WDS FERRETs Out SNA-to-IP Bottlenecks

Mainframe operators need unobstructed visibility into the performance of their IP networks, too.

It’s a fact: Mainframe operators need unobstructed visibility into the performance of their Internet Protocol (IP) networks, too.

Enter Big Iron ISV William Data Systems (WDS), which recently announced FERRET, a network management tool designed for mainframe shops that are transitioning from systems network architecture (SNA) to IP.

They are still out there, WDS says, and can benefit from the visibility which FERRET provides. Now that Big Blue no longer markets the 3745/3746 Communication Controller (which provides core SNA functionality for 37xx systems), the onus is on these customers to upgrade—or, at the very least, to modernize and reconcile their SNA and IP networks.

For a variety of reasons—with cost paramount—many customers have ruled out converting their SNA networks (and SNA-based applications) to IP. There’s good reason for this, IBM officials acknowledge.

“The wholesale conversion of SNA applications to IP can be costly, risky, and may produce applications with less functionality than their SNA predecessors,” writes IBM senior software engineer Chuck Gardiner. IBM pushes a Linux-based migration solution: Deploy its IBM Communication Controller for Linux on zLinux. Communication Controller running on zLinux supports most important NCP functions (such as SNI and Boundary) and doesn’t require any reconfiguration of existing VTAM or NetView definitions, IBM claims.

That helps set the stage for FERRET, which WDS says can help mainframe operators identify potential bottlenecks and determine whether the right connections are being used. It monitors both enterprise extender (EE) and advanced peer-to-peer networking/high performance routing (APPN/HPR) traffic.

“FERRET is truly the first product of its kind that can give a complete picture of Enterprise Extender and APPN/HPR, which provides the information necessary for organizations to ensure continuity of operations and prevent costly problems,” said WDS managing director Mary Hegyi, in a statement.

FERRET is hardly the only EE monitor on the market, WDS officials concede, but other EE monitors don’t provide native support for real-time or historical analysis—except by means of frequently repeated Virtual Telecommunications Access Method (VTAM) commands, or through the use of IBM’s SNA Management API’s. FERRET, on the other hand, provides a granular view of routing activity inside the APPN/HPR extension. FERRET also dynamically detects APPN/HPR and EE configurations, along with alerting capabilities, diagnostic tools, and historical data for trends, capacity planning and reporting.

FERRET is a lightweight, browser-based application, based on Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJaX). As a result, WDS officials promise, it doesn’t require plug-ins. It does require that customers run at least z/OS version 1.5 and that they have the SNA Management API switched on.

About the Author

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

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