Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Java on the Mainframe, big problems ahead? Not if BMC can help it!

By Rich Ptak

Today’s dynamic, mobile-obsessed, service-driven market is proving both beneficial and problematic for data center operations. While conventional “wisdom” has it that it’s distributed and mobile devices have been the big winners. In truth, it increasingly applies to mainframe environments. And, Java on the mainframe is playing a significant role, maybe larger than is known.

The mainframe remains an active, effective and in-demand player in today’s DevOps, agile and mobile-oriented world. Why? Because much of the critical data, information and assets that support the most used applications found in banking, financial services, retail, travel and research, resides and is analyzed there. Mobility-obsessed operations remain linked to and dependent upon mainframe operations.

That’s not to say problems don’t exist. Transaction volumes (often non-revenue producing) have exploded. Unpredictable traffic loads and patterns, complexity of multi-platform integrations, demands for instant response time, etc. have made it more difficult to manage, disrupting maintenance and operations. Yet, they are expected to deliver modernized, mobile applications faster and at lower costs.

One response was to put Java on the mainframe. Its features make it highly attractive. It is tailored for rapid development cycles. Designed for mobile/web applications development, it is platform independent. It integrates easily with a variety of applications, operating environments and data bases. The Java Native Interface (JNI) on z allows easy interaction with embedded program logic coded in multiple languages (COBOL, PL/1, ASM) and environments (CICS, WAS, ISM, DB2, USS, Batch, MQ, TCP/IP). In agile computing and DevOps, Java dominates among programmers and developers as the preferred environment.

Java’s Hidden Threat

Unfortunately, few mainframe experienced staff have extensive Java familiarity or expertise. This means the potential for major problems lurk in the background. Java was not designed to operate in the mainframe’s shared environment. Java does have built-in code to monitor AND manage resources. For instance, it manages memory space with a process of ‘garbage collection’. It identifies memory actively being used, gathers and compacts it, then frees the rest. It does no check for the impact on other programs. In a mainframe environment, these have the potential to seriously disrupt operations, freezing some jobs, delaying completion others.

However, during this activity Java pauses ALL in-flight transactions not just those of a single app. Nor does it check for the impact of its action on applications or technologies. Compounding the problem, there was no integrated view across the system technologies for monitoring and management. In fact, some Java can be running in the data center without all staff aware of it.

With increasing acceptance of Java on the mainframe, BMC’s recent mainframe survey reveals in-use or planned-to-use in 61% of DB2 apps, 57% CICS and 49% IMS apps[i]. This is a serious situation. Tools to manage Java itself exist. But, there is no fully integrated tool to monitor and manage the impact of what it is doing. BMC addresses this lack with MainView for Java Environments (MVJE). Let’s look at what it offers.

BMC’s MainView for Java Environments

 MVJE provides much needed functionality. It does not monitor Java code per se. It monitors the infrastructure to monitor the effects of Java activity. Specific functionality includes:

  • Automatic discovery of  z/OS JVM (early users were often surprised at the amount actually in-use),
  • Monitors real-time metrics for z/OS Java runtime environment to detect the impact of Java activities, e.g. CPU usage, Garbage collection metrics, memory usage data, etc.,
  • Analysis to detect workload impact of Java-initiated management activities (combined with Unix System Services (USS) it can initiate activities to address potential problems e.g. thread use problems),
  • Optimize operations as a result of integration with MainView monitoring for cross-technology analysis, 
  • Customizable dashboard views of Java Runtime metrics.

Much JAVA code is zIIP eligible; automated discovery along with monitoring zIIP offload assures no zIIP eligible code is missed. The additional data on infrastructure impact, resource usage, performance, etc. helps to avoid problems even as it speeds diagnosis and eventual resolution. This reduces the need for cross-functional “War-Room” meetings used to identify, diagnose and resolve Java-caused problems that impact application availability and performance.

MVJE quickly discovers and monitors JVMs. It pinpoints Java’s resource usage, so application performance and availability continue to meet service levels.  IT teams can quickly identify the root cause of problems, reducing MTTR, and improving productivity. MVJE monitoring of  zIIP offloading, helps to lower MLC. 

All normal benefits associated with use of BMC’s MainView product in terms of single, integrated view of systems activities. The risks associated with unmonitored, unmanaged technology are eliminated. More efficient monitoring and assured effective use of zIIP’s help to reduce MLC and capital costs. Intelligent automation allows proactive resolution of problems, again saving costs and improving overall system performance. Complexity is reduced as users can customize dashboards and reports to meet their specific information needs.

 The Final Word

We’ve discussed how Java’s built-in resource and memory management, operating in the background, unmonitored and unmanaged, can increase costs slow processing and waste resources.  BMC’s MVJE, is the first full system monitoring solution to address these risks.

System admins can now gain actionable insight into Java’s impact on infrastructure, resource usage and operations. Java becomes another well-monitored and managed technology.

Beta customers appear to be very satisfied with the product. A number revealed that they had experienced significant savings and improved performance as a result of using MVJE.  We’re not surprised.

BMC is providing existing MainView customers a free Java Discovery. We look forward to interviewing some customers after some experience with the product. We expect some will be surprised at the result as they believed themselves to be ‘Java-free’. We also believe that it will result in a significant number of sales. BMC has once again demonstrated their connection with their customers and their commitment to being a lead in mainframe solutions.

[i] Source: 2015 BMC Mainframe Research Results

Friday, May 20, 2016

Got something to say about the Mainframe? Check this out: BMC launches 11th Annual Mainframe Research Survey

 Got something on your chest about the mainframe? Familiar with your organization’s Mainframe
environment it? Why you use it? Benefits? Where it is going? It’s future? Have you ever wanted to tell a major vendor (and the world) about the mainframe in your enterprise? Here’s your chance.

From May 24th until June 6th, BMC is collecting data for its 11th survey of the trends in mainframe usage.  Already one of largest industry surveys with over 1,200 mainframe professionals and executives participating, BMC is seeking to attract an even larger number of participants.

The research results will be used by vendors, technical and executive users, industry analysts, media, etc. to make significant decisions and draw conclusions on just about everything mainframe. The report will influence investments, product (new and enhancements), hiring, functionality, etc.

The mainframe is a critical backbone with impact across industries and markets from mobility to analytics to complex modeling and the ongoing transformation of digital business.

So, if you’re technical IT staff involved in mainframe management or operations. Or, if you’re part of a Mainframe IT team as an executive, manager or technical architect recommending general management or operation practices. This is your chance to take 20 minutes to contribute to the conversation, and influence the future of the mainframe.

Starting May 24th, you can take the survey here!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Datto Drive: SMB desktop data protection at a hard to refuse price!

By Rich Ptak

Datto provides enterprise-grade backup, restore and recovery services in its privately-owned 200+ Petabyte cloud. Founded in 2007, its 600+ employees build products and support customers from nine (9) data centers and seven (7) offices located around the world. It performs over one million backups every day protecting millions of endpoints. In addition to their private cloud, all devices they use and provide are Datto’s own products.

Datto is all about Business Continuity and Data Recovery (BCDR) for SMB. Their success to date had been built on their use of a private hybrid, Datto Cloud, for backup/restore, advanced storage, instant virtualization (locally and remote), screenshot verification (to remotely verify backup data integrity) and on-prem file sync-and-share (FSS). All delivered through an international network of thousands of Managed Service Providers (MSP).

They expect their next big step forward, Datto Drive, to carry them deeper into the SMB market with in-cloud FSS and BCDR. Before we provide more details on the product, why should you want to know those details?

In its introductory year, Datto is making available:
·         One million Datto Drive accounts for free to:
o   SMB’s (business accounts only, no personal users)
o   For one year
o   With one terabyte of data storage (all managed by Datto in the Datto Cloud).
·         After one year, the offering changes to:
o   $10 per month per domain (NOT per user, the price holds no matter how many users)
o   Service delivered through a Datto MSP partner (which they’ll help you find, if necessary)
o   Premium versions for larger storage volumes and services are available. Premium services are available (for a fee) during the first year.   

Given that competitors price is higher on a per user basis, let’s see what Datto functionality includes.

Datto Drive

Datto Drive brings highly affordable sync-and-share and full backup/restore and disaster recovery for desktop and mobile devices to SMB’s. They are targeting the less than one third of the SMB market not currently working with MSPs today, who are sorely in need of comprehensive, enterprise-grade FSS and BDCR services.

For the price, Datto Drive offers enterprise-grade FSS built on ownCloud open-source technology. They provide the superior security of Datto’s hybrid cloud with advanced capabilities and functionality in permission management, tracking and tracing. There has been no proven data loss since its founding in 2007.

Datto Drive supports virtually every type of file (video, image, audio, text, etc.). File sharing, control and management can be done from any supported device (desktop, deskside, mobile). It permits real-time collaboration for sharing, exchange, editing, etc. across domain users.  Sync and share capabilities are already available for most existing operating systems, i.e. iPhone, Android, iPad, Windows, Linux and Mac. The ownCloud technology means that thousands of value-add apps are available. Finally, it also includes backup for Microsoft 365, OneDrive and SharePoint files.

Final Word

There’s a lot more functionality and things to like about Datto Drive and the rest of the product portfolio. We suggest a visit to to see all that is available. When competitors, such as Dropbox and box are charging $15/user/month for similar services, this offer appears to us to be hard to resist. SMB owners should also move quickly to snag one of the 1 million domain accounts. It’s our opinion that they’ll disappear quickly. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Defining Hybrid Cloud: A View from Above

By Audrey Rasmussen, Rich Ptak and Bill Moran

Looking at Hybrid Cloud from a Different Perspective

The definition of hybrid cloud is evolving as the cloud market progresses and the transition to hybrid cloud continues. The emergence of hybrid cloud brings with it a multitude of new delivery models, services, technologies and more. This wealth of options provides potential hybrid cloud customers with lots of choices. But, it can also be confusing, which elevates the need for relevant detailed definitions.
Business requirements are a key driver for adopting cloud computing. Yet, most hybrid cloud definitions primarily focus on technical descriptions. A technical definition is appropriate and useful for cloud implementers and technical teams. However, it falls short at clarifying hybrid cloud to potential business users.
For example, defining a “jet plane” by describing the engine and overall plane design is a valid approach. However, it misses the important business impact of jet planes in revolutionizing commercial air travel.  Similarly, defining hybrid cloud in strictly IT terms neglects the economic value and business implications of adopting it.
This is particularly important because unless business users understand the value and potential the hybrid cloud delivers, they are unlikely to reap optimal benefits from it. Consequently, their support for IT’s hybrid cloud efforts may be unenthusiastic.
Defining the hybrid cloud is complicated because each implementation is unique, as it fulfills specific business requirements. Since business needs drive adoption, business users must understand what a hybrid cloud can offer and mean to them. This knowledge can transform how business stakeholders innovate and design new business services. In order to reach both business consumers and technical implementers, we believe a broader definition of hybrid cloud is necessary.
We begin with our explanation of hybrid cloud for business cloud consumers.

The Aerial View of Hybrid Cloud: Business View

Some business staffs may think that only the technical IT team needs to understand cloud computing. Although hybrid clouds are enabling technologies, it is equally important for business leaders to understand how they can fundamentally impact and/or change business models and operations. Why? Because realizing the hybrid clouds’ full advantage requires a new, expanded way of thinking about the business and the possibilities.
Cloud computing enables an organization to extend their capabilities beyond the “walls” of their company and frequently beyond the expertise within their company. For example, traditionally, computers and information technology were company owned and resided in corporate data centers. Companies now have the option to pay service providers to use remote computer resources on-demand. Greatly expanded resources become available within minutes or hours, something not always possible in corporate data centers.
Now, cloud computing has and will continue to evolve as the variety of cloud services explodes beyond today’s technology and business resource limits. Diverse cloud service offerings run the gamut from business applications, industry specific data (for example, medical data), cloud development platforms, advanced analytics, video processing, weather data, Twitter data and much more. Today, businesses are able to access diverse services. The result is extending their capabilities far beyond the data residing within their company and the expertise of their employees. It eliminates in-house limitations on capabilities, making possible what is impossible to do in-house, and more. It provides businesses with vast opportunities to innovate creatively, beyond what they can accomplish within the constraints of their companies’ internal capabilities. Business leaders need to understand that this is what hybrid cloud can deliver.
An example is helpful in illustrating the creation of a new business service using a variety of hybrid cloud services. Imagine a car insurer’s customer facing application uses customer policy data (residing on an internal cloud) to gather vehicle coverage. The application uses traffic information (from Cloud service provider A) to warn the customer of an accident just ahead of their location, a potential traffic hazard or slowing freeway traffic. The application also uses weather data (from Cloud service provider B) to warn customers that they are heading directly into potential hail, tornado or adverse weather conditions. A map service (from Cloud service provider C) provides alternative directions avoiding the hazard.
In similar ways, businesses of all kinds are able to compose innovative business services that utilize internal and external cloud services. This changes how business leaders think about innovating and developing business services. Just as botanists create a new hybrid plant by selecting and combining the best plant characteristics, business leaders can create new, innovative hybrid cloud-based services by selecting among the best available services.
A hybrid cloud makes available resources where ownership is not feasible, justified or possible. This can be true for reasons related to operations, cost, or other reasons. It makes collaboration possible without risking production environments. Hybrid cloud can lower the cost of operations, development, sales, marketing, research and development. It opens up otherwise unavailable opportunities by making it possible to use capabilities on a temporary or exceptional basis. It can allow global market access without a global presence. A hybrid cloud allows access to resources and capacity as and when they are needed from public or community clouds that can generally provide services at lower cost than private infrastructure.
Although the basic definition of hybrid cloud sounds simple, there are technical issues that IT teams must attend to behind the scenes in order to implement it, while keeping it simple and seamless. A hybrid cloud requires business leaders and IT to work as a team.

The Ground Level View of Hybrid Cloud: Technical View

As mentioned, many technical descriptions of hybrid cloud are already available. There exists little need for extensive additional discussion here.
For a very simple working definition, we describe a hybrid cloud as being an environment that connects at least two independent cloud services from whatever source. It can consist of public cloud services, private cloud services or 3rd party delivered private cloud services in any combination. Public cloud services also have many “flavors”, for example they may be on- or off-premise, include multiple enterprises (e.g. a community) with access to the same resources, or have co-resident users working in ‘private’ spaces. Private cloud services are enterprise owned/controlled cloud services whose access are controlled by the enterprise or enterprise-authorized entity. An additional major benefit of hybrid cloud is to protect a company’s current investments in infrastructure.


At times, an enterprise needs access to services or capabilities where ownership isn’t necessary or is too expensive. The need may be operational, (e.g. a need to use advanced analytics), or informational, (e.g. access to weather or medical data.) It can be driven by IT or by business concerns. In short, the enterprise requires temporary and/or shared access to IT capacity (compute, storage, network, services, etc.) or functionality it doesn’t own. Hybrid cloud is a utility model which has the potential to more economically and efficiently provide access to a range of products, services and resources on a pay-as-you go basis. Between the rapid innovation of infrastructure and the creativity of marketers, the variety of cloud services offered and number of definitions will continue to expand.
From a business perspective, it puts assets, resources and expertise at the disposal of the enterprise that it otherwise would not have. It allows the enterprise to leverage these assets in creative and innovative ways with manageable financial expense and economic risk. For business staff, it loosens restrictions on what can be accomplished as the enterprise transforms itself to effectively compete in a digitized world.
Since hybrid cloud is the collective composition of multiple cloud services that spans across computing domains, it requires management and coordination of service activities from both in-house and service provider sources. The challenge for IT lies in effectively managing across these hybrid cloud service compositions seamlessly, while delivering what the business needs, in the time frame they need it at the best possible cost point.
Finally, for both IT and enterprise staffs the hybrid cloud provides the opportunity to work more closely together to define and achieve aggressive, innovative enterprise goals in an economic, effective, innovative manner.