Posts Tagged ‘BMC’

AI and IBM Watson Fuel Interest in App Dev among Mainframe Shops

December 1, 2016

BMC’s 2016 mainframe survey, covered by DancingDinosaur here, both directly and indirectly pointed to increased activity in regard to data center applications. Mainly this took the form of increased interest in Java on the z as a platform for new applications. Specifically, 72% of overall respondents reported using Java today while 88% reported plans to increase their use Java. At the same time, the use of Linux on the z has been steadily growing year over year; 41% in 2014, 48% in 2015, 52% in 2016. This growth of both point to a heightened interest in application development, management, and change.

ibm-project-dataworks-visualization-1

IBM’s Project DataWorks uses Watson Analytics to create complex visualizations with one line of code

IBM has been feeding this kind of AppDev interest with its continued enhancement of Bluemix and the rollout of the Bluemix Garage method.  More recently, it recently announced a partnership with Topcoder, a global software development community comprised of more than one million designers, developers, data scientists, and competitive programmers with the aim of stimulating developers looking to harness the power of Watson to create the next generation AI apps, APIs, and solutions.

According to Forrester VP and Principal Analyst JP Gownder in the IBM announcement, by 2019, automation will change every job category by at least 25%. Additionally, IDC predicts that 75% of developer teams will include cognitive/AI functionality in one or more applications by 2018. The industry is driving toward a new level of computing potential not witnessed since the introduction of Big Data

To further drive the cultivation of this new style of developer, IBM is encouraging participation in Topcoder-run hackathons and coding competitions. Here developers can easily access a range of Watson services – such as Conversation, Sentiment Analysis, or speech APIs – to build powerful new tools with the help of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. Topcoder hosts 7,000 code challenges a year and has awarded $80 million to its community. In addition, now developers will have the opportunity to showcase and monetize their solutions on the IBM Marketplace, while businesses will be able to access a new pipeline of talent experienced with Watson and AI.

In addition to a variety of academic partnerships, IBM recently announced the introduction of an AI Nano degree program with Udacity to help developers establish a foundational understanding of artificial intelligence.  Plus, IBM offers the IBM Learning Lab, which features more than 100 curated online courses and cognitive uses cases from providers like Codeacademy, Coursera, Big Data University, and Udacity. Don’t forget, IBM DeveloperWorks, which offers how-to tutorials and courses on IBM tools and open standard technologies for all phases of the app dev lifecycle.

To keep the AI development push going, recently IBM unveiled the experimental release of Project Intu, a new system-agnostic platform designed to enable embodied cognition. The new platform allows developers to embed Watson functions into various end-user devices, offering a next generation architecture for building cognitive-enabled experiences.

Project Intu is accessible via the Watson Developer Cloud and also available on Intu Gateway and GitHub. The initiative simplifies the process for developers wanting to create cognitive experiences in various form factors such as spaces, avatars, robots, or IoT devices. In effect, it extends cognitive technology into the physical world. The platform enables devices to interact more naturally with users, triggering different emotions and behaviors and creating more meaningful and immersive experiences for users.

Developers can simplify and integrate Watson services, such as Conversation, Language, and Visual Recognition with the capabilities of the device to act out the interaction with the user. Instead of a developer needing to program each individual movement of a device or avatar, Project Intu makes it easy to combine movements that are appropriate for performing specific tasks like assisting a customer in a retail setting or greeting a visitor in a hotel in a way that is natural for the visitor.

Project Intu is changing how developers make architectural decisions about integrating different cognitive services into an end-user experience – such as what actions the systems will take and what will trigger a device’s particular functionality. Project Intu offers developers a ready-made environment on which to build cognitive experiences running on a wide variety of operating systems – from Raspberry PI to MacOS, Windows to Linux machines.

With initiatives like these, the growth of cognitive-enabled applications will likely accelerate. As IBM reports, IDC estimates that “by 2018, 75% of developer teams will include Cognitive/AI functionality in one or more applications/services.”  This is a noticeable jump from last year’s prediction that 50% of developers would leverage cognitive/AI functionality by 2018

For those z data centers surveyed by BMC that worried about keeping up with Java and big data, AI adds yet an entirely new level of complexity. Fortunately, the tools to work with it are rapidly falling into place.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghostwriter. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

 

 

 

BMC Mainframe Survey Confirms z System Is Here to Stay

November 11, 2016

No surprise there. BMC’s 11th annual mainframe survey covering 1,200 mainframe executives and tech professionals found 58% of respondents reported usage of the mainframe is increasing as they look to capitalize on every infrastructure advantage it provides and add more workloads. Another 23% consider the mainframe as the best option to run critical work.

ibm_system_z10

IBM z10

Driving the continuing interest in the mainframe are the new demands for data handling, scalable processing, analytics, and more. According to the BMC survey nearly 60% of companies are seeing increased data and transaction volumes. They opt to stay with the mainframe for its highly secure, superior data handling and transaction serving, particularly as digital business adds unpredictability and volatility to workloads.

Overall respondents fell into three primary groups: 1) entrenched mainframe shops, 58% that are on board for the long haul; 2) shops, 23% that intend to maintain a steady amount of work on the mainframe; and 3) the 19% that are moving away from the mainframe.  The first two groups, committed mainframe shops, amount to just over survey 80% of the respondents.

Many companies surveyed are focused on addressing the increased workload demands, especially the rapidly growing demand for new applications. But surprisingly, the survey does not directly touch on hybrid cloud, cognitive computing or any of the latest technologies IBM has been promoting, not even DevOps, which can streamline mainframe application development and deployment. “We are not hearing much about a hybrid cloud environments or blockchain yet. Most companies seem to be in the early tire kicking stage, observed John McKenny, BMC Vice President, Strategy and Operations.

Eighty-eight percent of companies in the first group, entrenched mainframe shops, for example, are looking to increase the workloads they run on Java on the mainframe, primarily to address new application demands. It also doesn’t hurt that Java on the mainframe also can help lower data center costs by directing workloads to lower cost assist processors.

Other interesting BMC survey findings:

  • Half of the respondents report keeping 50% of their data on the mainframe and continue to invest in the platform for reasons you already know—security, availability, data serving capability
  • Continued steady growth of Linux in production on the z: 41% in 2014, 48% in 2015, 52% in 2016
  • Increased use of Java on the mainframe report as 67% of respondents cite need to meet growing application demand

Those looking to reduce mainframe presence cited three reasons: 1) perception of high cost, 2) outdated management understanding, and 3) looking for ways to reduce workloads over time.  DancingDinosaur has spoken with mainframe shops intending to migrate off the z and they cite the usual reasons, especially #1 above.

Top mainframe priorities for 2016 according to the BMC survey:  Cost reduction/optimization (65%); data privacy, compliance, security (50%); application availability (49%); application modernization (41%. Responses indicated the priorities for next year haven’t changed at all.

Surprisingly, many of the latest technologies for the z that IBM has touted recently have not yet shown up in the BMC survey responses, except maybe Java and Linux. This would include hybrid clouds, blockchain, IoT, and cognitive computing. IDC, for example, already is projecting cognitive computing to grow at a CAGR of 55.1% from 2016 to 2020. For z shops, however, cognitive computing appears almost invisible.

In some case with surveys like this you need to read between the lines. Where respondents report changes in activity levels driving application growth or the growth of interest in Java or the frequency of application changes and references to operational analytics they’re making oblique references to mobile or big data or even cognitive computing or other recent technologies for the z.

At its best, the BMC notes that digital technologies are transforming the ways in which mainframe shops conduct business and interact with their customers.  Adds BMC mainframe customer Credit Suisse: “IT departments are moving toward centralized, virtualized, and highly automated environments. This is being pursued to drive cost and processing efficiencies. Many companies realize that the Mainframe has provided these benefits for many years and is a mature and stable environment,” said Frank Cortell, Credit Suisse Director of Information Technology.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

 

 

BMC MainView for Java Manages Critical Digital Business

May 16, 2016

A large European financial services firm increasingly handles a lot of critical transaction functions with Java running through CICS and WebSphere.  As the firm looks forward, its managers see Java playing a bigger and more critical role in its core business as it shifts more of its business functionality to agile programming in Java. This firm is not even thinking about abandoning its workhorse COBOL code ever, but all new work is being directed to Java.

bmc mainview java 2

With that in mind, BMC last week announced MainView for Java Environments, part of BMC’s MainView integrated systems management suite of tools that provides insight into how Java is consuming resources and affecting application performance on the z System.  It is no surprise, therefore, that the firm became an early beta user for MainView for Java Environments.

According to a BMC survey, 93% of mainframe organizations in a recent BMC survey said Java usage is growing or steady, and Java is the language of choice for writing new or rewriting existing mainframe applications. BMC MainView for Java Environments provides insight into Java resource usage and how it impacts other workloads and applications. For example it automatically discovers all the Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) across z/OS. That alone can help with identifying performance problems in an effort to find and fix problems fast.

Java is the key to both performance and cost savings by running on zIIP assist processors. Java workloads, however, can affect performance and availability on the mainframe, as they consume system resources without regard for the needs of other applications or services, which is another reason why zIIP is essentially. Also, an integrated management approach gives IT operations a holistic view of the environment to quickly and easily discover Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) and to manage the effect of their resource consumption on application performance.

Java was the first object oriented programming language DancingDinosaur tried.  Never got good enough to try it on real production work, but here’s what made it appealing: fully object oriented, produces truly portable write-once, run-anywhere code (mainly because it results in Java virtual machine bytecode) and had automatic garbage collection. For a run-of-the-mill programmer, Java was a joy compared to C or, ugh, COBOL. Some of the new languages becoming popular today, the ones driving mobile and cloud and analytics apps look even easier, but DancingDinosaur would feel too embarrassed to sit in a programming class with twenty-somethings the age of his daughters.

Java usage today, according to the BMC survey, is growing or steady, while Java has become the language of choice for writing new or rewriting existing mainframe applications. The only drawback may be that Java workloads can affect performance and resource availability on the mainframe as JVMs consume system resources oblivious to the needs of other applications or services or the cost of uncontrolled resource consumption, which is what Java unrestrained produces. An integrated management approach that allows for a holistic view of the environment can quickly and easily discover JVMs and manage can constrain the effects on resource consumption on application performance and offset any drawback.

Explained Tim Grieser, program vice president, at IDC’s Enterprise System Management Software: “Since Java manages its own resources it can consume excessive amounts of processor time and memory resources leading to performance or availability problems if not proactively managed.” The key being proactively managed.  BMC’s MainView for Java Environments promises exactly that kind of proactive management by monitoring z/OS Java runtime environments and provides a consolidated view of all resources being consumed. This will enable system admins and operators to identify and manage performance issues before they impact end users.

“Java on the mainframe is being used to develop and deploy new applications faster and more economically to meet dynamically changing digital business needs and to take advantage of widely available programming skills” IDC’s Grieser continued. Something like BMC’s MainView for Java Environments can be used to constrain Java. IBM’s Omegamon can fulfill a similar function.

According to the financial firm beta test manager, with BMC’s MainView for Java Environments tool, Java can be effectively used to unlock Java’s potential on the mainframe  vital in a changing application and systems environment as part of an integrated performance management solution that discovers and monitors JVMs. As such, it provides a single graphical console which enables you  to quickly understand the Java applications impact on resources and its effect on the performance of other applications and transactions. The solution promises to improve application performance and ensure availability while reducing Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) and lowering Monthly License Charges (MLC) by monitoring zIIP offloading, which is the key to both performance and cost management.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer and occasional wanna-be programmer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

 

Compuware and BMC Aim to Lower Mainframe Cost

July 9, 2015

Last February, Compuware and BMC announced a joint initiative to coordinate the use of their respective tools, BMC Cost Analyzer, BMC MainView, and Compuware Strobe, to reduce mainframe software licensing cost. DancingDinosaur wrote about it here. The announcement made this week confirms that the necessary integration between the various tools has been completed and is working as promised. Compuware this month also introduced the latest rev of its Topaz graphical management toolset for the z.

compuware topaz screen

Compuware Topaz visual management screen (click to enlarge)

The tight integration between the BMC and Compuware tools enables mainframe staff to quickly and easily identify tuning opportunities that will have the greatest impact on their monthly software licensing costs. They do this by applying BMC Cost Analyzer’s visual mapping to the detailed batch and transaction information provided by Compuware Strobe. The cost savings result from moving workloads to non-peak periods, running IBM subsystems on fewer LPARs, and capping LPAR utilization.

Driving the need for this is the continuing growth of mainframe workloads, which are being pushed today by mobile workloads and, down the road, by new IoT workloads. These workloads already are driving up the Monthly License Charge (MLC) for IBM mainframe software, which led IBM to initiate z/OS discounts for mobile workloads on the z as well as introduce its new ICAP and country multiplex pricing. Compuware estimates that the integrated tools alone can reduce an organization’s mainframe software licensing costs by 10% or more.

“Mainframe cost conservation is an imperative for public- and private-sector IT organizations attempting to fulfill customers’ escalating digital expectations within ever-limited budget constraints,” said Karen Robinson, a former CIO and now a consultant. “The work BMC and Compuware are doing together is a perfect fit for this universal imperative.”

Besides discounting mobile workloads, IBM also has been actively working to help organizations drive down mainframe costs in other ways. Moving workloads to z assist processors is a top choice. Another is to take advantage of a variety of IBM discounts; DancingDinosaur’s favorite is the Solution Edition program, which offers the deepest discounts if you can live with the constraints it imposes. And, of course using tools like those from Compuware and BMC can save money every month. At a time when mainframe workloads are growing—Did someone say the mainframe was going away?—this is a sure path to relief.

Compuware made a second announcement impacting the mainframe this month. This involved adding capabilities to Topaz, its set of graphical z management tools aimed at millennial workers. The new capabilities address Java on the z, which is a key way to cash in on the savings available by shifting workloads to z assist processors, specifically the zIIP. The announcement is here. Again, DancingDinosaur initially wrote about Topaz earlier this year here.

As Compuware describes it, Topaz for Java Performance delivers comprehensive visibility into the performance and behavior of Java batch programs and WebSphere transactions running on the mainframe—including peak CPU utilization of specific Java methods and classes; garbage collection issues such as memory leaks and excessively long collection intervals; and threads that are blocked or not actually doing useful work.

According to Tonya Robison, VP Legacy Integrations, Conversion, De-commission at Alfa Insurance:  “Topaz is enabling us for a multi-channel, multi-platform future. Its functionality will allow us to work with mainframe and non-mainframe data in a common, visual, and intuitive manner, providing our next-gen developers the same agility and speed as our seasoned IT pros.” Robison is convinced that “products like Topaz will protect our current investments and enable the next generation of application developers.” These are the millennials everyone is trying to attract to the mainframe.

The new release of Topaz, the third this year alone, delivers two capabilities that enhance customers’ ability to maximize value from their mainframe:

  1. Topaz for Program Analysis gives developers intuitive, accurate visibility into the flow of data within their COBOL or PL/l applications—including how data gets into a field; how that field is used to set other fields; and how that field is used in comparisons. This promises to be especially useful for Millennials who may not have a wealth of experience with IBM z Systems.
  1. Topaz for Enterprise Data brings high-speed, compression-enabled host-to-host data copying that exploits IBM z Systems zIIP processors, thus reducing the burden on its general processors. This fast, efficient copying enables developers to complete their work more quickly and at less cost.

Efforts of Compuware, BMC, and others are rapidly changing the mainframe into an agile platform that can rival distributed platforms. Let’s hope the Millennials notice.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing on Technologywriter.com and here.

BMC and Compuware to Drive Down Mainframe Costs

February 20, 2015

This year jumped off to an active start for the mainframe community. The introduction of the z13 in January got things going. Now Compuware and BMC are partnering to integrate offerings of some their mainframe tools to deliver cost-aware workload and performance management. The combined tools promise to reduce mainframe OPEX even as z systems shops try to leverage their high-value mainframe applications, data, and processing capacity to meet rapidly evolving business challenges.

 compuware bmc logos hi res

Not that things had been quiet before, especially if you consider IBM scrambling to reverse successive quarters on poor financial performance with a slew of initiatives. During that time Compuware went private last fall; about a year earlier BMC went private. Now you have two companies collaborating to deliver tools that will help mainframe shops reduce their software costs. DancingDinosaur has covered previous cost-saving and efficiency initiatives from each of these companies here and here.

Driving this collaboration is the incessant growth of new mainframe workloads, which will likely accelerate with the new z13. Such workload growth is continually driving up the Monthly License Charge (MLC) for IBM mainframe software, which for sub-capacity environments are generally impacted by the highest rolling four-hour average (R4HA) of mainframe utilization for all applications on each LPAR, as measured in MSUs. IBM is helping with discounts for mobile workloads and its new ICAP and country multi-plex pricing, which DancingDinosaur covered here, but more is needed.

The trick requires continually managing those workloads. In effect, IT can most effectively reduce its sizable IBM z Systems software costs by both 1) tuning each application to minimize its individual consumption of mainframe resources and 2) orchestrating application workloads to minimize the LPAR utilization peaks they generate collectively at any given time.  Good idea but not easy to implement in practice. You need automated tools.

According to Frank DeSalvo, former research director at Gartner: “The partnership between BMC and Compuware launches an integrated opportunity for mainframe customers to manage workload inefficiencies in a manner that has not been achievable to-date.”   This partnership, however, “helps organizations leverage their IT budgets by enabling them to continuously optimize their mainframe workloads, resulting in cost effective decisions for both current and future spending.,” as DeSalvo was quoted in the initial announcement.

Specifically, the Compuware-BMC collaboration brings together three products: BMC Cost Analyzer, BMC MainView, and Compuware Strobe.

  • BMC Cost Analyzer for zEnterprise brings a financially intelligent workload management tool that enables z data centers to identify MLC cost drivers and take appropriate measures to reduce those costs.
  • BMC MainView provides real-time identification of application performance issues, enabling customers to quickly eliminate wasteful MSU consumption.
  • Compuware Strobe delivers deep, granular and highly actionable insight into the behavior of application code in the z systems environment.

The partners integrated the products so they actually work together. One integration, for instance, allows BMC Cost Analyzer to call Compuware Strobe for a detailed analysis of the specific application component for peak MLC periods, enabling customers to proactively tune applications that have the greatest impact on their monthly software licensing costs. A second integration with BMC MainView allows customers to either automatically or manually invoke Strobe performance analysis—empowering mainframe staffs to more quickly, efficiently, and consistently when performing cost-saving tuning tasks.

compuware bmc screen shot Courtesy of Compuware, click to enlarge

BTW, at the same time Compuware introduced the latest version of Strobe, v 5.2. It promises deep insight into how application code—including DB2, COBOL 5.1, IMS and MQ processes—consume resources in z environments. By providing these insights while making it easy for multi-discipline mainframe ops teams to collaborate around these insights Strobe 5.2 enables IT to further drive down mainframe costs. At the same time it improves application responsiveness.

Besides the software licensing savings that can result the organization also benefits from performance gains for these applications. These too can be valuable since they positively impact end-user productivity and, more importantly, customer experience.

DancingDinosaur feels that any technology you can use to automate and streamline your systems operations will benefit you because people are always more expensive and less efficient than technology.

Alan Radding is DancingDinosaur. Follow this blog on Twitter, @mainframeblog. View my other IT writing at Technologywriter.com and here.

Mainframe Appeal Continues in 9th BMC Survey

October 30, 2014

With most of the over 1100 respondents (91%) reporting that the mainframe remains a viable long-term platform for them and a clear majority (60%) expecting to increase MIPS due to the normal growth of legacy applications and new application workloads the z continues to remain well entrenched. Check out the results for yourself here.

Maybe even more reassurance comes from almost half the respondents who reported that they expect the mainframe to attract and grow new workloads.  Most likely these will be Java and Linux workloads but one-third of the respondents listed cloud as a priority, jumping it up to sixth on the list of mainframe priorities. Mobile was cited as priority by 27% of the respondents followed by big data with 26% respondents.

ibm zec12

Apparently IBM’s steady promotion of cloud, mobile, and big data for the z over the past year is working. At Enterprise2014 IBM even made a big news with real time analytics and Hadoop on the z along with a slew of related announcements.

That new workloads like cloud, mobile, and big data made it into the respondents’ top 10 IT priorities for the year didn’t surprise Jonathan Adams, BMC vice president/general manager for z solutions.  The ease of developing in Java and its portability make it a natural for new workloads today, he noted.

In the survey IT cost reduction/optimization tops the list of IT priorities for 2014 by a large margin, 70% of respondents, followed by application availability, 52%.  Rounding out the top five are application modernization with 48%, data privacy, 47%, and business/IT alignment, 44%. Outsourcing finished out the top 10 priorities with 16%.

When asked to look ahead in terms of MIPS growth, the large majority of respondents expected growth to continue or at least remain steady. Only 9% expected MIPS to decline and 6% expected to eliminate the mainframe.  This number has remained consistent for years, noted Adams. DancingDinosaur periodically checks in with shops that announce plans to eliminate their mainframe and finds that a year later many have barely made any progress.

The top mainframe advantages shouldn’t surprise you:  availability (53%); security (51%); centralized data serving (47%) and transaction throughput (42%). More interesting results emerged when the respondents addressed new workloads. The mainframe’s cloud role includes data access (33%), cloud management from Linux on z (22%) and dynamic test environments via self-service (15%). Surprisingly, when it comes to big data analytics, 34% report that the mainframe acts as their analytics engine. This wasn’t supposed to be the case, at least not until BigInsights and Hadoop on z gained more traction.

Meanwhile, 28% say they move data off platform for analytics, and 14% report they federate mainframe data to an off-platform analytics engine. Yet, more than 81% now incorporate the mainframe into their Big Data strategy, up from 70% previously. The non-finance industries are somewhat more likely to use the mainframe as the big data engine, BMC noted. Those concerned with cost should seriously consider doing their analytics on the z, where the data is. It is costly to keep moving data around.

In terms of mobility, making existing applications accessible for mobile ranked as the top issue followed by developing new mobile applications and securing corporate data on mobile devices. Mobile processing increases for transaction volume came in at the bottom of mobility issues, but that will likely change when mobile transactions start impacting peak workload volumes and trigger increased costs. Again, those concerned about costs should consider IBM’s mobile transaction discount, which was covered by DancingDinsosaur here in the spring.

Since cost reduction is such a big topic again, the survey respondents offered their cost reduction priorities.  Reducing resource usage during peak led the list.  Other cost reduction priorities included consolidating mainframe software vendors, exploiting zIIP and specialty engines (which have distinctly lower cost/MIPS), and moving workloads to Linux on z.

So, judging from the latest BMC survey the mainframe is far from dead. But at least one recent IT consultant and commentator, John Appleby, seems to think so. This prediction has proven wrong so often that DancingDinosaur has stopped bothering to refute it.

BTW, change came to BMC last year  in the form of an acquisition by a venture capital group. Adams reports that the new owners have already demonstrated a commitment to continued investment in mainframe technology products, and plans already are underway for next year’s survey.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. You can follow him on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Or see more of his writing at Technologywriter.com or in wide-ranging blogs here.

Latest BMC Mainframe Survey Points to Bright System z Future

September 27, 2013

BMC Software released its 8th annual mainframe survey, and the results shouldn’t surprise any readers of DancingDinosaur. Get a copy of the results here. The company surveyed over 1000 managers and executives at mainframe shops around the world, mostly BMC customers.  Guess you shouldn’t be surprised at how remarkably traditional the respondents’ attitudes about the mainframe are.

For example, of the new areas identified by IBM as hot—mobile, cloud, big data, social business—cloud, big data, and mobile barely registered and social was nowhere to be seen.  Cloud was listed as one of the top four priorities by 19% of the respondents. Big data was listed as one of the top priorities for the coming year by only 18% of the respondents, the same as mobile.  The only topic that was less of a priority was outsourcing at 15%.

So what were the main priorities? The top four:

  • IT cost reduction—85% of respondents
  • Application availability—66%
  • Business/IT alignment—50%
  • Application modernization—50%

Where the researchers did drill down into one of the new areas of focus, big data, the biggest number of respondents, 31%, reported identifying the business use case as their biggest challenge. Other challenges were the cost of transforming/loading mainframe data to a centralized data warehouse (24%) followed by the effort such a transformation required (20%).  Another 11% noted the lack of ETL tools for business analytics.  Ten percent cited lack of knowledge about mainframe data content—huh? That might have been the one thing DancingDinosaur found truly surprising, although without knowing the specific job titles or job descriptions it might not be so surprising after all.

When it came to big data, 28% of the respondents expected to move mainframe data off the mainframe for analytics. An almost equal number (27%) expected the mainframe to act as the big data analytic engine.  Another 12% reported federating data to an off platform analytics engine. Three percent reported Linux on z for hosting the unstructured data.

Moving data off the mainframe for big data analytics can be a slow and costly strategy. One of the benefits of doing big data on the System z or the hybrid zEnterprise/zBX is taking advantage of the proximity of the data. Moving petabytes or even terabytes of data is not a trivial undertaking. For all the hype it’s clear that big data as a business strategy is still in its infancy with much left to be learned.  It will be interesting to see what this survey turns up a few years from now.

Otherwise, the survey results are very supportive to those who are fighting the seemingly perpetual battle of the mainframe as an end-of-life technology.  Almost all the respondents (93%) considered the mainframe a long-term business strategy while almost half (49%) felt the mainframe will continue to grow and attract new workloads.

Some other tidbits from the survey:

  • 70% of respondents said the mainframe will have a key role in Big Data plans.
  • 76% of large shops expect MIPS capacity to grow as they modernize and add applications to address business needs. (This highlights the need for software that minimizes expensive MIPS consumption and exploits the mainframe’s cost-efficient specialty engines.)

No large shops anyway—and only 7% of all respondents—have plans to eliminate their mainframe environment. Glad it’s not worse.

Lastly, there still is time to register for IBM’s Enterprise 2013 conference in Orlando. It will combine the System z and the Power Systems technical universities with an Executive Summit.  The session programs already are out for the System z and Power Systems tracks. Check out the System z overview here and the Power Systems overview here. DancingDinosaur will be there. In the coming weeks this blog will look more closely some intriguing sessions.

BTW–please follow DancingDinosaur at its new name on Twitter, @mainframeblog

Free Stuff Lowers Mainframe Costs

September 9, 2013

Timothy Sipples’ blog Mainframe recently ran a piece listing free software you can get for the System z. The piece, here, is pretty exhaustive, including direct links. In keeping with DancingDinosaur’s continuing search for ways to lower mainframe computing costs, listed below some of Sipples’ freebies; find more in his full piece.

While freebies are always welcome, another proven way to lower mainframe costs is by paying close attention to mainframe software usage and costs. For this, BMC introduced a mainframe software cost analyzer tool that promises to reduce mainframe software operating costs by 20%. Called the BMC Cost Analyzer for zEnterprise, it aims to help IT departments plan, report and reduce their mainframe licensing charge (MLC) by identifying system peaks and recommending preemptive cost-reduction strategies. After deploying the BMC Cost Analyzer, a typical customer consuming 5,000 MIPS — at an annual cost of $3.6 million — could save $720,000 or more with the new BMC solution, according to the company.

Linux, an open source operating system licensed under the GNU Public License (GPL), is the first place Sipples looks for mainframe freebies. The GPL license means you don’t have to pay a license fee to obtain and use Linux; Linux distributors like Novell and Red Hat, however, do charge fees for their optional support services. Here are Sipples’ freebies for Linux on z:

Sipples’ list of IBM Freebies for z/OS, z/TPF, z/VSE, and z/VM

  • IBM makes its Java Software Development Kit (SDK) releases for z/OS available at no additional charge. You may also be interested in the Java technologies available from Dovetailed, such as Co:Z and Tomcat for z/OS.
  • The DB2 Accessories Suite for z/OS (5697-Q02) includes many useful tools and accessories to make DB2 for z/OS more powerful and more useful. Examples include IBM Data Studio, SPSS Modeler Server Scoring Adapter, Spatial Support, International Components for Unicode, and Text Search.
  • Go graphical! You can manage your z/OS system much more easily with graphical interfaces for every major subsystem and component. Grab the z/OS Management Facility. From the Explorer for z/OS you can then use (or directly install) plug-ins for CICS, IMS, IBM’s application development tools, IBM’s problem determination tools, and other products.
  • The XML Toolkit for z/OS (5655-J51) adds to the XML System Services that’s already part of z/OS.
  • IBM offers many more z/OS-related downloads including the IBM Encryption Facility for z/OS Client, Logrec Viewer, LookAt, z/OS UNIX System Service Tools and Toys, and many others.
  • Be sure to install the Alternate Library for REXX to run compiled REXX programs on your z/OS and z/VM systems. Compiled programs won’t run as efficiently as when the regular licensed REXX library is installed, but at least they’ll run.
  • The z/OS Ported Tools (5655-M23) include OpenSSH, IBM HTTP Server, and many other useful products. (Rocket Software also offers several ported tools.)

BMC conducts an annual survey of z data centers. This year, as in previous years, cost concerns were the number one issue.  The number two concern was business availability. The full survey will be released at the end of this month when DancingDinosaur expects to cover it in a little more detail.

Next Generation zEnterprise Developers

April 19, 2013

Mainframe development keeps getting more complicated.  The latest complication can be seen in Doug Balog’s reference to mobile and social business on the zEnterprise, reported by DancingDinosaur here a few weeks ago. That is what the next generation of z developers face.

Forget talk about shortages of System z talent due to the retirement of mainframe veterans.  The bigger complication comes from need for non-traditional mainframe development skills required to take advantage mobile and social business as well as other recent areas of interest such as big data and analytics. These areas entail combining new skills like JSON, Atom, Rest, Hadoop, Java, SOA, Linux, hybrid computing along with traditional mainframe development skills like CICS and COBOL, z/VM, SQL, VSAM, and IMS. This combination is next to impossible to find in one individual. Even assembling a coherent team encompassing all those skills presents a serious challenge.

The mainframe industry has been scrambling to address this in various ways.  CA Technologies added GUI to its various tools and BMC has similarly modernized its various management and DB2 tools. IBM, of course, has been steadily bolstering the Rational RDz tool set.   RDz is a z/OS Eclipse-based software IDE.  RDz streamlines and refactors z/OS development processes into structured analysis, editing, and testing operations with modern GUI tools, wizards, and menus that, IBM notes, are perfect for new-to the-mainframe twenty- and thirty-something developers, the next generation of z developers.

Compuware brings its mainframe workbench, described as a modernized interactive developer environment that introduces a new graphical user interface for managing mainframe application development activities.  The interactive toolset addresses every phase of the application lifecycle.

Most recently, Micro Focus announced the release of its new Enterprise Developer for IBM zEnterprise.  The product enables customers to optimize all aspects of mainframe application delivery and promises to drive down costs, increase productivity, and accelerate innovation. Specifically, it enables both on- and off-mainframe development, the latter without consuming mainframe resources, to provide a flexible approach to the delivery of new business functions. In addition, it allows full and flexible customization of the IDE to support unique development processes and provides deep integration into mainframe configuration management and tooling for a more comprehensive development environment. It also boasts of improved application quality with measurable improvement in delivery times.  These capabilities together promise faster developer adoption.

Said Greg Lotko, Vice President and Business Line Executive, IBM System z, about the new Micro Focus offering:  We are continually working with our technology partners to help our clients maximize the value in their IBM mainframes, and this latest innovation from Micro Focus is a great example of that commitment.

Behind all of this development innovation is an industry effort to cultivate the next generation of mainframe developers. Using a combination of trusted technology (COBOL and mainframe) and new innovation (zEnterprise, hybrid computing, expert systems, and Eclipse), these new developers; having been raised on GUI and mobile and social, can leverage what they learned growing up to build the multi-platform, multi-device mainframe applications that organizations will need going forward.

As these people come on board as mainframe-enabled developers organizations will have more confidence in continuing to invest in their mainframe software assets, which currently amount to an estimated 200-300 billion lines of source code and may even be growing as mainframes are added in developing markets, considered a growth market by IBM.  It only makes sense to leverage this proven code base than try to replace it.

This was confirmed in a CA Technologies survey of mainframe users a year ago, which found that 1) the mainframe is playing an increasingly strategic role in managing the evolving needs of the enterprise; 2) the machine is viewed as an enabler of innovation as big data and cloud computing transform the face of enterprise IT—now add mobile; and 3) companies are seeking candidates with cross-disciplinary skill sets to fill critical mainframe workforce needs in the new enterprise IT thinking.

Similarly, a recent study by the Standish Group showed that 70 percent of CIOs saw their organizations’ mainframes as having a central and strategic role in their overall business success.  Using the new tools noted above organizations can maximize the value of the mainframe asset and cultivate the next generation mainframe developers.

Getting the Payback from System z Outsourcing

February 1, 2013

A survey from Compuware Corporation on attitudes of CIOs toward mainframe outsourcing showed a significant level of dissatisfaction with one or another aspect of mainframe outsourcing. Check out the survey here.

Mainframe outsourcing has been a fixture of mainframe computing since the outset. The topic  is particularly interesting in light of the recent piece DancingDinosaur posted on winning the talent war a couple of weeks ago. Organizations intending to succeed are scrambling to find and retain the talent they need for all their IT systems, mainframe and otherwise.  In short, they need skills in all the new areas, like cloud computing, mobile access, and most urgently, big data analytics.  In addition, there is the ongoing need for Java, Linux, WebSphere, and CICS in growing System z data centers.  The rise of z-based hybrid computing and expert integrated hybrid PureSystems to some extent broadens the potential talent pool while reducing the amount of skilled experts required. Still, mainframe outsourcing remains a popular option.

The new Compuware survey found that reducing costs is a major driver for outsourcing mainframe application development, maintenance, and infrastructure. Yet multiple  associated costs are frustrating 71% of CIOs. These costs result from increases in MIPS consumption, as well as higher investments in testing and troubleshooting due mainly to poor application quality and performance.  In fact, two-thirds (67%) of respondents reported overall dissatisfaction with the quality of new applications or services provided by their outsourcer. The source of the problem: a widening in-house skills gap and difficulties with knowledge transfer and staff churn within outsource vendors.

Compuware has published a related white paper titled, Mainframe Outsourcing: Removing the Hidden Costs, which expands on the findings from the study. The company’s recommendations to remove the costs amount to reverse engineering the problems revealed in the initial survey. These include:

  • Utilize MIPS better
  • Explore pricing alternatives to CPU-based pricing
  • Improve the quality of new applications
  • Boost knowledge transfer between outsourcers and staff
  • Measure and improve code efficiency at the application level
  • Take advantage of baseline measurement to objectively analyze outsourcer performance

The System z offers numerous tools to monitor and manage usage and efficiency, and vendors like Compuware, CA, BMC, and others bring even more.

The MIPS consumption problem is typical. As Compuware reports: mainframes are being used more than ever, meaning consumption is naturally on the rise. This is not a bad thing.

However, where consumption is escalating due to inefficient coding, adding unnecessary costs. For example, MIPS costs are increasing on average by 21% year over year, with 40% of survey respondents claiming that consumption is getting out of control. Meanwhile, 88% of respondents using pay structures based on CPU consumption (approximately 42% of those surveyed) think their outsourcer could manage CPU costs better, and 57% of all respondents believe outsourcers do not worry about the efficiency of the applications that they write.

New workloads also are driving costs. For example, 60% of survey respondents believe that the increase in applications like mobile banking are driving higher MIPS usage and creating additional costs. Just think what they’d report when big data analytic applications start kicking in although some of this processing should be offloaded to assist processors.

The Compuware study is interesting and informative. Yes, outsourcers should be pressed to utilize MIPS more efficiently. At a minimum, they should shift workloads to assist processors that have lower cost per MIPS.  Similarly, developers should be pressed to boost the efficiency of their code. But this will require an investment in tools to measure and benchmark that code and hire QA staff.

A bigger picture view, however, suggests that focusing just on MIPS is counterproductive. You want to encourage more workloads on the z even if they use more MIPS because the z can run at near 100% utilization and still perform reliably. Higher utilization translates into lower costs per workload. And with the cost per MIPS decreasing with each rev of the zEnterprise the cost per workload keeps improving.  Measure, monitor, and benchmark and do whatever else you can to drive efficient operation, but aim to leverage the zEnterprise to the max for your best overall payback.


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