Sunday, 31 May 2009

CA – hottest ticket in town

I must confess, to my shame, that some 20 odd years ago during a presentation, I made a joke about a company called Computer Associates in the certain knowledge that the audience would all appreciate it and join in the fun. And they did. Afterwards, a sales rep from the company explained, in no uncertain terms, why he felt upset at my comments. And after our conversation concluded, two or three members of the audience came up to me and said how they were absolutely sure my comments were completely fair, and he must have had a sense-of-humour bypass.

But that all seems like a different age. I certainly wouldn’t make jokes about CA now, and if I did, I certainly wouldn’t have any confidence that the audience would laugh along with me. Why? Because CA is now one of the most exciting and innovative companies in the mainframe arena. It may still be hard to e-mail any of their staff because of the settings on their spam filters, but they are definitely moving the mainframe forward.

Their latest announcement is called CA Compliance Manager for z/OS, which it claims is the first platform-resident solution to provide real-time automated policy management of security and compliance events across the IBM z/OS environment and mainframe security subsystems – including CA ACF2, CA Top Secret, and IBM RACF.

In their press release, they rightly say that until now, IT organizations have primarily verified compliance with operational policies by manually checking historical data against their current security implementation – a time-consuming and costly approach that exposes IT organizations to increasing risk as regulatory pressures continue to escalate.

They go on to say that CA Compliance Manager for z/OS addresses this problem through automated monitoring, real-time alerting, and historical reporting. Its automated intelligence is especially important as mainframe environments are made increasingly complex by growing workloads – and as mainframe management tasks are passed on to a new generation of IT professionals with less experience on the z/OS platform.

Getting down to the details, they tell us that CA Compliance Manager detects and records changes that impact security policy – including modifications to CA ACF2, CA Top Secret, and IBM RACF configurations, operating system security configurations, and selected PDS/PDSE datasets. These changes are automatically validated against customer-defined security policies, so that IT organizations can readily discover and act on even the most subtle policy violations.

In addition, the entire audit trail generated by CA Compliance Manager for z/OS is retained on the mainframe, enabling mainframe staff to retain control of compliance data and to enhance the scalability of their compliance database.

At the same time, CA announced new versions of CA ACF2 and CA Top Secret, which work with CA Compliance Manager to provide a single view of compliance for the mainframe. Enhancements in r14 of both products include exploitation of z/OS 1.10 features, role-based administrative grouping, data classification, resource ownership, and enhanced digital certificate management services using the Distributed Security Integration (DSI) Server.

CA ACF2 and CA Top Secret also are designed to enable organizations to run compliance reporting without impacting the performance of their security environments by transferring security file contents to a mainframe relational database, which can then run both out-of-the-box and ad hoc compliance reports.

It just seems that CA are moving mainframe software forward at the moment rather than simply enhancing existing programs. I look forward to seeing what they do next – and no more jokes.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Sorry I missed your birthday – mainframe

7 April 1964 saw the announcement of the IBM System/360 mainframe – making it 45 years old (and a month and a few days). So, happy belated birthday mainframe. If you were around at the time, you were probably more impressed by the fact that during the week of 4 April 1964, The Beatles held ten positions on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, including the top five positions. As a side note, this has never been matched by any other artist. And the song titles were “Can't Buy Me Love”, “Twist and Shout, “She Loves You, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, and “Please Please Me” – but I digress!

It’s hard to remember those pre-mainframe days, but IBM was selling computers – and so were a number of other companies. Plus, IBM had different non-compatible and competing systems. You may about now be getting a strange feeling of déjà vu! Anyway, worse still in those days was that upgrades weren’t backward compatible, which meant users had to buy new software and peripherals in order to upgrade. Systems/360 was meant to solve these technical problems while also reviving IBM’s bottom line. The way it did this was to utilize Solid Logic Technology (SLT) – an early attempt at an integrated circuit. The other big decision at the time was for IBM to manufacture the chips and the peripherals themselves.

The other successful big leap was the development of a new operating system. This they claimed did everything and was like a circle in that it covered 360 degrees – hence the name System/360. It was the marketing team who updated it for the 1970s as System/370 and for the 90s as System/390. The original operating system proved to be very expensive and ended up being three operating systems – Basic Operating System (BOS), Tape Operating System (TOS), and Disk Operating System (DOS).

The rest, as they say, is history. IBM boasted at the time that its new hardware would ensure compatibility when moving forward – meaning that quite ancient programs will still run. Nowadays, of course, everything begins with the letter z – until that becomes old hat and something new comes from the marketers.

IBM’s share price has had some bad times, and the talk about the death of the mainframe will soon be reaching its 20th birthday. But mainframes continue to more than satisfy the needs of so many users. And all the talk of cloud computing and virtualization simply lets mainframers explain how they’ve been doing that sort of thing for ages. The mainframe doesn’t suit all customers, and IBM introduced the AS/400 and RS/6000 to plug the gaps. Which in turn led to the ECLipz project to make the different product lines from the same components. They also gave us the ill-fated and short-lived OS/2, which by way of personalities leaving IBM at the time led to Citrix the company that can virtualize Windows desktops and offer certain mainframe-like advantages to customers.

So happy belated birthday mainframe – I look forward to a big celebration in 2014 on the 7th April when it celebrates its 50th birthday.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

CA upgrades its mainframe software

CA, one of the largest mainframe software vendors around (but I didn’t need to tell you that), has upgraded 143 of its 166 mainframe management solutions – products to you and I. This is all part of CA’s Mainframe 2.0 initiative.

CA has announced CA Mainframe Software Manager (MSM), which is a tool that simplifies the implementation of CA software on z/OS. MSM also detects product maintenance as the need arises. This addresses the problem of experienced mainframers growing old and retiring because the tasks can be performed by less experienced mainframe professionals. MSM features a Web-based user interface implemented using the Google Web Toolkit (GWT).

In addition, 46 CA products, including OPS/MVS Event Management, Automation, NetMaster, and InterTest, now have a synchronized release stack to reduce multiple learning curves by using best practices to standardize installation, planning, and implementation cycles – says CA.

CA has also introduced a service called Electronic Software Delivery (ESD) to speed up the installation of their software without needing to build a physical tape.

Anything that makes life easier for mainframers has got to be welcomed. It will be interesting to see how BMC and other major vendors respond.

CA’s Bob Gordon sent me the following – which might be of interest:
“An interesting sidelight to the Mainframe 2.0 story is the fact that CA has been staffing our Mainframe Business Unit with developers with next-generation skill sets such as Java and C++. These developers have grown up with the same browser-centric view of the world as their counterparts on the corporate side. So they’re both technically and culturally qualified to deliver the management solutions their peers need to steward the mainframe through the next few decades of its evolution.

“We have a three-minute video that can quickly get you up to speed on this issue at:”

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Trevor Eddolls - IBM Data Champion

Last Thursday (7 May 2009), IBM announced the second round of IBM Data Champions to join the original group of 23 non-IBMers who were awarded the honour last October. The new group of people includes Trevor Eddolls.

Full details of the awards can be found at along with a list of the Champions and more information about them.

From the profile of Trevor Eddolls we learn that he is a qualified teacher and has a BA. He has worked with IBM mainframes since 1979. He has written and delivered numerous IT-related training courses, and has chaired and been a guest speaker at numerous seminars and Webinars. For many years he was the editor-in-chief for Xephon’s highly regarded Update publications, which included CICS Update, MVS Update, DB2 Update, and many others. Trevor has written three books entitled VM Performance Management, Introduction to VM, and ASO: Automated Systems Operations for MVS.

In 2004 Trevor Eddolls set up his own company, iTech-Ed Ltd (, which focuses on writing and editing about mainframe computing, as well as offering consultancy, training, and Web design and development. Trevor has had numerous articles published in various technical journals, including zJournal and Mainframe Executive, and on different Web sites such as TechieCrossing and AccountingWeb. He has also written a number of White Papers and internal documentation for various software vendors.

More recently Trevor has been responsible for the production and editing of the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook (, which is described as the one-stop independent reference work for users of IBM mainframe systems. He also runs the Virtual IMS Connection ( Web site – the independently-operated vendor-neutral site run by and for the IMS user community. He chairs the regular Webinars and writes and edits the regular user group newsletter.

As well as mainframe expertise, Trevor is very familiar with PCs. He is a Microsoft Office Specialist Master Instructor (MOS MI). As well as reading his blog, you can follow him on Twitter at t_eddolls.

Amongst his hobbies, Trevor lists hypnotherapy, playing guitar, swimming, and juggling. He also enjoys collecting whiskies.

You can read his full entry at

You can e-mail Trevor Eddolls at

Monday, 4 May 2009

IBM in Jeopardy

It all started with Big Blue, the IBM chess computer that played and disputedly beat chess grand master Gary Kasparov, but now, those fun-loving people at IBM are planning to play Jeopardy against real people, possibly including 74-times champion Ken Jennings.

For non-US-based readers, Jeopardy is a trivia quiz requiring a knowledge of history, literature, the arts, pop culture, and science (thanks again Wikipedia). What makes Jeopardy different from standard question-and-answer quizzes is that contestants are presented with clues in the form of answers, and must phrase their responses in the form of a question! Jeopardy was launched in 1964, and the current version of the TV show has been going since 1984.

The IBM computer is going to be called Watson, after the founder of IBM. What makes this challenge greater than playing chess is that the computer will need to understand human questions and respond to them correctly. IBM's John Kelly, Senior VP and Director of Research said, “What we're doing is creating a system that will be able to applied to all sorts of applications in the world, and essentially cut the time to find answers to very difficult problems”. As the New York Times says, “The software must interact with humans on their own terms, and fast”. David A Ferrucci, an IBM. artificial intelligence researcher, said, “The big goal is to get computers to be able to converse in human terms. And we’re not there yet.”

Now, you’re probably thinking that the biggest problem will be recognizing human speech. After all, we’ve all tried Dragon Dictate and similar software and found it’s best guess at the words we’ve used to be sometimes very wide of the mark. Well, the IBMers have thought of that and they have a solution – the questions will be presented as electronic text. However, the computer will answer using a synthesized voice.

To make the competition fairer, Watson won’t be hooked up to the Internet so it can look up any answers, it will have it’s own internal database of knowledge. Yes, that definitely sounds fairer to me!!

Also according to the New York Times, “the system must be able to deal with analogies, puns, double entendres, and relationships like size and location, all at lightning speed”.

It does seem like a more fascinating challenge than simply asking a computer to look up an answer in its database. The question I keep asking myself is whether I want a computer that’s able to converse in human terms. Sorry C-3PO, give me R2-D2. At least you know where you are then.

And good luck to any humans who take on Watson at Jeopardy. You can always complain it wasn’t fair if you lose – like Kasparov did and demand a rematch.