Friday, April 27, 2007

Fellow bloggers

I have only a handfull of blogs related to mainframe that I visit regularly. I know it's a very personal choice. Still I'd like to put them under your attention, in case you didn't know them. I find them important as they often give a second opinion on certain matters.

I've already metioned Willie Favero's DB2 for z/OS blog who always has some interesting news on DB2 and brings it in a very intelligible way.

There's of course the well-known Mainframe Weblog with most recent posts by Timothy Sipples.

There's also Kristine Harper's Newbie Blog. It has been a bit quiet on her blog, been she now seems to have found her second breath with topics on 'Mainframe Listservs' and some of her 'Favorite ISPF Commands'. Maybe Kristine was inspired by the discussion a couple of weeks back on the IBM-Main Discussion List opposing ISPF and XEDIT to one another. I have the intention of coming back to that too in a later topic as I once made a comparison of the most important commands and settings for both editors.

This week I added three others. First there's the Mainframe Performance Topics blog by Martin Packer, who brought the zNALC Apar OA20314 under my attention.

Another blog is Mainframe Weekly with a more or less weekly comment on mainframe. Main contributor is Trevor Eddolls. Recent topics include 'Big Blue goes green', 'CICS V3.2 - Do I need it ?' and 'SOA - Same Old Architecture'.

Last but not least, there's James Governor’s Monkchips. Where do I begin ? James also contributes to the Mainframe Weblog : "James is Principal Analyst and co-founder of RedMonk, LLC. He leads coverage in enterprise architecture and frameworks, assisting clients with application development, integration middleware and systems management issues, as they relate to operational and business process optimization". James covers a much wider range than mainframe in his own blog, it's not even a main focus, but when he comments on it, it's usually spot-on. Recently he commented on the use of the Microsoft HIS (Host Integration Server) put to discussion by Timothy Sipples in the Mainframe weblog and also posted the reply of Charles Fitzgerald (Microsoft general manager of platform strategy) on the Mainframe Blog.

So as I always say, just check them out.
And if you're as lucky as I am, you have an extra long weekend to do so : our Labor Day is on the first of May instead of on the first Monday of September in the U.S.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

z9 BC GA2 announcement and CBU

In my post on the z9 BC GA2 announcement, I put some exclamation marks after the CBU item stating that "the z9 BC Model R07 will allow CBU to all S07 capacity settings".
In fact this is important, as there had been some kind of break with the z890 CBU settings. Up to the z890, the CBU had always been a full engine issue. So if you had e.g. a z890-260 (390 mips) as production machine and you wanted to buy a machine in cold standby with CBU, you could buy a z890-110 (the smallest z890 with 26 mips) with one CBU. When the CBU was activated, the z890-110 engine and the CBU were set to full capacity giving you a z890-270. You can find a detailed explanation in the redbook 'IBM eServer zSeries 890 Technical Introduction'. This was an affordable DR solution.
Z9 BC broke in two ways with this possibility. CBU was no longer a full engine thing as you can now order CBU up to a certain capacity. I guess anyone can live with that. There was however also a split of the z9 BC into two models : the R07 and the S07. And it was impossible to buy the smallest R07 (R07-A01 with 26 mips) and have a CBU capacity for a S07. Similar to our z890-260 example, the same customer would now have a z9 BC S07 N04 (409 mips). So as opposed to the z890, you could no longer buy the smallest z9 BC machine which meant a much larger investment for the customer. The lowest possible model in this case was the smallest S07, the S07 R01 with 193 mips.
So this limitation has now been lifted. The redbook (draft) 'IBM System z9 Business Class Technical Introduction' has already been modified accordingly.

zNALC and APAR OA20314

I've added Martin Packer's blog titled 'Mainframe Performance Topics' to my 'Fellow Bloggers' section. He's been reporting on the 'European System z Technical Conference' where he also did some presentations. On Day 2 Martin mentions a presentation by Paul Rogers on 'z/OS Releases 8, 9 and Beyond' and I quote : "APAR OA20314 (in support of zNALC) allows you to IPL with LICENSE=ZNALC rather than hardcoding the LPAR's name according to the old NALC licencing convention (ZNALxxxx)". So I searched the Technical Help Database for more details about this APAR, but all I found was status 'open' and description 'new function'. But I see there's a confirmation of this in the zNALC announcement that's been revised on April 3, 2007. It says : "Any Logical Partition (LPAR) that is designated as a zNALC LPAR must follow the naming convention 'ZNALxxxx' where xxxx may be any letters or numbers. Alternatively, customers who prefer not to change LPAR names to qualify for zNALC (and are running z/OS Version 1 Release 6, or later) may set the LICENSE = 'ZNALC' IPL parameter to indicate a zNALC LPAR. The zNALC IPL parameter will be available via APAR OA20314, expected in third quarter 2007".

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

IBM z9 EC and z9 BC - Delivering greater value for everyone

Out of the blue here's the GA3 announcement for the z9 EC and the GA2 announcement for the z9 BC. It's all put together in one announcement. There's a PDF version too, but as you might know, the PDF leaves out the technical details and prereqs of the full announcement. It also includes some very interesting previews and statements of direction concerning specialty engines. I'll give you a summary of the summary, highlighting what I think to be the most interesting novelties for all customers. I'm definitely not being exhaustive and will likely later come back on some of these issues. The enhancements are divided into several categories and I'll just follow them.

System z9 Enhancements
  • LPAR group capacity limit : Next to the individual capacity setting per LPAR, you can now group some LPARs and give them an additional group limit. In that way, the sum of the LPARs' utilization in that group will not exceed the group limit. This should further optimize the use of white space. It requires at least z/OS(.e) 1.8.
  • z/VM integrated systems management : this feature for the z9 HMC provides GUI-based management of z/VM guests. The guests are automatically detected by the HMC.
  • Enhanced driver maintenance utilization.
FCP enhancements
These are mainly performance enhancements by changing the FCP LIC (Licensed internal Code).

Networking enhancements
  • OSA-Express network Traffic Analyzer
  • QDIO Diagnostic Synchronization : this offers "the ability to coordinate and simultaneously capture both operating system and OSA-Express2 traces at the same instance".
Availablility Enhancements
  • System-initiated CHPID reconfiguration : this is designed to minimize operator interaction to configure shared channels off-line and on-line.
  • Multipath IPL : this allows that an alternate path is selected automatically when there are problems reaching the IPL device. It helps eliminate manual problem determination druing IPL.
Parallel sysplex enhancements
CFCC (Coupling Facility Control Code) level 15 is made available on z9 EC and BC. It includes an increase of the allowable tasks in the CF from 48 to 112.

Environmental enhancements
  • Power monitoring : with System z9 you can now monitor the power consumption and temperature of your system. The System Activity Display on the HMC displays the current total power consumption in Kilowatts, Btu/hour and input temperature
  • zPower estimation tool : this tool that you can find on Resource Link gives the estimated power requirements based on a given machine model, memory and I/O configuration.
What did I skip so far : some Security, HMC, Support Element and z/VM enhancements.

Exclusive to z9 BC
  • Enhancement to z9 BC Capacity Backup Upgrade (CBU) : "the z9 BC Model R07 will allow CBU to all S07 capacity settings" ! ! !
  • A new FICON Express4 SX card with 2 channels
  • A new Crypto Express2 card with 1 port
This is were the part of the specialty engines start. A preview is something that will be announced in the near future. It's stronger than a Statement of Direction that can still be recalled at any time. This preview plans the use of the zIIP for IPSec processing. "The new zIIP Assisted IPSec function is designed to move most of the IPSec processing from general-purpose processors to the zIIPs. In addition to performing eligible encryption processing, the zIIP will also handle cryptographic validation of message integrity, and IPSec header processing". This should be available in August. Mind you : only from z/OS 1.8 onwards.

Statements of Direction
  • Support for System Storage TS3400 Tape Library : "IBM plans to enhance the System Storage TS3400 Tape Library by adding autoloader support for the library with System z (...) . IBM plans to support system-managed encryption in a System z environment with the TS3400".
  • z/OS XML enablement for zIIP and zAAP : IBM introduced z/OS XML, a system-level XML parser as integrated part of the z/OS base in z/OS V1.8. IBM intends to enable the z/OS XML component to take advantage of the zIIP and the zAAP. There are slight differences. An example : z/OS XML parsing executing in TCB mode will be redirected to the zAAP.
    IBM also speaks of additional future enhancements for the zAAP extending zAAP exploitation to XML validating parsing as well.
Well, that's all for the moment. I'll surely come back with more details and (links to) additonal information on some of these items.

IBM Reports 2007 First-Quarter Results

Yesterday, IBM announced its first-quarter results of 2007. Not that I'm that particularly interested in all this financial wizardry, but I'm obviously curious at what's been said about System z.
Well, revenues for the Systems and Technology (S&T) segment went up by 2 percent. "S&T revenues from System z server products increased 12 percent compared with the year-ago period. Total delivery of System z computing power, which is measured in MIPS (millions of instructions per second), increased 9 percent".
If you are interested in more financial details, you can click through to this page where you can find comparative financial results added at the end of the press release.

Friday, April 13, 2007

CICS Transaction Server for z/OS V3.2 - bis

I mentioned 'z/Journal : The CICS spotlight' some time ago and I just received the April issue. Phylis Donofrio, editor of this newsletter, writes a very enthousiastic summary of the highlights of this new version - from an insider's point of view.
Phylis also points out that any customer can get a BETA release before GA in June. In addition :
(...) Hurlsey is offering special attention to customers that want it. This offer lets IBM come to YOU! According to IBM:

‘There is an initiative where CICS Technical specialists will visit customer locations for a day at no cost to the customer and deliver a customized agenda, agreed upon with the customer by the Account Team. The intention is that a set of mixed skills will attend and hear the benefits of moving to CICS TS V3. There are no travel or lodging costs incurred by the customer so it is hoped that more of their staff to take this opportunity to listen to CICS technical specialists explaining the capabilities of CICS. The initiative is called the CICS on demand Seminars and customers should contact their Account team to be nominated. If they are unable to contact their Account rep then they should request a nomination form from the following userID asking for a nomination form for a CICS on demand Seminar.’

What an offer!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

CICS Transaction Server for z/OS V3.2

I already mentioned the announcement of CICS Transaction Server for z/OS V3.2 sideways when writing about the CCR2 newsletter where you also find an article dedicated to it : "Meet the premier transaction processor for z/OS: CICS Transaction Server V3.2". This article gives a brief summary of the highlights of this new release.
I think it's clear that IBM tries to firmly indicate that the mainframe can be the central control point for any IT-organization. There's of course the preservation of past investments, but there's also the belief that the mainframe (with CICS a.o.) will keep up this position and is best suited for it. I quote from the ESJ Article "CICS Gets Another SOA-Friendly Infusion"
"What I think we find is that there’s a very substantial segment of our enterprise customers that would like to build an SOA hub around their mainframe," says Jim Rhyne, enterprise software platform chief architect with IBM. "They understand that the most critical of their applications and data are on the mainframe, but also they’re used to thinking of the mainframe as kind of a management and control point. What they’d like do is expand that so that SOA reaches a number of other platforms, with [the mainframe] functioning as this sort of point of control."
If you want to find more information about it, you'll find 'Features and Benefits', 'System Requirements' and 'Manuals' on the IBM CICS Transaction Server for z/OS V3.2.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Red Alert : DB2 for z/OS V7 potential loss of data with partitioned tablespaces in a data sharing environment

When I first mentioned the Red Alerts subscription service for zSeries I said you wouldn't be flooded with alerts subscribing to it. But now it's been only two weeks since I mentioned the last one.
This time it's about DB2 V7. I quote the description and recommended actions :
A defect was introduced by PTF UK20581. If either UK20581 or it's superseding PTF UK21715 is applied then a potential loss of data can occur in a DB2 V7 data sharing environment due to pages from a partitioned table space being cast out to the wrong partition. This may result in subsequent DB2 abends with reason code 00C200F7 or 00C20223. The exposure exists only for partitioned table spaces in a data sharing environment with DB2 V7 with the above PTFs applied. APAR PK42682 has been created to resolve this problem. Please refer to the APAR text for further details.

Remove PTFs UK20851 and UK21715 or apply the solution for PK42682.
I hope from now on the pace of Red Alerts will slow down again.

CCR2 Newsletter : A publication for the IBM System z software community

CCR2 is another IBM newsletter. I quote a part of their mission statement :
CCR2™, a publication for the IBM System z™ software community, is the authoritative monthly e-newsletter for System z and zSeries® IT Service Management, Information on Demand, and Service Oriented Architecture/Enterprise Transformation.
CCR2 serves as a leading source of information on System z management best practices, tips for exploiting features in the latest IBM releases and trends important to the System z community.
What I like about this newsletter is that the topics are very comprehensible and to the point without losing itself too much into details. Categories covered are 'Executive Corner', 'Education', 'Product updates', 'Tech Tips', 'Tools', 'Events and Webcasts' . . .
The recent april issue e.g. handles amongst others about :
  • "Five reasons why you should be using DB2 9 for z/OS",
  • "Monitoring dynamic SQL with OMEGAMON XE for DB2 PE on z/OS is good for DB2 performance",
  • "Meet the premier transaction processor for z/OS: CICS Transaction Server V3.2".
You can subscribe over here.
You can also consult all the back issues. That's how I stumbled across this Podcast from Redmonk Radio about KBC, a Belgian bank : RedMonk Radio Episode 34 - KBC, IBM, EGL, and System z. it's a 40-minute talk "with several folks from IBM and Belgium based KBC about KBC's use of EGL on System z. We start out going over how KBC came to use EGL and it's benefits, and then wrap-up with some mainframe culture talk".

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The secret side of System z

I just came across some new fun stuff on the IBM site.
As it's been a while since the last video I presented to you, I thougth I might as well throw this in.
It's our famous actor Gil again who comes to the rescue of some lost souls.
Here he is with his rescue mission :

Just click on the picture to watch the entire story, with three videos of people looking for a partner. It opens in a new window.

Bottom line : it's an ad for SOA on System z.
And if you click through it, there's a Free "Secrets of SOA" book offer saying "Is your company considering adding new applications or implementing a Services Oriented Architecture? If so, register for "Secrets of SOA," compliments of IBM".
No I'm not giving the direct link. You'll just have to check it out !

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Introduction to the New Mainframe

I started my career on mainframe in 1988 with an intensive 1-year course at IBM. The first 4 months we followed lots of introductory courses on z/OS, JCL, ISPF, CICS, DB2, CLIST, COBOL... you know the drill. The rest of the year was a mixture of courses and a practical training on site at a customer site. When the customer was satisfied, you could stay afterwards. As you can see : I'm still around. So training young people on mainframe is not that new. But I guess the need for new people on the mainframe is much more urgent now than it was back then in the eighties.
So there I was, after 4 months with a 'thorough' knowledge of z/OS, just to find out they'd dropped me in a VM/VSE site. We planned some courses, but in the mean time I had to pick up on VM, VSE, DL/I, Rexx as fast as I could. And I think that's where the big difference lies with now. Where to get your information, introductory publications on all those items. Internet was something of the future. Redbooks were much more scarce. So I ploughed through any IBM documentation I could find, mainly command references and user's guides. And we all know how well these were written at the time.
So I'm glad that IBM is putting great effort into making good introductory publications to the mainframe. It started out with z/OS basics in 2005, which has been updated regularly since then. It serves as a manual for students at universities all over the world. Now it's called 'Introduction to the New Mainframe: z/OS Basics'. And IBM is adding other redbooks in this series. So far they have :
I'm particulary pleased to see the last one being added to the list. I surely would've liked to have that one, back then in 1988. Since then I worked mainly in a z/OS environment, but lately I've been working in a VM/VSE environment again on a 1 day per week basis. So I'm definitely going to read this introduction to catch up on VSE. I wonder if they will also bring out an interactive version of this redbook. I just found out there's an interactive version of the z/OS Basics : 'z/OS Basics : an interactive module'. I found the link on the Community Page of the mainframe charter site.