IT Management

Think back, w-a-a-a-y before PDAs, cell phones, general availability of the Internet, and browsers; before Linux, Windows, PC DOS, and even Apple and IBM PCs—when some of today’s leading tech billionaires hadn’t even been born and I was still in elementary school. Think back to 1972, when the world of computing changed forever in many ways. I suggest that the big-three areas of innovation were integrity, security, and virtualization. In some ways, you might even call it the arrival of modern business computing.

Now, I’ve known for a while that z/VM was originally made available as VM/370 in 1972. But what made me realize this was such a momentous year was when I recently read a 1974 SHARE presentation from my friend Barry Schrager (founder of the SHARE Security Project and author of CA ACF2).

At my request, Barry sent me the PDF scan of his presentation for some research I’m doing on the history of the mainframe. It’s great reading if you like technology, mainframes, history, or computing security. This opened my eyes to the fact that in 1972 the ideas of modern computing security and operating system integrity were given official form.

And, just like today, when regulatory compliance, identity theft, and hardware and operating system limitations have given rise to new security, compliance and virtualization-enabled solutions, so in 1972, real problems led to virtuous and virtual answers.

Back then, believe it or not, the problems were caused by student hackers on university campuses: fake login screens, password stealing, overwriting of sensitive data, and crashes resulting from resource contention and shortage.

As a response to security concerns for these systems, Barry, in discussion with a number of other colleagues, decided in 1972 that it was time to start the SHARE Security Project, which subsequently put forth a list of requirements for business-quality security on the mainframe.

Then, to address the integrity issues, IBM, having released OS/VS2 Release 1 that year, immediately set about planning to provide a solid foundation of integrity for its premier mainframe operating system. IBM invested $40 million in a data security program; this led to the announcement of VS2 Release 2, which explicitly incorporated system integrity, enabling external security systems to rely on the operating system to not allow access to any resource to which the external security system denied access. Bringing it all together, and building on initial efforts at virtualization, IBM also launched VM/370 that year.

Looking back over these 39 years, it looks like the state-of-the-art foundation for business computing was crystallized at that point in history, 1972, and for any platform to be taken seriously, it still has to meet current criteria for virtualization, integrity, and external security.

Of course, while other platforms have been working to catch up with this baseline, the mainframe hasn’t stood still. New challenges have appeared, requiring further refinement of the mainframe, and making the job even tougher on other platforms, including:

  • The need to keep IT fully staffed in the face of a shrinking and aging workforce and the insatiable demands of distributed computing
  • An increasing worldwide breadth and depth of regulations that demand compliance as well as auditability for cross-platform business applications
  • Identity theft, exposure and loss of sensitive data in transit, and hacking with ever-more nefarious intent and capability
  • Physical and environmental limitations on computing capacity such as power, physical footprint, energy, weight, and HVAC
  • The requirement to manage costs, including a good understanding of the value realized from investments.

What this means is that we’re once again in exciting times, as we see key players rise to the critical challenges of taking management innovation to the next level. Just like in 1972, the business demands are defining the future of production computing, and it’s incumbent upon those organizations that will be leaders tomorrow to rise to these challenges today. And, they must do so in a manner that improves operational efficiency across the board while enabling IT shops to contain costs—a natural sweet spot for the mainframe.

Now it’s time to get the functionality and word out that wakes up the non-mainframe IT world to the definitive, leading-edge value and qualities of service of today’s mainframe. To do that, we all must press to see the management of the mainframe consolidated and simplified with leading-edge solutions that enable consistent, provable security administration, regulatory compliance, and mainframe management.

The good news is, it’s happening, and we can all take part in this renewal of business IT through the one platform that always came through. Welcome back to the age of thrive!