Back to the future with IBM?

July 26, 2010

From system370-168 to zEnterprise

An IBM 370-168 mainframe, state of the art in the early 80's

Should we be calling IBM Big Green?

So here we are back to 40 years ago when IBM’s revenue mainly came from renting computer power to customers who connected their thousands of 5250 or 3270 terminals to mainframes using unbelievably slow modems that were each the size of a small desktop computer.

At the time, I was a Computer Science student and spent some time as an intern at IBM France. I participated in installing what was then the largest mainframe in France: an IBM 370/168 (it later became the zSeries) that had a whopping 512 Megabytes of RAM (yes kids…512Mb…stop laughing please…) and stacks of 3330 removable hard disks that could each store 200Mb of data on 8 platters (stop LOL).

Guess what: IBM has just announced they are reviving their System z strategy with the zEnterprise 196.And nobody is laughing this time.

What has changed?: it has 3 Terabytes of RAM,up to 96 processors, reams of blades and can manage loads of P and X servers. IBM says 30% of all servers are running Linux, and that the zEnterprise should soon support Windows clients. 40 years ago, the internal bus of an average computer probably ran slower than today’s high speed ADSL, SDSL etc…(why have you stopped laughing?)

Although total cost of acquisition (TCA) will be higher then for servers, TCO is lower within 3 years. Not to speak of the green side of things, these machines are much more energy efficient than a pile of servers.

If you still think Cloud Computing is a pie in the sky, think again because IBM certainly want to be at the forefront of the next paradigm shift.

3D movies will probably save the movie industry from piracy…where is the new widget that will save the music industry?

June 22, 2009

coralineThe other day, I went to see “Coraline”. The manually animated movie brought to us in 3D.

Coraline is a combination of (very) old techniques -manual animation-, state of the art  technology -Polyjet matrix molding- and recentish technology -Real3D- (which is in fact close to 30 years old).

Nothing groundbreaking here…!?

Be not mistaken: apart from it being a thoroughly brilliant piece of entertainment, with a picture quality and viewing comfort that is somehow superior to standard 2D movies, 3D film is the movie industry’s answer to piracy.

Well of course…what is the point of stealing a film off the screen by filming it with a video-camera if all you will be able to see when you view it from your DVD player, is a blurred picture.

Here is an industry that is staying ahead of pirates by bringing a more exciting experience to its audience. And the best of it all is that not only have they reduced piracy but they have increased their profit margin by renting the 3D glasses (50% increase in price!).

On the other hand, the music industry is clinging to restrictions, regulations and threatening people with jail if they download music (they are trying to do this in France but the representatives aren’t having it for the moment), rather than enhancing the customer experience.

So what will be the 3D of music? I don’t have an answer today but someone should be thinking hard about what new experience music could bring people rather than trying to restrict the access.

You cannot force people to buy something if they can get it for free. You can convince people to pay for something new and exciting.

Should Carlsberg get a prize for innovative marketing?

December 3, 2007


Carlsberg seem to be specializing in alternative marketing. Last August, they littered the streets of London with £5,000 worth of £10 and £20 banknotes with a sticker on them saying “Carlsberg don’t do litter. But if they did it would probably be the best litter in the world“. Click here to check it out!

  • Cost: 400 green stickers, someone to chuck bank notes on the pavement and £5,000 worth of banknotes.
  • Result: certainly hundreds of thousands of people (if not millions) talking about Carlsberg.

The other day, I received a “Gift” from a Facebook pal: it was a picture of a bottle of Carlsberg. Of course, it was posted to my Funwall, and everyone found it great fun and the bottle certainly started circulating at hyper-speed round the Facebook-world.

  • Cost: you name it! one photo, 10 minutes on Photoshop to turn it into just the bottle, AND THAT’S ALL. We all did the rest!
  • Result: …how many people have a Facebook account these days?

Clever!…sounds like beer makes you smarter!

If your processes suck, blame the customer…or how to upset a loyal customer…before finally addressing the situation in a very professional way (amended 19th July 2007)

June 29, 2007

badday.jpgIn the last three years, I have probably rented 40 cars per year from Hertz and therefore belong to the Gold “President’s Circle” (it did make a difference when I got called by one of their their European Customer Services Team Leaders).

A few months ago, upon returning a rental car, I was blamed by the Hertz employee for having tried to hide damage to the front bumper by painting it over with a blue (remember this colour, it comes back later) felt pen. I was allowed nastly looks, cynical mumblings and was absolutely outraged since not only would I never have envisaged doing something like that but I also had no responsibility in the said damage. I got stung for 148.15 Pounds Sterling to repair and repaint a scratch I had absolutely nothing to do with.

This week like many others, I picked up a car from Hertz at an airport station. I got the keys, was told the car had been checked and had no damage and scrambled to where it was parked. The globally-warmed Euro-tropical rain was pouring as usual and I tried to inspect the car for scratches but how do you see anything on a black car when it is raining!

After driving 180 miles I parked the car (still raining) and checked into my hotel. The morning weather was no better and I drove to my appointment. Somehow, the sun came out during the morning and when I got back to the car at 2.00 PM, I noticed what looked like a smudge above one of the headlights. It was tacky and seemed to partly cover some very fine scratches (did somebody use a ScotchBrite on the coachwork?). I immediately called the Hertz station to report the problem and was given the “Party Line”: “Sir, you have until 12 noon to report damage…it is now 2pm, you are too late, I cannot record this damage; you will have to work it out when you return the car”. I explained the whole weather story but it simply felt like hitting a brick wall. The lady finally asked me whether I actually wanted to report something and although I told her I thought Hertz might then use that information to blame me, I did report the scratch

When I returned the car, the guy asked me a lot of questions: was it a long term rental, did I have a SatNav, etc…I realised afterwards that this was because he had a note on his handheld terminal but didn’t know what the note was about. He checked the car, didn’t see the smear and scratches and asked me to go to the station to get my receipt. At the counter, I was told that there was a note that I had reported a scratch but that since the car had just been checked it seemed OK.

That car was made available to me with an unreported scratch and has probably already been rented again by a new unsuspecting customer who is at risk of being blamed for something he has nothing to do with. Ultimately, some poor guy will get caught and will pay for the repairs. Hertz won’t…now to my point about weak processes and policies:

At Heathrow, Hertz’s main competitor (they try harder) has a floodlit and sheltered area at the car park exit, where a person inspects the car with you, signs the manifest with you and only then opens the barrier. There can be no argument. I suggested this in my first letter but probably wasted the ink, paper and stamp.

Another suggestion I made was to impact the employees when a customer reports damage they missed. There could be a bonus for the guy who never misses a dent or a scratch.

But that would be too simple, it would mean they couldn’t blame the customer and get him to pay for the repair. How many times do you think it will take someone before they move to the people who try harder?

Great Customer Service is the ONLY differentiator when you are in the services business. That means you should at least try not to question the good faith of your most loyal customers. They are your evangelists, your influencers…don’t screw with them, or they’ll vote with their feet and tell the world about it.

19th July 2007:

hearts.jpgWell…a few days ago, Hertz Europe contacted me because they had seen this Blog. I had a very constructive conversation with the lady who called me and I explained that I didn’t hate Hertz (I really do find they generally offer great service at a good price) but since my day job is about enhancing customer experience and relationships through better processes, it was evident to me that there was definitely something rotten in the Kingdom of Hertz (by the way, Hertz means Heart in German and I felt rather like Alice in Wonderland saying the roses weren’t red-or was it blue– when they were being painted to please the Queen of Hertz…sorry…Hearts!!!).

To cut a long story short, I provided the lady with as much information as I could and we found that the situation was even more complex than I had assumed. She called me today to say that she had requested a refund and apologized profusely for the way things had been handled.

monkey-looks-up.jpgI promised I would amend the above post to reflect the full story and wished her good luck in improving what is (was?) clearly a weak link in Hertz’s generally outstanding organisation.

I can only say that I am impatient to see the changes Hertz will make to the whole damage assessment process and I know they will find that whatever investments they make will result in a strongly improved customer experience and more profitable business.

Janice, Hertz Europe can thank you for handling this situation extremely well. Lets both hope that your findings result in the necessary improvements.

Big Brother is watching you…but the Brits still think they have a private life

May 24, 2007

I just read my former colleague Adrian Moss’s post about CCTV and the fact Britain has more cameras per inhabitant than any country in the world (take me there). By the way, Salford police didn’t doctor the pictures (yet), they painted the line under the car. Adrian is predicting the next step is that they will paint lines into pictures or move cars onto lines, or drivers into cars, or gangsters into bank robberies. There is no limit, check this out, its scary.

This whole discussion about CCTV and freedom brings to mind some of the massive contradictions people don’t seem to worry about.

Despite the attempts of successive governments to explain why an ID Card would make sense, Britons seem to think that having them would result in a reduction of their freedom (idiot’s guide to the ID Card) …they forget that with CCTV, GSM phone positioning (have you ever wondered how Orange knew where you were when you dialed the Road Info number), etc…freedom and private life is already a view of the past.

Being a Frenchman who lived in the UK for ten years, I was able to discover to my total amazement that an Estate Agent could buy information about my banking and financial situation from companies like Equifax (what do they say about you…). When I moved to the UK, one of the first things I bought was a bed to “furnish” the house I was going to live in until my family turned up. Well guess what: since I had no banking history in the UK, I only had a Cash Card, and the shop wouldn’t accept the £250 check I wrote out on the checkbook I was given by the bank! They ended up photocopying my passport and asking me to write out 5 checks for £50 each.

It’s not all bad: in France, when you rent a house or an appartment, you have to bring three payslips to prove you earn more than 4 times the rent (!). You might be earning five times the rent and have just borrowed a fortune to buy a Ferrari F40 and a 40ft boat and have no money available at the end of the month…they wouldn’t know.

I think Adrian has a good point here, maybe there is some future mileage in editing CCTV films. By the way, for those of you who own a Ferrari (I don’t so I’m not allowed), here is the link to the Ferrari community site.