CA Revamps IMS Management Tool

IMS workloads are growing, and CA says the capabilities of its management tools are keeping pace, too

Ten years ago, many IT professionals thought the mainframe was a sinking ship that would almost certainly drag Big Iron beasts such as CICS, VSAM, and IMS along with it.

These days, just the opposite is the case: mainframe sales have recovered nicely, thank you, and new instances of CICS, VSAM, and IMS are being deployed. What’s more, IBM Corp. itself continues to actively develop and enhance all three products. Big Blue announced a new version of CICS last summer, for example, followed by a new IMS 9 release last fall.

As a result, ISVs such as BMC Software Corp. and Computer Associates International Inc. (CA), along with Big Blue itself, are steadily upgrading and enhancing CICS, VSAM, and IMS management tools that are, in some cases, decades old.

Last week, CA offered up another variation on this theme, announcing a new version of its Unicenter Database Management tool for IMS. Because Big Blue’s November, 2004 refresh of IMS introduced support for online reorganizations of IMS 9 High Availability Large Databases (HALDB), CA says its new Database Management r11 release for IMS directly addresses the needs of many users.

“The biggest thing in that was the online reorg capabilities for [IMS’] HALDB,” says Dave Schipper, director of product management on CA’s Unicenter Database Management team.

IMS 9 ships with native tools that support this feature, Schipper allows, but the latest release of Unicenter Database Management for IMS lets users more easily support sophisticated reorg scenarios.

“With the online reorg capability, they’ve gone to the same premise that they’ve done with the DB2, where there are two sets of databases, and it flip flops from one to the other as you do the reorg,” he says. “We’ve been hearing things from customers, things like ‘We really need to know which sets of data are the active ones now,” or ‘We need to know which ones to back up.’”

R11 provides support for other IMS 9-specific capabilities, too. For example, says Schipper, it supports compression for Data Entry Databases (DEDB) when they are opened by multiple Task Control Blocks (TCBs).

Support for IMS 9 is important, but r11 isn’t just a one-trick pony, Schipper asserts. In the latest release, for example, CA continues to consolidate its stable of standalone IMS management tools. “Over the last few releases, we’ve gone from 12 products down to five primary ones and a few specialty ones. In this new release, we took several products that used to be separately licensed—these were separately chargeable products—and we merged them into three of our previously existing products.”

The upshot, he says, is that customers get all three products—that is, Unicenter Database Analyzer, Unicenter Database Organizer, and Unicenter High Performance Recovery—free of charge when they upgrade to r11.

Of course, your average mainframe software vendor doesn’t exactly have a reputation for overwhelming generosity. Some users, in fact, have suggested that the Big Iron ISVs view them less as valued customers and more as reliable maintenance cash cows. There’s some basis for this perception, too: mainframe software titles are typically more expensive than their counterparts for Unix, Windows, and Linux platforms. So it’s worth asking: What’s the catch?

According to Schipper, there isn’t any: The products are free to anyone who upgrades to r11 and is current with maintenance. “This is pro bono. Assuming the customer is paying maintenance, by moving to the r11 release, they will get the additional functionality,” he asserts. “Where some other vendors have had individual products for backup, unload, reorg, particular ones for Full Function, FastPath, or HALDB—all of that is in our product. If you need to reorg your IMS databases, or unload them, or reload them, we have one solution for CA, which happens also to be a single product.”

Other r11 enhancements include a Control Block Validity Manager, which helps improve database integrity; a Forward Recovery feature that supports hot backup in the event that the primary database goes down. “The Control Block Validity Manager, that was something a customer had asked for, because BMC has a product called Database Integrity Plus, and as [this customer was] replacing their BMC products with ours, they needed something to replicate that,” Schipper explains. “In this release, we’ve added a lot of things that customers have asked for. There’s Recover the Last Image Copy, the last IC Equals Yes, even the ability to do Forward Recovery.”

Late last year, CA announced support for capacity pricing across its mainframe product lines. To that end, says Schipper, Unicenter Database Management for IMS r11 is available under CA’s FlexSelect licensing program in which customers pay for the capacity that they actually use.

While IMS isn’t a growth market, Schipper says it continues to perform solidly. Surprisingly enough, he says, CA sells some of its IMS management tools to customers deploying the database for the first time.

“It doesn’t certainly seem to be shrinking. Those that have it are keeping it, as near as we can tell. Where we are seeing the growth is people trying to be more cost effective about how they manage it, and replacing other vendors' products with ours, as we try to be a more cost-effective provider."

About the Author

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