IT Management

For quite some time now, the mainframe has been viewed as an entity separate from distributed systems. There are people who work on mainframes, and people who work on distributed systems. Although they may go out after work and have a beer together, all too often that’s about as close as they get to working together.

But IT organizations today face an evolved mainframe environment that has become exceedingly complex and distributed—an environment in which the mainframe is tightly intertwined with other computing resources in an enterprise IT infrastructure. The problem is that traditional mainframe management processes haven’t evolved in parallel and, as a result, don’t scale well to today’s distributed computing environments.

IT must evolve its current siloed mainframe management processes to bring them in line with the new, evolved architecture and role of the mainframe. The organization must manage the mainframe as an integral part of the IT infrastructure, and approach this management from a business perspective.

Process Makes Perfect

In evolving IT mainframe processes, the IT organization must focus on such disciplines as change management, release management, configuration management, incident management, and problem management. While there are mature processes in the mainframe environment in all these areas, there are now proven IT management processes that have been developed over the last decade for these disciplines in the distributed environment. The people who developed these processes have grown up in the world of distributed it architecture. These processes have evolved to emphasize management of the distributed IT infrastructure from a business perspective. IT can leverage these processes for managing the mainframe environment.

It’s interesting to note that the distributed environment IT management processes included in the de facto industry standard IT infrastructure library (ITIL) have their foundation in the robust practices of the mainframe environment. In the early ’80s, concepts for managing the mainframe were defined in a four-volume series called “a management system for information systems,” which contained a generic model of 42 processes called the information systems management architecture. The series was nicknamed the “yellow books.”

These widely accepted yellow books were key inputs to the original set of ITIL books. The developers of the ITIL books adapted and enhanced the original processes specified in the yellow books to meet the broader requirements of the distributed environment. For example, the yellow book conception of change control (as a subset of resource control) was strictly concerned with the transfer of deliverables from projects into production. In contrast, ITIL says: “The goal of the change management process is to ensure that standardized methods and procedures are used for efficient and prompt handling of all changes, in order to minimize the impact of change-related incidents upon service quality, and consequently improve the day-to- day operations of the organization.”

The processes developed for the distributed environment are supported by a variety of tools and technologies for IT management, which are now being enhanced to include mainframes. For example, technology is already available that exposes the mainframe to the configuration management database (CMDB). The CMDB, a fundamental component of ITIL, provides a single source of accurate information on the people, processes, and technology in the IT environment. IT provides the foundation for integration of the applications and tools that support IT processes.

The mainframe IT operations staff should consider merging these processes, tools, and technologies with their existing, mature processes, to enable effective management of the new distributed mainframe environment. This adoption will bring the processes full circle—from mainframe to distributed and back again to mainframe. By adopting the processes for the mainframe, IT can manage the entire IT infrastructure—including mainframes— in an integrated manner and based on business impact.

Reaping the Benefits

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