James Governor's Monkchips

Where are all the mainframe bloggers? At BMC it seems.

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As somone that has covered the mainframe market for 10 years, now, a mere blip in 360-time, I am always interested in seeing how mainframe communities adopt, and adapt to, new technologies and business models. In the ten years since I was given MVS as a reporting beat IBM has seldom been aggressive enough, to my mind, in positioning, and repositioning zSeries.

Under Linda Sanford, now On Demand transformation Senior VP, the mainframe business was a model citizen within IBM. It didn’t tread on other groups’ toes, and it knew its place (the data center back end). These days there is more overlap between different parts of IBM Server business though, and more contention to manage (and possibly leverage).

So what are some cool mainframe things? Rather than starting with the obvious, Linux on the mainframe, I would call out the Asian telecommunications company that adapted the venerable though just refreshed TPF engine as the heart of an instant messaging platform (sadly IBM says it cant reference the firm). “What, I hear some of you cry. A mainframe for IM? How stupid, how ridiculous, how expensive…

Well that is the way of prejudice, isn’t? The mainframe is an easy target for doubters and or outsiders. But zSeries is proven platform, and managed correctly can underpin services at lower cost than many other platforms. Take Univar, the Canadian arm of the largest chemicals handling handling firm in the US, with a small IT staff, and a far lower IT budget than most IT shops.

Back to TPF though. What is it? Its the messaging system behind Sabre, the thing that gets your tickets booked when you make a change to your travel itinerary, or worse, the airline lets you down, as Virgin did rather catastrophically to me recently. Sabre handles ludicrous numbers of small messages in guaranteed fashion; so why not use it for instant messaging? I must be a TPF freak though – when i land i am going to used blogdigger, a blog search engine, on TPF, and see what comes up – i bet i am one of the only people out there talking about it… yup. People are still hiring TPF programmers though. Here is a blog that cited TPF in a Linux context (new constituents, eh) Perhaps blackbeard could move to an RSS feed and widen his net a little.

I don’t want to give the impression the zSeries resurgence is all about tiny niches though. Linux and or SOA on the frame are major memes. But who is blogging it? Its about modernizing the platform, and improving Linux TCO. Yes improving it – for shops that understand centralized management and virtualization, why not manage Linux in that way – i call it mainframe slice and dice. Folks at Microsoft love to ding the frame and say the Linux mainframe phenomemon is a scam.

I am not the only person in the industry covering IBM mainframes that doesn’t have grey hair, although sometimes it feels like it. Note that IBM has lots of mainframe developers in places like Hursley that are so fresh they make me look grizzled. But the analysts and reporters on the zEcosystem beat do tend to be a bit more-how shall i say?–traditional than I am.

There are some really good communicators in the space – folks at firms like Sageza, or Mark Lillycrop. Geoff Norman is a mainframe storage guru, over at Scrittore (note to Geoff, if you blogged google would do a better job of finding your homepage). Are these communicators blogging though? Are they heck. How about the chaps down under at ITG (another research firm google can’t find, or at least not quickly enough. Get blogging and linking, you’ll be easier to find). if you know how to find them then please post as a comment. As far as i am concerned ITG remains the high bar when it comes to getting the facts on mainframe ownership for packaged apps such as PeopleSoft and SAP. Fat lot of good if you can’t find the firm online though.

Why do the biggest SAP shops in the world run on mainframe DB2 on zSeries? I still vividly remember the answer given to me by the head of service delivery at the British Post Office retail operation a couple of years ago when I asked him why zSeries. “Because Unix isn’t scalable enough [in terms of data management]”.

Hear that – Unix isn’t scalable enough….

Other names? Barry Graham at Arcati?

How about a Domino guy called Richard Schwartz?

When i first started blogging, and occasionally thereafter, i have checked to see if anyone is blogging on mainframe issues, but not much luck so far. I did find one blog called All The Mainframe Things, but i ended up unsubcribing becasue a. it had nothing to do with mainframes and b. it was very seldom updated.

So now IBM says its is joining the blog party and i really hope some good mainframe bloggers come out of the woodwork. What might the cluster look like? Writing this column almost makes me want to start a second blog called Mainframe Bigot. maybe i will. Someone should….

So what about people at ISVs like BMC (Bronna Shapiro, Jonathan Adams) and CA (Guy Harrison or someone on his team).

Wait, what’s that? BMC is serious about blogs. Yes it is. Some guy called Tom Parish has BMC rocking, even moving forward with podcasting.

John Albee- some good entries and take it to CA rhetoric. But go with the original name, John, the new one is wimpy and doesn’t do the platform justice. You were right to call it Mainframes Never Die in the first place.

Peter Armstrong is a “boring old pedant”, and makes him well worth a read. Business Service Management, mainframes and golf stories. What more could you ask for? Stuff like this:

The thing that really cheeses me off though is when people ignore 30 years of experience. Running mainframes has taught us how to handle processes like Change Management, Service Levels, Backup and Recovery, Security and many others. Ignoring what has been learnt here, which many customers and educational establishments seem prone to do, strikes me as crazy. One customer I met puts every new employee (who thinks C++, Java, Linux and CTL-ALT-DEL are the centre of the universe) into the mainframe department for 6 months. Not to learn MVS or JCL, but to learn how to run a production environment correctly.

Fred Johannessen though is still stuck on Hello World… heh. Come on Fred… 😉

What about a mainframe-savvy storage blog from Gary Tidd at Teracloud?

And where are the users, the operators and sysprogs? You guys are constantly misrepresented, so lets hear your voices. The systems you run often *are* the business, paying the salaries of the folks running from break fix to distributed break fix like demented monkeys, before chattering about how the company should offload some more workloads from zSeries. Its expensive to be fashionable. Unless that is, we’re talking about blogging, which is a cheep and cheerful way to ride buzz.

If mainframe people want to grow their share of the market, they will need to reach out to new constituences. Blogging is a great way to do just that. How about the IGS folks in Colorado that have built IB’s uber-SOA platform? How did you do it? What were your experiences? What should customers know?

Mainframes can do things other can’;t – mixed workloads is where the rubber meets the road. Other platforms may be cheaper for a specific service, but when you want to chew through batch and OLTP, chuck data around with abandon, run acid transactions across a single database. Well show me the cheaper alternative. The mainframe is a big ugly gurning beast that will take what you throw at it and come up grinning for more. I would like to see IBM run a number of different benchmarks on z at the same time – SAP SD, TPC-CC, and so on… then challenge anyone else to do the same thing. For single purpose benchmarks other platforms are cheaper or more performant, sure, but when it comes to mixed workloads zSeries can knock anything else into a cocked hat.

If markets are conversations, as the Cluetrain says, then its time for mainframers to jump in. Have you got something to say, or will you let the doubters have a free run? They were throwing stones long before i was on the scene, covering z. Why not throw some back and find some peers with good economic arguments and stories to tell.

Irving WB recently posted about the mainframe, Enduring Value, but he won’t be doing so all the time. Note to Irving though, why not link to your blog from your corporate bio – many journalists are now sourcing stories from blogs so why not make yours more obvious?

Come on IBM; bring out your mainframe voices. And that doesn’t mean bring out your dead… Here is a zecosystem blogger from that wants to help with modernization and collect useful links. Go IT Kee.

Don’t let the only mainframe blogs and conversations be about mainframe migration. Unless you let Microsoft and others win, that is.

I keep meaning to post this, and not finalising it, so i might as well just push the snowball and see if it gets some momentum. Basically i would very much like it if you know of any mainframe bloggers if you could fire over some details.

Meanwhile i am just as happy if you want to tell me why mainframes suck. Its a conversation after all.

But here are some links that talk to mainframe relevance, from IBM’s press releases in the last week or so.

Keep the universities interested… and the skills base extant.

Indentrus support, for banking apps.

Data center cooling – seems like water cooled mainframes wasn’t such a bad idea after all. With data center consolidation comes the need for extra cooling. go figure.

So jump in mainframers.


  1. “The Mainframe is dead” is the best example of analysts like Gartner jumping to conclusions on issues that they know nothing abut and, while I don’t agree with things like “Unix doesn’t scale enough”, I think everyone in this business that has been around for some time respects the Mainframes.
    IBM wrote the book on procedures and processes and, if you define a system has the hardware, the software and the processes involved, IBM is 1/3 ahead.
    On the technology level, I remember Solaris 2.4 to introduce a feature where you could tweak the scheduler so the machine would be optimized for batch processing or for Real Time. the Mainframes were the ONLY choice for some tasks in the “old days” now, they are *a* choice.
    Has for Linux on the Mainframe, I never could understand why someone would ever do something like that. I simply can’t understand any reason to do it.

  2. Jaime
    > Has for Linux on the Mainframe, I never could understand why someone would ever do something like that. I simply can’t understand any reason to do it.
    Follow this thread http://www2.marist.edu/htbin/wlvtype?LINUX-VM.52599 from the Marist mailing list archives http://www2.marist.edu/htbin/wlvgl?L=LINUX-VM&LOG=LOG0502 for Linux on zSeries and z/VM where users tell you the answer for themselves. Or you could check out what IBM has to say http://www-1.ibm.com/servers/eserver/zseries/os/linux/about.html but I’m biased.

    James, yes I wish there were more bloggers on the mainframe, *from IBM*, and maybe as you suggest some of the younger folks in Hursley and elsewhere who are more attuned to Internet happenings, like blogs, podcasts, client based technologies, open source, will join in.

  3. Oh what joy to see that I am not the only person who thinks like this. Why do people stare at me in amazement when I tell them the mainframe is the cheapest, most stable, most reliable, most secure platform on the planet? Why do people look surprised when I explain that autonomic (which by the way means uncontrolled involuntary reaction, which is probably why they renamed it)/adaptive/organic or whatever is simply the reinvention of MVS address spaces in hardware and is driven by the fact that Unix and Windows are not “production level” operating systems (can’t do multi-tasking, interrupts, storage, self-recovery, security etc etc properly). I hear some Universities are now beginning to teach Mainframe – about time too!!! By the way, we old fools are happy to listen to reasoned arguments from you new chaps, so talk to us, but be warned that some things you think are new aren’t really – it’s a bit like when my children play me a “new” MP3 track – I take them in the lounge and play them the original!!!

  4. As proof that one should never blog after a couple of glasses of wine here is a comment I wrote to your blog and posted on mine 🙁 If my link didn’t work I am copying it here.
    So if mainframers (who are techies after all) aren’t blogging and/or reading blogs, then what hope is there that ordinary people like users of consumer software will ever blog. Does this support the position that blogging will always have a limited audience?

  5. its a good question marion, but that may miss the demographic axis. there are probably plenty of mainframe sysprogs that don’t use SMS either, wheras their kids probably have massive thumbs….

    but i am certainly with you that we’re a long way from mainstream. i have my doubts about geeks defining the mainstream. but then again google is the best evidence i can think of that the mainstream does absorb geek. i mean remember where google comes from….

  6. You’re right, James – I should be blogging as there are not enough mainframe voices out there.

    I do recommend Anua Guruge’s techie (mainly mainframe) blog at http://www.itindepth.com/Blog_7.htm

    Arcati doesn’t have a blog, but there’s lots of relevant comment in our Mainframe Yearbook at http://www.arcati.com/yearbook.html

  7. Mainframes are certainly back in focus, but with IBM being virtually a monopoly in the processor and software area and with no ‘list’ prices – the users need expert and informed pricing guidance. That’s where the Mainframe Market Monitor fits the bill. Hardware and software pricing that is current and with a dozen years of history to prove its validity. See ARCATI.COM.

  8. Hmmm… i point to another analyst and market research firm as being smart people and good communicators. they take the opportunity to use this platform for a sales pitch? thanks barry but i think you missed the point. i sort of feel like deleting this as spam, frankly. hey ho.

    why not share your expertise, and say something useful as a comment rather than treating my real estate as an excuse for sales pitch?

  9. james,

    A little off topic, but when I read that you have been covering IBM so much. I thought I’d ask you a question about IBM’s bloggers. Can you ever recall a customer giving feedback to an IBM blogger on an IBM blogger and the IBMer responding?


  10. Hi James, I’m not sure if you’re aware of Martin Packer’s IBM developerWorks blog: “Mainframe Performance Topics”

  11. James, GREAT post! I’m a mainframe person (and an IBM employee) but my personal blog has nothing to do with work topics. However, a buddy and I have recently been posting to IBM-MAIN, and your posting has convicted me on my lack of attention to blogging on mainframe issues. I’ll see if we can come up with some decent content.

    By the way, it’s excellent to see someone young who’s interested in this stuff. I’m old, but not near as old as the stereotypical mainframe-ite. I still have close to 20 years til retirement… 🙂

  12. Thanks, Bill. Sounds like I have some readership. 🙂 If I weren’t going on holiday for the rest of August I’d hop to it and make sure I wrote some more. Actually I will blog from z/OS Expo in San Francisco 19-23 September. (And also when I have stuff to share.)

  13. Great post!
    I have been in this field since 1972 and with all the changes and new “paradigms” (or “paradigmata”?) one word describes the difference between us, the mainframe people and the rest of the world: PRODUCTION. We know. We care. We do things to assure continuity, recoverability, good performance under growing loads, central management (who had this grand idea that every user can be a system guru?) and priorities.
    I have been so far totally unsuccessful in getting approval(s) for a non-paid, 45 minutes lecture on this one word at any of the german universities. Educators do not seem to be interested in the real world. With known results like Java, OO, others, too numerous to mention. Fads. Oh, and relational databases, my hobby (most business problems are by nature hierarchical…)

    Enough ranting… Write what you think?

  14. Well I started my IBM web site back in 1995 and part of the then revolutionary IBM EMEA website, along with one or two others.

    The initiative was kicked off by Nigel Dessau who went on from being a humble salesman, to being something in IBM EMEA marketing, to being a VP in Systems Group marketing in Corporate HQ and laterly left IBM for STK, who were recently aquired by Sun and last I heard Nigel was in charge of tapes ;-0

    Anyway, in ’96 we got a letter of commendation from the UK Deptment of Trade and Industry for being a leading UK company on the ‘net. Right up until 2002, I regulary posted presentations, white papers and news on mainframe stuff in blog style.

    Unfortunately in the old days you just had to ftp html and content over to a server to get it published, now they have a whole Java client that has change control, approval cycles and more. I just don’t have time to learn the client etc. but will in the coming months as we lead up to the availability of the Resource Discovery Services and especially on zSeries.

    Now, if only I could remember who the journalist was that interviewed me for the first issue of Information Week in the UK, subject of the article, mainframes and the Internet. Ahh yes, those were the days eh James!

  15. Hi, James. Sorry for being so late to the party, but we’ve just recently put a blog together intended for mainframe pros (@ http://www.mainframeweekly.com).
    I’ve referenced this post (despite it’s age– good posts are timeless) recently and just wanted to thank you for the great info.

    Hope you’ll find our new kid on the block useful; and keep on fighting the good fight.


  16. Hello Colin – the more the merrier mate, expect some linkage asap.

  17. “Because Unix isn’t scalable enough [in terms of data management]”.

    What is Unix in this context?

    I am trying to learn about mainframe technologies and where to apply them but the mainframe is still completely inaccessable to the average IT manager. I don’t know where I can go to see one, I don’t know who has one (because only big shops tend to have them and they don’t talk about them), I can’t get one to train on. I’m definitely not going to recommend a mainframe solution without having used one no matter how much money IBM tells me I can save by trading in my 100 Linux x86_64 Linux boxes. I also don’t have a million dollar budget. Or even a few hundred thousand. And if you don’t have that kind of money nobody will talk to you about mainframes.

    The vast majority of computer tasks that businesses have are really not very big. Few people need an 18 wheeler. I often drive a scooter. Linux/Unix/Windows will always be more popular than the mainframe because it is more appropriate for the vast majority of tasks out there. At least until we all get enough bandwidth to be able to get rid of our small private server rooms and rent/buy time on a mainframe for our workloads.

  18. I guess I’m not all that quick when it comes to tracking down good stuff to read sometimes.. It only took me a year to find this thread.

    You need to check out a few of the blogs over at http://www.ittoolbox.com/ There are a couple of us old dinosaurs’ blogging there on a variety of subjects related to the mainframe. My blog ( http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/database/db2zos ) covers DB2 for z/OS and has been kicking around for a little over a year. Stop by a give a few of us a read.


  19. Thanks Willie – your blog is great, if geeky.

    Tracy – to be fair the mainframe actually does run Linux and even Unix workloads, so its not completely alien. I agree about touchability though -and that is something i regularly hassle IBM about.

    Your feedback is appreciated – and like i say – if you want to feel a mainframe let me know, and i will try and sort a trip out for you to one of the IBM centers.

    To be fair – the Nexxar consolidation was only 80 or so Intel servers-so its not just for the huge firms. and your blog design is really slick!

  20. Hi, I started a mainframe blog some months ago and today I accidentally stumbled across this thread. I must say I haven’t got the impression much has changed since. The ones that were there are still around, but I don’t see many new ones appearing.
    If you want to check out mine : http://mainframe-watch-belgium.blogspot.com

  21. zSERIES bloggers??? Senior Citizens Don’t Blog!!!

    Regrettably, we (i.e., Big Iron proletariat) are now just a bunch of old folks, eagerly awaiting retirement -excluding myself, 44 year old going on 23 years of in-depth MAINFRAME work experience. One who never succumbed to the simplicity of a new world order: PC-driven business paradigm.

    Believe me, today’s mainframers are way far removed from your average “techno-blogger head” GEN XYZers. They’d be hard pressed to correctly define, “BLOGGING”. Much less, go out and create their own BLOG, on a “website”??

    Nevertheless, THANK YOU very much for pointing out the power of “z” server technology and IBM’s painfully poor record when it comes to promoting this, “built for the business world” high-tech, high powered, all everything, computing enigma machine (a.k.a., “Dinosaur”, “Legacy”, “Dead” technology).


    Rick Molera
    z/OS DB2 Engineer – a.k.a., Dinosaur

  22. please add Dale Vecchio, an analyst at Gartner Inc.,
    a “fine” analyst on “mainframes” and please believe I am not Dale, by no means, but a “poor & old” zOS & DB2 architect, ex-IBM systprog and dba, conultant and free-lancer (the folk you’re missing, with 30+ years of experience) stranded @ an insurance company actually running IMS, CICS and DB2 on small 600 mips box and decided to bet all its eggs on MS/HP (a deal IBM lost @ c-level, when J2EE lost to .NET v1) and should be IBM-free by 2012. After investigating all EAI, EII and the rest of the SOA soup, that IBM sells so bad (that it can loose to aggressive MS/HP sales) I sit back and wait and see
    how they will manage .NET applications on SQL Server when they will go “live” – the only chance will be they should not have to scale (i.e. less customers probably), because MS is NOT selling a full blown “production” ripe Windows Server 2Kx … I wonder who are the young “Lancelots” ready to save IBM’s flagship … Please let me quote Peter Armstrong again
    “The thing that really cheeses me off though is when people ignore 30 years of experience. Running mainframes has taught us how to handle processes like Change Management, Service Levels, Backup and Recovery, Security and many others. Ignoring what has been learnt here, which many customers and educational establishments seem prone to do, strikes me as crazy. One customer I met puts every new employee (who thinks C++, Java, Linux and CTL-ALT-DEL are the centre of the universe) into the mainframe department for 6 months. Not to learn MVS or JCL, but to learn how to run a production environment correctly.” Please save the “private” Ryan from the MS/HP “hell” (lol!)

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