IT Management

Every three or four years, IBM moves its top executives into new positions, bringing new ideas and approaches to its offerings and giving its executives a growth opportunity. This encourages innovation and prevents stagnation. This year, IBM’s former System z general manager, Tom Rosamilia, moved into a strategic planning role, reporting directly to IBM’s president and CEO, Ginni Rometty. As a result, Doug Balog, IBM’s vice president and storage business line executive, was asked to take ownership of IBM’s System z mainframe line as general manager.

Why did IBM choose Doug Balog for this role? According to Balog, “Ginni, Steve [Mills—IBM senior vice president and group executive, Software & Systems], and Rod [Adkins—IBM senior vice president, Systems and Technology Group] asked me to take over System z because of three considerations. First, I have a long heritage with it. I’ve been at IBM for nearly 30 years—and 18 of those years were spent working on System z projects. Second, I have a long history of working closely as an IBM systems leader with our clients, and finally, my experience across other industry ecosystems in System x, blades, and storage gives me strong insights into client’s needs for heterogeneous systems in this new era of computing.”

Balog’s Background

As a 1983 graduate of Penn State University, Balog fashioned his own computer studies curriculum by combining computer science courses with an electrical engineering program, graduating with a solid understanding of computer system design and function. After graduation, he started work at an IBM mainframe laboratory in Poughkeepsie, NY, focusing on system design and architectural evaluation projects and gaining deep experience in the z/OS operating environment and the related software stack.

By the late ’90s, Balog was involved in System z architecture design, working to drive new workloads to System z. He was instrumental in helping the company build a “specialty engine” known as IBM’s Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL), microcode that runs on a System z processor that enables IBM mainframes to run thousands of native Linux images in a mainframe chassis. He also worked with fellow engineers to create other specialty engines such as IBM’s System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP), microcode that enables a System z to process DB2 workloads expeditiously, and System z Application Assist processor (zAAP), microcode that processes Java and XML workloads expeditiously. Balog also focused his attention on interacting with IBM System z clients, and became known as a regular speaker at SHARE, the largest mainframe user conference.

Because of his deep system design experience, Balog was tapped in 2004 to head up IBM’s BladeCenter System program. He orchestrated a product design that was an immediate market success. He created an industry group known as Blade.Org, with him as chairman, focused on blade server-based solutions.

In 2008, Balog was asked to head IBM’s storage organization as vice president and business line executive for IBM Storage Systems. In this role, he was instrumental in helping transform IBM’s storage product line by increasing the utilization rate of storage (through virtualization, de-duplication, performance tuning, and other methods); helping customers use storage more wisely (creating storage tiers and using advanced management products to improve systems and storage and network integration while reducing management costs); automating storage-related activities (such as provisioning); and employing centralized management tools that improve management efficiency.

Early Assessment

In his new position as general manager of IBM System z, Balog determined quickly that his long-time friend of 30 years, Tom Rosamilia, left the System z organization with a strong management team and strong vision. Under Rosamilia, System z capacity has grown every year, while also showing positive compound growth every quarter for the past six quarters.

Rosamilia’s organization added 120 new System z accounts in the six quarters since Rosamilia’s zEnterprise server was announced. (The zEnterprise is a System z/Power and System x blade hybrid architecture that’s centrally managed and governed by a System z). An impressive 35 percent of the new customers come from growth markets, 49 percent are from the general business sector, and 19 percent hail from the public sector. These new clients are using System z for traditional transactional and batch applications, but numerous clients are also using System z to run new workloads such as new Java-based, Linux workloads.

The task ahead, according to Balog, is to introduce new, innovative systems; continue to drive Linux on System z for Linux consolidation; focus on adding new workloads; investigate the potential for new specialty engines; and continue to focus on platform modernization. 

Balog also intends to “fine-tune” some of IBM’s existing System z programs in the areas of financing, professional services, and hardware/software integration—eliminating buying obstacles and making it easier for clients to acquire and deploy IBM mainframes.

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