During this period, VM/SP 5 was introduced with a well-intentioned but less-than-stellar Graphical User Interface (GUI) overhaul. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the 3270; it’s a prime example of thin client computing, but compared to the exciting graphics on the Video Graphics Array (VGA) screens of the PC, it just didn’t generate much enthusiasm. VM entered the 31-bit world first as a migration aid for MVS sites moving from System/370 to 370-XA. For a while, it didn’t appear as though a VM/XA program product would come to the market. Fortunately, the VM community acted and VM/XA System Facility, and then VM/XA System Product, made it out the door.
One of the bright spots was the introduction of the Shared File System (SFS) with VM/SP Release 6. Similarly, Advanced Program to Program Communication (APPC)/VM and Common Programming Interface for Communication (CPI-C) extended the reach of applications outside data center confines. For those who had programmed using VTAM macros to implement application-to-application communication, the arrival of CPI-C was a huge win.
The ’80s ended with things looking bright for VM. Product quality was much improved; the Workstation Data Save Facility (WDSF), predecessor of ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager (ADSM) and later Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), was being developed; the P/370 was being planned in Poughkeepsie; and DFSMS/VM customer councils were convened to help guide IBM’s development plans.
Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt: The ’90s
By the time of the worldwide recession and IBM’s pension crisis of 1991, the mainframe world as we knew it was in a state of major flux. We encountered the term “downsizing,” which resounded with bean counters. VM was seen as on the wrong side of the downsizing landscape. There were attempts to market against this trend by defining new terms such as “rightsizing” and “brightsizing” (a theme for a mouse pad that’s still a prized possession). However, it was hard to combat the perception.
The now infamous “last mainframe to be turned off” article was published in 1995. We can look back and scoff today, but then it just added to the pressure on mainframe users and IBM developers.
IBM also managed to shoot itself in the foot by discontinuing the Higher Education Software Consortium (HESC). Twenty years later, the Academic Initiative is rectifying this mistake, but the damage had been done with two generations of computer science students not being exposed to some of IBM’s greatest hardware and software.
The Glendale labs were sold and the VM team in Kingston, NY, disbanded or moved to Endicott, NY. SHARE attendance numbers began to fall dramatically. In 1991, Australasian SHARE/GUIDE (ASG) had an attendance of nearly 1,000—almost twice as many attendees as during the early ’80s. Just a few years later, that figure was less than half. By the end of the decade, ASG had merged with COMMON. Some of the darkest days for VM had arrived.
The VM community was down in numbers, but it still spoke loudly and rallied the troops using VMSHARE in the pre-Internet era, and then the listserver medium. The community experienced a few wins and a few important losses: OCO, a decommitment by IBM on OO-REXX, and the move of ADSM away from VM.
Fortunately, innovation was still active in VM development despite the difficulties of reduced human and capital resources. VM/ESA was announced and shipped at the start of the upheaval. It was an important version, as it brought VM beyond VM/XA and its 31-bit support to a new range of hardware. The 9672 implementations of System/390 were the first high-end IBM mainframe architecture implemented with Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) CPU electronics rather than the traditional bipolar logic (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_ESA/390). It was important for VM to be able to exploit this technology to remain relevant and grow.