Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell notes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice and training to achieve mastery; many legacy mainframers would agree, having put in far more time than that in their quest to be excellent technicians. With the imminent retirement of many mainframe engineers, programmers and other experts, and a trough of interest in developing mainframe skills over the past decade, companies don’t have 10,000 hours to train the next generation of mainframer. But Gladwell did make it clear that 10,000 hours was only a part of it. Opportunity, timing, and support are also critical differentiators of who makes it and who doesn’t. Learn how this is actually the right time for the new mainframer…

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When IBM announced support for running application code in the Open Transaction Environment (OTE), among the selling points was a significant reduction in CPU utilization in CICS-DB2 applications. Unfortunately, the possibility of reducing an application’s CPU requirements by 30 percent, without any coding changes, diverted attention from the OTE’s many other benefits. This article discusses those benefits and related OTE issues…

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Development at Business Speed

As recessionary pressures ease on businesses, IT priorities are switching from cost cutting to once again provide differentiating value. This new focus affects the way IT leaders are allocating their resources, and exposing them to new challenges.
To be successful, IT leaders must enable their staffs to work productively on both new and legacy applications without the need for extensive training.

A Ground Level Perspective on Avoiding Risk

Not long ago, application managers were focusing their most experienced resources on maintaining legacy mainframe applications as they weathered cost-cutting efforts which reduced both their staff levels and their depth of application knowledge. Now however, many IT leaders are shifting their focus, and experienced resources, to new development projects. This leaves less experienced personnel to maintain legacy mainframe applications under increasing expectations to ensure service levels.

While this scenario provides IT with an opportunity to impress the business, it also exposes them to risks that can cause the business serious damage.

As one Director of Production Support – Mainframe Applications at a large North American financial institution says, “It’s our opportunity to shine again. We already own the tools that help less experienced developers understand the functionality of our legacy mainframe applications for maintenance purposes. And now they’re available in the point-and-click world which helps everyone past their ‘mainframe environment’ stumbling blocks. Now, I just have to focus on reducing the risk.”

This Director reduced the risk by utilizing his existing debugging technology in new ways. “Our less experienced programmers step through the code in debug sessions to understand the functionality of our complex programs before starting to change or fix the code. The ability to step through various scenarios provides in-depth knowledge about an application and greatly reduces the learning curve. Compared to simply reading the code, this saves hours by helping the developer understand the programming logic.”

He continued; “Another issue was programmers finding errors after performing updates.”  Often, application code updates can perform fine in their specific module, but still cause errors in the system. When a developer without a great deal of application-specific experience encounters an issue like this, discovering the true cause of the error(s) can be time-consuming.

Using the same advanced tools, however, developers can obtain instant feedback from their applications.  “A ‘developer at heart,’ I have personally used advanced tools to trace a problem and have never failed to track down my error,” says this Director. "Provided with an interactive, in-depth look at source code, our developers can quickly identify multiple program problems, apply corrective solutions and test fixes — all in a single pass.”

So Now Back to the Business

Arming less experienced developers with modern, new technology means they can maintain your legacy mainframe applications reliability and efficiently. In turn, this frees up your most productive development resources to focus on reducing the time to market for new business advantages.

Combine this renewed productivity with the efficiencies gained while focusing on cost-reduction activities over the past few years, and IT can enable the organization to gain competitive advantages — and all while still meeting today’s stringent business requirements to contain costs.

The Next Challenge Please!

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CICS Task History Recording

In these days of highly accountable environments, it’s important for CICS customers to know where and when CICS transactions have been executed. CICS Transaction Server (TS) exploits the z/OS System Management Facility (SMF) to a considerable degree, but part of the data interrogation process must occur offline. Occasionally, it’s useful for a user to know what happened to transaction “WXYZ,” which ran in the past minute or so, without waiting for the transactional SMF data to be cut and extracted.

With that reporting time latency in mind, the CICS Transaction History record was implemented several years ago—and fitted as far back as CICS TS version 2.2. It was originally exposed as part of the CICS Performance Monitor (PM) tool. However, when CICS PM was withdrawn, the task history views were integrated directly into the standard CICS TS Web User Interface (WUI). This article demystifies the Transaction History Recorder set-up process and highlights some of its pitfalls…

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IBM introduced the first CICS Internet connection option in CICS/ESA 3.3, with support for the CICS socket interface option of TCP/IP for MVS. Since then, with each new release—and often between releases via SupportPac offerings—IBM has continued to provide CICS with new Internet connectivity capabilities and features, generating so many support features that it’s difficult to keep up with them all…

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Organizations of every size face the challenge of getting the most from their IT infrastructure and applications to improve business processes and adapt to change. This is especially true of companies and government organizations that rely on mainframe applications, since rewriting or replacing these applications is risky, costly, and difficult. Thanks to cooperative technologies such as Web 2.0, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and cloud computing, the mainframe can add value and responsiveness that was tricky to achieve only a few years ago.

Whether you’re exploring ways of extending your applications to improve usability or well along the path to reusing your mainframe assets in complex enterprise integration and infrastructure initiatives, Web 2.0, cloud, and SOA can help you get more from your mainframe applications. Most important, the time-to-market for implementing such technologies or architectures can be accomplished in weeks and months—not years!

Web 2.0: Bringing the Mainframe to the Mainstream User

Mainframe applications were historically built for high-volume transaction processing. Using these applications almost always required detailed explanation and training, making them unsuitable for today’s consumer or business user. Now more than ever before, mainstream users—your customers, employees and business partners—require direct access to the information and business process logic that’s available only from your mainframe applications…

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