IT Management

Reading in the last issue of z/Journal about plans to set up a Mainframe Executive Forum, I’m reminded yet again how essential it is for mainframe operations and technical managers to meet on a regular basis, not just to exchange news and views, but to help retain a voice within the broader IT community. Internet discussions are great for exchanging technical tips, but there’s really no substitute for the physical shaking of hands and meeting of the minds!

Over the last few months, I’ve been running a series of breakfast briefings in London for mainframers, focusing on issues such as cost management, application integration, data management issues, and security. These meetings have provided a great opportunity for zSeries users to keep in touch with one another. For good or bad, the S/390 community has quite a distinct perspective on the world, honed by years of fine-tuning business-critical systems. As Mark Friedman pointed out in his December 2003/January 2004 article, “What Does It Mean to Be a ‘Mainframe’ Today?”, there may no longer be a clear distinction between the performance or scalability characteristics of a zSeries and those of other powerful servers, but there are still real differences in the way that mainframe-class applications are managed. Mainframe operations managers share a disciplined, rigorous approach to maintaining high-availability data center services, and their meticulous concern for recovery management, security, job prioritization, and system optimization is not consistently mirrored on other platforms.

To say that older mainframers have a large heritage of technical and procedural know-how to pass on to upcoming generations of (often mainframe-hostile) IT professionals is an understatement. Informal gatherings may be one of the best ways to disseminate this expertise. The challenge, as I see it, is making sure that such events attract not just the diehard MVS specialists who want a few days out of the office, but also the guys with a Windows and Unix background who (like it or not) need to understand what mainframe management is really all about.

Automation Across Platforms

Job scheduling has been a fundamental discipline within the IBM mainframe environment for decades now, but it’s taking on a growing significance as a way of supporting event-based management across the enterprise and enhancing heterogeneous automation.

Recent announcements from ASG and Cybermation demonstrate how much is being done to implement consistent scheduling capabilities throughout the distributed environment.

ASG’s Zena is a new distributed enterprise workload management product, offering process automation, integration, and event-based scheduling for the Windows NT, 2000, and XP platforms, and for various flavors of Unix. It also integrates with ASG’s mainframe scheduler Zeke, allowing for consistent, cross-platform event triggering.

Meanwhile, Cybermation has rolled out a series of extensions and improvements for its Enhanced Systems Platform (ESP) scheduling solution. The announcements include Release 4 of the Espresso system for high-volume Unix and Windows scheduling; enhancements to the Workload Manager z/OS-based scheduling engine; a OneView integrated console for scheduling jobs between ESP Workload Manager and Espresso; tools for managing the mainframe scheduling environment from within Espresso; and a Web services interface for z/OS.

Gartner Focuses on WRQ, ClientSoft, & Attunity

There’s a whole range of products out there designed to integrate and open up mainframe data sources to e-business and Web-faced applications on distributed platforms, while maintaining the integrity and performance of core legacy systems.

Gartner calls these products programmatic integration servers, and says this market sector is growing at a healthy 10 to 15 percent a year. The analyst has just updated its overview of the players in this business, arranging the contenders on one of its famous Magic Quadrants. The Gartner Quadrants map “completeness of vision” against “ability to execute,” and vendors generally know they’re doing OK if they’re moving upward and to the right!

Gartner is looking for tools that help users build legacy access capabilities into new, composite applications based on Java, XML, and Web services. ClientSoft comes in for special mention in the report, as a bridge between the Microsoft .NET world and the legacy mainframe environment, while WRQ is also reported to be heading in the right direction with its Verastream and Reflection product lines. New to the Quadrant this year is Attunity, with its series of Connect tools and adaptors for integrating diverse mainframe platforms as well as NonStop and OpenVMS, Unix, AS/400, WebLogic, and BizTalk.

For the complete Garter report, follow WRQ’s link at http://mediaproducts.gartner.com/reprints/wrq/119038.html.