Today's Potpourri

I have a lot on my mind today, so let's core dump together....

1. TCP/IP and Security. I met a data center manager in Asia last week, and he said he has a blanket policy never to enable TCP/IP on his mainframe. Taken aback momentarily, I politely asked him a few questions. His policy has forced his company to install numerous Microsoft Windows servers to act as gateways, converting between TCP/IP and SNA protocols, particularly LU0 and APPC. They decided to provide super-permissive mainframe IDs to these Windows servers, and Windows is performing all the user authentication and authorization.

Friends, this architecture is crazy-bad, especially in 2007. We already know that many of the well-publicized security breaches involved attacks on mid-tier servers. Every byte of every transaction flows in-the-clear through this company's gateways, through the OS with the largest market for viruses, worms, and trojans. Moreover, his application developers work extra-hard to write and maintain thousands of lines of interface and connection logic.

We will work with this company to enable TCP/IP, with encryption, clean up their security architecture, and dramatically reduce their application development burden. Please, my fellow IT professionals: let the mainframe help secure your enterprise. The mainframe should at least authorize every transaction, every database access. It won't be hard. This company should have everything they need in their CICS Transaction Server, DB2, IMS, MQ, and z/OS installation. Stop wasting money and undermining your company's security.

2. The Musical Mainframe. Geeks are having fun with the IBM 1401 and the System/360-40.

3. The High and Growing Costs of Power and Cooling. How would you describe a Dell PC server in 2007? Old fashioned liquid cooled. Do you think you might want to take a fresh look at your data center strategy before you start to run pipes?

4. Mainframe Migration. In my part of the world we're seeing new and serious interest in migrating from abandoned Fujitsu, Hitachi, NEC, Unisys, Wang VS, and other frozen platforms to the thoroughly modern and ever-evolving IBM System z mainframe. I think the United States completed many of these migrations a decade or more ago, but Asia is still catching up. Obviously the System z offers the easiest and most attractive migration destination for these systems. Please post any services, products, tools, or other capabilities you think might further ease these migrations. I'll be sure to pass these ideas along. I don't mind blatant advertising at all as long as your stuff is useful.

5. IBM Lowers VSE Price for Many Customers. I was looking at the price for z/VSE 4.1 recently, specifically Central Functions. First of all, it appears that IBM did not add its usual inflation adjustment to the price of V4, so you'll get to pay for V4 with depreciated dollars. However, IBM did add subcapacity pricing to V4 if you are running on a System z9. The z9 BC Model A01 doesn't qualify, but the B01 model (about 38 MIPS) does. Anyway, what this means is that, if you buy a B01 and run z/VSE V4.1's Central Functions, you can actually lower your software bill if you can live within a roughly 20 MIPS softcap. Previously the best you could do with z/VSE V3 was about 26 MIPS (z890 110 or z9 BC A01) full capacity. A 20 MIPS softcap inside a 38 MIPS machine is quite nice: you have room to grow, and softcaps allow temporary spikes above 20 MIPS. Or you can add a small z/OS LPAR or two, perhaps with zNALC pricing if you qualify. You can add a Linux processor (IFL) to the z9 BC, and it's both faster and cheaper than before. The IFL is great for adding all the "cool, new stuff" to your VSE installation (like the WebSphere VSE connectors) and for saving money when you move certain software from distributed servers.

In short, it's nice to see IBM offer a much better package for its smallest VSE customers.

by Timothy Sipples June 30, 2007
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zSummer University in Germany

From August 27th to September 7th, the IBM Development Lab in Boeblingen, Germany, will be hosting this year's zSummer University - two weeks full of lectures, practical workshops, and programming courses where selected students will learn about important System z hardware and software products and can put their new knowledge into immediate practical use. There will be plenty of opportunities for intense discussions and networking, not only during the workshops and educations, but also at the kick-off meeting and half-way party. Besides touching upon some more general topics like the Cell Broadband Engine processor and novel programming languages, the zSummer University will focus on:

  • System z hardware architecture,
  • z/Linux, z/OS, and z/VSE,
  • System z administration,
  • CICS, IMS, and DB2 on System z,
  • WebSphere on System z,
  • WebServices and SOA,
  • The Gameframe.

View this photo

If you are a student of an advanced studies program in computer science or a related field of study at a German university, are eager to learn more about System z, and have time from August 27th to September 7th, then apply for the zSummer University by sending us your application, including your resume and your motivation for applying, by July 31st. For the 25 participants, IBM will provide accommodations in Stuttgart city and free meals at the development lab. Contact information as well as further details are available at http://www.ibm.com/de/entwicklung/jobs/summer_uni.html .

(Stefan Letz contributed this posting)

by Boas Betzler June 27, 2007 in Application Development
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Mainframe takes Manhattan - zSummit 2007

Big Iron hit the Big Apple yesterday for this year's press and analyst summit about the mainframe.

First-off, here are a couple of posts by James Governor worth reading

This is a pretty comprehensive briefing event, but one theme really rang out: The mainframe seems young.

Just hear me out. 

There were 11 college students and four professors in the front rows this year - all dedicating their studies to the mainframe.  Then, also in the front row was a dynamic character named Tarq Teles.  Okay, he's a CIO at a mainframe summit.  No shocker there. But he's the CIO of a seriously cool online gaming company called Hoplon.  He's in the process of rolling out one of the world's largest multi-player online games ever.  Perhaps millions of players at once.  Guess what platform he's using to run it.  Come on - guess.

Both Tarq and the students spoke at the event from different points of view.  But here was their common ground: they're each brilliant and their futures (and each seems to have no doubt that theirs is a lucrative one) is about the mainframe.

Tarq's cameo came during the keynote speech and was one sight to see.  He took the stage with an unknown device half-hidden behind his back and started by saying that he's here to announce the mainframe's latest hardware module.  He then smiled wide, hoisted a joystick and suddenly owned the room.

I snapped a picture of him and his joystick after the fact.

Tarq_3

About ten feet from where this shot was taken, Tarq's laptop was connected via internet to a mainframe 75 miles away in Poughkeepsie.  "You want to play a game on the mainframe?" he asked.

This is not just fun and games.  It's profound.  There is potential in the mainframe that is yet untapped. These are the areas that Tarq and the students at zSummit see.  It's where they're placing their chips.

And, in turn, major banks, top retailers and other companies are betting on those students and their excitement for the mainframe.  Almost half of the kids that I heard from had jobs lined up already.

by Kevin Acocella June 22, 2007
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Free Stuff for Your Mainframe

While IBM says "no additional charge," the rest of the world says "free." Either way, if you've got a mainframe, or you're getting one, there's a lot of new free stuff beyond Linux that you should grab and enjoy. Here are some of my favorites. Do you have any favorite freebies?

1. LPARs. Every z/Architecture mainframe supports at least 15 LPARs. If you don't have an LPAR devoted to new technology exploration, create at least a small one and go have fun. It's safe and, yes, you can almost always create it in ways so that it's free.

2. Friendly z/OS monitoring. Go grab the IBM OMEGAMON z/OS Management Console. If you're still trying to get by only with SMF and RMF (or CMF), you're working way too hard. The OMEGAMON z/OS Management Console monitors at least basic z/OS conditions, provides graphical interfaces, and interoperates with IBM Health Checker for z/OS (another freebie).

3. z/OS UNIX System Services tools, including PHP. If you've got z/OS you've also got UNIX(TM). It's built in. And there are lots of z/OS UNIX freebies available at the IBM Ported Tools for z/OS Web site, including the hot PHP Web development language. Click on "Tools & Toys" to find zip and unzip, among many other staples. [Update on July 4, 2007: Python is also available, as is Ruby in the form of JRuby.]

4. Ease your z/OS installation. The IBM Customized Offerings Driver is a mini z/OS distribution with JES2 to help you get full z/OS up-and-running quicker and easier.

5. Java batch program support. Write Java batch programs using the JZOS Toolkit.

6. Full graphical development workbench. If you have a CICS Transaction Server 3.1 or (when available) 3.2 license, you receive one free copy of WebSphere Developer for System z. You can use this one copy for any purpose. In addition, you may use up to 10 copies for any of several CICS-specific purposes as published in the official CICS announcement letter. It's a marketing promotion copy, though, so if you need IBM support that's an additional fee.

7. Use gcc to compile new z/OS applications. If you cannot afford a commercial C/C++ compiler for z/OS (check the price; it's a lot lower than you probably think), then you can use the free gcc as your compiler. There are many ways to do that, but there's a good write-up and necessary downloads at Tachyon's Web site. (Thanks, Tachyon!) You can also use WebSphere Developer for System z Version 7 or higher to produce and edit z/OS C/C++ code graphically, then compile on your PC with gcc. WDz's Eclipse foundations are open and should allow you to choose your preferred compiler.

by Timothy Sipples June 14, 2007
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