Monday, November 13, 2006

AJAX and Enterprise Extender

I have seen the future and it works – so said Lincoln Steffens back in 1921 after a visit to Russia in 1919. But that’s exactly the way I felt after seeing a demo of William Data Systems’ new product called Ferret (www.willdata.com/v2/products/ferret.htm).

I’ll get to exactly what Ferret does in a moment, but what I saw that I believe to be the future of computing was the amazingly fast AJAX user interface. Let me explain… A user working from a browser loads the address of the monitor. There are then the usual security routines to go through (one screen linked to RACF etc), but while you’re typing in your userid etc, AJAX is downloading all the Javascript etc that is needed to make the thing work. The next thing you see are about half a dozen windows showing what’s going on – like any good monitor would – but what’s so futuristic is that all the “pages” as they would be on a 3270 screen are sitting there at one time. A user can shut down unwanted pages and re-open them later, but more importantly, they can drill down for more information. And, because it’s AJAX, the screen refresh is very fast indeed. Lists can be sorted – although that’s not that clever – but new monitor information also appears on your screen in the blink of an eye – and that is impressive. There are also a large number of organized drop-down menus to help users select what information they need to view. Because Ferret maintains its own records, it’s very easy to use the product to see trends and peak usage, etc.

So what actually is Ferret? Well it’s a separate product from Implex (which is perhaps WDS’s best known monitor product), and it monitors Enterprise Extender. Now many traditional IBM sites have clung on to their old technology because it works and have large SNA networks and old 3745 hardware, even though they now also have IP networks running. Enterprise Extender and APPN/HPR were introduced some time ago by IBM, but perhaps only in the past two years has there been much of a growth in their adoption. To find out what’s going on in this APPN/HPR environment can require up to seven VTAM commands and then a lot of cutting and pasting of responses. To be able to monitor over time means that these commands need repeating and records of the responses kept somewhere. This is a bit tricky, so many sites just assume because everything seems to be working, it must be working well – not a good assumption!

IBM introduced some SNA Management APIs with z/OS V1.5 that made it easier to get information about performance than using half a dozen VTAM command, but it is still not easy. That’s why WDS came up with their new product. The product carries out configuration monitoring, EE activity monitoring, and EE performance monitoring. There are diagnostic tools, and alerting capabilities. So, it’s interesting in itself because of what it can monitor, but, as I said above, what really makes it interesting is the incorporation of AJAX technology to make it work so quickly and effectively from a user’s browser.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of companies taking this route with their products in the near future, but here’s a product that does it now and it works brilliantly.

If you want more information, the product GAs at the end of this month. It’s certainly worth a look.

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