Making the Most of Your Mainframe, Part 2 of 2

How IT organizations are managing the mainframe environment to reduce costs while delivering greater value.

by Bill Miller

In part 1 of this article (see http://www.esj.com/articles/2009/11/03/Making-Most-of-Mainframe.aspx) we looked at the challenges enterprise IT organizations face in meeting service levels and protecting the core business while using fewer assets. We also discussed how intelligent software can help IT address these challenges. This week we focus on how IT organizations are managing the mainframe environment to reduce costs while delivering greater value.

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The mainframe is a proven, reliable platform. As a result, most organizations with mainframes are not considering migrating to distributed systems. Here’s why: The mainframe is the most cost-effective processor. It’s scalable, uses less energy,, is more efficiently managed and has greater security. It ranks high as the greenest of all the processors because of the extremely high utilization of a few very powerful machines versus the proliferation of many power hungry but lightly utilized servers.

The right software to manage your existing mainframe infrastructure can help you achieve greater cost savings. For example, application performance-tuning software can help IT organizations improve their SQL and lower CPU costs. The tool can make it easier to identify resource-intensive SQL statements and then provide recommendations to tune the SQL and make it more efficient. Even if that inefficient code is just one small piece, if it’s part of a routine that runs a thousand times a day, its importance could increase by a magnitude of 20 or 30 percent. Improvements to that code can dramatically increase system performance and reduce mainframe processing costs.

When an equipment manufacturer implemented an application performance-tuning solution, it reduced the cost of a transaction by 99.2 percent. Over the next year, this change will save on the costs of this application more than $340,000 thanks to improved performance. Without the tool, identifying the transaction and tuning the code would have taken more time and wouldn’t have been addressed as quickly.

Other IT organizations have also saved money in mainframe environments by applying the right technology to address key challenges. A capacity management solution helped a government agency free up mainframe processing, postpone costly upgrades, tighten alignment between IT and the business, boost staff productivity, and minimize training.

At a health benefits company, the large IMS environment averaged 400 transaction failures each business day because of deadlocks and resource contention conflicts. A deadlock is a situation in which two transactions compete to update the same record. IMS prevents that by locking the record until the first transaction can complete its work and release its lock. This is a common occurrence in busy IMS shops. On average, the company’s operations group spent about two hours to research the impacted IMS transaction to correctly perform the manual restart on the initiating IMS system. Furthermore, batch processing took longer because the outage extended the start time for the procedure.

To eliminate these transaction failures, the company installed application restart software on 1,400 BMPs (BMP refers to batch message processing, which allows batch programs to access online databases without having to shut them down). To avoid a deadlock, the software temporarily suspends the BMP that is requesting a resource already in use, then automatically retries after a short delay. This solution resulted in annual operational savings of approximately $276,000.

A major provider of cable and telephone services uses three mainframes to run an application that processes approximately $10,000,000 of payments every day, seven days a week. This function requires one full-time equivalent working six hours every evening. To cut processing costs, the company installed workload automation software that completes the process in three hours and has consistently run the jobs in the correct order. The company expects to realize $400,000 in savings over a five-year period.

A bank has used the back-out feature of a recovery utility to dramatically reduce the duration of an outage for a critical application. Using this solution, the bank was able to recover its clearinghouse application in 10 minutes. The bank’s database administrators have estimated that a “standard recovery” of the application would have taken 10 hours, and the bank has needed to recover the clearinghouse application at least once a year for the past three years. The savings per incident ranges from $295,000 to $2,950,000, depending on when the outage occurs and the cost per minute of outage.

For these IT organizations, combining the right software with their existing mainframe infrastructure enabled them to do more with less -- and reduce costs.

Reducing Costs with Smart Solutions

IT organizations already have cut their IT budgets tremendously. Complicating matters, now most IT organizations expect to decrease their spending for staff education and training, as well as professional services and outside consultants. Yet you must still meet your service levels. And the current economic climate means those service levels might be even higher in some cases. Organizations using solutions that truly have intelligent automation will provide greater opportunities to save money.

Staying on the mainframe may be the right and smart choice for your organization. By meeting these challenges now, your IT organization will get into shape and become stronger, so it can provide the business with what it needs to be even more competitive when the economy turns around.

Bill Miller is president of the Mainframe Service Management (MSM) Business Unit, BMC Software. He joined BMC in 2002 from BindView Development Corporation, where he served as senior vice president and chief operating officer, after spending 21 years at IBM Corporation in several roles. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from West Point and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Dallas. You can reach the author at Bill_Miller@bmc.com