Evangelizing Mainframe
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Filling the Information Vacuum

Picture this. It’s a meeting in the boardroom of a biggish middle-sized organization—perhaps in the corporate headquarters. Corporate representatives liked the consolidation ideas that a zEnterprise 196 would bring, when they discussed it last year, but they didn’t feel they were quite big enough to translate the IT benefits to their bottom line.

This year’s different. The new zEnterprise 114 (z114) meets their needs and seems to be priced close to what the financial director felt they could afford. There will be savings in:
• The footprint of the hardware
• The energy used and the ongoing electricity bill, and
• Work force hours

The whole board sat through the presentation and knew that the z114 was more than just a replacement for the organization’s mainframe. It could replace the aging AS/400 (IBM i) boxes that were part of the company’s IT following a takeover, and the AIX boxes that had proved so useful. These could run on the POWER7 blades. Plus the discussion of whether to use Linux on System z or replace their x86 Linux boxes, which had taken up so much of everyone’s time, could now be short-circuited by allowing the Linux servers to be replaced by x86 blades inside the z114. The people who understood about mainframes were excited about the use of specialty processors. The hardware would be controlled using the IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager and the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX). The IBM presenter had even said that Windows servers would be available soon on those x86 blades. It all seemed pretty much like a done deal. So why was the CIO frowning?

Information Services permeate almost every organization these days. You get e-mail on your phone, your tablet device, your laptop at home, and almost every aspect of work involves computing power. But what keeps those services running in such a way that you can more-or-less ignore them while you get on with your work?

It’s skilled people who understand how everything is meant to fit together. So what happens in a situation, like the one described, where the CFO thinks he can reduce head count by introducing new hardware. In fact, what happens at any organization as the people who really understand the working of IT retire or get other jobs? The answer is simple—you end up with an information vacuum, resulting in slower problem-solving and worse service to clients (i.e., the rest of the organization).

So what can our notional organization do to plug this knowledge deficit? What can any organization do to compensate for the loss of knowledge and experience as older staff members retire? In these situations, it soon becomes clear that Googling the problem doesn’t necessarily help because you get far too many results back and it takes a while to figure out which, if any, are correct. And hunting around for different manuals in different parts of the organization can be frustrating, time-consuming, and unlikely to guarantee success. In fact, Forrester Research suggests that in a typical resolution cycle, identifying the solution can take as much as 50 percent of the overall issue-resolution time. So what solution will work in this situation?

One that stands out (and which you might not have come across) is iSolve from Softlib. Using iSolve, an organization can combine all of its information repositories into a single virtual place, which means there’s only one place staffers need to go to find the answer to any problem. And because it’s virtual, no information is physically moved. In addition to making the life of IT staff much easier, it also provides somewhere more experienced end users and product champions can go to get the information they need, thus avoiding a call to the Help Desk. The data in the virtual library can be organized for each group using logical themes. Starting off with IBM’s and third-party vendors’ manuals and other documentation, this knowledge repository can be supplemented with data from newsgroups and online resources, as well contributions from home-grown technical experts.

Mainframers can get quick access to the knowledge from a terminal server or a Web browser. Interestingly, the product can be installed locally, or it can be hosted by Softlib and accessed as a cloud-based resource—where built-in vendor documents and relevant mainframe forums provide a quick way to start. Because there’s no need to organize/connect internal information sources, this provides immediate value and a low barrier of entry. Other benefits include knowledge usage analytics that can help address missing or outdated knowledge, and seamless integration with CRM, bug-tracking, Service Desk, content-management applications, etc. But basically, you have a product that can help overcome the problem of employees running multiple OSs that they may not be totally familiar with (such as with a z114 being installed), or new staff running any unfamiliar operating system.

Trevor Eddolls is CEO at iTech-Ed Ltd, an IT consultancy. For many years, he was the editorial director for Xephon’s Update publications and is now contributing editor to the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook. Eddolls has written three specialist IT books, and has had numerous technical articles published. He currently chairs the Virtual IMS and Virtual CICS user groups.

Posted: 8/16/2011 7:49:41 AM by Trevor Eddolls

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