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.