Peter O'Neill

As part of my research around the IT management software market, I spent some days with CA the other week and met several of their customers as well. One of the topics we discussed was the mainframe. There is clearly resurgence in interest in using the mainframe in many enterprises. IBM’s System z mainframe family is mentioned often by our clients as a strong consolidation platform to capitalize on the trend to do more with less: the zSeries not only runs legacy apps, but it is capable of consolidation hundreds of commodity servers under Linux. However, enterprises are cautious about using their mainframes because of shortage of mainframe management resources: not software but people.

Now both IBM and BMC Software have done some sterling work in assisting schools and universities to provide education in mainframe topics and generate a new source of mainframe operations experts for companies to recruit to replace their existing, but retiring, staff. But CA has gone one step further. The biggest labor and time-consumer in mainframe management is the scripting and maintenance of JCLs. CA set up an R&D facility in Prague last year and gave those 100-odd employees, most of whom are fresh out of college, the charter: “Write code for Mainframe 2.0”. So they have written an “Install Shield” for the mainframe called CA Mainframe Software Manager which automates the process of installing and maintaining mainframe software. This is a Java application on z/OS developed by “twenty somethings” for “twenty somethings”. The productivity improvement, as reported by CA’s first customers, is impressive. Installing CA Librarian, usually a job requiring 28 minutes when done by an experienced mainframe operator can now be done in 2 minutes if that operator uses MSM. More compelling, though, is the fact that a novice operator would only require 6 minutes to perform this operation compared to 73 minutes without the tool (disregarding the errors that are likely to be made the first few times).

Another use of the MSM is to validate the configurations of production software on the mainframe, another common task where operators spend many hours a week running their checks. CA now provides “health check” templates for operators to run these jobs automatically and save a bunch of time which can be better spent on more productive tasks.

So, if you have a mainframe or two, check out these automation tools and understand how you can firstly save operations time;  secondly improve the quality of your operations processes and, probably most importantly, begin to leverage younger resources to perform management tasks on the mainframe. This will enable you to begin to re-organize IT operations away from the technology silo structure you probably still have.

By Peter O'Neill

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