What is collaborative processing? Since the 1970s, transaction processing has been one of the major paradigms of computing. The quintessential example of transaction processing is when you get money from an ATM. Transaction processing typically involves one person at a terminal or PC interacting with an application and data base. Transaction processing received a huge boost with the advent of the Internet and e-business in the mid 90s, because as transaction applications and data bases were web-enabled, you could now do the transactions from your browser anywhere, anytime (except of course to get the physical cash you still need the ATM). e-business gave transactions universal access and reach, but otherwise the basic paradigm of computing remained the same.
This is now starting to change. More and more people, whether at home or business, are interacting not just with one relatively static application or data base, but with lots of people, information and processes, which are changing dynamically in real time to personalize the environment for that one individual. The extreme example of this kind of real-time collaborative processing is found in the world of online computer games, where thousands and tens of thousands of people are playing with or against each other in a shared environment that is constantly changing in real time. You also see the same phenomenon in the evolution of e-commerce, where the more sophisticated commerce sites are looking to attract and retain online customers by giving them a very rich, personalized experience full of product offerings, product information, recommendations, reviews, and so on, all assembled from many sources across the Internet in real time. Another set of examples can be seen in the world of business and systems management, such as intelligent oil fields, where you are monitoring, analyzing and managing vast amounts of information coming from many places in real time to see how the whole operation is doing, anticipate problems, and quickly diagnose and solve the problems when they occur.
This emerging world of collaborative processing is highly dynamic and has many, many dimensions, unlike the relatively slow-changing and point-to-point nature of transaction processing. It requires a shared processing environment where all the people, information, applications and other resources can come together to interact with each other in real time. But clearly, since the people, information and applications are distributed around the world, running on a variety of different systems, and brought together via the Internet, collaborative processing requires a virtual, open, shared environment, one that is highly secure so all those people can access only the resources they are authorized to access and nothing else.
Providing an environment that is both highly shared and highly secure is very, very difficult. In a recent blog story I wrote that in my opinion, the key reason the mainframe is alive and well while so many of its competitors through the years are long gone, is that the mainframe always majored in providing the proper environment where many users could share resources in real time without getting in each other's way. So, not surprisingly, as we are now moving into a hyper-shared, hyper-real-time collaborative processing environment, the most important new capability in the new z9 mainframe family is the ability do the real-time sharing in a totally secure way through the use of sophisticated encryption hardware and software.
This week we are making a series of important system announcements in IBM. First of all, we are putting the announcements in context by describing the underlying systems agenda driving the announcements, and in particular the increasing business requirement to turn the system into a collaborative processing platform for innovation. Second, we are making specific product announcements around the important themes of virtualization, openness and security that underlie collaborative processing, the most prominent among the products being the new System z9 mainframe. And, in keeping up with the times, we have now launched a new mainframe blog.
The evolution of the system into an open, virtual and highly secure collaborative platform is one of the most important and exciting challenges for the future.