One client needed to verify the accuracy and integrity of a critical series of quarterly reports and online transactions. The client’s database couldn’t be easily frozen at a point in time, specifically, at the end of a calendar quarter. Additionally, there was some database and programming expertise required that the client lacked.
Using a SCSI-attached mainframe cartridge drive, Tiburon technicians read in a client-supplied cartridge containing both the end-of-quarter 100GB database and all the necessary application code. After compiling the code and installing the database, Tiburon spent several weeks examining the quarterly processing in detail. Client programmers were given remote access to the z/OS machine so they could connect to it and examine all the quarterly processing discrepancies uncovered in Tiburon’s analysis.
That’s what the client needed: a short-duration capability of having a database frozen at a point in time. They weren’t interested in a permanent type of hardware outsourcing; just a place to temporarily “freeze” a database, really get it up on the blocks, and do so without impacting operational systems.
A Data Scrubbing Operation
Another Tiburon client was converting to an Oracle database. This client knew its data wasn’t in the best shape. They contracted with Tiburon to perform a two-phase data scrubbing operation:
1. Ensure that all data types at the column level matched the defined data type of the column (dates contained valid dates, numeric fields contained valid numbers, etc.).
2. Make certain that referential integrity was maintained across all data rows (if one row had a non-key column named
“Department” that contained a value of “9010,” there should be a “Department” row with a primary key of “9010”).
Again, data was imported via the SCSI-attached mainframe cartridge drive and some File Transfer Protocol (FTP) transmissions. This data wasn’t in the form of a database. Instead, it was a series of flat files with clearly defined context layouts (e.g., COBOL “01 level” layouts).
After each scrubbing phase, Tiburon gave every exception a unique case number, and then client technicians and users reviewed each one. The client programmers traced the data inconsistencies back to their own edit routines and made appropriate corrections. Tiburon iteratively scrubbed the data through both the first and second phases, always communicating back to the client with the case numbers of individual discrepancies. Finally, there were no more case numbers. Everything was clean and ready for an initial load.
This particular project required Tiburon to acquire more disk space because they needed to retain many versions of the scrubbed files. According to Marty Tarr, CEO of Tiburon Technologies: “Yes, we needed more DASD, but this is SCSI-attached, Linux-based RAID. It costs only a fraction of what ‘real’ 3390-style disk space costs. Believe me!”
A New System Rollout
Yet another client wanted to have a safe environment to perform a sample rollout of a brand new mainframe application system. They had prepared detailed scripts and to-do lists and wanted their programmers, DBAs, and testers to have a place where they could “start from scratch.” Then, if something didn’t work correctly, they could delete everything and start over.
This project was 100 percent remote. That is, after the initial load of the code and the allocation of the basic system files, the client’s programmers did everything on their own from the comfort of their own site. There was never a need to travel to Ohio. They got all the practice they needed by simply connecting to Tiburon’s IP address using their own 3270 emulator, logging on to TSO/ISPF, and following the step-by-step instructions of their own scripts.
The underlying emulation software that makes z/OS on a laptop possible should be considered a true breakthrough. Will this breakthrough hurt IBM’s mainframe sales? It’s doubtful. While everything about the emulated environment is more than adequate for doing fairly heavy-duty mainframe integration and development work, it could never take on the seriously heavy workloads of large mainframe envi ronments currently running on z800 and z900 series hardware. The laptop is more like the “little engine that could.” However, organizations at the low end of mainframe MIPS requirements should give this technology more than a cursory evaluation. z/OS running on Pentium-type servers is really the best of both worlds—the most modern mainframe software coupled with the less expensive, rapidly evolving hardware platforms from our friends at Intel. It’s win-win all the way.