Modernizing the Mainframe with IBM® z/OS® Management Facility (z/OSMF)
Mainframe computers, introduced in the 1960s, provide the IT infrastructure for most of today’s large enterprises. To manage mainframes, organizations rely on a highly skilled set of engineers known as system programmers. Recently, these mainframe skills have begun to dwindle as the most experienced system programmers near retirement and few new professionals have the knowledge or skill to replace them.
How can IBM, the leading producer of mainframe computers, ensure that newer system programmers can easily manage the mainframe? This question, coupled with IBM’s commitment to every client’s success, was the impetus for the IBM z/OS Management Facility (z/OSMF) project. The primary objective of this ambitious project was to create a new face for z/OS, the operating system used by most mainframes today.
To make this vision a reality, IBM assembled the z/OSMF team, which includes stakeholders, designers, developers, usability specialists, and testers. The team adopted Lean and Agile methods, which represented a rethinking of traditional z/OS development. Notably, the team solicited stakeholder feedback throughout the process and integrated that feedback into the design of z/OSMF.
Research, research, and more research
The first step in the process was to define the product goals. The team surveyed existing z/OS clients to understand their expectations, needs, and wishes. z/OS clients indicated that they want IBM to modernize and simplify the mainframe so that it will be attractive to the next generation of IT professionals, help new hires be productive quickly, and make it easier for mainframe experts to manage z/OS.
The team also worked with existing z/OS clients to develop and prioritize a list of system programmer tasks that need to be simplified and to identify specific features to be integrated into z/OSMF. z/OS clients identified problem determination as their number one pain point, and they offered feedback on how to make z/OSMF a simple, intuitive, flexible, and secure solution that assists both experienced and new z/OS system programmers in managing z/OS.
A modern interface is born
z/OSMF is the solution that was born out of this research and collaboration. z/OSMF provides a framework for managing various aspects of a z/OS system through a modern, Web browser interface. With its point-and-click controls, tabular structure, contemporary color scheme, and paned layout, this new face is both functional and attractive.
Simplicity is key
z/OSMF includes the Incident Log task which streamlines and automates time-consuming and manual parts of the problem data management process. Specifically, the Incident Log task gathers and displays system-detected and user-initiated incidents, collects associated logs and dumps at the time of the problem, and provides a wizard that helps users send the diagnostic data to IBM or another vendor. Using this interface will save time and reduce the possibility of errors for both new and experienced z/OS system programmers.
Minimal learning curve
To ensure that z/OSMF is intuitive, the team worked closely with z/OS clients to determine the task labels, placement of items on the panels, and the sequence of steps involved in completing tasks. The team used this feedback to design the tasks and panels, to add wizards, and to integrate help text so that users can easily understand how to perform each task.
Bringing it all together
Currently, to perform z/OS management tasks, z/OS clients interact with several different interfaces. To help users consolidate or bring together their tools, z/OSMF provides the Links task. This feature allows the z/OSMF administrator to customize the z/OSMF user interface with links to other Web resources that might be useful for managing the system. This flexibility can help z/OSMF become the central management facility or the one-stop-shop for managing z/OS.
Security users can trust
For z/OS clients, it is imperative that z/OSMF be as secure as their mainframe. Hence, z/OSMF uses the clients’ existing mainframe security product to authenticate users. In addition to relying on mainframe security, z/OSMF adds role-based authorization through the Users and Roles tasks. The z/OSMF administrator can use this feature to tailor the task list so that only the tasks users are authorized to perform are displayed.
The right solution
What z/OS clients wanted, z/OSMF delivered:
Involving z/OS clients and stakeholders throughout the design and implementation process allowed the team to be responsive to user requirements and ultimately deliver the right solution.
For more information
For more information about z/OSMF, visit the product Web site.