May 18, 2010
The mainframe remains very much alive, despite efforts of personal computing advocates to forecast the date of its final unplugging. CA Technologies is increasing its portfolio of mainframe products and announced Tuesday the latest round will make the mainframe easier to use.
The mainframe of the future will be managed with more visual tools sensitive to the role of the manager, unlike those available today, said Dayton Semerjian, senior VP and general manager of CA's mainframe business unit. He announced a beta version of CA Mainframe Chorus as such a tool, one that can simplify mainframe management, at CA World 2010 in Las Vegas Tuesday. Instead of relying on arcane 3270 green screens littered with blocs of data, CA Mainframe Chorus calls on the user to select a role, such as storage manager or DB2 database administrator, then presents him with modules of information related to the role. The problem with the green screen approach, said Semerjian, is that the data on mainframe operations found on them is undecipherable to the uninitiated. "The mainframe environment is a huge challenge to master," he said. There's no training class or "idiots" book available to teach novices. Gaining mainframe management knowledge amounts to "essentially an apprenticeship over many years," he added. The graduates of computer science schools who became mainframe specialists are now retiring. Unless a new generation of management tools encapsulated some of their knowledge is created, much of that expertise will disappear with its practitioners. Mainframe Chorus is initially available in beta form and in a "MyWorkspace" format easily recognized by the Facebook and MySpace generation. "The 'net generation won't open a manual. They turn things on and want intuitive, collaborative management," Semerjian noted. CA recognized that Apple has produced effective user interfaces and tapped a design firm that works for Apple to help with its Chorus workspace format. In its initial version, it will be able to implement the role of a DB2 administrator. The second role will be a storage manager, with additional roles to come. Users can click on a tab reflecting their role and log in. A second management tool was an upgrade to the existing CA Mainframe Software Manager to speed the installation of mainframe software. CA gave one of its experienced mainframe experts several pieces of software to install through the traditional SMPE method. The expert was able to do so in 6.5 hours; a novice did the same job in 21 hours. Using the Mainframe Software Manager, the expert completed the installations in 51 minutes, the novice in one hour. With its more visual approach and automated underlying procedures, Mainframe Software Manager "will change the paradigm from green screen to InstallShield and Windows Updates," where software installation occurs in a more automated fashion in background on PCs, Semerjian said.
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