Friday, November 4, 2016

BMC Survey on the Status of the Mainframe

By Bill Moran and Rich Ptak
BMC has released the results of their 11th annual mainframe survey.  BMC partners with multiple other parties to collect data and to release the results (e.g. IBM Systems Magazine[1]). This assures they have input from a variety of sources, including non-BMC customers. The resulting expanded range of opinions increases the value of the data.

We review key results of the survey here. We may revisit the topic as additional information is made available. We commend BMC for conducting the survey. It performs a real service for the industry. Studying the results can provide significant insight into what is happening in the mainframe market.[2]

Key results

In our opinion, key conclusions from the survey are:

  1. If the “death of the mainframe” needed more debunking, this survey certainly does so.  It shows there will be no funeral services held for the mainframe anytime soon. Last year 90% of the survey respondents indicated they saw a long-term future for the mainframe. This year that number declined all the way to 89%. Not a statistically significant difference!
  2. The general population of companies, on average, keep more than 50% of their data on the mainframe.  70% of large organizations see their mainframe capacity increasing in the next 24 months.
  3. In large (and other) enterprises, Digital business appears to be driving higher mainframe workload growth.
  4. Smaller organizations are more likely to forecast declining use of the mainframe. 
  5. In contrast, those companies that are increasing their mainframe usage take a long term view of the mainframe and its value. They tend to be more effective at leveraging the platform. They want to provide a superior customer experience, hence they modernize operations, add capacity and increase workloads. They view mainframe security and high availability as critically important differentiators in today's market marked by escalating transaction rates, data growth and rapid response times. 

Other interesting insights

Linux usage on the mainframe broke through the 50% point this year. Its use has been growing steadily ever since a Linux initiative was launched when Lou Gerstner was IBM CEO. Last year, 48% of the survey respondents said that they had Linux in production; this year the percentage rose to 52%.

BMC divides organizations into three groups:

  1. The first group representing 58% of those surveyed say that mainframe usage in their organization is increasing.
  2. The second group (23%) say that usage is steady.
  3. The third group (19%) say that usage is reducing.
We did not do an exhaustive analysis of the differences between the increasing, steady and reducing groups. However, it is worthwhile to sketch a view of some differences between the reducing usage group and the increasing usage group.

In the first place, many reducers indicate that their management believes the mainframe is outdated. This results in pressures to abandon the platform. Thus, their focus is removing workloads. This group is also more concerned about a mainframe skills shortage. Their solution to that problem is, again, to remove workloads thus reducing mainframe platform dependencies.

In contrast, managers of the group that is increasing usage do not appear to believe the mainframe is obsolete. Therefore, there is no pressure to move off the platform. In fact, they actively seek to move new work onto the mainframe. While also concerned about a mainframe skills shortage, their response is to provide internal training and invest in automation wherever possible. Neither outsourcing nor moving workloads off the platform are viewed as viable solutions to a skills shortage.
Figure 1 Top Mainframe Priorities – Chart courtesy of BMC
Next, of interest were respondent priorities. The top priorities for 2016 as identified in the survey include:
  1. Cost reduction/optimization – 65%
  2. Data privacy/compliance/security – 50%
  3. Application availability – 49%
  4. Application modernization – 41%.

Number 5 on the list “Becoming more responsive to our business”, is not given a percentage. We estimate (see Figure 1) it at 38%. We found this somewhat surprising. With all the focus on the digital enterprise and business, we would have thought that this would be at least #3 on the list. Like we said, interesting data comes from the study.

Future Possible Questions

As a quick aside, there are many possible questions to explore. We encouraged mainframers to participate in the survey. Going a step further, put your suggestions in ‘comments’ to this blog. Or, tweet them with the hashtag #PtakAssocMFQ. We will track the results and share them with BMC before the next annual survey.

To start things off, we have a few suggestions for future survey topics:

  1. How many projects were undertaken to move work off the mainframe? What were the results? What were the factors contributing to the project’s success or failure?
  2.  Is (and how much is) the mainframe integrated into the overall datacenter operations? Or, is it an isolated island with mostly batch methods of integration?  
  3. How many organizations are using IBM’s z/PDT, which simulates a mainframe on a PC or X86 system for development?
  4. What is the progress of DevOps modernization? This might connect to the previous point as z/PDT is Linux based and many developers prefer to use Linux tools, but also need access to mainframe data to test their applications.
Of course, we understand that there are many logistical problems in putting together a survey of this type. For example, there is a practical limit on the number of questions that one can ask. However, the answers to these would be enlightening.


The survey provides significant value to the mainframe community with insights useful to mainframe users, vendors and service suppliers. It can help any mainframe-based organization to plan and optimize for the future. It highlights ongoing community problems even as it corrects conventional “wisdom”, i.e. the mainframe is alive and well. 

Finally, the survey is a valuable tool for understanding the state of the mainframe, its user concerns, needs and priorities. BMC may want to consider extending the reach of the survey to include other organizations, i.e. user groups such as Share. In the meantime, we suggest that you visit the BMC website to discover insights that you can successfully leverage and apply in your operations. 

[1] Note this is not corporate IBM.
[2] Study details available at

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Compuware delivers again! Solution innovation for eight consecutive quarters!

By Rich Ptak

With its October launch, Compuware once again successfully met its self-imposed goal of a quarterly delivery of brand new or significantly enhanced, mainframe solutions. This makes 8 consecutive quarters they have done so. And, for each quarter, the result has been significant, ground-breaking extensions or enhancement of capabilities or accessibility in areas that include mainframe DevOps, risk reduction, app development, systems management and resolution of significant challenges to smooth mainframe operations. The current announcement continues the pattern. Congratulations and kudos to Compuware. Here’s what we found interesting.

Service-based Acquisition
We commented earlier on Compuware’s acquisition of ISPW product technology and its integration with Compuware Topaz. ISPW provides comprehensive, modern functionality for Source Code Management (SCM), Release Automation (RA) and Application Deployment (AD) for both mainframe and distributed platforms as a single, integrated solution. We were enthusiastic about the move and the success of Compuware’s integration. As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones.

The prospect of having a single solution where three separate products were previously required was very attractive to over-stretched IT staffs. Combined with a tight integration to Topaz and you have a solution that is practically irresistible. Customer demand for help in moving to ISPW was so high that it motivated Compuware to make its second business acquisition in 10 months. Compuware purchased the total SCM practice, including implementation services, experienced staff and proven methodologies from Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) firm, Itegrations[1]. Compuware’s SCM Migration Services[2] simplifies, speeds and reduces the risk when migrating from existing vendor-supplied and homegrown systems to ISPW SCM.

Topaz additions, enhancements, extensions and integrations
In keeping with Compuware’s theme of Mainstreaming the Mainframe, the announcement included new Compuware Topaz Connect[3] (formerly Itegrations NxBridge) that automates and simplifies cross-platform connectivity. Customers can automatically connect Compuware ISPW to various ITSM solutions including ServiceNow, BMC Remedy and Tivoli. This reduces manual-processes, time and effort while making the mainframe more accessible, the customer experience better and improving performance metrics. Recognizing that enterprises may not be able to migrate to agile ISPW SCM immediately, Topaz Connect enables CA Endevor users to access required Endevor functionality via Compuware Topaz Workbench[4], a modern Eclipse-based IDE. Through this integration, developers can perform critical activities such as add and move elements in the lifecycle; generate (compile) elements; create packages; and move groups in the lifecycle.

In another major step towards increasing mainframe utilization, raising the accessibility to modern tools and making the move to DevOps faster and easier, Compuware is providing REST APIs, in effect “building blocks,” to be used to control and manage application deployment in both mainframe and distributed environments. The APIs for ISPW enable users to create, promote, deploy and check the status of code releases using popular Agile/DevOps tools including Jenkins, XebiaLabs XL Release, Slack and Atlassian HipChat with Webhook notification.
Additional broader scope APIs will be available in coming months. These will be built to leverage, work with and support open standards and open standards-based tools. For example, complementing the APIs, Compuware plans to add support for a number of popular tools.

JCL has been a longtime hurdle for those looking to develop for mainframes, even more so for millennials. Compuware tackles the challenge with plug-ins for Topaz Workbench. Integrations with Software Engineering of America (SEA) technology include the JCLplus Plugin for Topaz Workbench which will automatically verify standards, check syntax and do runtime simulation of JCL. In addition, there is the SAVRS Plugin for Topaz Workbench, which allows easy viewing and interpretation of Joblog and SYSOUT reports.  

Terse error logs and messages made fault analysis a mainframe frustration for a long time. Adding to the problem, mainframe groups operated in informational and data isolation, siloed away from the rest of the enterprise. As a result, separated and off by itself, the mainframe became a “black box”, sidelined and not recognized as part of the enterprise operations team.

As a start to resolving those issues, Compuware partnered with Syncsort Ironstream to change that. Integrating with Ironstream allows the Abend-AID application fault discovery and analysis solution diagnostic data, together with the mainframe logs, security, and environmental data, to be fed in machine-readable form to Splunk, which combines that data with data from multiple different sources (security, compliance, behavioral, operations, compliance, etc.) across the organization. The combination can then be analyzed, correlated, evaluated to yield operational intelligence. The mainframe’s impact and influence in the context of the total operations is made visible and the importance of the mainframe to overall operations established.     

There is much more contained in the announcement. Our recommendation is that you follow up with Compuware to see how your customers and enterprise development and operations can benefit from their efforts.

Compuware’s overall ambition is to expose and confirm the importance of the mainframe to the enterprise. They do so by removing tool-based barriers that have traditionally inhibited its use to broader DevOps teams and by resolving significant shortcomings, including most significantly, dismantling operational silos. A significant part of the solution is the modernization of mainframe solutions, tools and capabilities so that developers, operations and business analysts can function consistently, transparently across mainframe, distributed and mobile platforms.

A Final word on Compuware’s Vision
If you haven’t noticed already, Compuware operates with a very customer-focused vision to drive its quarter-to-quarter deliveries. It isn’t that they are driven to reflexively react with little forethought. They have an established, consistent product/solution plan with a roadmap of future deliverables.

The basic, bedrock principle is to develop solutions based on what they believe are the critical and most-pressing problems confronting their customers NOW. They are driven by the belief that there are a number of identifiable and curable challenges that act as immediate roadblocks to keep the mainframe out of the mainstream. Their goal is to eliminate those roadblocks and speed the mainframe into mainstream operations. To do that, they have a prioritized, yet flexible list of which challenge they will take-on and when. 

Compuware’s plans are neither static, nor inhibiting of creative, responsive innovation. For example, late last year the team conceived of, built out and delivered Runtime Visualizer, a new feature in Topaz for Program Analysis[5], in just 84 days. This year they acquired ISPW and rapidly integrated it with Topaz[6]. On the heels of that, they acquired and delivered Compuware ISPW SCM Migration Services. Yet focused attention on customer feedback and the rapidly evolving world of enterprise IT isn’t completely unique – and it isn’t sufficient to maintain leadership. Compuware, partners, employees and executives hold themselves to an exceptionally rapid rate of development and delivery. They are aided by a great deal of flexibility in implementation due in a significant part to their own products and organizational vision. They are driven to produce extraordinary results that demonstrate their own agility, as well as that of mainframe solutions and operations. As they promise, Compuware’s employees and executives are delivering “Agility Without Compromise…simple, elegant solutions that enable a blended development ecosystem.”

We’re impressed with what they are doing. We recommend that you investigate to see if you agree.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

First European OpenPOWER Summit – confirms growing popularity of the platform

By Rich Ptak

The first ever OpenPOWER European Summit opened in Barcelona this week. With over 270 members worldwide (60 in Europe), the OpenPOWER Foundation continues to grow and win over developers and users for the OpenPOWER Platform.

With the demise of Moore’s Law[1], IBM believed that the performance demands of computing with dense databases, extensive virtualization, container environments, etc., can best be met with workload-tuned systems. In that vein, in September, IBM announced three new POWER8-based systems. Sessions at IBM’s Edge 2016 event and an early peek last summer at the next gen POWER9 chips, indicate a platform attracting considerable attention with increasing support and use.

The systems are used by a number of OpenPOWER Foundation members. For example, IBM Power S822LC for High Performance Computing (HPC) is used by Turkey’s SC3 Electronics to create the largest HPC cluster in the Middle East and Africa. For Germany’s Human Brain Project, the Power S822LC for HPC, is the pilot system in a part of a Pre-Commercial Procurement process for the JURON supercomputer at the Jurlich Supercomputing Center.

Why OpenPOWER?
What’s behind OpenPOWER popularity? In a nutshell, in sharp distinction from other vendors, IBM and OpenPOWER Foundation members believe that workload and task specific systems, fully optimized for dominant computer tasks, such as handling and processing Big Data, High Performance Computing, compute-intensive, Commercial computing, etc. provide the best way today’s requirements of IT developers and operations staffs. IBM also recognized the power of open, collaborating communities to rapidly develop and deliver leading edge products.

IBM and the OpenPOWER community form a unique combination that facilitates and speeds innovation to deliver the power and functionality of rapid calculations of sophisticated analytics and manipulation of massive amounts of data needed for practical application of the compute intensive machine learning, deep learning, autonomous device, cutting edge research and development efforts underway today.

The OpenPOWER Community believes the widest range of enhancements, extensions and advancements will result from extensive collaboration around a fully open architecture and standards-driven technology. The OpenPOWER platform and the OpenPOWER Foundation are joined by the recently (October) announced OpenCAPI Consortium[4]. The goal of the consortium is to fully standardize CAPI[5] as an Open Interface Architecture that allows any microprocessor to attach to accelerators, advanced memory, networking and storage devices. It is faster, easier and less expensive than traditional approaches.

OpenPOWER in Europe
The European summit detailed member-driven innovation and extensions with a range of special-purpose accelerators and enhancements using the OpenPOWER platform. In addition to those mentioned earlier, Spain’s Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) is collaborating with IBM -BSC Deep Learning Center to improve and expand algorithms for deep learning systems. See Figure 1 (below) for more OpenPower platform activities in Europe and the UK.

Figure 1 European OpenPOWER ecosystem growing
Key to the success of the OpenPower platform is acceptance in the Dev/Ops world. A partial list of OpenPOWER developer resources and events from around the world include:
  • A European developer cloud – A collaborative effort between the Technical University of Munich at the Department of Informatics; plans are to launch Supervessel, a European R&D by the end of 2016. Similar to a Chinese effort, Supervessel is a cloud built on POWER’s open architecture and technologies to provide open remote access to ecosystem developers and university students.
  •  CAPI SNAP Framework Is a collaborative effort by North American and European OpenPOWER Foundation members to make FPGA acceleration technology easier to implement and more accessible to the worldwide developer community. A beta version is available now.
  •  OpenPOWER READY FPGA Accelerator Boards – Alpha Data showcased its low latency, low power, OpenPOWER READY compliant FPGA accelerator boards for applications requiring high-throughput processing and software acceleration.
  •  OpenPOWER Developer Challenge Winners – some 300 developers competed in the first OpenPOWER Developer Challenge, the four Grand Prize winners announced are:

The OpenPOWER ecosystem continues to grow and add members in the UK, Europe and around the globe. Europe’s 60 members today could double in the next 12 months as leading edge companies (of all sizes) have access to the right platform with the right capabilities for rapid innovation in operations, accelerators, networking, storage and software.

The Final Word
While generic servers aren’t going to disappear any time soon, the OpenPOWER platform and associated technologies clearly address previously unmet needs of developer and operations communities operating at the leading edge of technology and its application. These teams are tackling some of the biggest and most demanding problems and challenging applications that being addressed today. And, more and more of them are finding the OpenPOWER ecosystem supportive of the innovative thinking they demand.
One more observation, OpenPower System architecture isn’t just for the R&D and cutting edge teams. Numerous companies use the technology in a range of situations. The basic strategy is to extend the system capabilities and lower technological barriers to access using creative collaboration to make innovation and leveraging emerging technologies easier. We think they along with their partners are succeeding.

We encourage you to follow the links provided to find out more about what is happening with OpenPOWER Systems[6], the OpenPOWER Foundation[7] and the OpenPOWER ecosystem as it expands around the world. platform and associated enhancements find considerable application in research and operations.