zEnterprise Back to the Future— 3270 Mainframe Computing

Remember 3270 computing? Those were the pervasive green screen terminals that connected to the mainframe. The user would tab his or her way through seemingly endless screens to get anything done? At IBMer Frank DeGillio’s presentation on mobile and the mainframe during the recent SHARE conference in Boston this image popped up.

3270 terminal

3270 terminal

DancingDinosaur hasn’t seen one of these in years. It was the last slide in DeGillio’s deck for his session titled Mobile and the Mainframe. He covered mobile, cloud, VDI, and, suddenly, this!

DeGillio wasn’t actually advocating for a return to 3270 computing.  Rather he was describing the evolving reality of mobile, cloud, and VDI.  You end up with smart devices—mobile phones and tablets—that are configured with terrific compute, memory, communications, and display capabilities. Yet for all their capabilities, there still needs to be something else. And that is the enterprise’s data and business logic. Often that resides on distributed systems, which are quickly becoming latest legacy systems.

Especially at large enterprises, which may be supporting thousands of smart mobile devices, the data and business logic more often than not lies with the mainframe. No problem; the mainframe data center knows how to handle security, availability, and scalability for tens of thousands of concurrent users. This is what mainframe data centers have done going all the way back to the 3270 days and before.

When you come down to it, the 3270 device connected to the mainframe, wasn’t that much different from today’s smart devices needing to connect to the data and business logic residing in the data center. Sure, they have compelling displays and nifty features like swipe and tap or GPS and media but they still need the enterprise business logic and data.

Combine the profusion of smart mobile devices thanks to BYOD with VDI running on the hybrid zEnterprise to serve up their Windows office productivity applications along with business applications, business logic and enterprise data at massive scale to create what resembles a 3270 system on steroids.

This is not ready for prime time today, but with some of IBM’s recent statements of direction, it may be soon.  For example, IBM intends to provide additional platform support for z/OS to an updated Worklight, its primary mobile development and deployment tool.  The company anticipates extending Worklight support to both IBM System z hardware and the z/OS operating system in the future.

As for CICS, which would have to be play a key role, IBM intends, according to a recent statement of direction, to deliver enhanced support for mobile applications interacting with IBM CICS Transaction Server for z/OS (CICS TS) services, using the lightweight data-interchange format JavaScript Object Notation (JSON).  IBM also intends to introduce support for deploying qualified new CICS TS workloads on IBM zNALC logical partitions (LPARs). Qualified new CICS TS applications, including approved mobile and service-enabled applications running in the CICS TS Java Virtual Machine (JVM) Server, will be eligible for CICS TS one-time-charge (OTC) pricing when deployed to a zNALC LPAR.

“We’re going back to the 3270 world,” suggested DeGillio. Well, not exactly and not immediately.  But when the industry does move that way, the mainframe data center can take over much of the heavy lifting and use its mainframe scale and expertise to lower the cost, deliver performance, and manage resources.

Cloud and distributed people can’t do this nearly as well, DeGillio continued. “Cloud people need to start a server when they want to do something else. They don’t understand isolation and scale; they don’t understand how to run VDI to z/OS on the same platform.” But mainframe data center managers do, and that’s what it will take to lower enterprise mobile computing costs and make it work at scale.

Don’t start dusting off those 3270 terminals just yet.  You can, however, start thinking about tuning your 3270 processes and procedures for use with this new generation of connected smart mobile terminals.

One place you probably won’t find 3270 terminals will be at IBM’s upcoming Enterprise 2013 conference in Orlando, Oct. 21-25. This combines the System z and Power Systems Technical University with an Executive Summit on enterprise class systems. Dancing Dinosaur expects to be there, hoping to learn, among other things, more details of the POWER 8 processor, which IBM has just started revealing publicly. It is not too early to start planning to come.

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One Response to “zEnterprise Back to the Future— 3270 Mainframe Computing”

  1. Enterprise 2013 Offers a Packed Program of System z, zEnterprise, Linux on z Sessions | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] –The Return of Terminals. DancingDinosaur touched on this just a couple of weeks ago here. The session will delve into what it sees as an IT revolution, where mobile devices start replacing […]

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