CA unveils offerings as part of Mainframe 2.0

Software vendor CA Inc. has upgraded 143 of 166 offerings in its mainframe management portfolio alongside the release of some new tools – all characterized by automation and simplified user interfaces – as part of its Mainframe 2.0 initiative.

The announcement represents the first deliverables of this initiative, announced at CA World last November, to simplify mainframe ownership and drive adoption of the technology.

To this end, the Islandia, N.Y.-based company is introducing CA Mainframe Software Manager (MSM), a tool designed to simplify the implementation of CA mainframe software on the IBM z-OS platform, IBM’s high-performance enterprise operating system. IT administrators who lack in-depth knowledge of z/OS tools like SMP/E can use automated services through a consistent browser interface. MSM also detects product maintenance as the need arises.

“The Mainframe 2.0 story is very much in synch and relevant with our overall story of lean IT,” said Jimmy Fulton, vice-president and country manager for CA Canada. The majority of enhancements, he said, reflect a rationalization of CA offerings from fragmented technologies, and a better user experience.

The idea is to make mainframes similar in its management requirements and “ergonomics” to other technology platforms that IT admins and fresh IT graduates are already familiar with, said Fulton. Specifically, CA has simplified and modernized the front end through familiar interfaces “so to someone who’s grown up with Google and eBay, this is not going to look like something from another planet.”

Also, Fulton said CA wants to align itself with IBM’s mainframe offerings by taking advantage of things like ZIP and zAAP processors and multiple pricing mechanisms. CA is focusing on cost optimization for mainframe management so IT admins can align the total cost of ownership with the needs of the business without compromising service level agreements.

Besides MSM, Tuesday’s announcements also include a synchronized release stack to reduce multiple learning curves by using best practices to standardize installation, planning and implementation cycles across 46 CA mainframe offerings, including CA OPS/MVS Event Management and Automation, CA NetMaster and CA InterTest. The 46 offerings in this stack have also undergone rigorous integration testing for when hosted concurrently on the z/OS operating system image.

There are also more than 100 health checks across CA mainframe products for monitoring an IT environment for configuration problems that integrate with IBM’s Health Checker for the z/OS framework

And, CA has introduced a service called Electronic Software Delivery (ESD) to speed up installation of CA mainframe products without having to build a physical tape.

There exists a misconception regarding mainframes, said Fulton, that it’s just an old platform running old green screen applications, but “it’s a database server, it’s a giant server for virtualized applications.”

That myth, he continued, exists in academia and among IT graduates to a point that mainframe-skilled professionals are a dying breed. The question, he said, is, “How (do we) take college grads who are excited about SOA and Java and Web-based applications, and get them excited about mainframes?” CA is hoping deliverables through its Mainframe 2.0 initiative will combat that negative image, and ultimately help enterprises deal with the issue of mainframe support.

There is a “solid value proposition” in the mainframe, said Fulton, given it physically sits in one building, is reliable and powerful, and complements the surge in interest in virtualization.

According to Richard Ptak, principal analyst with Ptak, Noel & Associates LLC, the firm’s research shows large segments of the computer populations outside the U.S. recognize the capability of the mainframe in the emerging world of cloud computing. And, Linux users, too, research shows, are experiencing a rising success rate in moving applications to the mainframe.

Ptak is impressed by CA’s mainframe management products, describing them as “well thought out in terms of their depth and breadth in how they’re rolling them out and integrating them.”

The Mainframe 2.0 initiative and associated deliverables will go a long way to helping enterprises and universities using mainframes address problems they are facing, said Ptak, like the aging mainframe talent and the perception of differences between mainframe and distributed computing. That said, Ptak doesn’t know if those efforts are enough to combat the myths concerning mainframes. “I’m not sure if this alone is going to be able to reverse the impression.”

Ptak said CA’s strategy to better align itself with IBM’s mainframe offerings is a good move and reflective of symbiotic relationships that typically exist between the major mainframe players. “They all fundamentally have an interest in the success and future of mainframes,” said Ptak, adding that in some areas, they even compete directly.

Fulton can’t say how long initiatives like Mainframe 2.0 will take in ameliorating people’s view of the mainframe. “Changing the perspective of the world at large in the IT industry is certainly not something you can do overnight,” said Fulton.

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