My Mainframe-Related Pet Peeves

In no particular order:

  1. "Green screens" are good enough. No, they're not. Do you force your users to submit their input and receive their output via punched cards? User interfaces change and evolve, and appearance often matters. Stanford's IBM mainframe served the world's first interactive Web application. If you haven't provided Web user interfaces on your mainframe to serve users' demands, what on earth are you waiting for?
  2. Everyone must use Web interfaces. Some users prefer to continue with their familiar, fast, and efficient 3270 terminal user interfaces. Let them coexist. One size does not fit all.
  3. We haven't implemented encryption yet. Every mainframe has built-in encryption support. Why are sensitive account numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, financial details, and passwords still flying around your network, internal or/and external, "in the clear"? Turn encryption on. Just do it.
  4. FTP overuse. FTP is not an application integration solution! Connect two applications using FTP and you've automatically converted two or more business process steps into a "we might get around to it, eventually, if you're lucky" business process. Do you think your customers want that? And why are you copying all that sensitive data anyway? To make it easier for bad guys to get?
  5. We don't allow TCP/IP connections to our mainframe "for security reasons." Congratulations, that "security" policy inevitably leads to the least possible secure environment you can imagine as the business finds every possible workaround to keep doing business — a true security nightmare. Let the z/OS Security Server and RACF do their jobs, please.
  6. "Open" platforms and storage. If you connect exactly the same storage unit on your SAN (that you're already using for everything else) to a z/VSE system in exactly the same way, does that suddenly make your storage unit "closed"? If you're one of the people responsible for typing in activation keys to make sure Microsoft Windows can actually function, are you the same person who thinks that z/OS and Linux on z, both which eschew keys, are "closed"? Words should have consistent meanings. Many IT vendors have thoroughly debased the word "open," and some of us have fallen for that particular word game. It's past time they stop — and that all of us wise up.
  7. "Mainframes are expensive." You know what's expensive? Not knowing the value of your financial holdings during a financial crisis because you've scattered bits of your portfolio records into little servers — that's expensive. Letting unreleased Michael Jackson records escape before you can monetize them. Billions of dollars of credit card fraud. Building yet another massive data center. Paying for 60 more licenses of Brand O middleware (this week). Adding another 20 staff to your payroll (this week) to support the IT mess you've implemented. You know what's not expensive? Mainframes. Stuff that works well isn't expensive.
  8. "But that would require us to add MIPS...." So what? Business growth is never free, but it's darn inexpensive if it's a mainframe that's growing. And do you see MIPS listed as a currency, next to the yen, dollar, euro, and pound? It's not. IBM has different prices for different workloads.
  9. Mainframe chargeback regimes. Everybody does them wrong. It's only a question of how wrong. Just because a mainframe, as a standard feature, lets you count and apportion various technical quantities like CPU-seconds doesn't mean they have much cost accounting significance. You certainly shouldn't be putting prices on those technical quantities while everything else in your data center (and beyond) remains uncounted, nor should those prices be different than true marginal costs (which can often be zero or near-zero).

Do you have any more I should add to the list?

by Timothy Sipples March 7, 2012 in Economics, Financial, Security


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