IT Management

Protecting and managing your mainframe environment is critical to your business. This can involve having operations staff navigating multiple console displays across several data centers, searching information, and scrolling through messages to diagnose and fix problems. However, if you take a traditional approach to managing the increasingly complex IBM System z console environment, you could be missing out on opportunities to reduce costs while improving productivity, availability, and security. Also, you may be spending far too much time and money performing Disaster Recovery (DR) testing and paying travel costs to bring people to various data centers to manage remote data center consoles.

At BMC, our IT organization took a modern approach and leveraged mainframe console management technology to streamline and automate management of the System z console environment across multiple locations. We did this remotely from a consolidated, secure point of control. We were able to reduce the number of consoles across data centers and save space, energy, money, and time. We also had more flexibility in managing the mainframe systems. Here’s how we did it.

Getting From Here to There

At BMC, three mainframes in our two data centers support Research and Development (R&D), Quality Assurance (QA), and customer support. Two of the mainframes were used for development and one for DR. We have many virtual environments to support different releases of mainframe operating systems and subsystems. Our staff is located in Houston, Austin, and Israel. Before we implemented mainframe console management, we had one console for each mainframe image used. The challenge was to bring people to the consoles instead of bringing the consoles to the people. This was costly and included monitoring 90 geographically dispersed consoles.

After implementation of console consolidation, the 90 consoles are now virtual, and our staff can access the consoles from anywhere via the secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) over the Internet. With the latest release of the console management solution for zEnterprise, we can run the consoles on the Linux on System z image, which exploits our current mainframe processors, providing a more reliable platform and lower costs.

We implemented a “lights out” solution in our Phoenix data center. Monitoring and management now occurs remotely from a data center in Houston. Because we reduced the number of consoles, we needed less floor space and energy to support them. DR is also easier because we’re able to support DR sites by capturing console messages and performing recovery and testing remotely from a consolidated point of control. The following strategies include ways to help you achieve similar business benefits.

Consolidate and virtualize to improve availability and reduce costs: It’s a good idea to consolidate consoles into a VPN and virtualize them. This enables you to use the web to access multiple consoles on one screen from one location. In addition, there are multiple physical consoles, such as the Hardware Management Console (HMC), which initiates each virtual server. If you have 50 images, for example, you may have 50 different systems running off your System z enterprise boxes, which interface with the operating system through a console.

The key is to make all the consoles virtual. You can manage all the consoles by implementing one of these options:

• Off-board on a blade server running Linux
• VMware running Linux wherever
• Linux running on a mainframe.

Each operating system requires a console, so by virtualizing these consoles onto a consolidated viewer workbench, you can go to the right virtual console via the Web. Then you can see what’s happening in the environment.

For example, if you need to manage 45 consoles, some console management solutions would require up to 45 Windows-based servers to support those consoles. Another option is to implement a console management solution that runs on Linux or uses your current Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processor running on System z. This option could reduce up to two-thirds of the number of servers required compared to a Windows-based solution.

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