Monday, October 15, 2007

Brief Hiatus

Hi Folks,

This week I want to point you to The Mainframe Update, a new newsletter that Xephon launched last week at This newsletter is designed to bring you information from all over the web. News items, announcements, tips, tools and tidbits from the web that you may have missed.

Additionally, Trevor Eddolls, has a like-titled, but independent new blog over at Check it out, as he'll continue the work that he started here at mainframe weekly.


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Monday, October 08, 2007

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

In October 1985 the very first CICS Update was put together. Since the summer that year, articles had been coming in to the Xephon office. Created on an Apple II using the Zardax word processing program, the first issue of CICS Update was printed out and sent to the printers at the beginning of November. Early in December, issue 1 arrived on the desks of subscribers. The Updates were born.

I wasn't there for the launch, I joined Xephon in February 1986. Soon there was VM Update and MVS Update. Next came VSE Update and VSAM Update. Then TCP Update and RACF Update. Others came and went, some quicker than others. There was Web Update, Oracle Update, NT Update, and Notes Update. In the end there was AIX Update, CICS Update, DB2 Update, z/OS Update, WebSphere Update, TCP/SNA Update, and RACF Update.

For the past four years, I have been editing all of them – but no longer. The new editor is Amy Novotny, who you may know from her work on TCI Publication's zJournal. If you do have any articles you want to contribute to the Updates, you can send them to her at

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish is of course the title of the fourth book in Douglas Adams' Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy(!), and was published in 1984. It's what all the whales say when they leave Earth, just before the Vogon fleet arrives.

Good luck to Amy and the Updates in the future. And if you need to get in contact with me, you can use See you around...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Compliance, data storage, and Titans

The Titans, in Greek mythology, were originally twelve powerful gods. They were later overthrown by Zeus and the Olympian gods. I'm not talking about them. Nor am I talking about the fictional characters created by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson in their Legends of Dune novels. Today I want to talk about an interesting announcement from NEON Enterprise Software ( called TITAN Archive.

So what makes TITAN Archive more interesting than anything else announced in September? Well, basically, its simplicity and usefulness. It is described as a "database archiving solution", which means that an organization can use it to store structured data for long periods of time. And why should anyone want to do that? Well the answer is compliance.

Regulations are getting stricter in so many countries, and companies are now compelled for legal reasons to store large amounts of data for long periods of time. In fact, data retention could now be between 6 and 25 years. Many organizations are defining their own retention policies and are looking for ways to action those policies that are economic and allow data to be recalled quickly and easily (now called e-discovery if it's needed for a court case), and, at the same time, doesn't affect the performance of their current computing needs. They are looking for a solution that meets all compliance and legal requirements and can be used in the event litigation.

At the moment, TITAN Archive works with DB2, but plans are in place for a version for Oracle and one for IMS. Both data and metadata are stored in what's called an Encapsulated Archive Data Object (EADO). The EADO format is independent of the source DBMS (which may very well change at a company in the course of 25 years!) and can be accessed or queried using standard SQL queries or reports – which makes accessing it very easy. The data can be stored for as long as necessary. TITAN Archive can also have a discard policy, which makes sure that data is deleted when it is no longer required for legal or commercial purposes.

TITAN Archive connects to a storage area network and is managed from a Java interface that could be deployed across the enterprise or secured to a single location. The heart of TITAN Archive is the archive appliance. This is a Linux server that performs all the TITAN Archive processing.

Moving archive data off the mainframe and being able to access it easily, while retaining it for the longer periods of time now required, is a problem many companies face. TITAN Archive seems like a very useful and economic solution to this problem.

Monday, September 24, 2007

How Green Was My Valley – and how green are my computers?

How Green Was My Valley is a 1939 novel by Richard Llewellyn and a 1941 film directed by John Ford. It was written and filmed in the days when green was just a colour and not an aspirational life style. I blogged about IBM’s green data centre plans a few months ago, but I wanted to revisit this whole issue.

There does seem to be a lot of misconceptions about what’s green and what isn’t, and it does seem to depend on how you look at an issue.

For example, I have heard it said that because flat screens use less energy than cathode ray tubes, we should all (if we haven’t done so already) get rid of those old screen and replace them with new flat ones. Apparently wrong! Because of the huge amount of energy and resources it takes to create a CRT and a flat screen, it is, in fact, more energy efficient to use that CRT right up to the moment it fails, and then change to a flat screen. This is because, although per hour of usage the flat screen is greener, the total amount of energy it took to extract all the raw materials and then construct the screen far outweigh the energy used by that screen. So we should be using that old device until it no longer works and then change over.

Interestingly, thinking about the raw resources, it has been suggested that a standard PC uses 1.8 tonnes of raw materials.

Another common comment is that recycling computers is a good thing. The idea is that computers contain lots of expensive metals (like gold) so old ones should be stripped down and the expensive metals extracted and reused. Unfortunately, the energy audit for this is quite high. So is there a better alternative? Well yes, or else I wouldn’t have mentioned it! There are a variety of companies and charities that will refurbish computers and peripherals. This refurbished PC could be re-sold or it could be shipped to the developing world – both better choices than trying to regain the metal from the old PC and then using it in a new one. It’s the difference between re-use and recycling.

Storage vendor ONStor recently found that 58% of the companies they surveyed were either still talking about creating a green IT environment, or still have no plans to do anything. But with conflicting and confusing messages that isn't completely surprising.

Things like consolidation and virtualization could help reduce power, cooling, and other operational expenses – and these would therefore help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, etc. Of course, we could all do more. Many sites (and many of my friends’ houses) have old machines sitting in cupboards and under unused desks. These could be given to charities and sent on to developing countries. They’re certainly not doing anyone any good gathering dust. And even if the computer doesn’t work, given two or three machines, enough spare components could be put together to get one that does work – and which would the be put to good use.

Even if we’re not concerned with being green, with saving the planet, or helping third-world countries, we are paying the electricity bill. So in terms of simple economics, powering off unused printers and computers and anything else we leave in stand-by mode will save us money and is a way of being green too. I know you can’t power off your mainframe, but there’s often a lot of laptops left on in offices. Think, how green can your offices be – not just your data centre?!