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IBM's Sabbah discusses mainframe as model for cloud development

Danny Sabbah, general manager of Rational Software at IBM, discusses the connections between cloud computing and the mainframe.

Some individuals trace cloud computing back to grid, and some go back further. Given its mainframe lineage, it's no surprise IBM finds connections between cloud computing and the mainframe. But when expressed by Danny Sabbah, general manager of Rational Software at IBM, they call for a hearing. In the 90's, Sabbah led WebSphere application server development. Within IBM, he championed Eclipse as an open-source tools platform. And at the helm of Rational Software, he is now beginning to create tools for cloud computing.

With cloud, do developers have to change the way they develop?

Sabbah: I don't think so. I think what they will have to have is what we'll call 'discipline.' They'll have to understand how the cloud works, what the services are that are delivered through that particular cloud, what the APIs are that define the services in that cloud and what the conventions are for building applications in the cloud.

Can you point to a useful traditional example or experience for future cloud application development?

Sabbah: Sure, we have 45 years of experience. We call it a mainframe.

But a lot of those mainframe people are retired, some playing shuffleboard. The knowledge has escaped.

Sabbah: The whole community is relearning what mainframe developers did with scarce resources many years ago, in terms of understanding the discipline of leveraging those resources in a particular pattern and in a specific way.

We didn't know those resources were scarce back then, we just thought that was the way you did programming -- with overlay and sharing and virtualization, and so on and so forth.

We went a lot further than virtualization; we basically had shared models for leveraging the same resources. So that level of discipline, in order to be able to actually deploy in clouds, is going to have to be reinvented, [as well as] the standards that define Web-centric solutions in clouds.

If you look at the history of mainframe development, everybody had their own view of exactly how they had to develop and deliver services in a particular context. Over time Multiple Virtual Storage (MVS) started to emerge, but if you look under the covers of MVS there were at least seven dispatching and storage management disciplines in that particular environment. I'm sure that those types of things will manifest themselves again in cloud. What comes around goes around.

Danny Sabbah is general manager of Rational Software at IBM. Sabbah was part of the team that delivered the WebSphere application server in the 1990s, along with championing Eclipse as an open-source Java tools platform. Rational Software, with Sabbah at the helm, is now creating tools and services designed for cloud computing.

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