CA Revamps, Extends NetMaster, SysView

Both NetMaster and SysView boast GUI and usability improvements. Along with a lower-cost software licensing option and you have pair of old tools reborn.

Traditional powerhouse CA Inc. recommitted itself to the mainframe last year, announcing an ambitious new initiative, dubbed Mainframe 2.0, which it hopes will both burnish and augment its mainframe bona-fides.

The first evidence of CA's Mainframe 2.0 initiative appeared this week, in the form of new versions of its NetMaster Network Management for TCP/IP and SYSVIEW Performance Management products. The revamped products are said to deliver on the core promises of Mainframe 2.0: simplified manageability and cross-platform commonality. Along with what CA claims are lower-cost software licensing costs -- courtesy of a zIIP-based NetMaster processing engine -- and a pair of old tools are reborn.

CA positions Mainframe 2.0 as an effort to simplify ongoing management and administration in mainframe environments. In this respect it's similar to IBM's own mainframe simplification initiative, unveiled two years ago, when Big Blue trumpeted a plan to invest upwards of $100 million across its mainframe practice to make Big Iron systems easier to use and manage.

The decision to pursue Mainframe 2.0 might simply have been a case of CA's doing the math. By the end of 2008, for example, mainframe tool sales accounted for about 60 percent of its software revenue, according to Chris O'Malley, who heads CA's mainframe business unit. That's a number CA officials expect will grow, as customers -- shopping for value in the current climate -- revisit (and possibly expand) their mainframe investments.

More for the Money

With its new NetMaster r11.6 and SysView r12 announcements, CA says it's giving customers more for their software licensing dollar. NetMaster lets mainframe operators monitor and manage TCP/IP networks from their System z environments. SysView is a real-time monitoring tool for z/OS. CA likes to bill it as an all-in-one tool for managing mainframe service levels across multiple systems. Both are mature tools.

NetMaster, for example, delivers improved interoperability with Big Blue's Enterprise Extender (EE) technology -- including support for visual indicators, proactive warnings, packet traces (via EE's SmartTrace facility), usage reports, and new diagnostic capabilities. The revamped NetMaster's biggest value add, according to Mark Combs, senior vice-president of CA's mainframe business unit, is its ability to shift some of its processing into a zSeries Integrated Information Processor (zIIP), if available.

It's an arrangement that CA has successfully exploited with other products, starting with its IDMS and Datacom database systems. "The other specialty processors that [IBM] has introduced -- [e.g.] the IFLs and the zAAPs and the Crypto processors -- were specific in the sense that they were linked to a specific language or a specific application or a specific technology. For example, the zAAP processor is only invocable for workloads that are running under the JVM," explains Combs. "The zIIPs were introduced to enhance the functioning of particularly DB2, but they didn't implement it in a way that would link it to DB2 as an application. Instead, they linked it to the technique … that DB2 uses for data processing, so that link isn't specific to DB2. It's available to any program that wants to take advantage of it."

This approach -- running in the Service Request Block (SRB) -- allows CA to tap zIIP's low-cost processing facility for non-traditional (non-DB2) workloads, such as -- in the case of NetMaster -- TCP processing. It's a scheme that IBM took into account when designing the zIIP, Combs says. "We had conversations with IBM just to make sure that this was their intent -- that we make it available to non-DB2 applications. They had no objections to our exploiting it as well."

The revamped SysView doesn't have a zIIP component, but it does ship with a number of additions, including new graphical performance "dashboards" designed to help users manage their mainframe resources from a single console. In addition, SysView's new dashboard feature makes it possible for operations staff to customize data displays for individual users, as well as to create customized alert thresholds.

SysView r12 also boasts an improved reporting facility, with support for customized reports in Excel, PDF, XML, text file, e-mail, or HTML formats. Other enhancements include a new "compliance-ready" auditing facility, a "simplified" deployment and maintenance scheme, and a more straightforward CICS upgrade experience. Users need no longer recycle CICS regions during upgrades, Combs says.

A Single GUI

One feature that CA wants to trumpet in its new SysView r12 release is interface commonality. After all, commonality -- or a One-GUI-to-Govern-Them-All management experience -- is a signature aspect of Mainframe 2.0.

"The trend here is the introduction of better and easier-to-use user interfaces. Adding in the new GUI for SysView, for example, and making that GUI sort of integrated across different products so that they can share data with one another, that's part of our [Mainframe 2.0] strategy," he points out. "This [commonality] will grow over time to include the security products, and ultimately it's going to be applied to all of our products."

CA's efforts in this regard dovetail nicely with its Enterprise IT Management (EITM) strategy, an ongoing effort to standardize the user experience across all of its management tooling. "We're three years into the realization of that strategy, and there's really some quite sophisticated integration. In the area of workload management, it's a total end-to-end suite of products. In the area of security, the interfaces are very high. There's a possibility to get common audit. There's just a lot of integration that's there," Combs concludes.

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