Long before the current economic downturn began, IT managers were regularly hearing demands from management to do more with less. It’s been repeated so often that most tune it out. How exactly can a System z shop do more with less when demand for System z processing and services keeps increasing?
There are proven ways to do more with less: namely, consolidation and automation. The System z, with its inherent virtualization capabilities, has become the prime vehicle for IBM’s consolidation pitch. The company touts the ability to run dozens, even hundreds of virtual Linux servers on a System z and reap the savings from server consolidation.
Automation is another favorite of those trying to stretch the IT budget. Although requiring an initial investment in management automation tools, automation can enable fewer system administrators to do more. Numerous vendors offer tools to automate one or another aspect of System z data center operations, from job scheduling to data backup.
Often overlooked is the adoption of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) for System z tools, which falls into a category of savings referred to as simplification or ease-of-use. Mainframe veterans recoil at the idea of GUI-enabled tools. GUIs, they complain, are slow, eat CPU cycles, and are limited in their functionality. Through the command line interface they can do more, do it faster, and get greater performance.
The veterans’ complaints are all true to some extent, but they miss the point. The imperative to do more with less translates into having people administering systems and performing functions outside their normal areas of responsibilities. In this way, fewer people can cover more ground. Normally, this requires that organizations embark on and invest in weeks or months of training for each person.
Organizations today, especially those making drastic staff cutbacks, lack the time or money to invest in that depth of training. By using GUI-enabled tools, however, even an administrator with limited skills and range can quickly be brought up to speed and perform the required tasks, especially if the tools resemble familiar Windows and browser interfaces. In that way, System z data center managers can use fewer administrators and less-skilled people to handle a larger workload; in effect, doing more with less.
Growing GUI Popularity
GUI-enabled tools are nothing new to the mainframe. “IMS has had a GUI since 1998,” recalls Nick Griffin, IMS product manager at BMC Software. However, the GUI interface is becoming more prevalent now. “Companies are bringing in younger people and cross-training people. The younger people in particular like the feel of the GUI,” he adds.
IBM began driving GUI popularity for the System z in 2007 with its mainframe simplification initiative. The effort aims to deploy enhancements to software for the purpose of enabling professionals to more easily program and administer a System z as well as automating the development and deployment of applications for the mainframe environment, according to IBM.
Among the enhancements at that time was the release of the IBM OMEGAMON z/OS Management Console, Version 4.1, which added new GUI workspaces for monitoring z/OS health and availability. Other vendors have followed, introducing GUI-enabled System z management tools.