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!