Mainframe 2.0 at 2.5

Two and a half years on, CA says it has substantially delivered on its Mainframe 2.0 vision.

CA Technologies Inc. continues to flesh out its Mainframe 2.0 initiative, recently announcing a revamped Mainframe Software Manager (MSM), MSM-oriented improvements to its mainframe software stack, a revamped CA Endevor Software Change Manager, new mainframe services, and other enhancements.

CA officials also touted results from a CA poll that demonstrate that customers not only view Big Iron as a strategic platform for existing IT investments, but see the mainframe as an essential site for their cloud computing investments: "79 percent of organizations believe that the mainframe is essential to their cloud computing strategy," says Mark Combs, a distinguished senior vice president with CA, citing survey data. That's a major vote of confidence in favor of the mainframe as a preferred site for cloud, Combs maintains.

At the same time that Big Iron shops are drawing up major cloud investments, though they're under intense pressure to cut costs. That's a major impetus for Mainframe 2.0, which CA announced almost three years ago (in November of 2008). "Eighty percent [of respondents] cited that their No. 1 mainframe initiative for 2011 was lowering cost and doing more with less," Combs explains. "While the mainframe is understood to be very important, the thing that's number one on [customers'] minds is cutting costs. Basically, 100 percent of our mainframe customers are under continuous pressure to reduce costs."

Mainframe 2.0 Hitting Its Stride

With its emphases on cross-training of IT personnel, increased automation, and modernization of mainframe management techniques, concepts, and methods, Mainframe 2.0 dovetails neatly with this imperative, Combs maintains.

"We tried to look at the things that really drive our customers. What are the challenges?" he explains. "Controlling costs was No. 1. Another challenge is this idea of sustaining critical skills; because the workforce on the mainframe tends to be older, there are surveys showing that the average age tends to be 55."

These aren't new arguments. CA officials tendered many of the same claims when Mainframe 2.0 was first unveiled. The difference, Combs contends, is that -- nearly three years on -- CA has substantially delivered on its Mainframe 2.0 vision.

"By last year, we had about 49 product families that had made it into the CA [MSM] stack. With this, we're up to 57 product families, [and what this means is that] all of [these products] are installable and maintainable by Mainframe Software Manager, meet standards for coherence and are eligible to participate in CARS," or CA Recommended Services, a program that Combs says gives customers a kind of feedback loop into Mainframe 2.0's evolution.

"We were at the point with the [Mainframe 2.0] stack where it was actually up and running and in operation, but we were still managing our software maintenance the same way: the customer reports a problem, sometimes we find that there actually is a bug there that needs to be fixed, so we'd document [the bug], publish [a fix], and then we'd roll it up into the next release," he explains.

"With CARS, we're putting [this fix] into an environment that has continuously-running applications and we let that maintenance sit in there and live in a sort of pseudo-real-world [environment] along with our other maintenance fixes and IBM's RSUs [or "Recommended Service Unit" fixes]. We let it sit in there for three months and occasionally we'll find a collision with some of our products, or we'll find a collision with IBM [i.e., an IBM product or RSU]."

The point, Combs maintains, is that CARS permits CA to offer customers an assurance -- or a reassurance, as the case may be -- that bug fixes or critical patches won't take down other mission-critical mainframe resources.

Round-up: New Mainframe 2.0 Enhancements

CA's latest announcement was version 4.0 of MSM, a product that -- prior to its 4.0 release -- was in use by more than 400 customers.

This in itself isn't surprising: CA offers MSM for free.

As CA pushes out MSM capabilities across its mainframe stack, MSM is shaping up to be a killer value, Combs maintains. With the most recent releases, he points out, CA has extended MSM compatibility to 234 products. A growing number of CA products also exploit hardware assist capabilities -- such as IBM's zSeries Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) -- to offload workloads.

Consider the revamped Endeavor Change Manager that CA announced. It boasts enhanced integration with MSM, a modernized GUI, and Web services integration with CA Clarity and CA Service Desk, its counterparts on the distributed side of the computing divide.

"We've enhanced [Endevor's] usability and we've made it more open and integrate-able with the distributed world," Combs explains. Integration comes by way of Endevor's new Web services interface, which permit customers to communicate with Endevor via third-party interfaces.

CA also delivered new zIIP support for its SYSVIEW Performance Management tool; in addition, CA touted new integration between SYSVIEW and its Wiley Enterprise Performance Management suite.

On the data management front, the venerable IDMS database has been given a zIIP retrofitting, and CA announced a slew of new enhancements for its DB2 for z/OS management profile. All told, Combs points out, CA is pushing out more than 100 Mainframe 2.0-oriented improvements across more than 27 DB2 for z/OS offerings. A good portion of these enhancements are related to version 10 of DB2 for z/OS, which IBM released last year.

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