“Sometimes the mainframe
gets hungry for some data
so it has a byte.”
Peter Humanik

I’ve had a lot of geeky conversations. When you’ve worked as a developer, lunch table discussions with fellow programmers can lend themselves to discourse on video games, internet memes, the latest hilarious video on YouTube, and what is new in the world of technology. On one particularly nerdy-joke filled day, I recall a lengthy conversation over french fries and tuna sandwiches on the grammatical accuracy of the sentence: “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo”. Yup, that’s a real sentence – and it really makes sense (check out the wiki page devoted to it)!
But I digress! Developing with a few other young folk, coding in REXX and Assembly Language on the mainframe, no less, it was still an effort for all of us to have a completely modern take on the work we were doing. The words that typically came to mind when we pictured mainframes were the usual ones: the mainframe has a rich, deep-rooted history in “reliability”, “security”, and “availability”. But how often does one sit back and think, “Mainframe: Innovation. Cutting-edge. Cloud Computing.”
Now, “cloud computing” and “the mainframe” are not typically used in the same sentence. However – the two are not as disparate as they may sound, and the concept of the mainframe on the cloud has been discussed in the tech community a fair amount in recent months. Why?

Mainframe and Cloud Computing Models Share Basic Concepts. 

Businesses are moving to cloud computing environments for increased efficiency and decreased costs; the focus of the cloud model is on improved manageability, less maintenance, and capitalizing on a shared resource infrastructure. There are significant cost-saving benefits from cloud computing and the economic incentives are hard to argue with. The biggest and most often discussed concern is that of security.
So, cloud computing offers flexibility, agility, and high availability. Sound familiar? Scalability, flexibility, virtualization, and utilization of shared resources: these are all concepts the mainframe community is well-acquainted with.

Enter the ‘Mainframe Cloud’ Model.

The mainframe offers certain capabilities that aren’t found in other platforms: extremely strong security, coupled with multi-tenancy, pooled resources, sophisticated resource allocation, and so on. A ‘mainframe cloud’ model would boast all these capabilities, as well as allow for dynamic capacity management.
As businesses have to harness and manage more and more data, with growing needs for scalability and flexibility, it makes sense for mainframes to move into this arena. Recently (May 2012), IBM announced that it will add System z mainframes to its SmartCloud platform offerings later this year. As one blogger states, “fully virtualized from the start, the z is a natural for the cloud.”
This integrated model would offer businesses the ability to take full advantage of the benefits of using a mainframe, while also reaping the economic cost-benefits of a cloud model.
So, while perhaps not a term that rolls naturally off the tongue, the “mainframe cloud” is a concept that seems natural, and necessary. It becomes clear that the mainframe is far, far from “archaic”, or “dead” – instead, it is alive, well, and thriving, pushing its way through to innovative new ground.

About the Author

Sarah Dandia
Master of Biotechnology; University of Pennsylvania
B.S. in Computer Science, B.A. in Psychology; Binghamton University

Sarah started out of college as a software developer, and after two years, went on to complete a degree in Bioinformatics. She currently works for IBM as a Client Technical Professional for DB2 Tools on System z. She is interested in books, travel, technology, perfecting her guacamole recipe, and learning guitar one painfully slow chord at a time.

Posted in Uncategorized.

In honor of our 1,000th hit, behold System Z’s answer to Ruby on Rails: COBOL on Cogs!

In all seriousness, the modern mainframe has come a long way towards embracing modern web technologies.  Due to the integration of UNIX into z/OS and the popularity of Linux on the z/VM hypervisor, TCP/IP has become a foundational technology of the zEcosystem.  This is demonstrated by companies such as Marriott making the zEnterpise the heart of their IT infrastructure by adopting a service oriented architecture tied to XML, web technologies, and custom APIs.  Although unimaginable during the era of the S/370 and the Systems Networking Architecture (SNA), companies are adopting APIs as a means to simplify and accelerate the integration of their mainframe and zEnterprise systems into web and mobile apps.  This has the potential to promote the use of the zEnterprise as an Infrastructure/Platform/Software as a Service solution accessible to developers through a standard API.

Even more interesting, it is possible that a private cloud on zEnterprise could follow the steps of Eucalyptus (a public cloud solution) and run an API that matched the syntax of an API stack such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or IBM’s SmartCloud.  Such a move would allow the instant portability of ubiquitous cloud-based front ends to a private mainframe clouds, potentially following in the footsteps of industry standard technologies (such as TCP/IP, UNIX, Linux, Java) to further open up and promote the mainframe as the centralized “system of systems” of a complex heterogeneous IT environment.  In the web development world, developers have benefited for quite some time from Google and Amazon’s simple yet powerful APIs.  I can’t help but wonder how similar tools could affect the deployment and utilization of the zEnterprise environment in the future.

I challenge you, dear readers, to consider how one could build and deploy an mainframe API that would provide the strengths of flexibility, inter-connectivity, and ease of use without compromising traditional strengths in security and efficiency.  Have you worked with APIs in the past?  Do you think that there is a role for such tools on the mainframe?  What sort of impact would the use of such tools have on the mainframe?  Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

Here are some interesting resources related to this idea:
Info on the IBM HTTP Server
Toys and Tools for z/OS UNIX System Services
Guide for Porting POSIX complaint Apps to z/OS UNIX System Services
PHP for z/OS Guide
IBM HTTP Server Cookbook
Porting Apache to z/OS
Coding AJAX Apps on z/OS
System Z APIs

Happy COBOLing!

Posted in IBM.