Sunday, 25 October 2009

Back by popular demand - the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2010

Many of you will have received an e-mail informing you that Mark Lillycrop and I have started work on the 2010 edition of the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook. And if you haven't had an e-mail from me about it, then e-mail and I will add you to our mailing list.

The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook has been the de facto reference work for IT professionals working with z/OS (and its forerunner) systems since 2005. It includes an annual user survey, an up-to-date directory of vendors and consultants, a media guide, a strategy section with papers on mainframe trends and directions, a glossary of terminology, and a technical specification section. Each year, the Yearbook is downloaded by around 15,000 mainframe professionals. The current issue is still available at

At the moment, we are hoping that mainframers will be willing to complete the annual user survey, which is at The more users who fill it in, the more accurate and therefore useful the survey report will be. All respondents before the 4th December will receive a PDF copy of the survey results on publication. The identity and company information of all respondents is treated in confidence and will not be divulged to third parties. If you go to user group meetings, or just hang out with mainframers from other sites, pass on the word about the survey to others, please. We're hoping that this year's user survey will be the most comprehensive survey ever. Current estimates suggest that there are somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 companies using mainframes spread over 10,000 sites.

Anyone reading this who works for a vendor, consultant, or service provider, can ensure their company gets a free entry in the vendor directory section by completing the form at This form can also be used to amend last year's entry.

As in previous years, there is the opportunity for organizations to sponsor the Yearbook or take out a half page advertisement. Half-page adverts (5.5in x 8in max landscape) cost $600 (UK£350). Sponsors get a full-page advert (11in x 8in) in the Yearbook; inclusion of a corporate paper in the Mainframe Strategy section of the Yearbook; a logo/link on the Yearbook download page on the Arcati Web site; and a brief text ad in the Yearbook publicity e-mails sent to users. Price $1800 (UK£950).

The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2010 will be freely available for download early in January next year.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Mainframe futures

Whenever I start a piece on mainframe futures, I’m always reminded of poor old Stewart Alsop when he was editor-in-chief of InfoWorld. He was the man who famously announced in 1991 that the last mainframe in the world would be unplugged in 1996. Sorry Stewart, not even close!

I’m going to divide this look at mainframe futures into five areas – hardware, software, training, role, and attitude. And, of course, underlying this whole view is the assumptions that mainframes will be with us for a number of years yet.

Looking at hardware, we can see that there is a continual improvement in the speed or size of what’s available, while at the same time a reduction in the footprint and the greenhouse effect. We’ve had the introduction of the specialty engines – IFL for Linux, zAAP for Java (WebSphere), and zIIP for DB2 – and we’re looking at the growing take up of these specialty engines. We’ve also heard about the z11 processor, which is anticipated to be with us in September 2011. Interestingly, in a back-to-the-future sort of way, at least some of the machines will be water-cooled. Improvements are coming all the time.

In terms of software, there have been a huge number of enhancements. CA, as part of its Web 2.0 strategy, enhanced most of its mainframe software line this year. And other companies are continuing to upgrade theirs. NEON Enterprise Software launched its controversial zPrime software. DataDirect has version 7.2.1 of its Shadow suite. In terms of making the mainframe easier to use, particularly in the light of an ageing population of experts, many vendors, including IBM, are including autonomics into their software. This means that the software will try to identify potential problems and fix them. The other strategy used by vendors is to make using the mainframe more like using a Windows environment, which then makes it more easily accessible by young programmers. And attracting young programmers is important for the organizations using mainframes as well as the mainframe software vendors. Many people will now be familiar with using Eclipse. And remember that it’s estimated that over 60% of company data is held on a mainframe, and much of that is being accessed using COBOL programs. So software is continually evolving and getting better.

Both IBM and CA are taking steps to ensure that training is available at universities for youngsters. IBM has its Academic Initiative, which was introduced in 2004. This runs at universities in the USA, UK, and Europe. Similarly, CA is working with universities, starting in the Czech Republic, to provide mainframes they can use for specific training modules. These and other initiatives will ensure an on-going supply of qualified COBOL and Assembler programmers. Having young well-trained programmers ensures the future of mainframes.

So what is the role of the mainframe? Before you rush to answer that question, let me suggest that there is no simple answer. The mainframe has any number of roles in most organization. It is still satisfying roles it acquired 20 or 30 years ago, and it is also gaining new ones. For example SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) is still growing in importance allowing the mainframe to be a Web service consumer as well as a Web service provider to Internet-based users. There is also much talk about mainframes and their role in cloud computing. We’ve also recently seen a growth in the use of mainframes in Business Intelligence solutions – particularly with IBM’s recent acquisition of SPSS. So the mainframes role is constantly evolving and changing, but it’s always vitally important to the success of businesses that make use of mainframes, and could also be a useful tool for organizations that don’t use mainframes.

The last area I want to touch on is the public’s attitude towards mainframes. It is important that IBM and everyone else who believes in the mainframe helps convince the “Windows generation” that there are other choices – some of which, like the mainframe, are better alternatives. There’s a whole generation of IT guys who’ve never worked on a mainframe and who think its old-fashioned and not fit for today’s environment – probably the same people who rush out to buy Citrix to emulate some of the best characteristics of a mainframe; or the people who virtualize their servers thinking it is something new. We all need to get out there and raise people’s awareness. I’m not saying that a mainframe is the right environment for everyone, but I’m sure many mid-sized organizations are missing out on an opportunity because of the blinkered thinking of some of their IT people. Let’s help change that.

All-in-all, the mainframe still has a great future ahead of it. So much is going on to make it so. Long may it continue.

Monday, 12 October 2009

IMS Version 11

I mentioned last week about IMS Version 11, which has been around in a pre-release version for nearly a year. Well, the good news is that it becomes generally available on 30 October 2009.

Here are some of the highlights.

Database Manager enhancements:
  • IMS Open Database support offers direct distributed TCP/IP access to IMS data, providing cost efficiency, enabling application growth, and improving resilience.
  • Broadened Java and XML support and tools can ease IMS development and access to IMS data.
  • IMS Fast Path Buffer Manager, Application Control Block library, and Local System Queue Area storage reduction utilize 64-bit storage to improve availability and overall system performance.
  • Enhanced commands and user exits simplify operations and improve availability.
Transaction Manager enhancements:
  • IMS Connect (the TCP/IP gateway to IMS transactions, operations, and now data) enhancements offer improved IMS flexibility, availability, resilience, and security.
  • Broadened Java and XML tooling eases IMS application development and connectivity, and enhances IMS Web services to assist developers with business transformation.
  • Enhanced commands and user exits simplify operations and improve availability.
  • IMS Application Control Block library and Local System Queue Area reduction utilize 64-bit storage to improve availability and system performance.
Also, last week saw latest webinar from Virtual IMS Connection (, which was entitled, “Mainframe integration is not a strategy – get your MIPS back while delivering value today”, and was presented by Rob Morris, Chief Strategy Officer with GT Software.

Rob suggested that the goals for integration were: fast, agile; flexible; adaptable; consistent; and justifiable. And Rob went on to pose the question whether the goals for mainframe integration should be any different. He then suggested that the mainframe was different, saying:
• Platform:
– Cost of mainframe operations
– Proprietary sub-systems and APIs
– Limited resources.
• It goes beyond combining the words…Mainframe Web Services
• “Free Tools” are not free:
– MIPS costs
– Simplistic design requires additional tools.

Dusty Rivers, who is described on the GT Software blog as an IMS SOA Evangelist, was also on hand to give the user group a rapid demonstration of GT Software’s Ivory product.

Some of the advantages they listed with Ivory are that:
  • Services are deployed instantly
  • Can be deployed to mainframe (CICS, started task, z/Linux) or off-mainframe (Windows or Linux)
  • Leverages zLinux and specialty engines to slash costs.
Rob also explained how users could save money because the work is moved from the GPP (General Purpose Processor) to the IFL specialty processor. Which, as we’ve seen in these blogs, is the route being taken by a number of software vendors.

So, as I said last week, IMS is an interesting technology.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

IMS – what’s new?

IMS – that’s Information Management System, IBM’s combined database-management system and transaction-processing system, not IP Multimedia Subsystem or anything else with the same three-latter acronym – is quite an exciting technology at the moment.

Apart from IBM releasing Version 11 into the wild and the useful upgrades incorporated into that, there have been lots of enhancements to IMS-related software recently.

For example, Mainstar announced a new product called Database Backup and Recovery for IMS (DBR for IMS) on z/OS, which maximizes investment in large system databases and storage systems. DBR for IMS is a storage-aware backup and recovery solution that integrates storage processor fast-replication facilities with IMS backup and recovery operations to allow instantaneous backups with no downtime, reducing recovery time, and simplify disaster recovery procedures while using less CPU, I/O, and storage resources. DBR for IMS provides backup and recovery techniques to address the high-availability and integrity needed by organizations.

CA announced CA Database Management r12 for IMS, its integrated solution that eases the management of IMS databases. This solution provides database administration, performance management, and backup and recovery capabilities for IMS Full Function, Fast Path, and High Availability Large Database (HALDB) structures. Key enhancements to CA Database Management r12 for IMS include support for IMS 11, performance improvements to both the CA products and IMS itself, and increased data availability during backups.

Most recently, Progress DataDirect has announced Release 7.2.1 of its Progress DataDirect Shadow mainframe integration platform with an enhanced ANSI SQL-92 engine for relational to non-relational data processing utilizing the IBM System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP). The latest Release allows ANSI SQL-92 workloads for IMS DB databases and CICS VSAM files to be diverted from the mainframe's General Purpose Processor (GPP) to the zIIP specialty engine, which does the work without using any of the mainframe licensed MIPs capacity.

And if you think no-one is really interested in IMS, then you’re in for a bit of a shock! There are more IMS user groups around today than there were two years ago. One of those is the Virtual IMS Connection user group at This group holds virtual meetings, allowing members to share their ideas and listen to presentations without leaving the office – and so save on travel time and the expense of travelling to a meeting.

The next meeting is on Tuesday 6 October at 10:30 Central Time, when Rob Morris, Chief Strategy Officer with GT Software will give a presentation entitled, “Mainframe integration is not a strategy – get your MIPS back while delivering value today”. The talk will discuss how you can integrate with the mainframe, project by project, without major licensing requirements or MIPS concerns.

And if IMS were outside mainstream computing, how come this talk has been covered in so many publications? You can find the story at:,+Discussing...-a0208207837

So, IMS is an exciting technology. If you’d like to join the meeting, go the Virtual IMS Connection ( Web site and sign up. Details of how to join the meeting will be e-mailed to you.