Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gaming and Mainframing on a Playstation 3 ?

I guess it was a little stream of consciousness that made me cough up this title.

What's it about ? I was just reading the main article of zJournal : 'The State of IBM Mainframe Emulation' by Philip Smith III. You should really read it to get a comprehensive view on this matter. There has been much ado (I must be in a literary mood) about mainframe emulation lately. Also Pete Clarke is voicing his concern on this issue in his comment on z/VSE in the same zJournal issue.

What's the problem : IBM has not prolongued its agreement with Fundamental Software that delivers FLEX-ES, the main (Linux based) software platform for mainframe emulation. What are the consequences ? Since IBM did not continue the agreement, no FLEX-ES systems can be sold since November 2006. "Simultaneously, IBM stopped licensing software on FLEX-based systems, so existing Fundamental customers can’t add IBM products to their systems. While commercial FLEX-ES customer machines will continue to run indefinitely, many small mainframe development shops have embraced FLEX solutions through IBM’s PartnerWorld for Developers (PWD) program—and these machines are controlled by a time-limited hardware dongle. When the dongle expires, FLEX-ES will no longer operate. For these sites, the clock is running, and finding an alternative is critical !"

Are there any alternatives ? Not really, the only 'safe' solution for the moment is buying a z9 BC, but that's actually quite expensive as you also have to buy external storage. Not really a choice for small developers. The not so safe and perhaps not so legal alternatives either are PSI and Hercules. Firstly IBM filed suit against PSI and the end of this doesn't seem to be in sight. You can find more information on this in Phil Payne's report on the case. Secondly, Hercules is a well known mainframe emulator (mainly on Linux) but IBM has never wanted to licence its operating systems on Hercules.

Another alternative, just a rumor for the moment, is that IBM might offer a low-end machine "perhaps using the IBM’s new Cell Broadband Engine (CBE) processor (...) It’s easy to imagine (if not easily implement) an emulator running under Linux or AIX on CBE-based hardware". What's the CBE processor ? It's IBM's 'game' processor that is used in Sony's Playstation 3 and that's also announced to be used in the mainframe (the 'IBM Gameframe'). And what do you know : you cannot only play games on a PS3, it can also run a complete Linux machine.
Hence the little twist of the mind that produced the title of this topic.

Monday, May 28, 2007

IBM Forum Brussels : DB2 V9 Proof of Technology Event

This is an interesting free 2-day workshop any DB2 customer should try and attend. It's main focus is on the 'pure XML' feature I discussed earlier shortly before the announcement of DB2 V9 for z/OS. There's also lots of attention for new compression algorithms shrinking your database volume from 50% up to 80% !?
The program :
Day 1:
- Welcome
- DB2 9 Overview - New Features
- Range Partitioning Deep Dive
- Compression Overview
- Compression Lab (Hands-on Lab)
- Practical Autonomics (STMM)
Day 2:
- XML Overview
- pure XML
- XML Base Lab (Hands-on Lab)
- XML and Developer Workbench
- XML Advanced - Developer Workbench (Hands-on Lab)
- DB2 XML best practices
Place and time to be ? The IBM Forum in Brussels on June 6 and 7, 2007.
You can find all information and subscribe over here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sampling Techdocs

I hadn't found the time recently to see if there was anything worthwile in Techdocs. So I finally got to browse through last month's content and came up with some interesting documents. I'll just sum them up, so you can pick up what you like.
It might not be such a bad idea to keep doing this on a monthly basis.If you want to get more info on one of these topics, you can use the search function in Techdocs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Announcements : ESS and DS8100

Yesterday, most, if not all, features of the Shark (ESS800) and the Baby Shark (ESS750) were announced to be withdrawn from marketing as from November 30, 2007 onwards : expansion racks, disk eight-packs, host adapters, cache ... So anyone still planning an upgrade on their Sharks ...
On the other hand the DS800 now has third and fourth expansion unit support providing "up to 307.2 TB of physical capacity with 300 GB Fibre Channel disk drives, and up to 512 TB of physical capacity with 500 GB Fibre ATA (FATA) disk drives". Another addition is Single Phase Power Support. Since IBM introduced the choice of the guarantee period, there's every time two announcements : one for the original 2107 Machine Type and one for the 2121-2124 machine Type series.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hot Flashes and Tool Bags

I'm referring to two presentations I stumble across from time to time and when it happens I always take the opportunity to have a look. Both are regularly updated and each time contain some goodies and pieces of information that make them worth checking out.
The first one is "Cheryl's Hot Flashes". You can find it in the presentation section of Cheryl Watsons site. She is regularly presenting it at user meetings like e.g. the Share meeting at Tampa in February. There's e.g. always some interesting survey results : who's on z/OS 1.8, how many people are using the zAAP/zIIP or are planning to. But the last one also discusses user experiences on zIIP and there are always some quite technical topics too like e.g. 'interesting APARs' ...
By the way, all Tampa Share presentations are available on the Share site.
The second is "A System Programmer Productivity Tool Bag" by Bette Brody. you find the latest two versions over here with a list of topics covered. This one really contains a wealth of information for every system programmer focusing on recent announcements, Statements of Direction, interesting new publications, redbooks and white papers, downloads like e.g. the Health Checker and the free Omegamon z/OS management Console, some info on using ShopzSeries, tips on installing Server Pacs, the use of all kinds of tools like zPCR, some interesting z/OS links and many other topics.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

ISPF or Xedit : ISPF !?

The first editor I got to work with on the mainframe (or on any platform for that matter) was ISPF. After half a year I switched from MVS to VM and from ISPF to Xedit. I was - to say the least - overwhelmed by the many commands and settings in Xedit. Afterwards, when I got to work with ISPF again, I realized that lots of it can also be done in ISPF. And if it can't, you can always try and write a macro for it. If I had to make a choice . . . let's skip that one for the time being. To be honest, the ideal editor would be a mixture of both. In each editor, there are some features that are missing or that are for better covered in the other.

In this topic I'd like to focus on the ISPF aspects which are not that good or not at all covered in Xedit. I must say, however, this is entirely my personal opinion as this seems to be a sensitive topic : there have been more than one discussion on this topic in the IBM-Main discussion list

First of all I find the 'find-replace' commands to be far more intuitive in ISPF. Locating a target in Xedit only gives one occurence per line. That's not what I want : I just want to find every occurence in my file. So I have to use clocate. And you always have to be very aware of your position in the file in Xedit, more than in ISPF. Furthermore there's no RFIND. You have to re-issue the command. Some other things missing : FIND FIRST, FIND LAST, FIND PREV, FIND NEXT, FIND PREFIX, SUFFIX, WORD and FIND ALL. The last one can more or less be replaced by COUNT. No FIND P' ' (picture string) either. I use that a lot in ISPF.
The same goes for changing data : only one occurence per line, unless you indicate otherwise. And I find it so annoying, that afterwards, you're positioned at the bottom of the file as first line on your screen. There's no RCHANGE either.

What I'm really missing in Xedit is the UNDO command. It's just not there. The only thing you can do is recover deleted lines. If anyone has a solution for this, comments are welcome !

Line commands 'UC' and 'LC' do not exist in Xedit. There's only UPPER and LOWER issued from the command line. But then you really have to pay attention if you only want to transform a couple of lines. Just as with PUT-GET, the equivalent of CUT-PASTE you have to indicate the number of lines from the command line instead of indicating the range in the prefix area. Another line command that's replaced in that way by a primary command is the copy-overlay function (COVERLAY command in Xedit).

The tabbing is more elaborate in ISPF. There's only an equivalent of software tabbing in Xedit.

And it's sometimes very little things which you happen to use that you're missing : the FLIP command e.g. OK, you can also write a macro for it of course. As I also did for scrolling up or down the screen so that the cursor position becomes the first or last line of the screen (Scroll Amount=Cursor). PF7 and PF8 always scroll entire pages in Xedit.

Don't worry if I make Xedit look like a poor editor. It surely is NOT.
I'll come back on this topic with a sequel : 'Xedit or ISPF : Xedit !?'.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Project Big Green

Yesterday, I mentioned that IBM definitely had more up its sleeve concerning 'energy efficiency' in the data center.
So here's the press release from IBM now officially announcing their 'Project Big Green' : 'IBM Unveils Plan to Combat Data Center Energy Crisis; Allocates $1 Billion to Advance "Green" Technology and Services"; This has of course a larger scope than just the mainframe. The summary :
IBM is using its expertise and energy-smart technology innovations to outline a five-step approach for clients that is designed to dramatically improve energy efficiency:
  • DIAGNOSE: Evaluate existing facilities -- energy assessment, virtual 3-D power management and thermal analytics
  • BUILD: Plan, build or update to an energy efficient data center
  • VIRTUALIZE: Virtualize IT infrastructures and special purpose processors
  • MANAGE: Seize control with power management software
  • COOL: Exploit liquid cooling solutions -- inside and out of the data center
More details on the different components in the press release itself, also including some 'cool' pictures.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Life in the Data Center

How I came across these ?
There's another youtube movie on IBM and the green data center :

I guess there will be more to come in the next days because IBM really wants to position the mainframe as the greenest, quietest, least power consuming and coolest place in the data center.

As you see in the first movies, there's this reference to a new blog called The Raised Floor. What will be their focus ? "The Raised Floor is a group-authored blog that tracks changes in corporate data centers as they become greener, more efficient and more indispensable to business". Their first topic : The Data Center Energy Crisis.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

TS7700 The drawbacks - Revisited

One of my first posts was about some TS7700 drawbacks. Things have changed since then, so I find it not more than fair to give this an update. For those who are not that familiar with the virtualization engine, here's a graphical representation of its components :

Most of what I'm telling comes from the redbook 'IBM System Storage Virtualization Engine TS7700: Tape Virtualization for System z Servers'.

The first drawback - certainly also because of its price - was the large cache with a minimum of 6TB. You now have a choice starting at 2TB up to 6 TB with 1TB increments (p. 23). I guess it was also because of this difference with the B10 (with a maximum of 432GB) that an upgrade from a B10 VTS seemed a bit pointless. This upgrade is also possible now : "Outboard VTS migration provides an upgrade path for existing, standalone B10 or B20 VTS models to a standalone TS7700 Virtualization Engine through RPQ 8B3411" (p. 184).

The TS7700 still cannot connect to a 3494 tape library - for the time being. There's a Statement of Direction for "attachment of the TS7700 to the IBM TotalStorage 3494 Enterprise Tape Library to provide greater investment protection" (p. 5). Another SOD also mentions "utilization of the encryption capability of the TS1120 Tape Drive Model E05 by the TS77000" (p. 5).

A final drawback I mentioned was that the new 3952 drives (TS1120) could only run in 3952 J1A emulation mode, preventing the full use of larger tapes and the speed of the new TS1120 drives. This has now been lifted when you only use these new drives : "The TS7700 Virtualization Engine supports TS1120 Tape Drives and IBM 3592 Model J1A Tape Drives.(...) TS1120 drives assigned to a TS7700 run in J1A Emulation mode, when intermixed with J1A tape drives on the same TS7740, or in native E05 mode, when only E05 drives are attached to a TS7740" (p.29).

Friday, May 4, 2007

Dolmen Newsletter N° 7

Our seventh Dolmen System z newsletter for Belgian customers is out. You can find the Dutch versions of this and previous newsletters over here. A French version is also available. Unfortunately for other readers, Belgium does not have an English speaking community ;-).
Topics covered : the new pricing formulas (zNALC and MWLC), lots of recent announcements, EOS dates of operating systems and an agenda.
Concerning the agenda : the DB2 Working group meeting is not on May 24, 2007 as mentioned but on May 29, 2007. Another one got just too late to get into the newsletter : there's a GSE TWS working group meeting on May 22, 2007. More details on these and other events are mentioned in our 'Upcoming Events Belgium' calendar at the right hand side of this blog.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Vanguard Software Products

Less than 2 years ago, on August 23, 2005 IBM announced to resell the Vanguard Software Products as "a complete solution for RACF security management". I quote the 2005 announcement : "Vanguard products dramatically improve the efficiency of security administration provide expert level vulnerability analysis and system auditing tools, and add real-time event, intrusion detection, and policy enforcement capabilities to the zSeries Server. Everyday security functions can be performed with accuracy in a fraction of the time".
Now, IBM made the following announcement : 'Developer Relations Remarketing software withdrawal: Vanguard products'. The products are Vanguard Administrator, Vanguard Advisor, Vanguard Analyzer, Vanguard Enforcer and Vanguard SecurityCenter.
No doubt this is related to the acquisition of Consul a couple of months ago. The Consul suites will be incorporated into the Tivoli Security Management Products.