“TPF is fairly complex to maintain, and it isn’t an operating system that many sites are comfortable taking on,” Boyes says. “There’s a small trickle of new sites adopting TPF, but they’re doing this in the face of a skills shortage of staff qualified to work on TPF—and paying premium prices for that staff’s service.”
Finding and retaining skilled IT professionals has been a primary concern for TPF sites.
Important TPF skills include the ability to decompose highly complex tasks into small pieces, which requires strong understanding of high-performance IBM mainframe computing environments. In addition, both C and C++ skills are needed for applications, and skill in assembleras the gl ue that bonds all the various software services together.
No Longer a Silo
To address these issues, IBM introduced a new release of the operating system, z/TPF, which moves TPF into a modern 64-bit architecture and, as a result:
- Eliminates TPF 4.1’s insufficiencies for use with Web services, C++, and Java
- Relieves memory constraints, which allows sites to take advantage of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)
- Supports modern open source development toolsets such as Eclipse, which is meaningful because it provides relief to sites facing dwindling staff expertise to support a highly strategic system.
“We opened up [TPF] so z/TPF could be leveraged as an enterprise solution without losing any of its original service goals,” says Rich Szulewski, marketing manager for IBM WebSphere Application Infrastructure on z/OS. “The end goal was a z/TPF product that no longer is an isolated ‘silo’ in the enterprise. Instead, z/TPF operates in concert with open standards.”
The combination of removing memory constraints and support for more application development toolsets opens the TPF environment to more programming resources.
“In the past, there was just CMS [Conversational Monitor System],” says Boyes. “With z/TPF, programming toolsets have opened up to include the Eclipse tools and other toolsets that have resided in the Linux environment. This opens up possibilities for sites to bring on new programming resources for z/TPF.”
Now, customers such as Marriott and Intercontinental can consider z/TPF in the context of what Szulewski terms “right platforming,” a process involving requirements evaluation and the selection of the operating system and supporting resources best suited to those needs. For many travel and financial industry customers, that means retaining the transaction processing capabilities of z/TPF and doing so, Szulewski says, “with full knowledge that z/TPF can work with a batch interface and is reusable.”
Moving TPF application development into the open world—by adopting toolsets for developers such as the GNU General Public License (GPL) operating system and Eclipse—also helps alleviate the skills shortage, which is perhaps the top concern of TPF shops.