Evangelizing Mainframe
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The Internet of Things

The “Internet of things” is a term that’s apparently been around since 1999, but I must admit that it was a new one to me—and perhaps it is to you, too. Kevin Ashton coined the term, suggesting that: “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost.” It all kind of links in with big data in the sense that mobile and remote sensors will be monitoring everything, producing data that can be captured and analyzed.

IBM launched the IBM MessageSight appliance recently at its Impact event in Las Vegas. The hardware is a big data orchestrator capable of handling up to 13 million incoming messages per second flowing in from up to 1 million different sensors installed anywhere and allowing the data to be transformed into useful information.

The MessageSight appliance builds on Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) technology. MQTT is well suited for working with limited computational power and lean network connectivity. It provides a lightweight messaging transport for communication in machine-to-machine (M2M) and mobile environments. It’s perhaps not surprising that IBM chose this protocol because it was invented by IBM’s Andy Stanford-Clark, along with Arlen Nipper of Cirrus Link Solutions. The protocol was subsequently given to OASIS, making it open source. MQTT can be found in places like hospitals, and oil and gas companies, and Facebook Messenger uses MQTT. OASIS has formed a new technical committee that will enhance MQTT to work with many more networks, devices and software applications.

As a side note, the two other protocols that might have been chosen are Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) and Simple/Streaming Text-Oriented Messaging Protocol (STOMP). RabbitMQ is interesting because it’s like a universal translator working with MQTT, AMQP and STOMP—if you find yourself in a situation needing this.

MessageSight’s features, we’re told, include coming DMZ-ready, requiring no use-level OS, encrypted flash or storage media. It supports secure sockets layer (SSL) and transport layer security (TLS), and it will only run signed and encrypted firmware images provided by IBM. Also, it can be managed via Web-based or command-line-based interfaces.

The appliance allows asynchronous messaging that supports both publish and subscribe (topic-based) and point-to-point (queue-based) messaging domains. As well as supporting MQTT Version 3.1 and MQTT over HTML5 WebSockets, it can handle Java Messaging Service (JMS) 1.1.

For developers, the appliance supports MQTT clients and libraries for a variety of platforms (C-based and Java-based APIs), as well as libraries for Google Android and Apple iOS; JMS client libraries; JavaScript API for HTML5-based applications; and PhoneGap MQTT plug-ins with JavaScript API for use with IBM Worklight, Apache Cordova and Adobe PhoneGap.

But what does all this mean? Well, MessageSight is part of IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative. The idea is that devices can monitor a whole range of things and report when there’s a problem. That means there will be massive amounts of data indicating that everything is hunky dory. But, once there’s the first sign of a problem, it can let you know and you can fix it (assuming that there isn’t some automated system that could fix things). Now I’m not suggesting you’ll have one in your house to tell you someone has left the tap running, but racing car manufacturers might like to know the moment an oil light goes on in any of their cars, or a company transporting oil through a number of pipelines over great distances might like to know immediately there’s a leak and have some clue as to its whereabouts.

It seems it’s now old-fashioned to talk about cloud and big data—the Internet of things is the next step in computing evolution!

Trevor Eddolls is CEO at iTech-Ed Ltd., an IT consultancy. For many years, he was the editorial director for Xephon’s Update publications and is now contributing editor to the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook. Eddolls has written three specialist IT books, and has had numerous technical articles published. He currently chairs the Virtual IMS and Virtual CICS user groups.

Posted: 5/14/2013 1:01:01 AM by Trevor Eddolls

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