Operating Systems

Far from being left behind in the mobile application market space, the IBM mainframe is in a prime position to exploit its existing suite of applications to become a major player in the tablet and smartphone world. Here we will show you how this can be accomplished. 

For years, command-line interactions with the mainframe have been derided and used as evidence of its growing irrelevance. However, now this so-called legacy system positions these applications to be exploited by Web services and made accessible to any mobile device.

To illustrate this capability, we created a prototype based on the CA Technologies VM:Manager suite, which provides the user with a systems management interface to their z/VM system. This might be considered a strange choice perhaps, as most mobile applications tend to be written for clients of the business, not system administrators. However, given the sensitivity of exposing such an interface, the security issues involved with mobile access are more acutely examined.

Note: This isn’t a sanctioned product or a project of CA Technologies. As long-term users of their products, our familiarity enabled the quickest way of demonstrating how mainframe services can be “mobilized.”

Other key technologies that enable this mobilization include:

• Web services, which are simple web methods that invoke the commands and capture the responses.
• Web Service Definition Language (WSDL), which is an XML-based interface description language used for describing the functionality offered by a Web service. A Web service provides a machine-readable description of how the service can be called, what parameters it expects and what data structures it returns.
• Tools that consume WSDL and create program stubs callable by the mobile application
• Message encapsulation through XML or JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) that enables common tools on user devices to process the results of the command execution.

VM:Manager Mobile Overview

The VM:Manager suite is a rich collection of services that let you manage the z/VM system in a consistent, controlled, robust and auditable way. The suite of packages enables you to control such functions as:

• System accounting data with VM:Account
• Tape and tape libraries with VM:Tape
• Backup and recovery with VM:Backup
• Data archiving with VM:Archive
• Security and user administration with VM:Secure
• Batch jobs with VM:Batch
• Spool files with VM:Spool
• System operation with VM:Operator
• Scheduling with VM:Schedule.

IBM has products such as Operations Manager, RACF, Dirmaint, etc. that provide similar functionality.

The VM:Manager products have a long, rich history within many z/VM installations and have become an integral part of day-to-day operations. However, current function is restricted to either line-mode commands from the console or via 3270 full-screen dialogs. Our prototype exploits this function via Web services to enable interaction with mobile devices such as tablets or smartphones. We were able to achieve this without modifying the current suite of VM:Manager products.

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