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