windows software system that ended the alliance between Microsoft and IBM pushed Gates past all his rivals. Microsoft had been working on the software for years, but it wasn't until 1990 that they finally came up with a version that not only worked properly, it blew their rivals away and where did the idea for this software come from? Well not from Microsoft, of course. It came from the hippies at Apple. Lights! Camera! Boot up! In 1984, they made a famous TV commercial. Apple had set out to create the first user friendly PC just as IBM and Microsoft were starting to make a machine for businesses. When the TV commercial aired, Apple launched the Macintosh.
Glorious anniversary of the information...
The computer and the commercial were aimed directly at IBM - which the kids in Cupertino thought of as Big Brother. But Apple had targeted the wrong people. It wasn't Big Brother they should have been worrying about, it was big Bill Gates.
We are one people....
To find out why, join me for the concluding episode of Triumph of the Nerds.
...........we shall prevail.
As we exited the isolation economy last year, we introduced supercloud as a term to describe something new that was happening in the world of cloud computing.
In this Breaking Analysis, we address the ten most frequently asked questions we get on supercloud. Today we’ll address the following frequently asked questions:
1. In an industry full of hype and buzzwords, why does anyone need a new term?
2. Aren’t hyperscalers building out superclouds? We’ll try to answer why the term supercloud connotes something different from a hyperscale cloud.
3. We’ll talk about the problems superclouds solve.
4. We’ll further define the critical aspects of a supercloud architecture.
5. We often get asked: Isn’t this just multicloud? Well, we don’t think so and we’ll explain why.
6. In an earlier episode we introduced the notion of superPaaS – well, isn’t a plain vanilla PaaS already a superPaaS? Again – we don’t think so and we’ll explain why.
7. Who will actually build (and who are the players currently building) superclouds?
8. What workloads and services will run on superclouds?
9. What are some examples of supercloud?
10. Finally, we’ll answer what you can expect next on supercloud from SiliconANGLE and theCUBE.
Late last year, ahead of Amazon Web Services Inc.’s re:Invent conference, we were inspired by a post from Jerry Chen called Castles in the Cloud. In that blog he introduced the idea that there were submarkets emerging in cloud that presented opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs, that the big cloud vendors weren’t going to suck all the value out of the industry. And so we introduced this notion of supercloud to describe what we saw as a value layer emerging above the hyperscalers’ “capex gift.”
It turns out that we weren’t the only ones using the term, as both Cornell and MIT have used the phrase in somewhat similar but different contexts.
The point is something new was happening in the AWS and other ecosystems. It was more than infrastructure as a service and platform as a service and wasn’t just software as a service running in the cloud.
It was a new architecture that integrates infrastructure, unique platform attributes and software to solve new problems that the cloud vendors in our view weren’t addressing by themselves. It seemed to us that the ecosystem was pursuing opportunities across clouds that went beyond conventional implementations of multi-cloud.
In addition, we felt this trend pointed to structural change going on at the industry level that supercloud metaphorically was highlighting.
So that’s the background on why we felt a new catchphrase was warranted. Love it or hate it… it’s memorable.
To that last point about structural industry transformation: Andy Rappaport is sometimes credited with identifying the shift from the vertically integrated mainframe era to the horizontally fragmented personal computer- and microprocessor-based era in his Harvard Business Review article from 1991.
In fact, it was actually David Moschella, an International Data Corp. senior vice president at the time, who introduced the concept in 1987, a full four years before Rappaport’s article was published. Moschella, along with IDC’s head of research Will Zachmann, saw that it was clear Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Seagate Technology and other would replace the system vendors’ dominance.
In fact, Zachmann accurately predicted in the late 1980s the demise of IBM, well ahead of its epic downfall when the company lost approximately 75% of its value. At an IDC Briefing Session (now called Directions), Moschella put forth a graphic that looked similar to the first two concepts on the chart below.
We don’t have to review the shift from IBM as the epicenter of the industry to Wintel – that’s well-understood.
What isn’t as widely discussed is a structural concept Moschella put out in 2018 in his book “Seeing Digital,” which introduced the idea of the Matrix shown on the righthand side of this chart. Moschella posited that a new digital platform of services was emerging built on top of the internet, hyperscale clouds and other intelligent technologies that would define the next era of computing.
He used the term matrix because the conceptual depiction included horizontal technology rows, like the cloud… but for the first time included connected industry columns. Moschella pointed out that historically, industry verticals had a closed value chain or stack of research and development, production, distribution, etc., and that expertise in that specific vertical was critical to success. But now, because of digital and data, for the first time, companies were able to jump industries and compete using data. Amazon in content, payments and groceries… Apple in payments and content… and so forth. Data was now the unifying enabler and this marked a changing structure of the technology landscape.
Listen to David Moschella explain the Matrix and its implications on a new generation of leadership in tech.
So the term supercloud is meant to imply more than running in hyperscale clouds. Rather, it’s a new type of digital platform comprising a combination of multiple technologies – enabled by cloud scale – with new industry participants from financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, media and virtually all industries. Think of it as kind of an extension of “every company is a software company.”
Basically, thanks to the cloud, every company in every industry now has the opportunity to build their own supercloud. We’ll come back to that.
Let’s address what’s different about superclouds relative to hyperscale clouds.
This one’s pretty straightforward and obvious. Hyperscale clouds are walled gardens where they want your data in their cloud and they want to keep you there. Sure, every cloud player realizes that not all data will go to their cloud, so they’re meeting customers where their data lives with initiatives such Amazon Outposts and Azure Arc and Google Anthos. But at the end of the day, the more homogeneous they can make their environments, the better control, security, costs and performance they can deliver. The more complex the environment, the more difficult to deliver on their promises and the less margin left for them to capture.
Will the hyperscalers get more serious about cross cloud services? Maybe, but they have plenty of work to do within their own clouds. And today at least they appear to be providing the tools that will enable others to build superclouds on top of their platforms. That said, we never say never when it comes to companies such as AWS. And for sure we see AWS delivering more integrated digital services such as Amazon Connect to solve problems in a specific domain, call centers in this case.
We’ve all seen the stats from IDC or Gartner or whomever that customers on average use more than one cloud. And we know these clouds operate in disconnected silos for the most part. That’s a problem because each cloud requires different skills. The development environment is different, as is the operating environment, with different APIs and primitives and management tools that are optimized for each respective hyperscale cloud. Their functions and value props don’t extend to their competitors’ clouds. Why would they?
As a result, there’s friction when moving between different clouds. It’s hard to share data, move work, secure and govern data, and enforce organizational policies and edicts across clouds.
Supercloud is an architecture designed to create a single environment that enables management of workloads and data across clouds in an effort to take out complexity, accelerate application development, streamline operations and share data safely irrespective of location.
Pretty straightforward, but nontrivial, which is why we often ask company chief executives and execs if stock buybacks and dividends will yield as much return as building out superclouds that solve really specific problems and create differentiable value for their firms.
Let’s dig in a bit more to the architectural aspects of supercloud. In other words… what are the salient attributes that define supercloud?
First, a supercloud runs a set of specific services, designed to solve a unique problem. Superclouds offer seamless, consumption-based services across multiple distributed clouds.
Supercloud leverages the underlying cloud-native tooling of a hyperscale cloud but it’s optimized for a specific objective that aligns with the problem it’s solving. For example, it may be optimized for cost or low latency or sharing data or governance or security or higher performance networking. But the point is, the collection of services delivered is focused on unique value that isn’t being delivered by the hyperscalers across clouds.
A supercloud abstracts the underlying and siloed primitives of the native PaaS layer from the hyperscale cloud and using its own specific platform-as-a-service tooling, creates a common experience across clouds for developers and users. In other words, the superPaaS ensures that the developer and user experience is identical, irrespective of which cloud or location is running the workload.
And it does so in an efficient manner, meaning it has the metadata knowledge and management that can optimize for latency, bandwidth, recovery, data sovereignty or whatever unique value the supercloud is delivering for the specific use cases in the domain.
A supercloud comprises a superPaaS capability that allows ecosystem partners to add incremental value on top of the supercloud platform to fill gaps, accelerate features and innovate. A superPaaS can use open tooling but applies those development tools to create a unique and specific experience supporting the design objectives of the supercloud.
Supercloud services can be infrastructure-related, application services, data services, security services, users services, etc., designed and packaged to bring unique value to customers… again that the hyperscalers are not delivering across clouds or on-premises.
Finally, these attributes are highly automated where possible. Superclouds take a page from hyperscalers in terms of minimizing human intervention wherever possible, applying automation to the specific problem they’re solving.
What we’d say to that is: Perhaps, but not really. Call it multicloud 2.0 if you want to invoke a commonly used format. But as Dell’s Chuck Whitten proclaimed, multicloud by design is different than multicloud by default.
What he means is that, to date, multicloud has largely been a symptom of multivendor… or of M&A. And when you look at most so-called multicloud implementations, you see things like an on-prem stack wrapped in a container and hosted on a specific cloud.
Or increasingly a technology vendor has done the work of building a cloud-native version of its stack and running it on a specific cloud… but historically it has been a unique experience within each cloud with no connection between the cloud silos. And certainly not a common developer experience with metadata management across clouds.
Supercloud sets out to build incremental value across clouds and above hyperscale capex that goes beyond cloud compatibility within each cloud. So if you want to call it multicloud 2.0, that’s fine.
We choose to call it supercloud.
Well, we’d say no. That supercloud and its corresponding superPaaS layer gives the freedom to store, process, manage, secure and connect islands of data across a continuum with a common developer experience across clouds.
Importantly, the sets of services are designed to support the supercloud’s objectives – e.g., data sharing or data protection or storage and retrieval or cost optimization or ultra-low latency, etc. In other words, the services offered are specific to that supercloud and will vary by each offering. OpenShift, for example, can be used to construct a superPaaS but in and of itself isn’t a superPaaS. It’s generic.
The point is that a supercloud and its inherent superPaaS will be optimized to solve specific problems such as low latency for distributed databases or fast backup and recovery and ransomware protection — highly specific use cases that the supercloud is designed to solve for.
SaaS as well is a subset of supercloud. Most SaaS platforms either run in their own cloud or have bits and pieces running in public clouds (e.g. analytics). But the cross-cloud services are few and far between or often nonexistent. We believe SaaS vendors must evolve and adopt supercloud to offer distributed solutions across cloud platforms and stretching out to the near and far edge.
Another question we often get is: Who has a supercloud and who is building a supercloud? Who are the contenders?
Well, most companies that consider themselves cloud players will, we believe, be building superclouds. Above is a common Enterprise Technology Research graphic we like to show with Net Score or spending momentum on the Y axis and Overlap or pervasiveness in the ETR surveys on the X axis. This is from the April survey of well over 1,000 chief executive officers and information technology buyers. And we’ve randomly chosen a number of players we think are in the supercloud mix and we’ve included the hyperscalers because they are the enablers.
We’ve added some of those nontraditional industry players we see building superclouds such as Capital One, Goldman Sachs and Walmart, in deference to Moschella’s observation about verticals. This goes back to every company being a software company. And rather than pattern-matching an outdated SaaS model we see a new industry structure emerging where software and data and tools specific to an industry will lead the next wave of innovation via the buildout of intelligent digital platforms.
We’ve talked a lot about Snowflake Inc.’s Data Cloud as an example of supercloud, as well as the momentum of Databricks Inc. (not shown above). VMware Inc. is clearly going after cross-cloud services. Basically every large company we see is either pursuing supercloud initiatives or thinking about it. Dell Technologies Inc., for example, showed Project Alpine at Dell Technologies World – that’s a supercloud in development. Snowflake introducing a new app dev capability based on its SuperPaaS (our term, of course, it doesn’t use the phrase), MongoDB Inc., Couchbase Inc., Nutanix Inc., Veeam Software, CrowdStrike Holdings Inc., Okta Inc. and Zscaler Inc. Even the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., in our view, will be building superclouds.
Although ironically, as an aside, Fidelma Russo, HPE’s chief technology officer, said on theCUBE she wasn’t a fan of cloaking mechanisms. But when we spoke to HPE’s head of storage services, Omer Asad, we felt his team is clearly headed in a direction that we would consider supercloud. It could be semantics or it could be that parts of HPE are in a better position to execute on supercloud. Storage is an obvious starting point. The same can be said of Dell.
Listen to Fidelma Russo explain her aversion to building a manager of managers.
And we’re seeing emerging companies like Aviatrix Systems Inc. (network performance), Starburst Data Inc. (self-service analytics for distributed data), Clumio Inc. (data protection – not supercloud today but working on it) and others building versions of superclouds that solve a specific problem for their customers. And we’ve spoken to independent software vendors such as Adobe Systems Inc., Automatic Data Processing LLC and UiPath Inc., which are all looking at new ways to go beyond the SaaS model and add value within cloud ecosystems, in particular building data services that are unique to their value proposition and will run across clouds.
So yeah – pretty much every tech vendor with any size or momentum and new industry players are coming out of hiding and competing… building superclouds. Many that look a lot like Moschella’s matrix with machine intelligence and artificial intelligence and blockchains and virtual reality and gaming… all enabled by the internet and hyperscale clouds.
It’s moving fast and it’s the future, in our opinion, so don’t get too caught up in the past or you’ll be left behind.
We’ve given many in the past, but let’s try to be a bit more specific. Below we cite a few and we’ll answer two questions in one section here: What workloads and services will run in superclouds and what are some examples?
Analytics. Snowflake is the furthest along with its data cloud in our view. It’s a supercloud optimized for data sharing, governance, query performance, security, ecosystem enablement and ultimately monetization. Snowflake is now bringing in new data types and open-source tooling and it ticks the attribute boxes on supercloud we laid out earlier.
Converged databases. Running transaction and analytics workloads. Take a look at what Couchbase is doing with Capella and how it’s enabling stretching the cloud to the edge with Arm-based platforms and optimizing for low latency across clouds and out to the edge.
Document database workloads. Look at MongoDB – a developer-friendly platform that with Atlas is moving to a supercloud model running document databases very efficiently. Accommodating analytic workloads and creating a common developer experience across clouds.
Data science workloads. For example, Databricks is bringing a common experience for data scientists and data engineers driving machine intelligence into applications and fixing the broken data lake with the emergence of the lakehouse.
General-purpose workloads. For example, VMware’s domain. Very clearly there’s a need to create a common operating environment across clouds and on-prem and out to the edge and VMware is hard at work on that — managing and moving workloads, balancing workloads and being able to recover very quickly across clouds.
Network routing. This is the primary focus of Aviatrix, building what we consider a supercloud and optimizing network performance and automating security across clouds.
Industry-specific workloads. For example, Capital One announcing its cost optimization platform for Snowflake – piggybacking on Snowflake’s supercloud. We believe it’s going to test that concept outside its own organization and expand across other clouds as Snowflake grows its business beyond AWS. Walmart Inc. is working with Microsoft to create an on-prem to Azure experience – yes, that counts. We’ve written about what Goldman is doing and you can bet dollars to donuts that Oracle Corp. will be building a supercloud in healthcare with its Cerner acquisition.
Supercloud is everywhere you look. Sorry, naysayers. It’s happening.
With all the industry buzz and debate about the future, John Furrier and the team at SiliconANGLE have decided to host an event on supercloud. We’re motivated and inspired to further the conversation. TheCUBE on Supercloud is coming.
On Aug. 9 out of our Palo Alto studios we’ll be running a live program on the topic. We’ve reached out to a number of industry participants — VMware, Snowflake, Confluent, Sky High Security, Hashicorp, Cloudflare and Red Hat — to get the perspective of technologists building superclouds.
And we’ve invited a number of vertical industry participants in financial services, healthcare and retail that we’re excited to have on along with analysts, thought leaders and investors.
We’ll have more details in the coming weeks, but for now if you’re interested please reach out to us with how you think you can advance the discussion and we’ll see if we can fit you in.
So mark your calendars and stay tuned for more information.
Thanks to Alex Myerson, who does the production, podcasts and media workflows for Breaking Analysis. Special thanks to Kristen Martin and Cheryl Knight, who help us keep our community informed and get the word out, and to Rob Hof, our editor in chief at SiliconANGLE.
Remember we publish each week on Wikibon and SiliconANGLE. These episodes are all available as podcasts wherever you listen.
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Nick Westall CTO, CSI Ltd
IT departments are being asked by their boards to demonstrate improved sustainability. Often, they attribute their move to the cloud as a way of showing commitment to the reduction of their carbon footprint and the green agenda. While it’s a good example of carbon offset, is it just a way to pass the buck to the cloud provider rather than look in more depth about being a responsible user of IT? How much real consideration goes into calculating and demonstrating responsible computing in business today?
In 2020 the IBM Academy of Technology (AoT) brought together experts in many fields to discuss responsible computing. They analysed the anxieties of over 100 CTOs and looked at all aspects of IT to answer questions such as, “Am I doing enough to be sustainable?”, “Are we being ethical in our use of data?” and “Am I doing enough to ensure that the infrastructure we use is minimising its impact on the environment?” As a result, the IBM AoT initiative has created a framework which outlines important considerations of responsible computing.
Six domains of responsible computing From the more obvious Topics associated with running your computing infrastructure to its wider impacts, the AoT framework summarised that responsible computing comprised of six main domains:
• Data centres – which looks at the potential impact on the environment of an advanced modern data centre. • Infrastructure – which considers the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) impact of the hardware, software and networks required to develop, test, deliver, monitor, control and support IT services. • Code – which entails being aware of the potential environmental, societal and economic impact that design and requirements choices could have whilst utilising methods to minimise their negative impact. • Data Usage – which involves the duty to deal with and have control over data and its lifecycle as well as being accountable of its mindful, effective and efficient usage. • Systems – which summarises the need for developing systems that everyone, including the company itself, can trust. A “system” is an integrated set of technologies that provide a service to human beings. It can be composed of hardware, data, code, models and services. • Impact – which encompasses the use of technology to change the world for a better future.
Being a responsible CTO The reasons for needing to be a responsible CTO are just as strong as the need to be a tech-savvy one if a company wants to thrive in a digital economy. There are many facets to being a responsible CTO, such as making sure that code is being written in a diverse way and that citizen data is being used appropriately.
In a BCS webinar, IBM Fellow and Vice President for Technology in EMEA, Rashik Parmar, summarised that the three biggest forces driving unprecedented change today included post-pandemic work, digitalisation and the climate emergency. With many organisations turning to technology to help solve some of the biggest challenges they’re facing today, it’s clear that there will need to be answers about how this tech-heavy economy will impact the environment. It makes sense that this is often the first place that a CTO will start when deciding how to drive a more responsible future.
Responsible computing is much more than a move to the cloud When you consider that each of the six domains above will make a huge difference to how responsible an organisation is deemed, it’s easy to see why it’s about much more than a move to the cloud.
If we focus on the environmental considerations, it’s becoming more commonly known that whilst a move to the cloud may be better for reducing an organisation’s carbon emissions than running multiple on-premises systems, the initiative alone isn’t going to spell good news for climate change. In fact, if everyone were to move to the cloud in droves the internet would need to quickly find a way of being more sustainable.
A large part of this is the requirement for major cloud providers to switch most of their data centres to more renewable energy sources. This is an area that falls outside of a customer’s control. But in fact, the issue of reducing emissions can be influenced far more greatly by the activities undertaken by the organisations themselves. It can all come down to understanding how their workloads are running and whether it is driving high levels of utilisation.
Making more efficient use of the computational resources available
When it comes to running at high levels of utilisation, the answer isn’t necessarily all cloud driven. For example, the performance and scale of the new IBM Power server, the E1080, delivers the benefits of consolidation at levels far higher than is possible with x86-based alternatives.
When compared with the cloud hyperscalers, such as Azure and AWS, it offers a greater ability to scale. In a accurate webinar, David Spurway, IBM Systems Technology Architect, modelled IBM’s Power10 against Azure and AWS, looking at the largest of their offerings which could then be filled up with workloads such as multiple containers*.
*In the model, David used the conservative performance metric of the IDC QPI, which gives relative performance across architectures but does not consider advantages for specific workloads. For example, the new Power10 cores can hold over four times more containers per core than x86, so the real values may be even higher.
By doing much more per core, fewer cores are needed, which leads to less energy needed. Whilst Virtual Servers in the Cloud can run at high levels of utilisation – near the 90% mark - the average utilisation is much lower. This is because the number of workloads that smaller servers can hold is lower, and that means more servers are needed. With IBM’s large E1080 server, average and peak utilisations demonstrate a more efficient use of the computational resources available. When utilisation is combined with scale and performance it provides a very powerful and efficient option.
Can cost savings be a by-product of energy efficiency? If an organisation is on a software licencing model that adjusts depending on the level of utilisation and usage, it is also possible to achieve significant cost savings. The ability to turn applications on and off when not in use will reduce the number of processors needed. If the organisation is charged by the processor core this could be as much as five times less expensive because of the software savings when running fewer cores.
Environmental considerations that organisations should make There are detailed methodologies available that help organisations establish where they are today in terms of responsible computing. As sustainability is such a relatively new factor, it’s important for an organisation to understand where it is so that it can measure what improvements are being made in the form of Key Performance Indicators.
The three main considerations can be summarised as:
• Are you using latest infrastructure components? This has a real impact because as technology advances, newer components deliver better performance and require less energy for a given workload. • Are you consolidating workloads? Consolidation allows workloads which peak at different times to complement each other and make more efficient use of resources. • Are you running at high utilisation? High levels of utilisation (which can be improved by consolidation) delivers more efficient use of energy and resources.
The responsible computing deliverables include methodologies for all six domains to help companies understand where they are today and demonstrate how they are improving and delivering against their KPIs. While it’s true that cloud infrastructure does deliver carbon savings, organisations should also think about the environmental and cost saving benefits in other on-premises measures.
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by CSI .
About a week ago, Linus Torvalds made a software commit which has an air about it of the end of an era. The code in question contains a few patches to the driver for native floppy disc controllers. What makes it worthy of note is that he remarks that the floppy driver is now orphaned. Its maintainer no longer has working floppy hardware upon which to test the software, and Linus remarks that “I think the driver can be considered pretty much dead from an genuine hardware standpoint“, though he does point out that active support remains for USB floppy drives.
It’s a very reasonable view to have arrived at because outside the realm of retrocomputing the physical rather than virtual floppy disk has all but disappeared. It’s well over a decade since they ceased to be fitted to desktop and laptop computers, and where once they were a staple of any office they now exist only in the “save” icon on your wordprocessor. The floppy is dead, and has been for a long time.
Still, Linus’ quiet announcement comes as a minor jolt to anyone of A Certain Age for whom the floppy disk and the computer were once inseparable. When your digital life resided not in your phone or on the cloud but in a plastic box of floppies, those disks meant something. There was a social impact to the floppy as well as a technological one, they were a physical token that could contain your treasured ephemeral possessions, a modern-day keepsake locket for the digital age. We may have stopped using them over a decade ago, but somehow they are still a part of our computing DNA.
So while for some of you the Retrotechtacular series is about rare and unusual technology from years past, it’s time to take a look at something ubiquitous that we all think we know. Where did the floppy disk come from, where is it still with us, and aside from that save icon what legacies has it bestowed upon us?
Computers of the 1950s and 1960s had typically been room-sized machines, and even though by the end of the ’60s a typical minicomputer had shrunk to the size of a cabinet it would still have retained some of the attributes of its larger brethren. Removable storage media were paper tapes and cards, or bulky magnetic disk packs and reels of tape.
The impending arrival of the desktop computer at the dawn of the 1970s demanded not only a higher capacity but also more convenience in the storage media for these new machines. It was IBM who would provide the necessary technology in the form of an 8-inch disk that they had developed for loading microcode onto their System/370 mainframes. Their patent for a single-sided disc with a capacity of 80kB had been filed in December 1969, and was granted in June 1972. 8-inch disk drives were produced by IBM and other manufacturers in a variety of formats with increasing capacities over the 1970s, and became a common sight attached to both minicomputers and desktop machines in that decade. Many consumers would have had their first glimpse of a floppy disk in this period courtesy of an 8-inch drive on a CP/M machine in their workplace, and they became for a while symbolic of a high-tech future.
The basic design of a flexible magnetic disk in a plastic wallet with a fabric liner was soon miniaturised, with the company formed by former IBM staffer Alan Shugart producing the 5.25″ format in 1976. This was visibly a shrunken 8″ disk, but its increased portability and convenience led to its rapid adoption. When IBM’s PC made its debut in 1981 it was the obvious choice, achieving mass-market ubiquity until it was slowly displaced by Sony’s 1981 launch of the 3.5″ hard-cased format.
It is an inevitability that any dominant technology will in due course be usurped, but why did the floppy fade away so quickly over the end of the 1990s? Was it the thirst for extra capacity that couldn’t be satisfied by expanded density drives or by expensive new formats such as Iomega’s Zip drive? Or was it simply superseded by a better technology such as the CD-ROM or the USB Flash drive? It’s more likely that both of these and more contributed to the format’s decline in popularity.
There was a time when a boot floppy was an essential tool in the armory of anybody working with computers, but as the CD and USB drive took over that function we said good riddance and no longer had to pray our boot floppies hadn’t lost a sector. The arrival of much more convenient free cloud services with significant storage — the launch of Gmail in 2004 comes to mind — sounded the death-knell for the floppy. If you bought a computer with a floppy drive installed after about 2005 you were in a minority, and in 2019 they retain a tenuous existence as an external peripheral with a USB interface. Perhaps most tellingly, an Amazon search reveals boxes of ten floppies selling for around $15, what was once a commodity item has crossed into being an expensive oddity.
The floppy drive has left us, but what legacies do we retain from it? Perhaps the most obvious is in every desktop computer, the size of the floppy drive standardized the size of the drive bay, which in turn dictated the size of other devices designed to be put into drive bays. And of course we’ll always have the glamorization of the floppy in movies from the era, like the corny-is-cool scene with a 3.5″ in 1999’s Office Space or the use of an 8″ in 1983’s War Games.
We’ll leave you with a video, showing an automated production line for 3.5″ floppy disks. We see all the constituent parts including tiny pieces such as the write-protect slider and the head shutter spring, coming together on a beautiful piece of production line automation. A surprise is that the shell is assembled before the disk itself is slipped in from one end. If you still use floppies for something other than retrocomputing, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Thanks [Foone] for the idea.
Floppy disks header image: George Chernilevsky [Public domain].
(Bloomberg) -- IBM’s Red Hat named Matt Hicks, head of products and technologies, as its new leader, solidifying a bet that hybrid-cloud offerings will fuel the company’s growth.
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Hicks takes over as the software unit’s chief executive officer and president from Paul Cormier, who will serve as chairman. “Paul and I have planned this for a while,” Hicks said Tuesday in an interview. “There’ll be a lot of similarities in what I did yesterday and what I’ll be doing tomorrow.”
International Business Machine Corp. acquired Red Hat for about $34 billion in 2019 as a central component of Chief Executive Arvind Krishna’s plan to steer the century-old company into the fast-growing cloud-computing market. As a division, Red Hat’s has seen steady revenue growth near 20%, far outpacing IBM as a whole.
IBM hopes to distinguish itself in the crowded cloud market by targeting a hybrid model, which helps clients store and analyze information across their own data centers, private cloud services and servers run by major public providers such as Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. IBM has been a rare pocket of stability in the accurate stock market meltdown. The shares have gained 4.1% this year, closing at $139.18 Tuesday in New York, compared with a 28% decline for the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100.
“Together, we can really lead a a new era of hybrid computing,” said Hicks, who joined Red Hat in 2006. “Red Hat has the technology expertise and open source model -- IBM has the reach.”
Hicks said demand for hybrid cloud and software services should remain strong despite questions about the global economic outlook, touting accurate deals with General Motors Co. and ABB Ltd. The telecommunication and automotive industries are two areas he is targeting for expansion because they require geographically distributed data.
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Rani reports on all aspects of IP in the US and the Americas, particularly trademarks and copyright. Based in New York, she covers in-house and private practice lawyers' concerns and insights into the market.
IBM has announced that it's acquiring Randori, a Boston-based offensive security startup that combines attack surface management (ASM) with continuous automated red teaming (CART) to help organizations bolster their cyber defenses.
The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Crunchbase data shows that Randori has a valuation in the range of $50 million to $100 million. The hacker-led startup has raised almost $30 million across two funding rounds, most recently a $20 million Series A investment led by Harmony Partners in April 2020.
ASM — the continuous discovery, inventory, classification and monitoring of a company's IT infrastructure — is becoming a must-have for organizations of all sizes. The number of potential exposure points in hybrid cloud operating environments is growing exponentially as a result of the pandemic-fueled shift to remote and hybrid working, with ESG data showing that 67% of organizations saw their external attack surface expand over the past two years due to the rising use of cloud, third-party services and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This same data shows that 69% have been compromised via unknown, unmanaged or poorly managed internet-facing assets in the past year.
Randori, which was founded in 2018 by a former Carbon Black executive and a former red team consultant, aims to help organizations continuously identify external facing assets, both on-premise or in the cloud, that are visible to attackers. Randori Recon provides organizations with a continuous assessment of their attack surface from the attacker's perspective, while the startup's Attack platform gives security teams insights into “hacker logic” — such as understanding how they plan, target and execute attacks — by automating real-world attacks to identify where security programs break down.
“We started Randori to ensure every organization has access to the attacker’s perspective,” said Brian Hazzard, co-founder and CEO of Randori. “To stay ahead of today’s threats, you need to know what’s exposed and how attackers view your environment — that’s exactly what Randori provides."
IBM's acquisition of Randori is yet another sign of the company's continuing shift away from its legacy business to cloud software and AI-powered cybersecurity services, which it recently bolstered with its takeover of endpoint security platform ReaQTA. With its latest acquisition, the company — which ranks as the world’s second-largest cybersecurity vendor behind only Microsoft — will integrate Randori’s attack surface management software with the extended detection and response (XDR) capabilities of its IBM Security QRadar suite, which will enable security teams to leverage real-time attack surface visibility.
Randori’s CART technology, which enables security teams to stress test defenses, will also be used to bolster the capabilities of IBM’s X Force Red offensive security services team, while Randori insights will be leveraged by IBM’s Managed Security Services to help Excellerate threat detection for thousands of clients.
"If we're going to turn the tables on attackers, we need to start acting like them with continuous automation of their latest techniques. Randori brings us that ability while further enhancing the offensive security skills we bring to the table with our elite team of hackers at X-Force Red," Kevin Skapinetz, VP of Strategy and Business Development at IBM Security, told TechCrunch. "Randori brings a hacker-led approach to ASM that is truly unique and helps companies view their exposures just like an attacker would. Their prioritization factors in not only the risk level of the vulnerability but also the attractiveness of an asset to potential attackers, based on real work attacks and popular targets and techniques that today's attackers are using."
IBM says it expects the deal, which marks the company’s fourth acquisition of 2022, to close in the next few months, subject to regulatory approval.