Sunday, May 09, 2021

Thinking About the Mainframe, the Cloud, and IBM Think 2021

A Bit about Think

I am looking forward to attending the IBM Think 2021 conference, IBM's annual flagship technology event. I have attended several in-person Think events, as well as last year’s virtual conference, and I always come away with new knowledge and additional insight into technology and IBM’s vast portfolio of hardware, software, and solutions. The Think conference is always one of the tech highlights of the year for me!

This year’s event, IBM Think 2021, is again being held as a virtual conference, May 11 and 12, 2021. And it is free of charge, which means that you can experience all the great education, presentations, and networking opportunities without having to leave your desk.

My favorite aspect of the Think conference is the breadth and scope of pertinent technical content that it covers. Whether you are a developer, a DBA, a data scientist, a manager, an executive, or any flavor of IT or business specialist, there will be a wealth of useful information presented to educate you and make you “think.”  Be sure to register here.

My Think 2021 Agenda

There are multiple sessions to be delivered at this year’s IBM Think conference that intrigue me because they focus on areas where I specialize.  For example, Dr. Dario Gil, SVP and Director of IBM Research will be delivering a keynote session on IT infrastructure which is sure to be educational. This session, 2081, offers a deep dive into the IBM innovations powering the next generation of hardware, including IBM Z.

Another session I am looking forward to is session 2303 focusing on security “everywhere.” It features IBM luminaries like Tom Rosamilia, Senior Vice President, IBM Systems, and Mary O’Brien, General Manager IBM Security. And Forrester Research Director, Lauren Nelson, will also be lending her industry expertise to the session.

But I think the Think 2021 session I am most looking forward to is The IBM Z roadmap for hybrid cloud and AI (session 1605) featuring Ross Mauri General Manager for IBM Z. Mauri promises to offer a timely discussion on the business value of integrating the IBM Z platform as a full participant into your hybrid cloud. And he’ll speak with Russell Plew, Technology Senior Manager at M&T Bank who will discuss their real-life experiences in doing so!

Why is this session so interesting to me? Well, I’ve worked with the mainframe my entire career, and as anybody who works on the mainframe knows, the IBM Z platform is used to drive mission-critical workloads across all major industry sectors, worldwide. If your organization needs to perform large-scale transaction processing (thousands of transactions per second), support thousands of users and programs concurrently, manage terabytes of information, and handle large-bandwidth communication, chances are you rely on the mainframe to do that because the platform excels at all of those things.

If you’ve ever deposited a check into your bank account, booked a flight on an airline, or used a credit card to purchase something, it is probable that a mainframe was involved in completing that activity!

Ever since Stewart Alsop of InfoWorld predicted the last mainframe would be unplugged on March 15, 1996 there has been a lingering perception that the mainframe would go away at some point. But here we are, 25 years later, and the mainframe is still going strong! At last year’s IBM Think conference IBM presented the following statistics on the mainframe’s ubiquity and power:

      70% of the Fortune 500 use mainframes and 72% of customer-facing applications are dependent on the mainframe for some or all data processing.

      Mainframes are designed to be able to process a trillion web transactions a day with the capability to process 1.1 million transactions per second.

      95% of transactions in the banking, insurance, airline and retail industries are handled by mainframes.

Indeed, the mainframe continues to offer a strong, unparalleled platform for performance, security, and reliability. Of course, the mainframe has changed and grown over its 50+ year lifespan. Today’s IBM z15 is light-years beyond the original IBM System/360 introduced in 1964. Some of the great newer capabilities of the IBM Z include encryptions everywhere with pervasive encryption and Data Privacy Passports, rack-mountable mainframes, Instant Recovery, and cloud-native development. I’m looking forward to hear how IBM’s customers have taken advantage of these, and other capabilities, to integrate the IBM Z into their hybrid cloud architecture.

It only makes sense that businesses relying on the mainframe will continue to do so, even as they embrace cloud computing. This is what the “hybrid” in the term hybrid cloud implies, an IT infrastructure that uses a mix of on-premises and private / public cloud from multiple providers. And this approach makes the most sense because everything can’t shift to the cloud immediately (perhaps ever) because most existing applications were not built with an understanding of the public cloud and it would take a lot of investment to re-engineer them to properly take advantage of a public cloud architecture. And even if you wanted to move everything, cloud service providers (CSPs) can’t build out their infrastructure fast enough to support all the existing data center capacity “out there” to immediately support everything.

So, it will be exciting to watch the IBM continue to innovate on the IBM Z platform as enterprise customers work to integrate Z as a vital component of their hybrid cloud infrastructure. With the large investment enterprises have in their working mainframe applications, large data sets and databases containing crucial data, and high-volume processing requirements they will continue to rely on the mainframe well into the future… and that makes it important to understand how IBM is enabling the IBM Z to participate in your hybrid cloud architecture.

So, join me at Think 2021 for session 1605 to learn how to use your investments in IBM Z and build and modernize applications into container-based workloads using a common DevOps experience. And stick around for other sessions to gain insights on harnessing the full value of IBM hardware, software and services in your organization as you continue to support, manage, and transform traditional business and IT operations.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Happy Birthday to the IBM Mainframe

I am older than the mainframe... I turned 58 on April 3rd, and the IBM mainframe officially celebrates its 57th birthday today, April 7th.

The IBM 360 was launched on April 7, 1964 and the world of enterprise computing has never been the same.

Here are a few links and articles to check out as we celebrate the ongoing vitality of mainframe computing:

So, all of you mainframe users out there, today is indeed a day to celebrate... another year has gone by, and mainframes are still here... running the world!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Db2 12 for z/OS Function Level 509

Late last month, February 2021, IBM introduced a new function level, FL509, for Db2 12 for z/OS. You can find in-depth details here.

But if you are looking for a high-level synopsis, read on! 

There are several interesting new capabilities introduced with this function level, but perhaps the most important thing that organizations want to know is that there are no new incompatible changes or deprecations introduced with FL509.

Okay, so what’s new here. The first thing to report is an improvement to data security with tamper-proof audit policies. This means that an audit policy cannot be changed, or even stopped, unless requested by an authorized user. And the authorization must be via a z/OS security product (such as IBM’s RACF), not Db2.

This capability provides another step in the separation of duties required for proper auditing. In other words, the audited must not be the controller of the audit policy or auditing capabilities. It also protects administrative users from mistakenly modifying audit policies.

The next new capability delivered by FL509 is high-availability accelerator-only tables. Accelerator-only tables (AOTs) are those defined to the IBM Db2 Analytics Accelerator only, and not in the base Db2 for z/OS. Queries and DML statements issued against AOTs are always routed to an accelerator (because the data does not exist anywhere else).

So, what are high availability AOTs? Well, FL509 delivers the capability to define an accelerator-only table in more than one accelerator. This can improve availability and with workload balancing a query can be rerouted to another available accelerator if the target accelerator is not available.

Also as of FL509, you can specify a compression algorithm at the table, table space, or partition level. This means you can explicitly use either the fixed-length or Huffman compression algorithm at the table, table space, or partition level using CREATE TABLE and ALTER statements. The Db2 catalog is updated to indicate the compression algorithm used for each object.

Finally, FL509 delivers enhanced temporal RI. What this means is that restrictions on UPDATE and DELETE statements are removed relating to the temporal RI introduced originally in Db2 12.

To elaborate, one FL509 is active, when an UPDATE statement with a FOR PORTION OF clause attempts to update the parent table in a temporal RI relationship, the update is allowed as long as the rules of temporal RI are not violated. Likewise, when a DELETE statement with a FOR PORTION OF clause attempts to delete from the parent table in a temporal RI relationship, the deletion is allowed, as long as the rules of temporal RI are not violated.

At any lower application compatibility level, such UPDATE or DELETE statements for a parent table in an RI relationship will fail (with SQLCODE -4736).


Now that IBM is using function levels to deliver significant new capabilities for Db2 12 for z/OS, it is imperative that your organization keeps up-to-date on this new functionality and determines where and when it makes sense to introduce it into your Db2 databases and applications.

Also, be aware that if you are not currently running at FL508, moving to FL509 activates all earlier function levels. You can find a list of all the current function levels here.


Thursday, January 07, 2021

BMC AMI Ops: The Next Generation of Mainframe Systems Management

Assuring the performance of your mainframe systems and applications is an imposing task that keeps getting more complex all the time. It makes sense to arm your IT performance analysts, DBAs, and systems programmers with modern tools so you can optimize performance and thereby deliver superior service to your customers.

Of course, BMC MainView has helped IT professionals manage the performance of their mainframe systems and applications for years. But there are new challenges facing modern organizations that require adaptation and transformation.

Organizations are transforming to become autonomous digital enterprises (ADE). This means that things are getting more complex because availability requirements are expanding (many times requiring 24/7 availability), but IT pros are expected to resolve problems rapidly even as workloads become more unpredictable and IT staff has less experience. These challenges are real and require attention.

And that is why BMC is transforming its MainView product line into BMC AMI Ops!

With BMC AMI Ops you can experience next-level mainframe operational resiliency, AI-powered observability, an intuitive user interface with embedded expertise, actionable insights, and enterprise platform interoperability.

How is BMC AMI Ops engineered to help? Well, it is built for digital business with the understanding that being reactive is not sufficient these days. BMC AMI Ops provides a complete, modular solution with central administration and management.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques are being embraced by an increasing number of organizations for improving their business, so it only stands to reason that your IT operations and support functions should be looking to improve their capabilities using AI and ML, too. And BMC AMI Ops helps you to do that because it is infused with AI/ML-powered analytics to find and fix problems before business services are impacted. With BMC AMI Ops you can improve performance and availability by taking advantage of its built-in intelligent automation and remediation features.

And the user interface is brand new, engineered to support ease of use, to facilitate information instead of raw data, and to guide the user experience. BMC AMI Ops delivers a custom dashboard approach where you can group widgets together for related logical systems or business areas. And you get “out of the box” health indicators for each of the widgets you deploy, meaning it takes less time to be productive right away. Furthermore, a guided path is provided so the user can drill down into additional details as needed. If you are interested in seeing more details on the new user experience for BMC AMI Ops, chick out this blog post from Shay Alsberg (BMC AMI Ops: Evolving the MainView User Experience).

And not to fear, for those of you experienced mainframe pros who not only know how to drive ISPF panels but prefer it, BMC AMI Ops can still be accessed using character-based panels.

The bottom line is that BMC AMI Ops is designed for modern businesses and IT, as they embrace digital transformation to become autonomous digital enterprises, enabling them to deliver a simplified yet customizable systems management experience for optimizing your system and application performance. That’s BMC AMI Ops in a nutshell… and it is worth looking into how BMC AMI Ops can help you to improve the performance of your systems and applications.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Happy New Year 2021!

Well, here it is, the day we've all waited for since about March of last year... the dawning of a new year. 

Happy New Year 2021!

Good riddance to 2020 and all of the problems we faced and hello to a brand new year that, of course, will bring new problems and issues, but hopefully not on the scale we dealt with last year!

Here's hoping that the COVID vaccination process works well and that we can all get back to something resembling normal this year. I, for one, am looking forward to attending some tech conferences in person later this year. For example, I'd sure like to attend an IDUG event, the IBM Think conference, and Teradata Analytics Universe in person this year. Hopefully, one or more of those events will happen! 

If not in person, then I'll happily attend a virtual event until things are safe.

And I hope that everybody out there has been able to relax and enjoy this holiday season... and will soon be ready to dive back in and tackle the new year.