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Microsoft-Backed Firm Says IBM Is Anticompetitive

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the ibm's-suffered-under-the-antitrust-whip-before dept.

Microsoft 174

BBCWatcher writes "Microsoft has long claimed that the mainframe is dead, slain by the company's Windows monopoly. Yet, apparently without any mirror nearby, Microsoft is now complaining through the Microsoft-funded Computer & Communications Industry Association that not only are mainframes not dead, but IBM is so anticompetitive that governments should intervene in the hyper-competitive server market. The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft is worried that the trend toward cloud computing is introducing competition to the Windows franchise, favoring better-positioned companies including IBM and Cisco. HP now talks about almost nothing but the IBM mainframe, with no Tukwila CPUs to sell until 2010. The global recession is encouraging more mainframe adoption as businesses slash IT costs, dominated by labor costs, and improve business execution. In 2008, IBM mainframe revenues rose 12.5% even whilst mainframe prices fell. (IBM shipped 25% more mainframe capacity than in 2007. Other server sales reports are not so good.) IBM mainframes can run multiple operating systems concurrently, including Linux and, more recently, OpenSolaris."

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174 comments

Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (5, Insightful)

zazenation (1060442) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480271)

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

Re:Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480461)

Um, does this count as proof of the existence of dark matter?

They could be right even when they're doing wrong (4, Insightful)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480513)

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

Yeah, but you know... they could be right.

Say I'm littering in your front yard. Then you start playing obnoxiously loud music in the middle of the night.

Should I be barred from suing you for being a nuisance, just because I'm a nuisance myself?

If you argue yes, I think the reasoning becomes even thinner than I think it has to be for that case when we're talking about this:

One party does something bad towards not any one particular party but society as a whole. Then, another party points to the first party and says "they're doing it, so we can do it to" and go on to do something bad against society.

True, Microsoft isn't on the moral high ground, but that doesn't excuse IBM. And it doesn't make it incorrect for Microsoft to point it out. Just... the weird kind of funny.

disclaimer: I don't know the facts of the case. I don't know whether IBM is being anticompetitive. I'm not well-enough informed to hold an informed opinion, so I won't state one. I'm just saying that if IBM is being anticompetitive...

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (5, Insightful)

cabjf (710106) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480663)

The sad part is that IBM only became a monopoly in the mainframe market because no one else wanted to make and sell them anymore. So now people are thinking about mainframes again for things like cloud computer and suddenly the argument is that IBM is not allowing competition in the market. Maybe if other companies didn't abandon the mainframe market, there would be more than just IBM left standing in it. The issue though is not whether they are a monopoly in that market (which they are, probably just as much as Microsoft is on the desktop market), but are they using it to prevent competition from others or in other markets?

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480865)

where's my mod points when I need them?

+9 Insightful

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (4, Informative)

jonsmirl (114798) | more than 5 years ago | (#28482135)

Microsoft has plenty of money. If they don't like the way the mainframe market looks then they should enter and build their own. IBM has already been through the anti-trust wringer for their mainframe hardware and has spent decades under supervision by the Justice Department.

The article is missing the fact that T3 bought it's technology from Platform Solutions. Platform Solutions was acquired [ibm.com] by IBM. Without reselling Platform Solutions' product I don't see how T3 has any offerings that IBM competes with. They look like a distributor that has been cut off form a supplier, that's not grounds for anti-trust.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (2, Insightful)

jejones (115979) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480933)

Well... I take it you weren't around back in the days when IBM was every bit as vile a monopolist as Microsoft is now. Look up some of the writings of Rex Malik (in England) or Nancy Foy (in the US), and read about the history of IBM. I personally would have loved it had Burroughs prevailed.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28481977)

Indeed. We should be enjoying 72-bit computing now but instead Burroughs' inferior competitors are shortchanging us with 64 bits.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (1)

kick_in_the_eye (539123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481645)

Um.. No
The court ordered sharing of the IBM Principles Of Operation (POO) deal ran out in the early 00's. At this point HDS (who was phasing out the mainframe) and largely Amdahl could not afford to pay the price that IBM demanded for access to the POO. Amdahl had a 64 bit CPU up and running in development, and was getting ready to announce when this happened. That was it, Amdahl kept selling the 31 bit CPU for a few years, but it was over at that point.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (2, Insightful)

i (8254) | more than 5 years ago | (#28482037)

It seems that You assume that the only, or only successfully, way to compete with IBM is to use the same machine architecure and operating system.

You could really compete with Your own software and hardware. Yes, it's not as easy but there have been several such competitors. And it should be easier now when the bigger part of the customer applications is in 3:rd or higher level programming languages (e g COBOL).

There is of course a tough task to build up the whole hardware infrastructure to be able to deliver high mainframe reliability. OTOH, if You skip support of IBM legacy assembler You can skip all the backward compatibility mess that IBM have to deal with in every new version of the OS (and also hardware).

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (1)

BACPro (206388) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481889)

IBM just happens to be the last buggy whip manufacturer...

This time, however, the apparent benefits of the horseless carriage are being outweighed by the known benefits of the horse.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (4, Insightful)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480723)

IBM is "anti competitive" because it is beating the crap out of MS in the new environment. I don't remember IBM screaming when MS was riding high on cheap Windows servers displacing mainframes. And MS was lying through their teeth. At the time, the Windows servers were nowhere near as reliable as the mainframe. Just cheaper.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480941)

Just because you don't remember it doesn't mean that it didn't happen. The back and forth between Microsoft and IBM has been going on since the DOS days.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (1)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481133)

True. Too bad IBM didn't go with the UCSD Pascal system back in the day. Or that Digital Research wanted too much for CP/M-86.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481973)

At the time, the Windows servers were nowhere near as reliable as the mainframe. Just cheaper.

I'd be willing to bet that this is still the case, actually.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (3, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480873)

Say I'm littering in your front yard. Then you start playing obnoxiously loud music in the middle of the night.

Should I be barred from suing you for being a nuisance, just because I'm a nuisance myself?

Yeah, but I'm not sure it's really like that. AFAICT it's almost more like if you were littering and the trash blew over into your neighbor's yard, and then you complained to the neighborhood association that your neighbor wasn't taking good enough care of their yard, because it was covered in trash.

If IBM is dominant, it seems like it's at least partially because they're the one left standing after Microsoft leveraged their monopoly to drag the whole market in a different direction.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480885)

But it didn't stop you from offering an opinion...jackass.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (2, Insightful)

riegel (980896) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480889)

But sir thats the point - It is difficult to make an informed decision when the information recieved is from Microsoft.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480963)

Oh, shut the fuck up.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (2, Insightful)

ignavus (213578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481019)

Should I be barred from suing you for being a nuisance, just because I'm a nuisance myself?

Yes. It is called "unclean hands" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unclean_hands).

You being a jackass undermines your suit against me being a jackass.

Microsoft calling anyone anti-competitive should result in the court bursting out in raucous laughter.

Re:They could be right even when they're doing wro (2, Insightful)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481063)

The interesting part here is that Microsoft used a sock-puppet company for those statements.

Has MS come out and say it themselves it wouldn't be quite the news it is.

Re:Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480561)

you took the words right out of my mouth

Re:Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (1)

ronbo142 (942105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480571)

Big Iron! Glad that in a previous life I worked as a IBM Systems Program and Telecomunications Specilist!

Re:Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480801)

So is there a version of VTAM for these non-IBM operating systems? If so I'm digging out my old Red Books. Communications Product Installation Guide, anyone?

Re:Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (3, Insightful)

mashiyach (757252) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480597)

It's OK when then other companies compete with each other, but if they start to compete with Microsoft then it's unfair...

Their business model is not built upon competition, it's built upon killing competitors.

Re:Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480869)

Why is this modded insightful? What has Microsoft's previous history got to do with IBM's potential anti-competitive stance? Oh, sorry, its a cheap shot at MS, my bad. +5 insighful!

Re:Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481201)

Microsoft's previous history means that just about any thing they say is likely
a self-serving LIE. That's what their history has to do with this. It might be
nice to actually mention by what method IBM is being anti-competitive here.

You don't just scream "monopoly" and leave it at that.

Are they abusing a current dominant position that occured organically?
Are they engaging in some sort of sabotage through agressive head hunting?
Is there some sort of natural market barrier (compatability) they are abusing?
Are they engaging in some sort of consumer fraud (vaporware, FUD)?

Re:Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (2, Interesting)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481371)

My best guess is that their lawyers could use a lack of monopoly proceedings vs. IBM as a pretext for getting out of their own problems in that regard.

"But IBM's mommy lets him go out and play after dark" type thing.

Re:Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (4, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481455)

Let's ask one of the biggest computer buyers in the world if they are being forced to use IBM mainframes, or, if maybe they have satisfactory and competitive alternatives.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-10209580-92.html [cnet.com]

I suspect that one of their datacenters has more computing capacity than most mainframes...

Re:Microsoft...the model of competitiveness (1)

dodden (1170431) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481783)

beat me to it...

I Don't Quite Understand (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480275)

So through the whole article from Total Telecom all I could find for a concrete complaint is:

T3 contends that IBM pens in mainframe customers faced with a high cost of switching to other systems, while refusing to share blueprints necessary to offer a cheaper alternative.

I'm not a hardware guy and I'm no fan of IBM but I must be missing something here: what is it about mainframes that makes them so different from servers?

Tampa-based T3 develops mainframe technology compatible with IBM software that is designed for small and midsize enterprises.

Maybe they can't release details but I'm guessing that there's some proprietary chipsets and microcontrollers inside these things to run the (what are they at 32 or 64 processors) CPUs stacked on top of each other and banks of memory and storage and database crap. So what you've gotten software written specifically to take advantage of this stuff? And it's going to be hard to move to another mainframe or standardized servers with that stuff? Are you surprised? It'd be like if I wrote something for Windows and then complained I couldn't get the blueprint from Windows of how the API works so I could move to a "cheaper solution" like Linux.

So if T3 wins this case, what's the ideal outcome? IBM open sources the software that runs on these mainframes? IBM releases detailed chipset information? Both are laughable. And if you're going to argue that, you might as well argue that Microsoft open up Windows or Intel layout the insides of its Atom processors for the world to see.

I wish I didn't find myself defending IBM (I hate their software and these mainframes sound like a scam) but you have to draw the line somewhere or apply to everyone. My advice to the poor companies still at the hands of IBM: get out. Of course that's my advice to anyone foolish enough to buy into vendor "lock-in" software like Flash. Lesson learned: An extra layer of well defined and thought out abstraction will add a bit of overhead but in the end it might save your ass when you need to switch technologies.

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (0, Troll)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480371)

I'm not a hardware guy and I'm no fan of IBM but I must be missing something here: what is it about mainframes that makes them so different from servers?

Well let's see: here [lmgtfy.com] .

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480485)

I'm not a hardware guy and I'm no fan of IBM but I must be missing something here: what is it about mainframes that makes them so different from servers?

Well let's see: here [lmgtfy.com] .

Thanks for that link. It's nice to see belittling/patronizing people has become automated in this day and age.

Unfortunately it was ridiculously unhelpful. I had already visited Wikipedia and the other links (like the one from wiki answers) where pretty much vapid and devoid of any information at all. What I did find on Wikipedia:

Nearly all mainframes have the ability to run (or host) multiple operating systems, and thereby operate not as a single computer but as a number of virtual machines. In this role, a single mainframe can replace dozens or even hundreds of smaller servers. While mainframes pioneered this capability, virtualization is now available on most families of computer systems, though not to the same degree or level of sophistication.

So as the multicore processors increase and as virtualization improves, I'm currently led to believe that there is little difference between a mainframe and a small server farm properly networked and load balanced? Feel free to actually add some information in your reply ...

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480575)

the affect of Mainframes (huge to large size servers or collections or servers) on Microsoft is.
a. Windows is not the best in the mainframe department
b. Most companies using Cloud system means less overpriced commodity servers with Windows 2008 Standard and Enterprise.
c. More centralised Cloud computing less dependancies on Microsoft Windows 7 on the Desktop.

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (3, Informative)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481567)

Power consumption? The amount of energy of having dozens of "smaller" machines, each with their separate power supplies, hard disks, RAM, etc., take, vs a similarly powerful mainframe is going to be significant.

Load balancing. I know, you said "properly load [...] balanced." But how much effort is it to properly load-balance your server farm? What if one system suddenly needs two more cores than it has? If it's "properly written" it may be able to send its work to another machine. But that means you need to maintain the software on all machines (maybe you only wanted to have it on one machine in the farm to ease sysadmin maintenance). And the cost of that software probably goes way up as they figure out how to properly partition across machines (which is a whole other beast vs merely partitioning across threads in one machines). In the mainframe world, everything is virtual, including CPUs. Need more CPU power on one machine? It'll rebalance to take that away from machines that may not be using all of their allotted CPUs. Same goes for RAM. (IIRC, you can also turn this off to give hard limits on CPU/RAM usage.)

Hot swapping, upgrading, etc. No need to take down a virtual machine just because you're replacing its CPU or RAM. Rebalancing from adding a new CPU (or set of CPUs - I don't think they come singly) is also easier. You can create a new virtual machine to use the CPU(s) or simply put it in the pool for all VMs to use. A CPU goes bad? The mainframe can take it offline without actually taking down the VM. If a server in your server farm goes down, it's just down.

I think IBM's big pushes for their mainframes come from: a) power consumption ("go green" - to hell with that, look at the money I'm saving on my electricity bills!), b) TCO (admins may cost more, but you need far fewer of them to administer a mainframe than a cluster of servers (whether AIX, Linux, HP, Solaris, or whatever), c) ease of upgrade (usually, mainframes come with a bunch of CPUs turned off and IBM doesn't charge you for them - but when you need to grow, whip out the credit card and IBM will tell you how to enable them - same-day upgrade, and you're already using the extra power - no getting a rack unit out of a box, finding space for it, putting it in, fighting with wiring, installing your software, etc., to take a week from requirement to deployment), and d) space savings ("the most expensive server you buy is the one that causes you to build a new data center" - mainframes pack more power into less space, meaning fewer physical datacenters, better climate control, etc.).

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481593)

Reliability and I/O through-put. There's still no single system or cluster that matches the mainframe on both counts.

No, you don't have to apply to everyone (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480583)

And if you're going to argue that, you might as well argue that Microsoft open up Windows or Intel layout the insides of its Atom processors for the world to see. [...] you have to draw the line somewhere or apply to everyone.

Note that if we're talking about companies being anticompetitive, "everyone" is the set of market players which have the ability to behave anticompetitively.

If we talk about, say, tying music players to online music stores, "everyone" is {Apple}. I don't know much about the Zune--does Microsoft have a music store? If they do, do they also have a big enough market presence to behave anti-competitively in that space? No.

I don't know why you picked Intel and Microsoft as examples, but there are cases to be made that they have the ability to engage in monopolistic behavior. For that reason, one should at least keep an eye on what they're doing; maybe even modify their behavior in ways that encourage competition (or in other ways which avoid the bad effects of monopolies).

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (5, Informative)

daethon (1349241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480591)

This is by no means fully comprehensive, but is about 90% of the mainframe story.

1) Reliability: 5 9's (99.999%)
2) Backward compatibility, there are people still running applications written 40 years ago
3) Security: Physical (hard to move a refrigerator), Network (no external network when applications working internally), RACF, Highest level of security rating of ANY server, ever.
4) Architecture: Redundant everything: Spare processors, spare power, spare, everything. Predictive failure/automatic fail over for individual components. Memory Bus greater than anything out there. Pipes to Storage extreme. Cryptographic processors to do SSL, etc.
5) Scale up: 64 processors (4.4GHz), 1.5 TB of Memory, etc.
6) Scale out: GDPS (Geographically Disperse Parallel Sysplex) up to 32 boxes?
7) Hipervisor: Its a network in a box. Applications talking to each other use IP, not TCP/IP, so you aren't sending 35% data, 65% header when applications talk. Network is at the speed of memory. zVM has been developed for over 20 years.
8) Power Efficiency: Compared to a server cluster + cooling + redundant power, etc.
9) Network Simplicity: No need for a rats nest for your rack, cable simplicity in some cases from over 1000 cables down to 12. From 14 switches (which are very expensive) to 4.
10) Management simplicity: Less staff needed to keep it up and running. Instead they are focused on adding business value
11) Running Legacy (aka Business Critical) applications, your web presence, your portal, and a myriad of other disparate applications in one place.
12) Create new servers in minutes without needing hardware "on standby."
13) Compartmentalization in a single box
14) Shared everything while still fully separate
15) Workload manager: able to on the fly change how much resources are allocated to images AND (this is the cool thing, cause other VMs do that) give it goal times for operations. As in: Complete this task in 1/100th of a second, and it will allocate, on the fly, for that to happen, and it will guarantee it.

Mainframes are NOT the answer to all questions. Intel is NOT the answer to all questions. Itanium, Solaris, Power, etc...none are the answer to all questions.

Buy the right tool for the right purpose.

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (1)

baegucb (18706) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481015)

just an fyi, RACF is beatable, same as any other security. DITTO for instance bypassed RACF last I checked.

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (1)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481277)

Anything which is APF authorized can beat RACF. That is why APF authorization should be carefully reviewed by someone who knows what is being done. Not that anybody has the time. The best that one can do is get a statement from the vendor as to why their product requires APF authorization.

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (1)

ignavus (213578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481067)

2) Backward compatibility, there are people still running applications written 40 years ago

Oh, so they are still playing "Hunt the Wumpus"?

(OK, so it was written 37 years ago, not 40. Sue me.)

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (0)

gclef (96311) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481083)

Workload manager: able to on the fly change how much resources are allocated to images AND (this is the cool thing, cause other VMs do that) give it goal times for operations. As in: Complete this task in 1/100th of a second, and it will allocate, on the fly, for that to happen, and it will guarantee it.

The Halting Problem [wikipedia.org] would like a word with you about this one.

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481709)

I would say OMPL (one mainframe per lab) would save a company money. WIth GigaEthernet, thats the way to go. Make it redundant with High Availability [linux-ha.org]

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (4, Interesting)

daethon (1349241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481873)

IBM put it to the test once, consolidated 3900 Unix/Intel servers down to 30...According to this article. If I'm not mistaken though the actual number ended up being 12 and a little over 4000 servers.

http://searchdatacenter.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid80_gci1266438,00.html [techtarget.com]

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 5 years ago | (#28482015)

What would be cool is to do it with Wifi. Somehow create a spread spectrum wifi over all the channels 1-11 to get from the client to the server. Something custom that searches channels realtime. Very fault tolerant I suspect. https of course. Cheap, portable, less wires. This kind of thing wasn't possible with MegabitEthernet, but with 3G and such, now is the time to switch.... Why doesn't some senior out there build that and post the results....

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480683)

Once upon a time, a company started selling an emulator for IBM's OS/360-derived line. IBM used various legal tactics to make them stop. This line (it keeps being renamed. I think it's z/OS these days, but I could be wrong) has been backwards compatible since 1960. Any of IBM's customers who bought binary-only software for this platform at any point in the last 50 years is locked in to buying IBM mainframes.

Any customer who insisted on receiving the source code and porting rights to the code is able to move to a new platform. It therefore sounds like Microsoft is arguing against proprietary, binary-only, software. If this goes to court, I imagine the Nazgul will point out that IBM recommends that their customers invest in an open-source software stack, which frees them from lock-in. If people choose to be locked in when their supplier is recommending solutions which do not involve lock in then that's their problem. If they win arguing this strategy then it could backfire on MS quite badly.

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (4, Informative)

asc99c (938635) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480929)

I'm not entirely certain of this but it sounds like the separation between mainframes and servers is essentially that IBM produce servers that are backwards-compatible with their very ancient mainframes. I'm not sure that in the hardware there's any specific borderline between server and mainframe. From my own experience, a LOT of companies are still using ancient COBOL-era software to run their core business. It's been around for a long time and so the bugs are ironed out and it runs OK. Software doesn't rust, and there isn't a compelling reason to replace something that works OK. However, the hardware does rust and so at some point companies need to buy hardware that will run these ancient applications.

Sounds to me like IBM is reaping the rewards of continuing to support the stuff they did 30+ years ago. The high cost with switching to another platform is rewriting their old and business critical applications. And of course reluctance to do this means accepting a very high cost of new hardware, relative to other options.

I write applications, mainly on AIX as my day job, and the hardware is very expensive, but it's not uncommon for places to still have the same servers in place 10 or 20 years down the line. It's quite common 3-4 years after an installation has gone live to have the customers IT personnel on the phone asking about replacing the hardware, and generally the advice is that there's no need to. The cost can be triple the cost of mainstream hardware, but so is the lifespan, so I think on TCO terms, it's not that bad.

NB: the stuff we write is portable C so we're not tied in to AIX in any way - my current project is running on SLES 10 on cheap Dell servers. But the real expensive servers made by IBM / Sun / HP do seem to have a reliability factor that isn't matched by cheap hardware.

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (2, Informative)

baegucb (18706) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480955)

Mainframes can run webservers and Linux (and specialized chips to speed Linux up) for instance. Someone needs a new LINUX server set up? Get it in minutes. The advantage they have over PC based servers is massive IO capability and uptime. And if you're using databases this is a killer speed advantage in the server world. My mainframe hasn't been shutdown in years. And as far as the OS goes, it was open source years ago, but I don't think z/OS is now. Besides, if it just works, why would any company change?

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (3, Interesting)

uassholes (1179143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481001)

what is it about mainframes that makes them so different from servers

Most servers are PCs in pizza boxes. This is from Wikipedia:

Released on February 26, 2008, the System z10 Enterprise Class is available in five hardware models: E12, E26, E40, E56, and E64...The number of "characterizable" (or configurable) processing units (PUs) is indicated in the hardware model designation (e.g., the E26 has 26 characterizable PUs). Depending on the capacity model a PU can be characterized as either a Central Processor (CP), Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processor, z Application Assist Processor (zAAP), z10 Integrated Information Processor (zIIP), or Internal Coupling Facility (ICF) processor. (The specialty processors are all identical and IBM locks out certain functions based on what the processor is characterized as.) It is also possible to configure additional System Assist Processors...The Enterprise Class PU cores (four per chip) operate at speeds of 4.4 GHz, still (December, 2008) the highest clock speed of any processor with more than two cores per chip. The processors are stored in one to four compartments referred to as "books". Each book is comprised of a multi-chip module (MCM) of processing units (PUs) and memory cards (including multi-level cache memory).

Not quite the same as an x86, a disk, and some memory.

Re:I Don't Quite Understand (1)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481243)

The mainframe hardware has many things in it which are patented. Including some of the instructions! In particular, a number undocumented instructions which are used by the OS (z/OS and z/VM). So, without a patent license from IBM, you cannot build a competitive hardware (or software emulator). And IBM has either refused to license the patents, or put the fee so high that nobody can afford to make compatible hardware.

Release it GPL3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28481493)

Better, Affero GPL3.

a case of sour grapes? (0, Redundant)

willda (1369247) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480295)

Microsoft is now complaining ......... IBM is so anticompetitive that governments should intervene. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

Re:a case of sour grapes? (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480421)

Microsoft is now complaining ......... IBM is so anticompetitive that governments should intervene. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

Well, I think it's more a case of "we got hosed in Europe so let's see if we can turn this same sword on our competitors." From the article:

The CCIA now has added encouragement from a tiny firm backed by IBM rival Microsoft Corp., which has lodged an antitrust complaint in Europe, while pressing a related lawsuit in federal court in New York and sounding out U.S. regulators.

Microsoft's been picked over with a fine toothed comb by the EU recently and I think their strategy now is to make sure everyone else is too. If you look at it that way, Microsoft has nothing to lose. They've been scrutinized to the fullest extent and you should expect them to turn this same scrutiny over to other companies in other fields. I wouldn't be surprised to see a sort of anti-competitive gaming lawsuit aimed at Nintendo come about one of these days in the EU.

Re:a case of sour grapes? (0, Flamebait)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480439)

This is just to distract people from the growing rumble that Vista SPx (a.k.a. Windows 7) pricing is way off the mark ...

Q. Top ten reason why Windows on a mainframe is like Michael Jackson:
A. Neither one can fog a mirror.
A2. Neither one of them can win by a nose.
A3. As of yesterday, you can blend either one.
A4. They both target the immature.
A5. They've both been seriously broken for a looong time.
A6. "It just looks strange ..."
A7. They both have high maintenance costs.
A8. They both have a history of instability.
A9. One's a faceless corporation, the other one's just faceless.
A10. They're both past their "best before" date.

Re:a case of sour grapes? (1)

willda (1369247) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481281)

Yes, my comment is redundant but, if you look at the times, they are 2 minutes apart. I was editing mine when he posted his. Sorry about that.

Buh buh but.... (2, Interesting)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480297)

The mainframe is a dead relic of times past surely?

I love the cyclical nature of all this stuff.

Re:Buh buh but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480323)

IBM kept that for themselves. They didn't let MS turn the mainframe into a commodity like they did with the PC.

Re:Buh buh but.... (2, Informative)

guruevi (827432) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480357)

The mainframe of old - the single room-size unit with hundreds of CPU's, drives and memory is indeed dead. These days a 'mainframe' is nothing more but a clustered Linux environment that runs virtualized instances of an Operating System. Some mainframes still resemble the old mainframes (eg. the zSeries) but they take up about the size of a rack.

Re:Buh buh but.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480545)

no no, not at all 'nothing more' -- the Z series is designed to have "zero down time" - you can replace the cpu, memory, power supply without interrupting service. The mainframe has much better engineering than our lousy home computers. In addition the I/O capacity is much much higher.

In fact the mainframe, which is now represented by the Z series is what our home computers should be.

Re:Buh buh but.... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480705)

Does the occasional reboot or shutdown to replace a part really bug you enough that you'd be interested in paying somewhere between twice as much(best case scenario reflecting mass adoption of mainframe level redundancy in low end systems) and 1,000+ times as much(getting your own mainframe, off the shelf) for your computer?

I can easily understand why banks and such would do so; but that seems seriously excessive for most purposes.

Re:Buh buh but.... (4, Interesting)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481071)

A good point. The z (mainframe) is wonderful for something that requires its reliability. Some actual examples that I personally have had (I work on the mainframe). We had a CPU fail in our z. The __hardware__ transparently moved the running work onto a new CPU that was in "standby" mode. No outage of any sort. We didn't even know of the failure until IBM support called us that they had received a "call home" alert. We have two OSA (they are like NICs for the z). One OSA failed. The other OSA did an "arp takeover" and all TCPIP sessions continued with __NO__ outage. Again, we got messages about this, but the hardware/software recovered with no action on our part. The CE (repair man) came in, took out the bad OSA and put in a new OSA. We then issued commands and the new OSA simply started working. No down time. No interruptions to any work in progress.

If you don't mind downtime, then by all means, use Intel or AMD with Windows or Linux. If will be cheaper. And maybe even more cost effective. But, based on what happens with MS Exchange goes down around here, don't do it for anything that will make people scream if the service is done for very long. But perhaps we aren't using MS Exchange properly - I wouldn't know.

--
John

Re:Buh buh but.... (0, Flamebait)

jcypher (1255310) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481885)

Big deal, you had a successful NIC failover. Not a good justification for the expense of a mainframe and the scarce staff to run it. Pretty much any decent hardware can do that these days.

Re:Buh buh but.... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480737)

By the time you migrate off a mainframe to Servers, buy lots of Microslop licences, Buy VMWare, buy Citrix, and a gaggle of utilities and backup and firewall software - the 'savings' evaporate. Factor in reliability and true recovery times - mainframe is looking great. PC Servers do not have the hardware assist of mainframes - yet.

Mainframes are still doing well, because software and OS prices have not fallen, if anything gone up. MS does not like this, because Open Source starts to look respectable and reliable and viable.And when IBM looses a sale, the salesman can just fold and say' OK if you buy it, you can run anything you like on it'

Re:Buh buh but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480853)

Hummmm, in fact it is very difficult to describe what a mainframe is in terms of the server-farm technology. It is a different beast. I would not describe it as a clustered linux environment, though it can simulate such an environment by virtualization techniques way before that VMWare & Cia appeared in the market.

I would describe it better as a super-highway where the main hardware, and where IBM focuses the most, are not the processors but the I/O-controllers. Those I/O controllers are very specialized pieces of hardware achieving througputs near to those achieved in RAM chips internally. Besides those I/O-controllers there can be specialized CPU's tailored for the customer business: Java-runtime-specialized processors, Linux-runtime-specialized processors, number-crunching specialized processors, and of course ZOS-specialized processors, all of them being able to access simultaneously the underlying hardware through the same virtualization layer.

So no, i would not describe the mainframe as a linux cluster. Maybe for some customers, but not for the most of them.

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of IBM mainframes (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480519)

It had to be said.

What loons! (0)

SandiConoverJones (821221) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480299)

They CANNOT be serious!

Trust Microsoft's judgement in the matter (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480319)

they know all about being anticompetitive.

Re:Trust Microsoft's judgement in the matter (1)

Google85 (797021) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481707)

It takes one to know one.

Clever advertisement (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480329)

A huge IBM add posted on slashdot that looks like MS bashing. Really clever.

Re:Clever advertisement (1)

theaceoffire (1053556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481667)

Yes, IBM was so clever to get Microsoft to start attacking them for the valuable "Slashdot saw it" demographic.

A few generations from now (3, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480333)

What, you mean computers were actually capable of opening more than one window at a time?

Coming from Microsoft ... (1)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480353)

As long as the mainframe can deliver the advantage and deliver a reliable service, I don't see it going out of the market. But personally I see the future going toward cloud computing and virtualization.

Re:Coming from Microsoft ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480491)

Mainframes ARE all about vitalization, they have been for decades before this latest PHB buzzword came into existence.

Re:Coming from Microsoft ... (2, Informative)

fluffernutter (1411889) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480733)

True enough.. In fact the 'VM [wikipedia.org] ' operating system for the current zSeries dates back to 1972. I used to work with it, it has ability to take snapshots, work on top of a base image, all that stuff. Not the VMware style either, we're talking true hardware level virtualization. In fact, when I first heard of VMWare I thought "neat, it's like PCs can do something like a mainframe can do".

Re:Coming from Microsoft ... (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481113)

VMWare's still doing a lot of stuff in software, that a mainframe does in hardware though. But yes, it's a step in the right direction, expecially with EMC stuffing a VMAX as an option for more scalability.
Concept's similar though.

Re:Coming from Microsoft ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480623)

But personally I see the future going toward cloud computing and virtualization.

Virtualization yes, but cloud computing? Give me a break.

Okay, let's give somebody else all of our data (and then trust them that they're going to play nicely with the encryption keys), and then make our business model utterly dependant upon network links and somebody at another location (maybe in another country), and then whine when shit goes down that they violated the SLA.

Sigh... (2, Interesting)

Junta (36770) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480837)

A system Z mainframe is always run in virtualization. That's been one of their big features.

In terms of 'cloud', the term is so ill-defined and buzzed it's hard to say much, but generally speaking, a 'cloud' on a mainframe is not any less possible than a 'cloud' on disparate x86 rackmount servers.

Relevance of HP link? (1)

BeardsmoreA (951706) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480369)

As far as I could tell, that HP related link was just some blurb saying "HP would like people to buy their stuff, not IBM's" - what was the relevance of that exactly? It seemed like almost exactly the opposite of the implication in context.

Try reading the articles you linked to... (4, Insightful)

quantum bit (225091) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480385)

...and not just the titles. The HP one is talking about HP pushing for people to migrate off mainframes. Onto HP servers. Running Windows Server 2003.

Re:Try reading the articles you linked to... (0)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481299)

As they should be. Moving onto a mainframe is generally a bad decision for a large number of reasons, including price, performance, and lack of options. It's getting less anti-competitive with linux running on it, but is still restricted in many ways as well. If you already have one, they can work for certain tasks, but they are not generally the best for modern systems. Yeah, if you still run COBOL systems, you're kind of stuck.

Governments *should* intervene (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28480417)

And REQUIRE data be transferred and stored in open, unencumbered standards.

Of course, Microsoft and all their paid shills would shit their pants were that to happen...

Anyone Remember Win95? (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480431)

I still remember the old saying after Win95 came out - in direct competition with the mainframe-centric OS/2 - "Windows 95 is a 32-bit shell to a 16-bit operating sysetm, written by an 8-bit company, originally written for a 4-bit processor by a company that can't stand one bit of competition."

Seems to hold somewhat true today.

Seriously, though. When you look at the ability to run VMs inside mainframes and potentially reduce floorspace and the associated costs, it may seem tempting to go mainframe. Even HP is always pushing the SuperDome on me. Funny, tho, I was just at a data center yesterday where they had an AS390 sitting on the side of the room, next to a z9. The z890 bought to replace the AS390 was about to be swapped out for the z9.

Time marches on.

IBM's big iron sill lives.

However, wanna bet that some portion of those running mainframes are running host OS's such as SLED and then running Xen inside of that with Win2008 servers?

Re:Anyone Remember Win95? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480531)

Let me fix that saying for you ...

"Windows (win'-doze) (n.): 32-bit extensions to a 16-bit graphical shell for an 8-bit operating system originally coded for a 4-bit microprocessor by a 2-bit company that can't stand 1 bit of competition,

On the n-bit jokes about Windows 95 (3, Funny)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480649)

Windows 95 is a
32-bit shell for a
16-bit extension to an
8-bit operating system designed for a
4-bit microprocessor by a
2-bit company that can't stand
one bit of competition.

(stolen from http://lists.gnupg.org/pipermail/gnupg-users/2003-May/018396.html [gnupg.org] )

Also, "two-bit" means "(1) cheap; gaudy; tawdry; or (2) Mediocre, inferior, or insignificant".

(stolen from http://www.yourdictionary.com/two-bit [yourdictionary.com] . Try to find the definition in-between all the ads.)

Tagged "potcallingkettleblack". (0, Redundant)

Falkkin (97268) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480471)

Hello? Mr. Kettle? This is Pot. You're black.

Hyper-competetive? (5, Insightful)

paimin (656338) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480481)

Wait, if the server market is hyper-competetive, then there's no serious anti-trust issue right? I mean, would you call the desktop OS market "hyper-competetive"?

Re:Hyper-competetive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28481405)

Excellent point, real competition is present in the mobile market - Symbian, Windows Mobile, Android, OS X, BlackBerry, Web OS. No competition is present in the desktop market - Windows

IBM is more than that (4, Insightful)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480523)

IBM makes the hardware & software to work together as a complete marketable unit, if microsoft wants to compete in the mainframe market then they better build their own mainframe & software to run on it as a complete unit ready for market, and quit bitching about being anti-competitive bunch of damn hypocrites...

before and after .. :) (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480549)

"The Computer & Communications Industry Association has filed a so-called Tunney Act challenge [accessmylibrary.com] to the Department of Justice's controversial settlement with Microsoft in 2001", Sep 2003

"The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) is criticizing [computerworld.com] last month's decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to exclusively use Microsoft Corp. software, arguing that recent computer virus and worm attacks against Microsoft products are evidence that such a decision is a poor choice", Aug 2003

I guess this was before Daniel Geer [theregister.co.uk] got fired ..

Membership as of 2003: Yahoo, Oracle, Sun, Nortel, AOL, not.Microsoft

Details on the complaint? (5, Insightful)

AlecC (512609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480611)

We need more details about what anti-competitive things IBM is doing. OK, it sells machines that seem to give customers more value for money, in their perception, while still making massive profits. Lucky IBM, but isn't that what business is all about? What have they been doing to stop others competing with them - if they can? Have they been saying that you cannot connect Windows machines to their mainframes? Have they been refusing to run Microsoft software (if you can get the appropriate license) on their virtual machines? Or what else?

Re:Details on the complaint? (1)

EXTomar (78739) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481311)

What seems to be going on is that a vendor with HP equipping running Windows Server 2003 is complaining it is hard to replace mainframe deployments. That is a giant "duh" because mainframes are designed that way with being 5 x 9s and all of that. Companies that buy these expensive mainframes are looking for a super stable, super redundant, super long lived hardware and software platform. They aren't looking for a "cloud computing" platform. They aren't looking for what this vendor is selling (HP hardware, Windows Server 2003) as a replacement. I never see these "complaints" as an example of being anti-competitive but as the customer has the right tool and is happy to stick with it.

Since /. loves the car analogy, its like a car manufacturer seeing a truck manufacturer sell trucks for hauling freight, seeing them be good at it and making money from it, and then complaining how they can't get into their market because of "lock in" due to the fact these trucks are built like trucks. I'm not a big fan of Microsoft or IBM but it is crazy to suggest any HP vendor with Windows Server 2003 can replace a 30+ year mainframe easily. Or to look at it another way, by design mainframes like that are design not to be replaced so complaining about it being anti-competitive is weird.

Silliness (2, Interesting)

Malenx (1453851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480695)

IBM in no way forces a customer to use their systems. At any time, a customer could leave and move to another setup.

It sounds like the issue is competitors want IBM to release more details on how things are engineered, so they can design solutions for people who want to transition from IBM to other products.

IBM stuck with their investment and are positioned to make some great cash of this. The other companies need to make their own solutions that are good enough to win over customers. Lawyers have way to much time on their hands imo.

Can we change the 'M$' filter graphic to... (1)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 5 years ago | (#28480995)

...something like Ballmer with a chair, Gates has been gone for a while now (and scarily enough - being incredibly philanthropic.)

How can you claim anticompetitive? (5, Informative)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481207)

Has microsoft ever had a mainframe? No.
Do they have a mainframe OS? no.
Could they develop one? HPC could theoretically be considdered one if they added storage virtualization to it, and a few other mainframe class systems.
Would we use a microsoft OS to replace out IBM mainframes? No. I'll elaborate:

- We have MILLIONS of lines of code ON the mainframe that would ALL have to be completely re-done from scratch to move off the OS390 platform.
- We have 10 times that much code that would have to be modified to talk to a non-OS390 mainframe.
- We have hundreds of servers that run support applications for the mainframe or mainframe apps that don't run on Windows.
- Any competing platform uses far more space and many fold more power, and does not have the HA features of true mainframes.
- A LARGE part of the security of our mainframe environment is that since you can't exactly get access to OS390 easily, hacing it is damned near impossible... Moving to a windows kernel based mainframe would NOT be adviseable even if we could afford it.
- IBM is here, and has been for decades, and there's more legacy code running on OS390 that's 10 years old than code running on it that's less than 10 years old. they're NOT going to drop support for it. I can't say that about any competitor.
- IBM has a FULL suite of tools to manage, monitor, and protect the mainframe. Most technologies entering the x64 space now have been in use on mainframes for 5-10 years... some longer.
- Licensing prices on the mainframe are a FRACTION of the price of lecensing x86 and P6 systems. (we're saving about 10 million this year in licensing alone moving a few hundred machines to Suse Linux virtualised on z10 IFL processors.)
- Component hardware costs of the mainframe are a bit higher (about $8K for a gig of RAM), but the system as a whole is actually not only cheaper than an equivalent VMWare or hypervisor supercluster, but it;s energy use is also a fraction of the equivalent.
- the Z systems have 5-10 year lifespans, we have a few running 12 years without a critical outage, not 3-5 years like all other platforms...

We pay a never-ending maintenance plan on our mainframes. We add new ones every year or two to replace old ones, but we don't really "buy" new mainframes, we simply pay to have a base number of MIPS available and IBM keeps the hardware running. (and pay to increase those MIPS as necessary. The licensing and hardware costs are FAR lower than out other platforms.

Re:How can you claim anticompetitive? (2, Informative)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481613)

And that's how IBM is anticompetitive! You are "locked in" to using their hardware and software. Totally unlike MS, where you can run their software on any number of vendor's machines (HP, Dell, Gateway, even "white box" off the Internet!). And should you decide that you don't want to run MS Office any more, why then it is simple to convert to ... OOPS - never mind. Or if you want to integrate a non-Windows server into an Active Directory environment, you simply ... Never mind again. Or remember how easy it is to run a Win95 app on Vista - DAMN! forget that one too.

For the slow, the above is sarcasm. Not at its finest, granted.

--
John

Microsoft Can't Do That (2, Funny)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481673)

Microsoft can't call IBM anti-competitive; I'm sure IBM already has patents on technologies related to "methods by which a pot calls a kettle black".

BFD...mac, windows, and linux can run multiple OS (1)

jcypher (1255310) | more than 5 years ago | (#28481769)

Why would anyone spend huge sums of $ on a mainframe and the scarce mainframe programmers to keep it running, just to run a virtualized copy of linux? That's *way* too much overhead. Never mind that you can't virtualize windows on a mainframe -- talk about inflexible. IBM's increase in mainframe revenue has more to do with the success of its sales force in making existing hardware sound obsolete, and twisting the arms of existing customers who haven't managed to get off the 'legacy' mainframe environment yet. OTOH, if you use VMWare (or Sun xVM or Zen) you can run on pretty much commodity hardware, and virtualize linux, windows, and solaris to your heart's content. My macbook pro runs VMWare's Fusion which allows me to virtualize Microsoft from Vista back to Windows 3.11, and any linux variant I can get my hands on, and Solaris 8 thru 10, and *bsd, and Netware, JunOS, etc. And whatever skills I learn from running VMWare's desktop virtualization product is fairly transferable to virtualization on their server and management products (think ESX and VirtualCenter).

M$ whines too much -will follow GM and Chrysler (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28482223)

I always love it when these types of articles are spewed-forth, especially from Microsoft. M$ gets whacked in other countries so now it wants to try and turn an ugly head towards IBM.
Out of all the companies I've worked with (currently in production AIX enviornment); IBM is leaps and bounds ahead of M$ when it comes to services and support from both a hardware and software perspective - and guess what- their hardware and software just plain works. If you want to look at the IBM business model and compare against M$ - what IBM doesn't do is tell it's customers (For example), that they have to change their OS and core systems every 2-3 years, as is the case with Vista, or fill the servers with bloat ware and unneeded services, faulty if not dangerous patches, and so on. Another example is the 'IE tied to Win' problem that was the original lawsuit filed against them & still plagues new systems to this day- and it's gotten worse from there. Businesses didn't upgrade or even consider moving to Vista and I hear now that Win7 will be priced in the range of $120+??? what a joke !
Amazing - goes to show how quickly the mighty have fallen...
Prediction: In less than 5 years M$ will no longer be the dominant force in software/hardware sales & computing - with open source technology (BSD, Unix/Linux, Mac) and the handheld front taking center stage players such as RIM, iPhone, Android and many others will completely kill the WinMobile platform - which is now still large, and that spills over into the consumer market when it comes to PC's as well. We won't need to have M$ at home, because the options given us will not be M$ - but opensource, reliable, and far more trustworthy than what were seeing now.
We can run MySQL or other db's, and don't have to be forced to run Windows, IE, Office or any of the other apps they'd like to shove our way
Kinda like the current situation with GM & Chrysler - kinda eerie isn't it! - this will likely be the same route of downsizing and the new crap works as bad as the old crap
mentality.

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