Sunday, 19 December 2010

2010 mainframe review

As this will probably be my last blog of 2010, I thought it would be traditional to review what’s happened in the mainframe world over the past year.

2010 will probably be remembered as the year of the cloud because it was the year when cloud computing started to be taken seriously across the industry. Microsoft opened its ‘mega data centre’ in Dublin and promoted its Windows Azure environment for development, service hosting, and service management based on the cloud. Google worked with VMware to develop a new operating system for the cloud, and launched a version of the Google App Engine for enterprise users. Amazon promoted its Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) service. And many people suggested that mainframes have offered cloud computing all along – we just called it something else!

IBM’s acquisitions this year include: National Interest Security Company, Initiate Systems, Intelliden, Cast Iron Systems, Sterling Commerce, Coremetrics, BigFix, Storwize, Datacap, Unica, OpenPages, Netezza , PSS Systems, and Clarity Systems.

The big story of 2010, of course, was the launch of a new mainframe range in July. The zEnterprise 196 brings together the latest mainframe technology with POWER7 and x86 IBM blade systems, giving potential users z/OS, AIX, and Linux all on the one box. And all this is controlled from the mainframe console by the new Unified Resource Manager. This new mainframe can be thought of as a virtualization hub that manages other workloads in the data centre.

For people who like to stay current with the latest version numbers and dates of major products, CICS 2.1 has been available since the middle of 2009, DB2 10 was announced earlier this year, as was z/OS 1.12, and IMS 12 should be generally available early in the New Year.

The battle between IBM and NEON Enterprise Software (provider of the zPrime product, which allows users to run traditional workloads on specialty processors) has rumbled on in the courts for a year without any sign of an outcome. The European Union regulators have taken IBM to task for not allowing its operating system to run on other hardware, and for not being fair to so-called ‘spare-part’ vendors. The first complaint came from T3 and TurboHercules, saying that IBM ties its mainframe operating system to its mainframe hardware – and thereby destroys the emulation market.

For me and iTech-Ed Ltd it was a good year. I was given the accolade of IBM Information Champion again this year. My blog at Mainframe Update ( was again a finalist in the Computer Weekly annual blog awards. I was interviewed by CIPS (the Canadian Information technology Professionals). You can download a podcast of the interview from the CIPS Connections site at I was invited by CA to be on their expert panel for a webinar called “From Here to Eternity: The Mainframe as a Mainstay of the Enterprise” discussing cloud computing. Other panellists were Jon Toigo, CEO, Toigo Partners International; Keith Winnard, IT technical services, JD Williams; and Dayton Semerjian, general manager, mainframe, CA Technologies; and control of the session was maintained by Michael Krieger. iTech-Ed helped produce the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2010, which is still available for download from The 2011 edition will be available in January. IBM Systems Magazine's Mainframe Extra eNewsletter was quite taken by one of my regular blogs and they included it in their "Links We Love" section. My articles on cloud computing and IMS was published in the October/November issue of zJournal. The links for the articles are and Exciting things are happening with the Virtual IMS user group that iTech-Ed runs. After a short hiatus, a new sponsor for the user group has been found and webinars and newsletters will continue for members and guests in the New Year. Look out for more details.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Should you refrain from using Chorus?

On 6 December, CA announced that CA Mainframe Chorus and CA Mainframe Chorus for DB2 Database Management were available. As it’s so close to the Christmas festivities, I thought I’d introduce this blog with a Christmas-cracker-style pun – well, it is that time of year!

Originally announced in May, CA Mainframe Chorus is designed to simplify mainframe management, and it does this, the CA press release tells us, through integration, automation, and modernization. Looking at this in more detail, the product helps:
  • Reduce the time and effort required to securely manage the mainframe environment.
  • Enable faster problem resolution and improved service levels.
  • Increase productivity for current expert mainframe staff and more rapid on-ramping of new staff.
“On-ramping”? That’s what we call a nominalization – a word referring to something you can’t put in a wheelbarrow! It sounds very dynamic, and each of us thinks we know what it means, but, of course, no-one actually does because you can’t see it or touch it etc. But let’s not pick holes in press releases or we could be here all day. And, as they say, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. And, as I said at the start, it’s coming up to Christmas.

Mainframe Chorus is designed to display information using a graphical user interface making the experience more familiar to younger mainframers’ previous experience of IT. This is all part of CA’s strategy to encourage younger people to work on mainframes and deal with the challenge of what’s been described as an ageing workforce. Of course, it’s not just youngsters who benefit from the new-look presentation of information, other mainframe experts can easily derive information from the screen displays.

The seven underlying products that support CA Mainframe Chorus for Database Management include CA Detector for DB2 for z/OS; CA Insight Performance Monitor for DB2 for z/OS, and CA Subsystem Analyzer for DB2 for z/OS. CA apparently plans to add additional roles such as security, storage, and workload automation in the future.

Mainframe Chorus for DB2 also allows users to optimize DB2 for z/OS performance by pro-actively monitoring thresholds and alerts that help to identify and resolve bottlenecks promptly. The data visualization capabilities allow administrators to display historical data to predict trends.

So, is Chorus a product you should refrain from using? Obviously not. It makes the mainframe easier to manage, it speeds up the identification and resolution of problems, and it extends the range of people who can use mainframe management software. If this is the sort of thing you need at your site, then it’s definitely worth a look.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Who cares about SyslogD on a mainframe?

Unix System Services (USS) on a mainframe basically allows Unix applications to run and communicate. Running under USS is Syslog Daemon or SyslogD. This is an important system component because it’s part of z/OS’s Intrusion Detection and prevention Services (IDS). SyslogD receives detailed event messages, such as security violations, as well as messages from many other communications services such as FTP and AT-TLS, plus messages from routers, switches, and other network-based devices.

So, in the event of a hacker trying to log-on to your mainframe, how would you know? And when would you know? Surprisingly, many sites appear to ignore the information written to SyslogD completely! While other sites look at what has happened, perhaps a minute ago, perhaps an hour ago, perhaps yesterday!

What you probably need is some way to be alerted about what’s happening now. And, as this is 2010, you probably want the alert to come through to your mobile phone. And you then want to be able to jump on any browser, see where the trouble lies, and fix it. What are the chances of there being software that does that?

Well, let me confirm that it does exist and I’ve seen it.
WDS ( has rather nice mainframe-based HTTP server software that front-ends their mainframe monitoring products. It’s called ZEN and it allows users of their products to access information through a browser – almost any browser. Their products are called ZEN EE Security, ZEN IP Monitor, or similar, but are perhaps better known by their old names of Ferret, Implex, etc. The products can monitor APPN, EE, FTP, IP, SNA, OSA, and USS. Each of these programs effectively has a DLL that allows them to plug in to the HTTP server. This can then respond to messages by ignoring them, sending a command, running a REXX EXEC, or sending an e-mail. It’s completely automated and configurable to what the users want. ZEN can also run utilities such as PING, TRACEROUTE, and NSLOOKUP commands. And, in addition to input from WDS’s programs and SyslogD, it also receives network messages and ECMS console contents.

For the end user, working from a browser, windows can be opened and closed, resized, refreshed, whatever. The windows can show number data and regularly-updated graphical displays. In fact, a variety of different graphs can be monitored in different windows at the same time, allowing end-users to monitor what’s going on in real-time. The drawing of the graphs is all handled in JavaScript (JSON, in fact), and AJAX is used so only the parts of the display that change are sent from the server to the browser, which speeds up communication considerably. It’s possible to drill-down through the alert information on screen, for example, to one particular type of alert, on a particular day, during a particular time range.

Now, the type of display I want on, say, a 17 inch laptop screen is not the same as on a 3 inch smart phone screen. You might think this would be a bit of a fly in the ointment. The truth is that WDS has a solution to even this problem.

Looking to the future, what else could we ask them to do with their excellent end-user interface? Might it not make sense to automate the monitoring of other things and use the browser-based interface to see what’s going on? Is there a way this could be done for, say, other Linux boxes? We’ll have to wait and see.

But whatever software monitor you choose, and however you choose to display it, it makes sense to ensure that SyslogD is not being ignored.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Cloud and the future of mainframes

CA Technologies released a survey on Wednesday entitled “Mainframe as a Mainstay”. The survey was conducted on 200 senior level US-based mainframe executives by Decipher Research. Amongst the results was the information that 73% of respondents confirmed that the mainframe is – or will be – part of their organization’s cloud computing strategy. The question posed at CA’s recent webinar was whether that result came as a surprise.

Now, as you may know, I’m a big fan of cloud computing. In fact, I’ve an article about cloud computing and IMS in the current issue of zJournal. It struck me that these results were very much in line with the recent results, also published by CA, from a survey carried out by Vanson Bourne, a market research company based in the UK. They conducted more than 300 interviews during August with European IT decision makers. Their report was called “Mainframe - The Ultimate Cloud Platform?”. They found a slightly higher figure of 79% of organisations believing the mainframe is an essential component of their cloud computing strategy. The also found 70% of respondents agreeing that cloud computing will sustain or extend the mainframe environment.

On the other hand, only 10 per cent of mainframe sites in BMC’s survey in October said that using their System z machines to run cloud computing or SaaS applications was an important priority for them in the coming year. Quite a difference! Similarly, my own straw poll at the Guide Share Europe conference at the beginning of November, in an IMS session, found that no-one seemed interested in cloud computing. I think that reflects real-life economics in that they were very much focused on what was available now that would make the business run better and their lives easier – how they could do more with less.

I think what we’re seeing is a difference between the attitude of mainframe staff, who want to get the job done with the tools available now and the pressure of fewer staff etc, and senior managers who are looking more strategically towards the next step.

The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2011 user survey has a couple of questions about cloud computing. It will be interesting to see the results from that. And, by-the-way, if you haven’t completed a survey yet, you can do so by going to

Among the survey’s other findings we see:
  • A majority (80%) responded they will be maintaining or increasing spend on mainframe staff in the next 12-18 months.
  • More than three-quarters (76%) will maintain or increase their investment in mainframe software during the next 12-18 months.
  • Nearly half of respondents (46%) are looking for industry leadership from vendors on the evolving role of the mainframe in the enterprise.
  • 61% of respondents don’t believe the IT industry does enough to promote mainframe career opportunities to recent graduates.
  • 35% believe that recent graduates are not as proficient in mainframe technology as their counterparts that entered the workforce 10-years ago.
  • 61% said that hiring either took much longer than expected, took long enough to negatively impact their IT operation or are still looking for talent after more than six months.

Picking up on the 35% of respondents who believe recent graduates are not as technology proficient as their counterparts that entered the workforce 10-years ago, webinar panellists were asked whether this was something they were seeing in the workforce.

I think the truth is that even the ancient Greeks felt that youngsters weren’t as good as they used to be! Certainly when I started working on mainframes, we were a mixed bag of youngsters, and many of those less capable or that-way-inclined left – leaving the enthusiasts and the highly technically-capable. I assume the criticism can always be applied. New people at any job just aren’t very good. And once they are quite good, they’re promoted to a different one.

We hear the mainframe referred to as a dinosaur – even though we know signs point in the opposite direction – in addition, the mainframe has a reputation as older technology with a middle-aged workforce, so the panellists were asked whether the fact that 52% of those surveyed cited Facebook and LinkedIn as the most effective recruiting tools came as a surprise.

My first response whenever a sentence includes the words mainframe and dinosaur is to point out that dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 160 million years. Humans have existed for say 200,000 years. Draw your own conclusions!

I’m not at all surprised that middle-aged people are using Facebook and LinkedIn and many other examples of social media. At the end of 2008, the answer may have been surprising, at the end of 2009 it may have surprised some people, but not at the end of 2010. These are IT people we’re talking about – of course they’re going to know what’s going on in the cyber world. I also imagine, next year, that figure will be much higher than 52%. Mainframers know about social networking. Look how many of them blog and are on Twitter.

You can find more information about the survey at

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Mainframes still not all turned off yet!!

BMC published an interesting survey at the end of October. There were more than 1700 mainframe users participating in the survey, and about half of the organizations surveyed have revenues in excess of US$1 billion. I think it’s generally assumed that the total number of mainframe sites globally is between 6000 and 7000.

Highlights of the survey included the findings that 84% of respondents expected to see growing or steady MIPS usage on the platform, with almost 60% anticipating that the mainframe will attract new workloads over the next year.

Against that, 37% agree that it will be a viable platform, mostly running legacy applications and not attracting new workloads. In addition, 4% considered that the mainframe is not a viable platform and companies should consider their exit strategies over the next five years.

The survey found, perhaps not surprisingly, that reducing IT costs in the next year was an important issue. 65% of respondents stated that reducing costs was one of their top four priorities. Other topics in those top four priorities were disaster recovery (34%), application modernization (30%), and business/IT alignment (29%).

The survey found more than 50% of large IT shops indicating they would expand their use of specialty engines in the next 24 months, with zIIP engines being the specialty engine of choice.

The also survey found a strong interest in hybrid management tools across z/OS, z/Linux, and other operating systems. Monitoring and event automation was cited as an important cross-platform tool by 74% of respondents, with similarly high responses for system/task automation (73%), workload/batch management (69%), and performance tuning (66 percent).

The survey found that 50 percent of respondents plan to migrate to DB2 for z/OS V10 in the next 18 plus months.

Tucked away in the report we find 10% of respondents saying that using their System z machines to run cloud computing or SaaS (Software as a Service) applications was an important priority for them in the coming year.

If you’re interested in surveys, you’ll be interested to know that you can still complete the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2011 user survey at The new Yearbook will be published early in January next year.

And if you want to find out more about mainframe users’ opinions about cloud computing, you can join a CA webinar entitled From Here to Eternity: The Mainframe as a Mainstay of the Enterprise. It’s on Wednesday 17 November between 11:30am and 12:30pm EST. One of the panellists is yours truly. You can sign up for the webinar at

BTW the title of this blog refers to the much-quoted prediction by Stewart Alsop, editor-in-chief of InfoWorld in 1991, that the last mainframe in the world would be unplugged in 1996!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

2010 Guide Share Europe Conference success

This year’s Guide Share Europe Conference was again held at Whittlebury Hall in the beautiful countryside in the very south of Northamptonshire, near the Silverstone circuit and Towcester racecourse, and not too far away from Milton Keynes. It was held this week on Tuesday and Wednesday (2 and 3 November). And it was a great success.

To help stay connected, the conference centre offered free Wi-Fi in public areas, and the conference provided 14 streams of seminars with five sessions per day – a staggering 140 presentations over the two days. In addition to the CICS, IMS, DB2, Enterprise security, large systems working group, network management working group, and software asset management streams, there were four streams for Tivoli users, DB2 LUW, zLinux, and new technologies. So there was definitely something for everyone. Most of the presentations were available on the free memory stick given to delegates, and the rest will be downloadable from GSE’s Web site.

I sat in on a few of the IMS presentations and the birds-of-a-feather expert panel session. It was a real pleasure to witness the conversations after a presentation when younger members of the audience would be chatting to older members, who were all keen and able to answer the newcomers’ questions. There was a lot of sharing of information and learning going on in a completely supportive atmosphere.

It was also a pleasure to catch up with old friends. And, among the 400 people registered, there were plenty of old friends I did catch up with and plenty of new friends made. 321 people attended on the Tuesday and 315 people were there on the Wednesday. The conference dinner on the Tuesday evening was attended by 230 people.

In addition to the high-standard presentations, there were 29 vendors in the exhibition hall where coffees and lunch were served. The vendors were also a source of technical information, and included IBM, Verhoef, Rocket Software, ezLegacy, CA Technologies, BMC, Compute (Bridgend), Blenheim Software & Inspired Solutions, and many others. Their presence helps keep down the cost of attending.

The GSE is the European association of companies and individuals using IBM hardware, software, and solutions. GSE is a non-profit association run by its members for its members. You can find out more details from their Web site at

Towards the end of the Wednesday there were the prize draws as different vendors gave away prizes. Many happy conference-goers gratefully left with new Kindles or iPlayers or some other technotoy in their bags.

The conference was well organised by Mark Wilson – the Chairman Large Systems Working Group & UK Conference Manager – and his team, and well worth attending by delegates and vendors. All-in-all, there was something for everyone to benefit from.

Well done to everyone on the organizing team and the presenters. And, if you didn’t make it this year, you missed something very good. See you there next year, perhaps.

On a different note: there’s still time to vote for Mainframe Update as your favourite blog in the category, Individual IT Professional Male. The IT Blog Awards 2010 are being organized by Computer Weekly. Click here to vote.

And, there’s still time to complete the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2011 mainframe user survey. You can find this at If you’re a vendor, then you can ensure your entry in the Yearbook is up-to-date by going to

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Android rules OK!

There’s nothing I hate more than being cornered at a party (or conference or anything else) by an iPhone user who wants to explain to me in excruciating detail how clever his phone is. I tend to liken these iPhone worshipers to members of the Young Communist League in the 1950s, who would not just happily forgive anything said or done in Moscow but describe it as a good thing. There’s just no reasoning with them, and they’re very very boring! But now, I have a secret weapon. I have an android phone. And I can bore them back by showing them my apps – until they go away like Mormons on a Sunday afternoon and knock on the door of the next house down.

I’ve recently acquired a Samsung Galaxy Apollo, which is a slightly cut-down version of their top-of-the-range Galaxy S. It seems to do everything I want and, of course, being an android phone, it has access to the thousands of free apps.

Now, it’s confession time, I think the iPhone is better at photography than my phone. I don’t have a flash with the camera, I can’t move the focus point round on the screen, and it doesn’t create composite photos to allow for lighting, so what would have been a shaded area becomes clearly visible. I’m also waiting for Android 2.2 (FroYo), which will offer more facilities.

But, and for me this was a deal breaker, it doesn’t need iTunes. Oh how restrictive iTunes is to its users! Now, again, I have listened to hours (or perhaps it just seemed that way) of explanation of why iTunes is a good thing – and my mind pictures dutiful Young Communists... With my android, I have downloaded apps to my phone, and downloaded them to my computer and copied them across to my SD card and installed them that way. Yes, iPhone fanatics, android phones (like almost every other type) allow you to add memory to your phone. I used the 4GB SD card I bought for my previous phone.

I installed XandPlayer so I can watch AVI files. I have video of my younger daughter getting her degree last year on my old SD card that I can watch. I’m sure I will put other AVI files onto the card soon to watch at a later time. It’s got loads of music already. Up until last week, I couldn’t watch an AVI on an iPhone. Obviously, I could have converted all my AVIs using their precious iTunes, but why should I? VLC player has just become available on an iPhone without needing to Jailbreak it. So iPhones can now play AVI files – welcome to the 21st century.

I installed Skyfire, which is a browser that allows you watch Flash files on Web sites. Apple takes the position that Flash will disappear when HTML5 becomes widely adopted and so iPhones don’t need the facility. I’m sure that Apple is correct. However, until that day in some distant future, and to ensure backward compatibility with all those Flash files out there, users need a flash player.

I could tell you about all the fun apps I have installed – Google Sky Map, Kindle, AroundMe, and many others, but I’m sure something similar is probably available for the iPhone.

Now, I know we’ve got the new Nokia phones with Symbian, the new Windows 7 phones, and Blackberry as the other big players in the market. But it strikes me that Apple set the bar very high with its iPhone and has shot itself in the foot with the restrictions placed on it. If iPhone Version 5 doesn’t offer something that no other company has thought of, or some degree of openness, then I believe that, like the Apple computer, the iPhone will be the phone-of-choice for die-hard Apple supporters only, while the rest of the phone-producing community steal all their best ideas, add more of their own, and sell more phones to very willing customers.

Now don’t go away with the idea that I am now some kind of android worshipper, I’m just someone who’s happy with his new phone. End of.

PS: don't forget it's Guide Share Europe at Whittlebury Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. More details at

PPS: don't forget to complete your mainframe user survey for the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook at

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Mainframe security

RACF (Resource Access Control Facility) from IBM has been around for so long that I guess we take it for granted. It is one of the “big three” External Security Manager (ESM) products for mainframes. The other two are ACF2 (Access Control Facility 2) and Top Secret, both of which are owned by CA. But, as they like to say on impartial radio and TV programmes, other security products are available!

For example, Alexandria, Virginia-based Type80 ( provides SMA_RT, which functions as a security monitor program product that looks for patterns of abuse and sends real-time alerts. It supports systems environments across multiple CPUs and over geographically diverse locations.

Las Vegas, Nevada-based Vanguard Integrity Professionals ( provides solutions for identity and access management, audit and compliance, security administration, and intrusion detection. For security management there’s Vanguard Administrator, Vanguard Advisor, and Vanguard SecurityCenter. For audit and compliance they provide Vanguard Analyzer, Vanguard incompliance, Vanguard Enforcer, and Vanguard Policy Manager. For access management there’s Vanguard Authenticator, Vanguard ez/SignOn, Vanguard ez/Token, Vanguard Tokenless Authentication, Vanguard ez/Integrator, and Vanguard PasswordReset. And for intrusion detection there’s Vanguard Enforcer (again).

Naples, Florida-based Advanced Software Products Group (ASPG) ( provides a number of data security products including: MegaCryption, its file level encryption tool; ReACT, which automates the password reset and synchronization process; ERQ (Easy RACF Query), its automated ISPF RACF administrative and reporting utility; CryptoMon its ICSF analyser; and Secure/FTP, which provides a full audit trail of all FTP commands that were executed or attempted and offers online monitoring of all active FTP sessions.

While mentioning encryption, IBM has its Integrated Cryptographic Service Facility (ICSF) and a Cryptographic Coprocessor. And, of course, in terms of security, there’s also IBM’s Tivoli zSecure Suite.

Hackensack, NJ-based Bsafe Solutions ( offers: Bsafe/Enterprise Security for MVS TCP/IP for network security; Bsafe/Security for CICS-MVS, providing extended security for DB2, IMS, and VSAM; and Bsafe/Enterprise Security for CICS, providing control of mainframe security from a PC.

Torrance, CA-based Data21 ( has ZIP/390, which enables zSeries batch jobs to send and receive PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) files.

Aliso Viejo, CA-based Quest Software ( has a number of security products that came with its acquisition of PassGo Technologies. Its mainframe security tools include: GoPlex, a full screen interface allowing users to control and view users logged on to any of the PassGo’s MultSess, NC-Access, or NCI/XF products; NC-Pass Network Security Managers, which protect information by directing the user to permitted applications only using their user ID and password; Defender ME uses tokens that provide security – there’s Defender ME VSSE for VTAM Session Security, Defender ME Secure for active network security, and Defender ME Authenticator for almost everything; NC-Syncom provides password synchronization spanning multiple systems, servers, networks, and applications; and NC-Access, a session manager. In addition, for VTAM networks, Quest provides: MultSess, a session manager; and NCI/XF, a programming tool for tailoring, customizing, and extending functionality for 3270 terminals and developing single point of entry VTAM network systems.

There’s definitely other mainframe software products out there, and it’s interesting to see just what is available.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Mainframes and cloud computing

Picking up IT trade papers might make you think that the only real players in the cloud computing world were Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. Microsoft, with its ‘mega data centre’ in Dublin has been enthusiastic about its Office Web Apps and Facebook integration. Its Windows Azure is an environment for development, service hosting, and service management based on the cloud. It’s designed to allow developers to compute, host, scale, store, and also manage the Web apps they create. Google is working with VMware to develop a new operating system for the cloud, and plans to push the Web as a platform for enterprise-standard software development. Google now has a version of the Google App Engine for enterprise users. Amazon has its Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) – a Web service providing resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make Web-scale computing easier for developers. So where does that leave the mainframe?

To answer that question, Vanson Bourne, a market research company based in the UK undertook a survey that has now been published and is called Mainframe – The Ultimate Cloud Platform? Vanson Bourne conducted more than 300 interviews during August 2010 among IT decision makers. The sample comprised respondents in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Benelux, Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.

The survey results were published by CA Technologies, who revealed that 79 percent of IT organisations believe the mainframe is an essential component of their cloud computing strategy. They also found that 74 percent of respondents believe that the mainframe will have a role in any cloud computing initiative, with 70 percent agreeing that cloud computing will sustain or extend the mainframe environment.

Interestingly, and quite independently, the 2011 Arcati Mainframe Yearbook has two questions about cloud computing in its user survey. If you haven’t completed a survey yet, you can, by going to

According to CA’s Dayton Semerjian: “This survey provides indisputable evidence of the mainframe's agility to perform in new IT models such as cloud computing, and on-going durability as a critical data centre platform for decades to come”. Semerjian added: “CA Technologies is addressing these needs through its revolutionary mainframe management strategy, Mainframe 2.0”.

The survey also found that 82 percent of respondents stated that they intend to use the mainframe in the future either as much or more than today – which, sadly, implies that one in five sites are reducing their mainframe usage.

54 percent of respondents felt that the most pressing issues facing them in the next 12 months is an increased demand for training.

When asked why the mainframe is considered a valuable organisational asset, responses included reliability (55 percent), its position as an established technology (52 percent), platform cost-effectiveness (48 percent), and IT attitudes toward change (40 percent).
Linked to training is the problem of an increasingly ageing experienced workforce and a reduction in the number of experienced people available to work on mainframes. The study concluded that 44 percent of IT organisations are grappling with staffing issues created by the greying workforce and difficulty in hiring new staff, and they are concerned that these challenges will make the mainframe less viable in the future.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Managing mainframes from your phone

William Data Systems has come up with a clever way of managing your mainframe network from an iPhone. Now as soon as you see the word iPhone, you probably think it’s an app and you’re going to have to get all your users synchronizing with iTunes before they can use it or update it. The truth is, it’s a much cleverer idea than that!

Let’s start at the beginning, WDS (William Data Systems) has a z/OS network management suite called ZEN, which has a number of really useful components that you can find out more about from their Web site ( Their customers wanted an easy way to keep up-to-date with what was happening with their networks. And one thing everyone has these days is a mobile (cell) phone – so why not come up with a way of monitoring the network from your phone?

What WDS did, was to utilize the browser on iPhones – Safari, the same one that comes as standard on Macs – and allow users to monitor and manage their mainframe networks from there.

Now because Safari is an integral part of the iPhone, the technology works for all iPhone users. As I said at the beginning, there’s no problem of resynchronizing every user by getting them to plug their phones into iTunes. There’s no fuss about accessing the App Store. It’s all there on the browser.

As more-and-more companies are asking for z/OS network monitoring and management to be done remotely when needed using a single mobile device that support people would be carrying with them, this solution seems to tick all the boxes. If a problem is found, then the techie can find a laptop and fix it, or use the phone to call the service centre and get someone there to fix it. Either way, the problem is solved, perhaps before users have begun to notice. Interestingly, the solution can be used from an iPad. In that case, the screen is big enough for a techie to actually use instead of a laptop – and solve the problem immediately.

What if your organization doesn’t use iPhones? What if you’ve rolled out Blackberrys? Well in that case, WDS has a solution available. If your organization uses Symbian or Android (or anything else), then WDS are developing a solution for your smart phone right now.

It may all seems like something from a 1990s sci fi film, but monitoring your z/OS network from your mobile phone is a solution that’s available now.

And finally, as a mainframe professional, I am hoping that you will be willing to complete the annual user survey at If the company you work for is a vendor, consultant, or service provider, then please ensure their information is included in the vendor information form at

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2011

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

Very shortly, many of you will receive an e-mail informing you that Mark Lillycrop and I have started work on the 2011 edition of the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook. If you don’t get an e-mail from me about it, then e-mail and I will add you to our mailing list.

We’re hoping that mainframe professionals will be willing to complete the annual user survey, which will shortly be up and running at The more users who fill it in, the more accurate and therefore useful the survey report will be. All respondents before Friday 3 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 never be divulged to third parties. If you go to user group meetings, or just hang out with mainframers from other sites, please pass on the word about this survey. 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 $650 (UK£390). 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 $1900 (UK£990).

To put that cost into perspective, for every dollar you spend on an advert you reach around 25 mainframe professionals.

The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2011 will be freely available for download early in January next year.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Where are they now?

The Mainframe Zone blog at ran a story about the role of ISVs in the mainframe's success. This prompted a number of responses on MainframeZone at LinkedIn ( More importantly, it resulted in an explosion of trips down Memory Lane for me and my colleagues.

We remembered the time Goal Software took us by helicopter to watch motor racing. We laughed at some of our trips abroad funded by companies that are also no longer with us. Our all expenses paid meals out, etc etc, and we concluded that the sign of a company in peril was inversely proportional to amount and the cost of things they’d give away to consultants and journalists.

Anyway, the original Mainframe Zone article said:
"In 1970, primarily due to anti-trust pressure from the Federal Government as well as an independent lawsuit by Applied Data Research, IBM made the decision to “unbundle” software costs and hardware costs. This meant that over the past 40 years independent software vendors (ISVs) have been able to compete on a even basis with IBM for mainframe software product sales.
"Starting with ADR’s Autoflow, a fairly large number of ISVs have successfully marketed system and application software products that have significantly added value to mainframe systems."

The blog went on to ask which non-IBM software products have been significant to the success of the mainframe?

What fuelled our first trip down Memory Lane was a response from Scott Hatanaka. He said: “There have been many influential ISV software products over the years. Many of them STILL market leaders”. He went on to list:
File-aid, Abendaid, Xpediter (Compuware)
Omegamon (formerly Candle, now IBM)
The UCC products 1,7,11 (now CA)
ACF2, already mentioned
MIM (formerly STAM/SDSI-formerly Duquesne software, I think, formerly Legent, now CA)
Connect:Direct (formerly Sterling Commerce, now IBM)

David Mierowsky suggested, “Candle and Omegamon – the original performance monitors set the standard”. 

Dave Thorn added. “Don't forget the performance and capacity management products: MICS, BEST/1, MXG to name just a few”. 

Eyal Rothfeld gave us another list of: “non-IBM software products (from ISVs) that, in my humble opinion, have been most significant to the mainframe's success:
Operations Management:
4D/New Dimension Software (Later: BMC Software) – Control-M and Control-x suite.
Enterprise Output Management:
LRS – VPS suite.
Important tools:
Sorts: Syncsort
Comparisons: Serena/Comparex.
File Transfer: Connect:Direct(formerly Sterling Commerce, now IBM)
File-aid, Abendaid, Xpediter(Compuware)
Performance Management:
Performance Optimizers: CA/PMO & QuickFetch
Serena StarTool APM, Application Performance Manager, (formerly known as StarProbe)
Application performance measurement & analysis tools – Compuware/Strobe products
Omegamon – Candle, now: CA)
ICF Catalog Management:
Softworks – The Mechanic & later Catalog Solution (and today: Dino Software/T-REX)
Storage Management:
Innovation DP – FDR suite.
Security management:
Top Secret – CA
Vanguard Integrity Professionals – SecurityCenter and the MF Security Management solutions suite.
Systems management:
Phoenix Software International – (E)JES.
Session Managers:
Unicom – Pie suite.
Statistical analysis:
Software AG – ADABAS.
Sapiens and DB1.”

Michael Swanson, President at ISAM Inc quoted some figures. He said: “If you want the Top 10 ISV products in terms of market share (products in the most data centres), they are:
SAS – SAS Base – 80-89%
CA – CA-1 – 70-79%
Syncsort – SyncSort – 60-69%
Compuware – File-AID for MVS – 60-69%
Merrill Consult – MXG – 50-59%
LRS – VPS Base – 50-59%
ChicagoSoft – MVS/Quick-Ref – 50-59%
CA – CA-11 – 40-49%
Compuware – XPEDITER/TSO – 40-49%
CA – CA-JCLCheck – 40-49%”

One of the most interesting threads I’ve read in a while – check it out.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

SharePoint software enhancements

Sometimes SharePoint 2010 isn’t quite as easy to use as perhaps its users would like. Not to worry though, there are a number of useful software products out there that are free and can plug those gaps. Let’s have a look at some of them.

The first I want to mention is .NET Reflector V6.5 from Cambridge UK-based Red Gate Software ( There is a paid for Pro version, but most times, the free one will do. It explores and analyses compiled .NET assemblies, allowing users to view them in C#, Visual Basic, and IL (Intermediate Language). It supports all .NET assemblies including 4.0 (at the moment you’re probably using it with 3.5 with SharePoint). The list of things it can do is quite long, but here are just some: it find usages of classes and methods, including virtual method overrides; it finds where types are exposed or instantiated; it supports Linq query expressions, Lambda expressions, and anonymous methods; it provides code URL support; users can jump to a class or method straight from their code in Visual Studio. You can download a copy from

The second one on my list is CAML Query Builder from Brussels, Belgium-based U2U. You can download the software from What you get is an application page where you can build a CAML query. The CAML query itself is stored in a list from where you can further work with it. CAML (Collaborative Application Mark-up Language) is an XML-based query language that helps users query, build, and customize Web sites based on Windows SharePoint Services. The XML elements define various aspects of a WSS (Windows SharePoint Services) site. This tool helps users build their CAML Queries.

Number three on my list is Fiddler2. This is a Web debugging proxy that logs all HTTP(S) traffic between a computer and the Internet. The software allows users to inspect all HTTP(S) traffic, set breakpoints, and generally ‘fiddle’ with incoming or outgoing data. Fiddler includes an event-based scripting subsystem, and can be extended using any .NET language. Fiddler can be downloaded from

In order to get things done to SharePoint 2010, a knowledge of PowerShell can be quite important. PowerShell is a scripting language that uses cmdlets to get things done. Cmdlets perform an action and usually return a Microsoft .NET Framework object, which can then be piped (connected) to another command in the pipeline. This way, quite complicated commands can be created from simple building blocks. To make life easier, users can download PowerGUI Script Editor – a graphical user interface and script editor. The latest version is 2.1.1, and it can be download from

So, if you are using SharePoint, these four free applications will make your life easier.
I’d be interested to hear of any others that users would recommend.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Cheaper mainframe data access?

Accessing mainframe data and applications (including CICS) just got easier and perhaps cheaper with the announcement by HostBridge ( of  HostBridge for zIIP – shortened to HBzIIP.

HostBridge – the software rather than the company – aids mainframe integration. The HostBridge base product runs under CICS and intercepts CICS data before terminal data streams are generated as output or expected as input. HostBridge then auto-converts the data to XML documents for integration with other applications, distributed systems, Web applications, and anything using Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). The HostBridge base product is a prerequisite for all other HostBridge products, modules, and connectors.

The company has now released HostBridge Version 6.5. The extra appeal of this version is that users are able to reduce their costs by moving integration/SOA workloads to the zIIP specialty engine. The other advantages the company promises include the development of Web services with greater speed and flexibility, and the ability to add Web 2.0 functionality to integration/SOA initiatives.

zIIP (z Integrated Information Process) specialty engines allows organizations to increase mainframe processing capacity for specific workloads without higher licence fees. As we’ve said before, when looking at NEON’s zPrime product amongst others, users need to pay to have the zIIP processor activated, but then pay less for usage of the main processor because the work is being processed on the zIIP engine. For most mainframe users, it can be quite a complicated spreadsheet calculating whether using zIIP or zAAP (z Application Assist Processor) specialty processors is worthwhile. But once you’ve got them, the more processing you can run on them, the less money you pay IBM each month.

Quoting from the press release, the new version offers the following advantages:
  • HostBridge Process Automation Engine.
    The new HB Process Automation Engine is a JavaScript-based development/runtime facility that lets users integrate any CICS application or CICS-accessible data source (DB2, VSAM, DL/I, Datacom) with any distributed systems. HB Process Automation also allows users to orchestrate and automate complex CICS transaction processes as a single service.
  • Web 2.0/Lightweight Services.
    Newly-supported services technologies include REST, E4X, XPath, JSON, and Atom. They offer simpler alternatives to formal SOAP/WSDL-based services for faster, more agile integration of CICS data and business logic into new composite applications and mash-ups.
If your looking at XMLing your mainframe applications and you have zIIP running workloads already, then it’s worth a look.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A look at SharePoint

Let me start with an apology for talking about a non-mainframe technology. I suppose my justification is that this a major piece of software in data centres running Windows. I’ve recently completed two weeks of training on SharePoint 2010 for administration and design – and, I suppose, that’s why it’s on my mind.

Microsoft SharePoint has been around for a while and 2010 is probably the most sophisticated version there is, but what is it? I thought in some ways it was a bit like CICS – but definitely not CICS. And I thought it was a bit like Lotus Notes – but, again, not Notes. It’s difficult to encapsulate easily because it’s software that needs other pieces of software to work (more on that in a moment). It’s far more feature-rich than a simple intranet. In fact, in many ways, it provides a new way of working – a new paradigm – for organizations that might purchase it.

Let’s start off with why businesses might be tempted to buy SharePoint. I suppose that once you get above 20 staff, it gets harder to have that immediacy of information that small sites benefit from. With 50 staff, let alone 200+ it can be days (if ever) that news reaches you about other staff (weddings, baby photos, etc) or corporate news (shortlisted for prizes or being mentioned in trade papers). The natural consequence is that people start e-mailling all staff – so rather than just three 4MB pictures of the new baby (or whatever) needing to be backed up, there are suddenly 200+ versions of the same thing in everyone’s Outlook in-box. Using SharePoint gives you an easy way of sharing news and offering items for sale. It’s also incredibly easy to pick up RSS feeds – like the BBC news and weather.

But if that’s all you’re doing with SharePoint, you’re definitely missing a trick.

Before I look at that, let me just talk about how SharePoint links with other Microsoft products. You need to have Active Directory (AD) and Internet Information Services (IIS) which you probably do. You also need SQL Server, which you may not already have installed. And then you need Microsoft Office and Outlook. You also need to know how to use Visual Studio and SharePoint Designer, and to make life easier there’s about half a dozen non-Microsoft tools that can be used. (I’ll talk about them in a future blog).

The reason I said it’s a paradigm shift is because many organizations will welcome some easy way of sharing news etc, but many won’t realize that they have a problem for which SharePoint is the solution. It’s too easy to continue working in the same old way and not take advantage of things like workflows and sharing.

What made Notes and Domino so powerful was collaborative working. And the word ‘collaboration’ appears right at the top of any list of SharePoint features. Yet many people still have a view of computing in which small individual islands work away, perhaps printing off a copy of a document for final checking before it is sent out. This is the way we worked in the 80s and 90s, but in 2010, we can share documents. Word has given us the ability to track changes for at least 10 years, and yet many people seem unwilling to collaborate in this way.

Workflows are hidden gems. People often complain to me about documents not getting to the right people for checking or not knowing who has a draft version of a document – or, even worse, not knowing whether the version in front of them is the latest one. Built-in to SharePoint 2010 is the ability to define parallel as well as serial workflows. So your document can be checked by two people at the same time before being sent on to a third person for final checking. No more problems with important people not seeing the document or any other procedural failure.

I’ll just quickly mention My Sites. These are replacements for My Documents or Documents (depending on which version of Windows you’re familiar with) plus they are like your own little home page of information.

Users get to SharePoint through their browser. You can add all sorts of things to the pages they see using what are called Web parts. This could include bits of JavaScript, Youtube videos, Twitter feeds, etc.

SharePoint 2010 works properly with Internet Explorer (of course), but also Firefox and other browsers – I think it’s great that Microsoft are becoming browser agnostic (you might mention EU case law!).

You can set up SharePoint to provide your own internal intranet (if that isn’t tautology) and act as an external internet server – so you are hosting your own Web pages.

Also, you can use SharePoint to front-end your applications. The advantage of this is users have to go to your intranet – so they see your corporate news and personal items of interest – and from there they launch their usual applications (such as finance or whatever’s specialized for their organization). There’s no need to run SharePoint in parallel with Citrix or anything else.

On the downside, licences for all the products can be very expensive. And it all works so much better if you’re using 2010 versions of everything (or the latest where there isn’t a 2010 version). You will need someone who speaks C# and can use PowerShell commands to maintain SharePoint and push its usage forward amongst members of staff who are perfectly happy working the way they always have.

But if you can’t have a mainframe, and you’re a moderate to large organization, then there are lots of benefits to be had from using SharePoint. There’s certainly more features than I’ve had space to mention here.

Now all I need to know is how to become an MVP!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Getting your money’s worth

If you’re looking for value for money, then you can’t do much better than attend the 9th annual UK 2010 Guide Share Europe Conference to be held on 2 and 3 November at Whittlebury Hall, Northamptonshire – if you’re using your sat nav, it’s NN12 8QH. This will be the largest UK GSE conference in their history and boasts 13 streams on the Tuesday and a whopping 14 streams on the Wednesday. You can get more information at Registration is now open.

Secondly, there’s now a Version 2.0 available of ZEN, the cost saving z/OS network management suite from William Data Systems. This new version includes enhancements that enable many more companies running z/OS to improve on and completely replace NetView or NetMaster. WDS claims that for some customers, managing networks with ZEN has reduced their annual cost of ownership by as much as 50%. ZEN customers pay for only the functionality they need, which reduces annual costs compared with users of other products who pay for functionality that they don’t use.

ZEN V2’s new Automation component includes a full REXX function pack. This provides facilities for users to totally automate their management of z/OS network environments and create customized ZEN displays and alerts.

ZEN provides a browser interface that is intuitive and customizable to individual user’s needs. ZEN also provides “green screens”, which more traditional users continue to benefit from. You can find out more at

And if you want something that’s absolutely free… you can find a summary of my recent interview with Stephen Ibaraki from the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) at And if that whets your appetite, you can listen to the complete podcast at

Sunday, 22 August 2010

DB2 – faster than a speeding bullet?

Last week, IBM sent out press releases saying that it has achieved the industry's highest ever TPC-C (transaction processing) benchmark using a Power Systems configuration with DB2, hitting 10,366,254 transactions per minute. And in case you don't realise just how fast that is, the press releases goes on to inform us that it beats HP's best result by more than 2.5 times and Oracle's best by more than 35%!

We're told that: "The results place IBM in a unique position as the undeniable leader. With these new clustered results (and with the long-standing single system result), IBM has demonstrated its ability to scale up to handle higher transaction loads and to scale out to optimize more types of workloads than the competition."

This result is the largest ever TPC-C result published (dated 17 August 2010) and was obtained on a cluster of three IBM Power 780 servers featuring a storage subsystem with 116TB of Solid State Drives (SSDs) and running DB2 9.7.

Just to rub in the fact that it beats the Old rival, Oracle, the press releases goes on to inform us that: "The IBM result represents 2.7 times better performance per core than the Oracle result, 41% better price performance, and 35% better energy efficiency per transaction. IBM's performance is also more than 2.5 times better than HP's best result, 69% greater performance per core, and 2.1 times better price/performance."

The new TPC-C benchmark result uses standard IBM software. DB2 9.7 has been around since June 2009, and AIX 6.1 was released in November 2007. IBM says that the selection of software versions reflected levels currently in use by a large number of their clients.

IBM highlights the fact that the IBM TPC-C results on POWER7 technology shows off IBM Storage technology in the form of Solid State Drives (SSDs), which enable higher throughput and lower response times. SSDs also provide reliability, lower energy usage, less cooling requirements, and the ability to reduce data centre footprints. The total storage used was over 800TB while the Oracle/Sun configuration had 686.6TB of total storage.

The Oracle/Sun cluster is 71% more expensive based on published price/performance relative to the IBM Power 780 cluster result. The total system cost of the Sun cluster is 26% greater than the total system cost of the IBM cluster. Because of different discount structures, care should be taken in comparing individual price components.

As a result of these differences, the TPC does not allow comparisons using TPC price information on anything other than the total configuration. The IBM Power 780 with DB2 9.7 result yields greater than 10 million tpmC for IBM (a feat Oracle hasn't accomplished) and significantly better price/performance for the IBM solution.

The configuration for this benchmark achieves an estimated consumption of 65.1 kWatts or 6.3 kWatts per million tpmC, 35% better than the Sun cluster energy consumption estimate of 73.9kWatts or 9.7 kWatts per million tpmC.

You get the idea anyway – there's more of the same in the press release. The bottom line is that IBM can now claim to provide performance in excess of double-digits (10 Million Transactions Per Minute), which, they say, no-one else can do.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Making computing a recognized profession

Is there any reason to make computing a recognized profession? After all, isn’t it like gardening? Something we all do a bit, with varying degrees of competence for varying amounts of time in a week? Why should it be a recognized profession like medicine, law, or accounting? Does it really need demonstrable professional development, with members adhering to a code of ethics, and having globally recognized credentials?

I would argue that it does. Not only that, I would support whole-heartedly the professionalization of computing. Naming no names, but I’ve come across lots of IT personnel who have an incredibly limited knowledge of the choices available or the types of techniques that can be used to make things happen. I worked with someone many years ago who reckoned he could do anything on a computer with a few lines of code. He was a great hit with customers – they liked dealing with him. He wrote Assembler and he really did make things happen. So often these days, particularly with Windows support staff, the answer is always NO – a particular change can’t be made, either because it’s too much effort or because they don’t know enough.

On the other hand, there are things like ITIL – IT Infrastructure Library – which provide best-practice examples for service management. You can find them at or And there’s IP3 ( who are all about setting standards for the IT industry.

I think organizations like this should be supported. I also think they should have some way of including in the membership recognized industry professionals who’ve been round the block a few times and should incorporate their skills and best practice.

At the moment, from a customer’s perspective, when you employ a consultant or an organization to work on your IT with you, you have no way of knowing how good they are or what standards they achieve compared to other similar organizations.

So, yes, I would absolutely support computing becoming a recognized profession – with continuous professional development, code of ethics, and, of course, letters after your name so customers know you adhere to these standards.

What do you think?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Virtual IMS Connection user group - under threat

Virtual IMS Connection is a vendor-neutral, independently-operated, virtual user group for IMS (IBM's Information Management System) professionals. It can currently be found at It was launched at the beginning of November 2007.

Virtual user group meetings take place every other month and a guest speaker gives a presentation relevant to the IMS user community. The user group meetings last a little over an hour in total. Participation in meetings is free to members. The Virtual IMS Connection user group is also free to join.

User group members also get a bi-monthly newsletter. You can see the flip-book version here and the PDF version here.

The Web site contains details of future meetings, information about IMS-related articles (published elsewhere on the Web) and events, a list of IMS tools (software - the listing is free to vendors) and services, a list of IMS consultants, and a job bank (with resumes - CVs - and job opportunities).

New IMS products and new versions of existing products are always included in the News page. There's a link to the IMS-L listserv, where IMS professionals can ask questions and share information.

Members can access PDF versions of presentations and PDF versions of newsletters.

The idea was to create a one-stop shop for IMS professionals, where individuals using IBM’s IMS hierarchical database and transaction processing systems could exchange information, learn new techniques, and advance their skills with the product.

Obviously, there are sponsorship opportunities available to vendors of IMS-related products to help fund this work. Vendors can place banner adverts, etc. However, since its inception, NEON Enterprise Software has provided Web hosting for the site, and funded the WebEx technology that we have used to make the regular webinars possible, as well as meeting other costs. This is now coming to an end, and the Virtual IMS Connection user group is looking for a new home.

If your organization might be able to help keep this important user group running, please contact me on

You can also find the user group on Twitter at
You can become a fan on Facebook at

Let's hope that the Virtual IMS Connection user group can continue to share ideas, information, and skills into the future.

Sunday, 1 August 2010


Just as IBM was basking in the success of its zEnterprise mainframe-in-a-box, along comes the European Union regulators to take it to task for not allowing its operating system to run on other hardware, and not being fair to spare-part vendors.

The European Commission has already warmed up for its probe into IBM’s workings by taking action against Intel and Microsoft. EU antitrust laws ensure that big organizations deal carefully with small competitors. The EU can issue a range of fines and sanctions should it believe a dominant organization in the market place is abusing its position. IBM’s legal team are used to this kind of battle. Back in 1956 the US Department of Justice reached a consent decree with IBM that, in effect, created a market for used mainframes and mainframe parts. In 1984 the EU agreed with IBM that competing mainframe companies would have access to the mainframe platform.

As we’ve mentioned before, the first complaint comes from T3 and TurboHercules saying that IBM ties its mainframe operating system to its mainframe hardware – and thereby destroys the emulation market. The second investigation was initiated by the Commission alleging discriminatory behaviour towards competing suppliers of maintenance services – spare parts to you and I.

How does IBM respond? The company said that it intends to cooperate with any EU inquiries, while denying there was any merit to the complainants’ claims. It then alleged that the accusations were being fuelled by business rivals. Microsoft is a minority stakeholder in T3. IBM went on to suggest some of its larger competitors want “to mimic aspects of IBM mainframes without making the substantial investments IBM has made and continues to make”. IBM declared these competitors, “are violating IBM’s intellectual property rights”. It continued: “IBM is fully entitled to enforce its intellectual property rights and protect the investments we have made in our technologies”.

It will be interesting to see what comes out this. Bear in mind there’s the NEON zPrime case waiting in the wings as well.

In its on-going watch on successful companies, the Commission has also launched a preliminary anti-monopoly investigation into Google, examining its power in the online search and digital advertising markets.

Friday, 23 July 2010

zEnterprise - three into one does go!

On Thursday 22 July 2010, IBM announced not just their latest mainframe – the zEnterprise – but also a roadmap of how data centres should be – unified, in a single box, and controlled by the best equipped platform in that box. Once code-named Gryphon (you know, the mythical creature with an eagle’s head and lion’s body), IBM’s new hybrid machine (although in the UK you might hear it referred to as a coalition!) brings together the latest mainframe technology with POWER7 and x86 IBM blade systems, giving potential users z/OS, AIX, and Linux all on the one box. And all this is controlled from the mainframe console by the new Unified Resource Manager. You might like to think of this new mainframe as a virtualization hub that manages other workloads in the data centre. Three platforms in one box.

IBM’s view is that data centres are running more than one lot of hardware, and sites are experiencing problems with space for the hardware, keeping control of these different systems, and even communicating between them – so integrating them seems like the obvious answer. And that’s what they’ve done.

But more has come out of the $1.5 billion spent on research and development. The zEnterprise 196 (IBM's name for the two-rack mainframe) includes 96 5.2GHz (up from 4.4GHz on the z10) quad processors (80 of which are used by the client, and the rest are used by the machine itself) and up to 3TB of memory (double the z10s). The new microprocessors offer 100 new mainframe machine code instructions.

In terms of performance, the zEnterprise can handle 50 billion instructions per second, providing a 40-60% performance increase over the z10 without using any more power. A water cooling option, could help reduce energy consumption by up to 12 percent by removing air heat. It also includes the first implementation of RAID memory, which is like RAID for disks, and could be used to increase uptime to beyond the 99.999 availability of current mainframe technology.

The zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX) operates as a tightly-coupled extension to the mainframe through a high-performance private network. The users then add POWER7 or System x blades to four racks. IBM says that POWER7 blades will be available by the end of this year, with System x blades scheduled to ship in the first half of 2011. The new Unified Resource Manager will allow users to install, monitor, manage, optimize, diagnose, and service resources and workloads from a single console across the entire infrastructure.

The new machine includes a DB2 accelerator, called the Smart Analytics Optimzer, which is able to routes database queries either to the mainframe DB2 system or a specialist blade server optimized for smart analytics. IBM estimates that complex database queries can experience up to a ten-fold performance improvement in this environment.

Can you afford it? IBM suggests using zEnterprise will reduce cost of ownership by 55% – but didn’t disclose the actual price. They did say that its price relative to capacity would be lower than for the z10!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Mainframe Workbench from Compuware

Compuware are excited about their "ALL NEW Compuware Mainframe Workbench". They tell me the product is a modernized open development environment that introduces a new graphical user interface for managing mainframe application development activities currently performed in the character-based TSO/ISPF environment. It provides a common framework and single launch-point from which to initiate Compuware's mainframe products. And if your site has other products installed then don't worry, because it's extensible to support other development tooling as well.

Compuware assure me that the look-and-feel of the Workbench is familiar to users accustomed to developing in a GUI, and enables users to interact with mainframes in an intuitive, standardized, and familiar environment. Workbench makes use of Eclipse.

It seems that this initial release consists of a framework (Compuware Workbench 3.0) and modernized user interfaces for Compuware's Abend-AID, Xpediter, and File-AID. It provides:
  • Mainframe fault diagnosis.
  • Application data browse and edit: sequential, indexed, VSAM, DB2, and IMS (to be phased in during this year).
  • Mainframe-hosted COBOL, PL/I, C Language, and HLASM debugging.

The Mainframe Workbench provides a framework that delivers additional ISPF-like functionality, including:
  • Source code edit (powered by SlickEdit).
  • Invocation of mainframe compiler
  • JES functions: job submission, review, print, purge.
  • Dataset management, ie allocation, compression, deletion.

Full details are here:

I guess the big focus of attention this coming week is the new zWow (or is that z11, zNext, etc) mainframe announcement from IBM. More on that next week!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Guide Share Europe letter to sponsors/exhibitors

This is the letter from Mark Wilson, Chairman Large Systems Working Group and UK Conference Manager. If you're interested, then contact Mark on, or phone +44(0) 7768 617006, or write to GUIDE Share Europe, 26 Gower Road, Halesowen B62 9BY, UK.

Dear Potential Sponsor/Exhibitor

I am very pleased to be able to invite you to take part in this year’s GSE Working Groups Conference, which will take place on the 2nd & 3rd November 2010. After the success of the 2009 conference, we will be returning to Whittlebury Hall. Whittlebury Hall is located in Whittlebury, Near Towcester, Northamptonshire, NN12 8QH. Further details of the hotel can be found at

In the next few pages you will find descriptions of the conference, vendor exhibition and sponsorship opportunities.

As you know, Whittlebury Hall is a wonderful setting and we intend to build on the growing success of last year’s conference. We aim to offer an attractive event that is great value for money. I hope you will agree and feel that you would like to be involved as an exhibitor or sponsor. In previous years a number of companies have expressed an interest in giving presentations. If you wish to do this then you should make contact with the chairman of the relevant working group(s), as the detail of the agenda is put together by the working groups and coordinated centrally. If you are unsure who to contact then let me know of the likely topic(s) and I will point you in the right direction.

In an effort to keep the attendance numbers as high as 2009 we will again be offering each GSE member company five free places at the conference.

I hope you will be interested in participating in this exciting event and I look forward to working with you to make it a great success for our members and your customers. If I can be of any assistance please contact me via e-mail, phone or letter as shown at the top of this letter.


Building upon the successful format used in recent years, we will once again have a number of parallel streams covering a large range of subjects, including:
  • CICS   
  • zOS (Large Systems)
  • IMS   
  • Enterprise Security
  • DB2   
  • Software Asset Management
  • Networks   
  • zLinux and zVM

We have negotiated a deal with the hotel, which means we can offer overnight accommodation, including breakfast at £100.00 or £125.00 for double occupancy Including VAT. This can be reserved using your credit card.

As mentioned previously attendance at the conference for GSE member companies will be free. We are hoping to keep attendance costs for non-GSE members similar to last year, again in an effort to keep the attendance high.

For the latest information on the event and news on the agenda as it develops, please visit

Mark Anzani (IBM) will be joining us again for his very popular Birds of a Feather session. It is always surprising that so many people make it to the session. Once again bacon rolls and tea/coffee will be available to help start the day.

We are hoping to organise a plenary session with the ever popular Resli Costabell, to give us all something to talk about at the conference dinner or in the bar.


Last year’s exhibition was the most successful and popular yet and we are confident that this year’s will match that success.

The size for each stand will be an area of approximately 3 metres by 3 metres. Note that we will only be providing a power connection and a table; all other facilities will have to be arranged with the hotel directly. This would be the responsibility of the exhibitor; we would simply provide the introduction. The hotel has wireless access and I am hoping to secure that FOC for the duration of the conference.

The basic cost for a stand will be £1,000, which will include attendance at the conference for two people (to staff the stand), but not accommodation.

Larger or more complex stands may also be available, subject to negotiation. Please let us know your requirements and we will do our best to accommodate them.

A proposed stand layout will be available by the end of September. Stand locations will be allocated to sponsors first (see below) and then on a first come, first choice basis.

This year we plan to utilise the same large room as 2009, with some modifications to the layout. All coffee/tea and lunch breaks will be served from a central location within this room. We are hoping this will maximise your opportunities for networking with your current and future customers.

We are also proposing to serve Pre-Dinner drinks in the vendor area with each vendor stand having a variety of drinks to offer guests in an effort to facilitate greater interaction between the vendors & attendees. Please let me know if you have any issues with this.


We are offering the following sponsorship tiers;
  • Platinum Sponsor - £4,000
  • Gold Sponsor - £3,000
  • Silver Sponsor - £2,000
All of the above options would offer the privileges of
  • A free stand in the exhibition area
  • Free delegate entry for two people on each day
  • Free attendance for two people at the conference dinner/social event
  • Billing as a sponsor (with company logo) in the conference materials higher tiers given higher prominence. Conference materials will include the web site, conference pack, exhibition guide and conference signage
  • Choice of stand location (higher tiers first and first come first choice within tier)

In addition, Platinum and Gold Sponsors will receive the right to have their own promotional displays, subject to prior agreement of the organising committee, in the common areas of the conference.

Platinum Sponsorship includes sponsorship of the conference dinner on a sole or joint basis.

Each of these will give the sponsor(s) some control over the format of the event (in conjunction with the organising committee) and the right to sole (or joint, as appropriate) billing and promotional opportunities at that event.

In addition to the above, we have several other sponsorship opportunities as follows (and we are more than happy to discuss your own ideas for sponsorship - just give us a call);
  • Provision of Conference USB Sticks (1 available). Over the last two years we have provided all conference material on a USB sticks for the delegates. There is an opportunity to provide 300 USB sticks with your company logo and marketing material
  • Sponsored Pre Conference Dinner/Social Drinks event (1 Available)
  • Cost of £1,500, offers the opportunity to display promotional materials, posters etc. during the break concerned and billing in the conference brochure
  • Sponsored Lunch (2 available)
  • Cost £250, offers the opportunity to display promotional materials, posters etc. during the lunch concerned
  • Sponsored Refreshment Break (3 available)
  • Cost £150, offers the opportunity to display promotional materials, posters etc. during the break concerned
  • Sponsorship of the Daily Delegate Feedback Form (2 available). The prize will most likely be some form of gadget: iPod Touch; SatNav; etc. We would agree a form of recognition for your company in the form of a card insert or letter with your company name & logo for a cost of £150 each or the gadget itself
  • Sponsorship of the Conference Feedback Form. This would take the form of a draw at the end of the conference for all completed forms (1 available). The prize will most likely be some form of gadget: iPod Touch; SatNav; etc. We would agree a form of recognition for your company in the form of a card insert or letter with your company name & logo for a cost of £150 each or the gadget itself
  • Sponsorship of the speaker gifts. Each speaker is presented with either a bottle of wine, wine glasses or Amazon vouchers. If you were interested in this please contact me so that we can discuss the costs.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


I’ve been variously involved in securing mainframe data over many years. I’ve looked at encryption of data, External Security Managers (ESMs), certificates, and public key encryption at various times. I’ve only recently become aware of steganography and how that can be used to send covert information in plain sight!

Steganography means concealed (the “stegano” bit) writing (the “graphy” bit), and there was a book about it written in 1499 by Johannes Trithemius – although not published until 1606. Trithemius was Abbot of Sponheim, but, even so, the Catholic Church banned the three volumes of his book (called Steganographia) for almost 300 years. So that must give you a clue as to how difficult it would be to control the use of hidden messages by ordinary people – you and I really!

Here’s an example – this week’s shopping list:
Allspice, lemon, banana, avocado, peanuts, strawberry, pomegranate, sweets, anchovies.
You’d look at that and think there’s nothing hidden in that list. Now look at it again:
Allspice, lemons, bananas, avocado, peanuts, strawberry, pomegranate, sweets, anchovies
It says LEAVE TOWN. Obviously more complicated messages could be included if I had a longer shopping list – but you get the idea.
But there’s an even better and more modern method of steganography – and that’s using images. You can hide messages in the least significant bit in an image. I have hidden a message in the photo below. Can you read it?

 If you want to create your own hidden message, you can have a go at You can also read hidden messages by clicking on “tools” from the menu and “decrypt”.

The pixels in 24-bit images have their colour defined using three numbers. There’s one for red, one for green, and one for blue (RGB). Making a small change to a pixel alters its colour but not so much that the human eye will detect the change. These small changes can be combined to give the ASCII code for a letter – and those letters when put together give a word, a sentence, a complete hidden message. It would be completely plausible that the images in an innocent Web site could contain messages for banned organizations. Those pictures on the MI5 Web site could actually be coded messages to UK operatives (with Internet access) across the globe. But think how many other Web sites could contain coded messages – just who could those messages be for?
Almost any message that can be send – any picture, any digital message, any written or printed message – could contain a hidden message in it.
I’m not trying to make your paranoia worse, I just thought it might be worth checking those images, or reading every second character in a list (or third or fourth!), and making sure someone isn’t sending a message from your Web site that you don’t expect.
Sleep well!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

z11, zNext, zEnterprise System, zWOW!

Even though everyone’s signed non-disclosure agreements, there’s lots of buzz about IBM’s latest mainframe announcement. We thought it would be called the z11, but now we think it will be zNext or zEnterprise System, but whatever it’s called, when it’s announced on the 22 July (the date everyone’s guessing), people are going to say, “Wow!”

Why wow? Well the rumours suggest that this new “mainframe” is going to be a giant step into the future. Not only will the box run z/OS on its 5.2GHz quad-core z processor, but also AIX on Power 7 blades and Linux on x86 blades – all in the same box, and all sharing memory and disk space. Have you said “wow” yet? Well how about this? The multiple OSes will, allegedly, function as one single, logical, virtualized system!

So, although everything is more secretive than a new iPhone launch (although no-one has left a mainframe behind them in a public toilet!), we’ll publish more information as it becomes available.