CA Enhances, Expands Mainframe Management Suite

CA touts a visual spin -- in a 3270 interface -- on ESCON and FICON management.

One encouraging upside to the ongoing mainframe revival is that it's given many products not just a longer lease on life but a new chance at relevance.

There're VM, CICS, IMS, and even VSE -- which IBM Corp. continues to develop and enhance -- along with an ecosystem of supporting products from Big Blue and third-party vendors.

It's on the supporting products side, in particular, that much interesting work has taken place. Consider this week's product blast from CA Inc. with updates to eight products.

Chief among these was version r11.6 of its venerable OPS/MVS Event Management and Automation product, which includes an entirely new ESCON and FICON management facility, dubbed Switch Operations Facility (SOF).

The new SOF, which CA says brings a hierarchical visual context to operations management, nonetheless uses the ubiquitous 3270 interface.

In this sense, argues Rob Steiskal, senior product marketing manager with CA, it makes for an innovating melding of old and new.

"OPS/MVS is a well-established product family. It has a significant market share in the mainframe automation space for dealing in operations. What we're introducing here is a brand new option, the Switch Operations Facility, that helps to manage the ESCON and FICON environments at customer sites," Steiskal explains. "It's a new mainframe solution for them that helps them manage the storage devices and the network that it is a part of your infrastructure -- your ports, your switches, the components of that network as well.

"It is still a 3270-based screen, but the visualization provides a hierarchical view of your ESCON [and] FICON infrastructure. With this hierarchical view, when you choose to issue or automate actions, you can see what impact [those actions] will have, or if you have an event that occurs, you can simplify the problem analysis, and then your impact analysis is typically the next stage."

CA is shooting for two things with its "visual" SOF console: to give mainframe operators the information they need to do their jobs, and to help simplify a decidedly complex area (i.e., ESCON and FICON management) for mainframe neophytes (or for non-mainframe staff, in some cases).

"First, we are reaching out to hardware configuration staff and operators, so we have internal events that simplify the impact analysis process. Without such tooling, it can often take 45 minutes to an hour to determine [the impact of an action]. If a device needs to be repaired or replaced, we're offering that information, of course -- but we're also offering the information about what taking this device offline will do to your environment," Steiskal explains.

The new SOF facility should even appeal to non-mainframe cognoscenti, too. "Often these environments are very, very complex, especially the ones that are in a constant state of flux, and this solution certainly does help simplify that overall management," he argues. "The command line [syntax] is very simple. It's a bunch of line commands that can help keep things up and going. We have identified that this solution helps you to manage your environment without the need to really have that in-depth knowledge of that environment."

During its initial program load (IPL), the SOF facility performs an exhaustive discovery process, Steiskal indicates, so there's no laborious cataloguing or inventorying of ESCON or FICON assets.

Moreover, SOF can dynamically detect new ESCON or FICON resources as they're added to an environment. "It performs a discovery initially of all the resources that are part of the ESCON and FICON environment. When something is dynamically added or removed, it recognizes that instantaneously, so it can dynamically manage updates to that environment," he asserts. In this respect, Steiskal and CA contend, the new SOF tool is an important improvement over Big Blue's existing ESCON Manager, which -- in its last few iterations -- has been packaged with Tivoli System Automation.

"That product had not been truly updated in some time," Steiskal claims. "So we are putting this tool together to extend our product family, and we're looking to extend the automation capabilities that a customer would be able to utilize to simplify the management of that [ESCON and FICON] environment."

The result, he maintains, is an accelerated management experience.

"What we had discovered through beta testing is that when we go through an IPL [of] OPS MVS on a system, we perform a brief discovery of that environment. We've found that we take only a few minutes to perform that rediscovery during the IPL process, whereas a customer that had the competing solutionhad to invest significant additional time, and bring down their tool at that time because of I/O and CPU overhead."

Elsewhere, Steiskal indicates, OPS/MVS EMA r11.6 ships with 16 new tools that are designed to either automate or simplify mainframe management.

"With [CA's] OPS Log [product], previously, there was a limitation to the space requirements which would occasionally require a customer to perform an IPL, especially in customer shops where they were handling lots of messages with their OPS MVS product," he explains. "We have essentially made it possible to bring up [up to] 32 instances of our OPS LOG. The idea is to simplify that process [of sifting through log data] by making the container smaller, so that [customers] can more quickly access that information."

The new rev of OPS/MVS can perform a range of pre-defined health checks that assess the condition of managed resources relative to established policies. If something is out of whack, Steiskal says, OPS/MVS can then make the necessary corrections. "We've really been putting a lot of effort into [the automation] space to take data centers from reactively-driven automation to proactively managed data centers. This [OPS/MVS] release and the other new releases we're announcing are part of that."

For the record, CA announced eight new or updated products, including:

  • CA Security Compliance Manager, a new offering that helps organizations comply with legal, corporate, or government regulations. CA Security Compliance Manager wasn't developed in a vacuum, either; it exploits the company's existing expertise in the security and compliance segment -- especially products such as CA Identity Manager, CA-ACF2 and CA-Top Secret, CA GRC Manager, and CA Service Desk.
  • CA Access Control r12, an enhanced release that supports the creation, deployment, and management of role-based access controls across heterogeneous servers.
  • CA Identity Manager r12, an update to CA's existing product. The new release supports new integration and customization with third-party systems or applications via a wizard-based integration mechanism.
  • CA Software Compliance Manager, a new software asset management (SAM) tool that lets organizations monitor and manage software license usage.