Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mainframe Job Seekers Rejoice!

Today, our friends at z/Journal launched a Mainframe Job board dedicated to helping mainframe professionals locate new career opportunities quickly and effectively. Additionally, if you have jobs that you need to fill, the site also offers low cost opportunities for you to promote those positions. For more details, visit the job board.


Monday, June 25, 2007

IBM acquisitive and dynamic

It looks like IBM has a plan. A number of recent events seem to indicate that IBM has decided how it wants things to look this time next year, and has started to set about making it happen. What am I talking about? Well I have in mind the recent acquisition of Watchfire, a Web application security company, and the “Web 2.0 Goes to Work” initiative.

Watchfire has a product called AppScan, which has been around for a few years now, in fact Watchfire got it by acquiring a company called Sanctum in 2004. IBM needed a good Web security product to go with RACF, it’s well-known mainframe security software, and, of course, its ISS purchase. Internet Security Systems cost IBM $1.3bn. The company sold intrusion detection and vulnerability assessment tools and services to secure corporate networks. Once it’s happy the Internet is secure, IBM can move forward with its new Web initiative.

Before I go on to talk about that, you might be interested to know that HP has bought SPI Dynamics, another Web security company. Whether HP bought the company to stop IBM getting it, or whether they have plans to integrate WebInspect (one of SPI’s products) with their own products, I just don’t know.

Anyway, the “Web 2.0 Goes to Work” initiative, announced 20 June, is IBM’s way of bringing the value of Web 2.0 into the enterprise. By the value of Web 2.0, they are thinking about things like easy access to information-rich browser-based applications, as well as social networking and collaboration software. No IBM announcement is complete these days without the letters S, O, and A appearing somewhere. IBM said that SOA helps build a flexible computing infrastructure and Web 2.0 provides users with the software required to create rich, lightweight, and easily-deployable software solutions.

Cutting through the hype, IBM has actually announced Lotus Connections, comprising social bookmarking and tagging, rich directories including skills and projects, activity dashboards, collaboration among like-minded communities, and weblogs or blogging. Lotus Quickr is a collaboration tool offering blogs, wikis, and templates. Thirdly, WebSphere Commerce now makes online shopping easier. Full details of the announcement can be found at

IBM is clearly thinking ahead and definitely doesn’t want to be seen as the company selling “dinosaur” mainframes. A strong move into the Web 2.0 arena is clearly sensible – and making sure security is locked down tightly means IBM can retain its reputation for reliability.

Monday, June 18, 2007

SOA still making an impact

IBM’s SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) conference, IMPACT 2007, attracted nearly 4,000 attendees to Orlando, Florida. IBM used the occasion to make some software and services announcements.

IBM introduced a new mainframe version of WebSphere Process Server, which, they claim, automates people and information-centric business processes, and also consolidates mission-critical elements of a business onto a single system. IBM suggests that a combination of DB2 9, WebSphere Application Server (WAS), and WebSphere Process Server will deliver process and data services for SOA on a mainframe.

IBM also announced DB2 Dynamic Warehouse, which integrates Information on Demand and SOA strategies to implement Dynamic Warehousing solutions – they said. It also integrates with Rational Asset Manager (a registry of design, development, and deployment related assets such as services) to improve SOA governance and life-cycle management. At the same time, IBM announced a new WAS feature pack to simplify Web services deployment.

The trouble with SOA is that there are a lot of people talking about it, but not enough people who really understand how to implement SOA in an organization. IBM has thought about that issue and announced at IMPACT 2007 218 self-paced and instructor-led courses conducted online and in the classroom. IBM also claimed that it has good relationships with colleges and universities round the world and is working on the development of SOA-related curricula with them.

If you want to visualize how an SOA affects different parts of an organization, IBM had an interactive 3D educational game simulator. Called Innov8, this BPM simulator is designed to increase the understanding between IT departments and business executives.

At the same time, IBM announced an online portal containing Webcasts, podcasts, demos, White Papers, etc for people looking to get more SOA-related information.

Lastly, IBM announced its SOA portfolio, which contained integrated technology from DataPower SOA appliances, FileNet content manager, and Business Process Management (BPM). Included in the announcement was the WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance XI50, which can now support direct database connectivity. Also, IBM has integrated the capabilities of WebSphere with the FileNet BPM.

So, not surprisingly, SOA and WebSphere are definitely THE hot topics for IBM at the moment.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Virtualization – a beginner’s guide to products

Let’s start with a caveat: I’m calling this a beginner’s guide not a complete guide – so, if you know of a product that I haven’t mentioned, sorry, I just ran out of space.

Now the thing is, on a mainframe, we’ve got z/VM, which is really the grandfather of all these fashionable virtualization products. In fact, if I can use a science fiction metaphor, VM is a bit like Dr Who, every few years it regenerates as a re-invigorated up-to-date youthful product, ready to set to with those pesky Daleks and Cybermen, etc.

And, of course, mainframers are all familiar with LPARs (Logical PARtitions), which are ways of dividing up the hardware so it can run multiple operating systems.

The real problem for mainframers is when they are asked to bring their wealth of experience with virtualized hardware and software to the x86 server arena. Where do you start? What products are available? Well, this is what I want to summarize here (for beginners).

I suppose the first product I should mention is IBM’s Virtualization Manager, which is an extension to IBM Director. The product provides a single console from which users can discover and manage real and virtual systems. Now, the virtual systems would themselves be running virtualization software – and I’ll talk about that layer in a moment.

If you don’t choose IBM, an alternative would be the VMware’s product suite, which comprises eight components: Consolidated Backup (for backing up virtual machines), DRS (for resource allocation and balancing), ESX Server, High Availability (an HA engine), Virtual SMP (offering multiprocessor support for virtual machines), VirtualCenter (where management, automation, and optimization occur), VMFS (a FileSystem for storage virtualization), and VMotion (for migration).

Also, quite well-known is HP’s ProLiant Essentials Virtual Machine Management Pack, which more-or-less explains what it does in the title.

Lastly, for this list of management software are CiRBA’s Data Center Intelligence (now at Version 4.2) and Marathon Technologies’ everRun. Marathon also has its v-Available initiative.

In terms of software that actually carries out the virtualization on an x86 platform perhaps the two best-known vendors would be VMware and XenSource. VMware has its ESX Server (mentioned above) and XenSource has XenEnterprise, XenServer, and XenExpress.

VMware’s ESX Server reckons to have around 50% of the x86 virtualization marketplace. It installs straight on to the hardware and then runs multiple operating systems underneath. The Xen products use the Xen Open Source hypervisor running straight on the hardware and allow Windows and Linux operating systems to run under them. Virtual Iron also uses the Xen hypervisor and is similar to the Xen products. It’s currently at Version 3.7. Also worth a quick mention is SWsoft, who produce Virtuozzo.

One other company that has a small presence in the world of virtualization is Microsoft – you may have heard of them! Microsoft has Virtual Server 2005 R2, which, as yet, hasn’t made a big impact on the world of virtualization.

So, any virtualization beginners out there – I hope that helped.

Monday, June 04, 2007

When is a mainframe not a mainframe?

The April/May 2007 issue of z/Journal ( has an interesting article by Philip H Smith III entitled, “The state of IBM mainframe emulation”. Emulation is a way of letting hardware run software that shouldn’t be able to run on that hardware! It’s an extra layer of code between the operating system and the hardware. The operating system sends an instruction and the emulation software converts that instruction to one that the existing hardware can understand. The hardware then carries out the instruction. Any response is then converted by the emulator into something that the operating system would expect, and the originating program carries on processing unaware of the clever stuff that’s been going on. Often there is a native operating system involved between the emulation software and the hardware, but not always.

Philip talks about FLEX-ES from Fundamental Software. Its business partners offer integrated FLEX-ES solutions on Intel-based laptops and servers. It means that developers can test mainframe software on a laptop. It works by running as a task under Linux, and FLEX emulates a range of devices including terminals and tape drives. FLEX also sell hardware to allow real mainframe peripherals to connect to the laptop, and PC peripherals that can emulate their mainframe counterparts. There is currently a legal dispute between IBM and Fundamental Software.

There was also UMX technologies, which offered a technology that was apparently developed in Russia. This company arrived in 2003 and disappeared in 2004.

Hercules is an Open Source mainframe emulator that was originally developed by Roger Bowler. Hercules runs under Linux, as well as Windows and Mac OS X. IBM, however, won’t license its operating systems for Hercules systems, so users have to either run older public domain versions of IBM operating systems (eg VM/370 or OS/360) or illegally run newer operating systems.

Platform Solutions has a product called the Open Mainframe, which provides a firmware-based mainframe environment on Intel-based hardware. It is built on intellectual property from the time that Amdahl offered a Plug-Comptible Mainframe (PCM). It’s not a complete solution because it doesn’t support the SIE instruction, with the result that z/VM won’t run. However, z/OS and z/Linux work OK. Open Mainframe runs straight on the hardware, it doesn’t need an operating system. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, IBM’s and PSI’s legal teams are now involved.

I also found Sim390, which is an application that runs under Windows and emulates a subset of the ESA/390 mainframe architecture. Its URL is

I hope Philip H Smith III won’t mind me borrowing from his article, but there are two very interesting points leading on from this. One, and Philip makes this in his article, is that if mainframe emulation is available on laptop, it is easier to use and more likely that younger people (remember that awful bell-shaped curve showing the average age of experienced mainframers and COBOL programmers) will want to have a go.

The second point is that emulation is only a short step away from virtualization, which I’ve talked about before. Wouldn’t it make sense (from a user’s point of view) if they had one box of processors (Intel quad processors, P6s, whatever), and they could then run all their operating systems on it? The virtualization software would also be the emulation software. It could run Windows, Linux, z/VM, z/OS, etc on it. If a user’s needs were simple, it would be a small box with few chips and not too many peripherals. If a user’s needs were complex, it would be a big box with lots of everything. Virtualization is appearing everywhere, I can quite easily see it absorbing the concept of mainframe emulation (IBM’s legal team permitting, of course!).