For Online VSAM Backup, BMC Came First, Company Says

Controversy highlights the way an ambitious Big Blue competes with many of its long-time partners

In an article published earlier this month (, we reported that VSAM Copy, a new CICS tool from IBM Corp., was a first-of-its-kind online copy utility for VSAM data stores. We thought we had good reason for doing so.

“The reason we’ve come out with a tool is that all of the other tools require customers to take their CICS [applications] offline when they do the copy, but we have designed this product specifically to alleviate that requirement,” Rick Thomas, CICS business development manager with IBM, told us.

That was news to BMC Software Corp., which has supported an online—i.e., copy-while-open—capability in its Recovery Utility for VSAM (RUV) for some time now. “We’ve had that in there since 1990,” confirms Rick Weaver, a product marketing manager with BMC. “But the Recovery Utility for VSAM is … not just a copy product. It does backups, restores, we’ve got technology in there where you can do instant snapshots, or you can leverage high-end storage devices to do clean copies in a few seconds of very large files.”

Weaver’s implication, of course, is that—unlike BMC’s RUV—IBM’s VSAM Copy is a one-trick pony. “The main thing about the Recovery Utility for VSAM is that it’s got a task that goes with it. It’s got an SPF interface, it’s got a repository, it allows a customer to treat VSAM files as well as they tend to treat IMS and DB2 databases,” he asserts.

What does Big Blue have to say in response? During our first interview, Thomas allowed that BMC Corp. already markets a VSAM copy tool, but claimed that IBM’s entry was the first of its kind.

In a follow-up e-mail, Thomas stuck to his guns. “We can see that by dissecting the relevant paragraph a reader from BMC could feel that part of it misrepresented their product,” he replies. “We are confident that when they look at the detail, potential customers will understand what we are offering. The description on the CICS Tools web site is very precise.”

But does Thomas dispute BMC’s claim that it was first to market with an online CICS copy facility? It depends on the meaning of the word “dispute.” “The distinction we are making with CICS VSAM Copy is that it can copy VSAM datasets while the CICS applications are running, and using (even updating) the very same datasets,” he explains. “Clearly BMC has a product that has satisfied customer needs for some time, but we believe it requires customers to quiesce relevant CICS applications for the duration of the copy function. This can require planning, and detailed knowledge of critical business processes and the relationships between the applications and the data sets they use.”

Weaver, for his part, says that’s simply not the case. “They’re making a declaration that they do a copy while open, and that’s unique, that’s exclusive. But we offered the same capability for a long time before them,” he maintains. “Again, [the VSAM online copy is] just part of it. The fact that we have this SPF dialog with a repository, it gives the customer a backup and recovery solution.”

The flap between IBM and BMC highlights an interesting parallel development in the mainframe tools space: Big Blue has increasingly elbowed its way into competition with many long-time partners, and has acquired others, such as former tools vendor Candle Corp.

Weaver acknowledges that there’s some tension between his company and Big Blue— “They’ve been giving us some fits in the DB2 space”—but says that the two vendors still have a great relationship.

“We call it coopetition, because we do go toe to toe with IBM in certain markets, and they’re very aggressive when they go into some of our customers,” he says. “This causes some friction in some areas, but generally things are still great,” says Weaver, who concedes that “mid-tier-type customers may look at [IBM’s VSAM Copy tool] as being more attractive to them.”

Most likely, BMC and other IBM partners will respond to Big Blue’s aggressiveness by touting the maturity and functionality of their own products. “They’ve got a lot of products that at first blush look like they do what our products do, but don’t have the depth and breadth,” he argues.

For example, notes Weaver, BMC has also supported coordinated recovery across DB2, IMS, and VSAM data sources for some time.

In 1996, for example, BMC introduced its Coordinated Recovery Manager (discontinued in 2001), which worked as advertised, but required a lengthy outage to obtain a system-wide point of consistency (SWOPC). Recently, using a combination of RUV and its Recovery Manager tools for DB2 and IMS, BMC has touted a new Coordinated Recovery Process that obtains an SWOPC without an outage, Weaver reports.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.