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