Operating Systems

Irish writer and poet, Oscar Wilde, once said, “Life is simple and the simple thing is the right thing.” That’s the driver behind the creation of the IBM Explorer for z/OS (z/OS Explorer).

With the release of z/OS Explorer, IBM addresses two major concerns that exist with many, if not all, z/OS sites:

• There’s a learning curve for newbies.
• Complexity creates a “choppy” user experience.

Manipulating z/OS jobs and files is intuitive for those familiar with IBM’s traditional user interfaces, such as Interactive System Productivity Facility (ISPF) and System Display and Search Facility (SDSF), but learning and using these can be daunting for newcomers to z/OS who are more accustomed to using mice, menus and modern Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs).
A choppy user experience can occur because of what’s required to configure, administer, monitor and tune all the middleware that makes up the moving parts for the entire system. It requires different tools, often from multiple vendors, that you launch and operate separately. Many applications on z/OS get their power by exploiting more than one of these tools. For example, a CICS program might use WebSphere MQ for message delivery and DB2 for persistent data storage and retrieval. Getting everything up, running and monitored isn’t instant or automatic.

z/OS Explorer was created to tackle both these problems. It delivers a GUI that lets you drive z/OS in an intuitive fashion without needing to become a green-screen guru. It also supports the middleware and subsystems that sit on top of z/OS without requiring you to download and install separate, disconnected tools.

Let’s examine how to obtain the z/OS Explorer, how to use it and how to extend it to create a suite of tools for scenarios that cross between the different middleware stacks.

Obtaining the z/OS Explorer

The z/OS Explorer has no ordering process and there’s no cost associated with downloading it. If you already have z/OS, think of the z/OS Explorer as free.

z/OS Explorer is based on the open source Eclipse framework. If you already have Eclipse, you can add an update site to your environment and download the code directly. This is the same technique you would use to add any other Eclipse-licensed plug-ins to your environment. By using this mechanism familiar to existing Eclipse users, z/OS Explorer installation is intuitive for many.

Figure 1 shows a screen shot of the update site, including the z/OS Explorer plug-in, and several other features you can install into the z/OS Explorer. If your environment uses CICS and WebSphere MQ, you can install these directly from the IBM update site. The site also contains downloads for tools to help you diagnose application failures, track down performance bottlenecks or perform capacity planning for system upgrades.

This is a single site from which you can download and install the different tools to extend the environment. The update site address is included in the z/OS Explorer and contains the correct set of plug-ins to create a supported, tested environment where they can be used together. One user compared the process to visiting an app store.

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