IT Management

Few application developers have time to consider application performance until performance problems manifest themselves on resource-constrained mainframes. For many IT executives, a costly upgrade seems to be the only answer. However, application quality management offers more cost-effective advantages in the mainframe environment. The challenge is finding and fixing these costly application bottlenecks with limited staff and limited time.

As a resolution to these issues, users must first determine which units of work are causing their performance bottlenecks— are they batch jobs or online applications? Implementation of an automated measurement process can identify performance bottlenecks and deployment of an application analyzer can pinpoint their cause. This type of application quality management approach provides continuous application performance improvement and defers costly processing upgrades. Additionally, the manual effort required to target and track these performance opportunities is virtually eliminated, allowing more time for analysis of prioritized opportunities.

The challenge of managing application quality continues to increase as applications from varied platforms interact with mainframe applications. Effectively managing the challenges of this dynamic environment requires the ability to perform application quality management for multiple systems in a Sysplex, view the entire mainframe environment from a single window, analyze distributed data activity, and automatically direct user analysis.

Users are increasingly working with the mainframe using graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for application performance analysis. GUI point-and-click technology makes it easier to manage the entire mainframe complex, thus allowing users to track and prioritize application performance opportunities with the click of a mouse. Because the application is a key component to providing a business service, its optimal performance is also a key component. Managing that performance must be simple, automated, and manageable. As the infrastructure of a business continues to change, the ability to manage application quality is essential, and application quality management solutions must provide the ability to do just that.

Beyond making this environment easier to manage, the mainframe management needs to be made more intuitive. The mainframe skills shortage is creating a real problem in replacing experienced staff as they retire. Overall, the resulting decrease in expertise is making it harder to actually realize the ROI for the new Parallel Sysplex technologies being introduced.

Users are pressured in the current economic climate to do more with less. Cross-training of personnel has become a critical success factor that has stretched people and resources thin from a skills and expertise perspective. Customers are forced to take a more holistic approach to managing their IT infrastructure, such as leveraging skills across the organization— even distributed systems skill sets. This has an organizational impact on users.

The skills problem surfaces in a slightly more subtle fashion when you talk to customers about why they have system outages. The number-one reason is some form of human error in making a change to a critical system configuration. IT staff reductions have placed a greater burden on remaining IT personnel, while at the same time creating a temporary labor pool of skilled IT professionals. Given the resurgence of the mainframe, we can expect to soon revisit the skills shortage we faced a few years back. This impending shortage will likely be more acute due to the aging and retiring skill base and the lack of replacement by IT graduates trained in the mainframe disciplines.

The traditional user interface to mainframe environments is through a 3270 terminal and ISPF, a non-intuitive interface that can be hard to learn. Today, personnel familiar with ISPF and knowledgeable about configuration and management of the mainframe are not recent college graduates. What is required to make this an easier environment to manage is a topological view of vital system resources that offers easy viewing of these key assets. Access to the mainframe must be through an intuitive interface that is similar to Microsoft Windows Explorer and that assists in improving productivity and provides the ability to share z/OS information more easily. This is the type of user interface that today’s college graduates are being taught.

It is time to dismantle the platform boundaries and talk about managing the computing enterprise, not managing the computing platform. To do so requires an acceptance of the mainframe by the distributed world and a revolution in mainframe thinking that leverages intuitive Windows-like interfaces, and develops innovative intelligent software to simplify the configuration and management of mainframe systems and applications.

To some, the mainframe may be a dinosaur, while to others it may represent a dynasty. During its reigning lifetime, it has arguably come close to being both. Regardless, it is clear that its lifetime has not expired, and the mainframe’s evolution in the computing enterprise is still occurring. Z

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