• August 12, 2020

Rethinking the role of the IBM Z during the COVID-19 quarantine

The COVID-19 quarantine is changing a lot of our lives, including working from home 100% of the time. This makes it a great time to revisit how your business is using its IBM Z. There are some terrific capabilities that can dramatically improve your business’ responsiveness to problems. These include reacting to spikes in business demand and more secure access for remote employees.

Secure access from home

One thing that changes when we work from home is where we might first authenticate to the IBM Z. At the office, it might be a work computer with some form of admin controls provided by the IT organization. Now, access may be from a personal computer or BYOD. Is it truly safe? If you are using user ID and passwords alone to access IBM Z applications, it’s not. There are too many ways for malware and other nefarious programs to steal that information.

It’s a good time to consider multi-factor authentication for all your business applications, not just on the IBM Z. This doesn’t result in a single sign-on. You can have a consistent sign on to many systems, including the IBM Z, using MFA.

Making IBM Z data directly accessible from anywhere

Working from home, and even in an office, we leverage a variety of social media and cloud services to collaborate and share with others. How much is your IBM Z participating directly in those efforts? It’s probably not as much as you’d like. Your business may have created some “Shadow IT,” which means data is copied from the IBM Z and put in a more accessible format for cloud access. Copying data is old school, which sounds funny coming from a mainframe person. Using data virtualization, IBM Z data is easily accessible through a variety of APIs and languages. Any application can leverage the data directly. By reducing copied data, the business has better records (logs) of who is accessing the data. Fewer data copies reduces risk and improves availability.

The Query Management Facility leverages data virtualization. It can display IBM Z data, along with any other platform’s data, in graphic and web-enabled formats that bring all new meaning to the data. Graphs, maps, tables and charts make the data explode on a page instead of static, green screen related data that is considered “typical” for the old IBM Z. The new normal enables this graphic depiction with a simple model for creating widgets without the need for programming.

DevOps that includes all systems in an enterprise

Speaking of programming, there are a ton of transaction programs and batch programs running on most IBM Zs. Many of those applications can be re-purposed and leveraged within a mobile environment through the API economy. A modern DevOps environment might exist with no IBM Z participation. That’s a missed opportunity. Most of the same DevOps tools can work with the IBM Z to build hybrid applications. The result of a hybrid DevOps environment can be the best of transaction programming and data access running on the IBM Z and the end-user interface running on the web, PC applications or within mobile devices.

Leveraging new APIs, such a RESTful APIs, to existing transactions makes them easily consumable and re-purposed without a tremendous amount of unique or legacy knowledge required. This reduces a long, drawn-out IBM Z development path. Modern tooling enables the IBM Z to participate in an agile development environment that facilitates the principals of continuous integration/continuous delivery.

Build a sandbox to try new things

Some of the largest IBM Z customers might have an Enterprise License Agreement that includes a catalog of software they are entitled to deploy.  Many of the functions discussed here can be run in a development sandbox or are ZIIP enabled to keep their operating costs to a minimum.

During this time of quarantine, consider how your IBM Z can work differently for your business. You should find great opportunities to save millions of dollars in Shadow IT expense and greatly simplify your IT organization.

Stay safe and make the best of your situation, at home and at work.

Jim Porell

Jim Porell 5 Posts

I am a Solutions Architect at Rocket Software, focusing on pre and post sales technical assistance for Rocket developed products from IBM. Prior to joining Rocket, I was an independent consultant and retired IBM Distinguished Engineer. I held various roles as Chief Architect of IBM’s mainframe software and led Business Development and marketing of Security and Application Development for the mainframe. My last IBM role was Chief Business Architect for Federal Sales. I held a TS/SCI clearance for the US Government, was a member of the US Secret Service Electronic Crimes Taskforce in Chicago and co-authored several security books. I've done cybersecurity forensic work at a number of Retail, Financial and Government agencies and created a methodology for interviewing customers to avoid security breaches for large enterprises. I have over 40 years working with Information Technology.

1 Comments

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    Mac Gupta Reply

    April 9, 2020 at 10:11 am

    Thanks, Jim. This is a must read and very timely blog for an enterprise with a major investment in IBM Z, and for anyone for whom managing overall IT cost is an imperative today.

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