Rumors of mainframes becoming extinct continue to rise and fall, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, according to IDC, IBM sold 2,700 mainframes for $4.3 billion in revenue last year. That means your mainframe will likely be around for a while and your TCP/IP traffic over it will continue to grow. Fortunately, there are products available to help quench your thirst for network management knowledge, but selecting the right one can be a formidable task.
There are two-tier vs. three-tier approaches, 3270 green screens vs. browser-based Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), and significant variances regarding CPU consumption. Some monitors rely on Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), while others use unsupported system hooks. And everyone claims their way is the best.
A thoughtful needs analysis should be your first step to methodically pinpointing today’s must-haves and tomorrow’s needs and wants. Jot down common problems experienced daily with your z-box, and do your best to discern where you expend most of your technical analysis brain cells. Then translate your needs analysis into practical features and functions, so you can differentiate the product pitch from the product fit.
Initial installation should be on a test system where product stability and features and functions can be tested with minimal risk. It’s also imperative to test in a busy production environment, when possible, before making your selection. Performance and drain on CPU resources will be more readily apparent when monitoring thousands of connections and heavily loaded stacks. The monitor should be scalable and work in heavily used production environments as well as it does in test environments.
Most companies have clear battle lines between the mainframe and network teams. Accusatory fingers point back and forth claiming no responsibility for performance problems. To appease both mainframe- and network-centric user groups, choose a monitor that is intuitive, flexible, maintainable, and cost-effective.
So let’s consider the IP monitor puzzle and hopefully arm you with the knowledge to make the right choice.
There are several essential components regardless of whether a product uses a two- or three-tiered architecture:
- Collection of raw data, converted to meaningful information
- Centralization of data for reporting