IT Management

• The fact that most strategic business data resides on storage managed by the mainframe

• The existence of time-tested systems, data, and network management policies and procedures that ensure platform stability, continuous access to business data, and enable the business to continue operation—even in the face of an unexpected disaster.

The decline in mainframe skills, combined with the steady growth in mainframe-hosted workloads and an aging mainframe workforce, has created a skills void that’s nearing the critical stage. This problem is being mitigated by the emergence of ever more intelligent software-based solutions that effectively encapsulate and automate “best practices” policies and procedures developed with the benefit of years of experience.

Today, life in the virtual “glass house” is more complicated. Users are everywhere. Anyone with a computer, Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) or mobile phone with Internet connectivity is now a potential customer or consumer of business applications. These users don’t care how the applications they use are constructed or on which computing platforms the applications reside. They just want the applications to deliver the required functions when needed. This has heightened demand for continuous application availability and “always on” network connectivity. Users also typically demand these applications deliver near-instant response to their requests.

Adoption of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) design principles and technologies is making it possible to dynamically bring together large numbers of individual network-connected business services to create what’s essentially a virtualized application. User requirements remain unchanged, but managing the individual application components is increasingly complicated. With such virtualized applications, it has become impractical to manually create and maintain business application topology, logic, or data flow diagrams.

Managing the Mountain

The number of mainframe experts is declining while the environment becomes more complex and challenging to manage. The next generation of mainframe specialists will come from the ranks of those who are as comfortable using a PC as prior generations were using the phone. These folks rightfully expect mainframes to exhibit similar usability traits to platforms they routinely use (such as Windows). They won’t accept having to memorize countless cryptic commands or working on text-based “green screen” display devices. Network and systems management software products must evolve to deliver solutions that meet the expectations of these new mainframe technologists. The tools must be simpler to use with greater capabilities.

So what’s driving network and systems management complexity?

Today’s network administrators must manage communication systems that support a diverse set of topologies and protocols. For example, many continue to leverage their heritage investments in SNA networks; others choose to encapsulate legacy SNA traffic and physically transport it across TCP/IP-based backbones. Most companies now have well-established IP networks based on IPv4 protocols. Many of these same companies see a need to maintain dual IPv4 and IPv6 protocol stacks to facilitate cross-enterprise communication. Seemingly endless application-layer protocols (mail, file transfer, etc.) require support.

Network traffic must be managed. It arrives unabated from various sources. Message payloads are often huge in support of new technologies such as video streams. Many business workloads associated with these network payloads are mission-critical. They require stringent Quality of Service (QoS) management. Network administrators must understand these workloads to appropriately prioritize the supporting network traffic.

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