Today, IT departments use a variety of tools and applications to receive and deliver information to internal and external users where and when they need it. Since 1964, the information delivery process has evolved from paper-based tools, such as printed reports and punched cards, to dumb terminals and desktop and laptop computers. Applications that precipitate collecting and delivering information through the various tools have also evolved to support the newest devices and to make the process as easy and intuitive as possible for an internal or external user.
While the variety of tools and applications that make receiving and delivering information much easier have evolved, so, too, has the one tool that’s at the core of information delivery among the world’s largest enterprises—the IBM mainframe. Mainframe computing has been the common denominator for these enterprises for maintaining highly available, secure delivery of information for almost 50 years. However, except for their high availability and security, today’s mainframes bear almost no likeness to their previous brethren.
As technology and needs have changed, the mainframe has also continuously evolved to keep pace. By taking advantage of new processor chip technology, introducing Linux on System z, changing its pricing and making numerous other changes that have increased the mainframe’s ability to handle more types of workloads while still maintaining its high availability and security, the mainframe today is still the key machine on which to run mission-critical workloads. This will continue to be the case as we evolve through the delivery and receipt of information from the next wave of new, interactive tools—mobile devices that include tablet computers and smartphones.
Since the use of mobile devices by both company employees and customers of large enterprises is the newest evolution in the receipt and delivery of information, let’s look at a few examples of ways you could use the mainframe to meet the mobile computing needs of your company in a highly cost-effective manner.
Notifying Staff of an Alert Through Mobile Technology
Mobile technology is an excellent tool for notifying staff of various types of alert conditions when they’re away from the office. For example, a mobile application might alert an application development manager of a request to integrate some new code into a mainframe application. By using another mobile application, the application development manager could launch the build process remotely to integrate the new code into the mainframe application from a tablet computer or smartphone. Because he no longer needs to drive into the office to perform this task, the application development manager saves time and increases productivity.
Other examples of using mobile technology in a mainframe-based computing environment include application performance management and service assurance. By using a mobile application, an IT manager could get a good view of how an application is performing, if it has successfully completed or if it’s still executing. While it doesn’t make sense to project the entire contents of SYSVIEW to a manager or technician in the field, the systems team can create a mobile dashboard that displays whether transaction rates and other key metrics are within normal thresholds. For example, the tablet computer or smartphone could present a green light when the metric is within limits, a yellow light when it’s out of bounds and a red light when the system isn’t running. Selecting the yellow or red light could reveal the next level of metrics or other information that may help in diagnosing a problem. Or, the application could automatically call the person responsible for application performance directly from the mobile application.
Mobility forces IT to produce actionable information from what’s otherwise a ream of raw SYSVIEW data, which has a positive side effect. Summarizing an often enormous amount of raw data into something actionable, such as pie charts or bar graphs color-keyed to green (good performance), yellow (satisfactory, but keep an eye on it) and red (something is wrong), is similar to taking highly technical information and making it easily understandable to a non-technical person.
Mobile Access Changes Capacity Needs
One of the largest banks in Europe is starting to project its Web banking presence onto mobile devices. This bank, like many others in Europe, also helps administer social programs, distributing benefit checks on behalf of the government.
In the past, beneficiaries would get checks in the mail on a certain day. When the checks didn’t arrive, the recipients would know there was a problem and pick up the phone or head to the nearest branch. Today, there are no checks. Money is directly deposited into the beneficiaries’ bank accounts. The recipients have smartphones and know the day and the time they’re supposed to get their bank transfers, so they use their phone to actively poll the mobile banking application on that day and at that time to see if the deposit has been made. Each time the customer queries his or her account, a transaction goes through the banking application, all the way back to the database hosted on its System z mainframe servers.
The same banking application also fronts as a proxy for the customer’s debit or benefit card. Each time the customer buys something, a balance check and account debit are made on the account, leading to two more trips through the banking application, which adds still more activity on the System z mainframe servers. So, now at the time of the month when users know they’re supposed to receive the benefits transfers, the servers receive a flood of queries, followed by credit and debit card usage, because the beneficiaries now have the funds to make purchases.