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Application Review: IBM Interactive Product Catalog

4/15/2015 12:30:25 AM | If you've ever wanted to hold a z System server in the palm of your hand or show your family what the computers you work with look like (but can't smuggle them into your data center), now's your chance.

This free 3-D tool displays models of IBM z Systems, Power Systems and storage portfolio products. The IBM Interactive Product Catalog is available on Apple iTunes and Google Play stores and online.

How It Works

The opening screen has information like copyright and trademark. More friendly would be a welcome and suggestions for use. Mainframers will click "Systems and Servers," "z Systems" (located between Power Systems and PowerLinux) and then select z13 (air or water cooled), BC12 or EC12. Look for more z Systems options under Solutions; there's zEnterprise Analytics System 9700 and DB2 Analytics Accelerator.

The app explains its 3-D gesture controls: one finger spins, two finger drag moves, two finger pinch zooms, and two finger hold measures (cute!). The circle icon restores default product view; the square with arrows icon plays animations (e.g., opens doors, tours, disassembles, shows/explains components). Touching the screen stops animation and restores initial view. Speech narration would be a nice animations addition.

The Product Animations pulldown chooses specific animations or selects narrative text. Sometimes there are no animations, just text, as for zEnterprise Analytics System 9700. The i icon explains animation gestures and the teardrop icon toggles similar-looking buttons in illustrations which summon helpful identification labels. Standard "dot" notation below images indicates right/left screen scrolling.

Some descriptions (e.g., TS7610 ProtecTIER) are feature, feature, feature, plus market positioning (e.g., listing competition), rather than providing customer benefits. Some icons just show product names; they should add descriptions (e.g., what is TS7610 ProtecTIER). Some products aren't defined or fleshed out. I wondered about DIA PMDC: it's an interesting fully containerized infrastructure; clever animation shows it loading on cargo plane.

I'd have liked built-in links to definitions and explanations for terms (e.g., SCM, PCIe, Flash Express), and a Contact button would simplify getting additional information. The app isn't always responsive to gestures and sometimes misreads gestures.

The iPad's standard Mail icon summons Twitter or email; emailing it elicits a response with a web link to the PC version. Be warned, that program needs current and powerful graphics software to run.

Updated Views

While the application was recently highlighted on mainframe discussion lists, there's a long history going back to Version 2.4.1 dated Nov. 1, 2012. Interestingly, the current version is 6.13.2/1503261506, where last digits string shows update date and time. It updated to 1506 from 1143 while I used it, showing a brisk effort keeping it current separate from normal manual iPad app updates.

The app is an interesting initial move towards interactive 3-D technology catalog information display. Besides using it for friends and family show-and-tell sessions, it allows exploring the innards of mainframes and other technologies in ways that wouldn't be appreciated until they're sold for near-scrap prices on eBay. Such acquisitions offer a way to furnish/decorate with mainframe components; visiting a friend whose hallway was a trip down mainframe memory lane, my wife called it a computer mausoleum but I found it nostalgic.

Parenthetically, if you've never looked for your favorite tech gear generations online, you might have mixed feelings about what you find, as I did the first time I saw things I'd worked with quite productively on museum exhibit, with narration for people who can't imagine working with anything so old/slow/small/primitive.

Gabe Goldberg has developed, worked with and written about technology for decades. Email him at destination.z@gabegold.com.

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