“I Am A Mainframer” Interview Series: IBM

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In our second conversation of our “I Am A Mainframer” interview series, Jeffrey Frey  talks with Emily K. HugenbruchOpenStack Cloud Enablement Engineer, z/VM and Software Engineer at IBM about the OpenStack Newton release and her overall career experience as a woman working in the mainframe space.  

You can listen the full recording and read the transcript of the interview below.

If you’re a mainframe enthusiast or interested in the space, we invite you to check out our new community forum.

Create a profile and post a selfie with your mainframe system, and you will receive an exclusive “I am a Mainframer” t-shirt.

Jeffrey: Jeffrey Frey, IBM fellow and retired CTO of IBM’s Mainframe platform, and very much a mainframe enthusiast. Today I am very pleased to host the “I Am A Mainframer” interview series, in a conversation with Emily Kate Hugenbruch. Emily is an IBM software engineer working on OpenStack and cloud enablement for IBM’s virtualization platforms, so we’re looking forward to having a great conversation.

The conversation is sponsored by the Open Mainframe Project. As a Linux Foundation Project, the Open Mainframe Project is intended to help create a mainframe focus, open-source technical community and to serve as a focal point for the development and use for enterprise Linux and a Mainframe computing environment.

The goal of the project is to excite the Linux community around the use of the mainframe and to foster collaboration across mainframe community and develop and exploit shared Linux tool sets, resources, and services within the mainframe environment. In addition, the project seeks to involve the participation of academic institutions to help assist in creating educational programs aimed at developing the mainframe Linux engineers and developers of tomorrow.

So Emily, welcome, it’s a real pleasure to talk with you today.

Emily: Oh thanks Jeff!  Thanks for having me on.


Jeffrey: You bet. So listen, to get started maybe you can tell us a little about your role at IBM and your team, and a little bit about what you do.

Emily: Sure. So I work at IBM here in Endicott, New York, which is the birthplace of IBM, and I work on z/VM, and that’s the virtualization platform. It’s our oldest and our flagship virtualization platform For Z Systems, and within that, I am a team lead for the, what we call the cloud enablement portion of z/VM, so I have a team partially here in the US, partially in China that work on the OpenStack drivers, we work on them taking them up into what we call the cloud manager appliance, and we work on supporting that, so all of the documentation, all of the customer issues that come with it, and then we do a lot of the presentations about it and going out and talking about it.

So part of my job is the sort of boring project manager-y, team leader-y stuff kinda, hosting meetings, keeping track of where we are on milestones.  And then kind of the more fun part of my job is working with the OpenStack community, and making sure that we’re contributing properly to the OpenStack community. That my team has the right focus on things, that we’re working on things in our drivers that we need to be working on and that we’re giving back to the community, because of course with an open source community, you don’t just want to be putting a bunch of code out there and asking them to take it.

So working on that part of it, and of course the part I really love is when I get to work with customers who are looking at trying to enable their z/VM system for cloud and how can they do that. I really love working with customers on that part of it.

Jeffrey: Very cool. I don’t know that you and I had ever met face-to-face but, I know a lot of the folks on your team and it’s been very important to get z/VM involved in participating in this open environment and to enable it so that it can plug into the various management tools like OpenStack so I’m thrilled to be talking with you today.

How long have you been with IBM and when did you first get involved with the mainframe?

Emily: This is my eleventh year as a full time IBMer and before that I had two internship projects while I was still in college, and they were actually both with the z/VM team, so I’ve kind of been a mainframer from the start. Even during my second internship I was working on some of the system management APIs and so I’ve been working on various cloud enablement systems management stuff for almost my whole career.

Jeffrey: Very good, very good.


Jeffrey: So let’s talk a little bit more about some of the enablement work you’re doing especially around OpenStack and some of the industry standard stuff.

I know that z/VM, first of all for people who may be unaware, z/VM is an extremely robust virtualization platform for the mainframe. Some even credit IBM for inventing virtualization and it’s used by some of the largest customers in the world to virtualize their mainframes. Now with Linux running on that platform, there’s all kinds of opportunities that have been opened up to use the mainframe in an open environment for people who are seeking a more standardized, open kind of world, both in terms of the applications they run on and how to manage the system.

How is the OpenStack work going? I know that when I was with IBM we had started to enable the platform for OpenStack based management, how is that going?

Emily: It’s going really well, actually on Friday we celebrated our Newton release, so OpenStack Newton is the latest OpenStack release and we released our cloud manager appliance that matches OpenStack Newton, so that part of it is going really well, and as you said, this has been a bit of a journey with OpenStack and z/VM and it’s a fun thing to be a part of because there are a lot of things in the OpenStack community that really come from having that kind of distributed world background, as opposed to the mainframe background and some of those very basic differences are things like on z/VM, we’re familiar with running hundreds or thousands of guests on one system and in the distributed world, people have done things like that, but it’s not how you run a production. Whereas we’re really used to running in production that way, and so there are a lot of different design assumptions that you make when you’re designing something that has to manage, maybe at top ten guests on the system, as opposed to managing maybe hundreds of guests on the system.

So that’s where some of our challenges have been, and how to take things that maybe OpenStack on the distributed platform didn’t have to be as efficient about, but when you get onto the mainframe platform you have to be a lot more careful about efficiencies.

Jeffrey: Right, right.

I know that one of the things that we wrestled with was, you know, when you drop in with the history that people have with mainframe systems and the dependence that people have on these platforms running, as you said, thousands of guests in production today, one of the things that when you introduce enablement for a new management approach for a platform like that, it has to be integrated with the rest of the environment. It has to be integrated with what clients already have in terms of their tools, in terms of their process, their automation etc.

I imagine that balancing the new stuff with OpenStack while also preserving for compatibility and investment protection is another one of the challenges you face.

Emily: Yeah, that’s definitely true. So we’ve had a number of things that we’ve added as sort of special features in our cloud manager appliance that are not part of the OpenStack community. An example would be the discovery function.

Jeffrey: Right.

Emily: So we have the idea that you could have an existing guest and then we will import some information about that guest and let you do some management of that guest through OpenStack without having to recreate it.

Other examples are, one thing we have for our Newton release that just came out on Friday, is that we offer CMS configuration wizards. So if you’re familiar with CMS at all, that’s an operating system that runs in guest on the Mainframe, it’s kind of our basic operating system that comes with z/VM, and so a lot of customers are very comfortable with using CMS wizards, like IP wizard for example, so we wanted to give them a CMS wizard that would help them configure their cloud manager appliance, rather than having them dig through Linux configuration files or something like that.

Jeffrey: Yeah, yeah.

Well this is really exciting because the IBM strategy around Linux on the mainframe has traditionally focused on making sure Linux and the capabilities of Linux, and the administrative control and the way Linux surfaces, expressed itself on the mainframe is standard Linux, Linux is Linux is Linux, and that’s been a major objective of Linux on the mainframe platform. Historically the other side of that and what people face is the management of these systems, and now especially with cloud and all of the advances in automation and using the virtualization of a platform as kind of the operational control of the platform.

It’s very important not just to get the Linux stuff standardized, but also the management of this platform more standardized or at least able to plug into a wider set of tooling choices that the customers are faced with today.

Emily: Yeah, that’s definitely true and when you get into especially the cloud space, there have been questions about, do we want to do something that’s more Z specific because we have a lot of really great features on Z that don’t necessarily translate into concepts on other platforms, but it’s really important when doing a cloud solution and you’re looking at enabling your end user developers, to collinate the I, or log in through a GUI to interact with our servers, then its very important for them to have a way to do that, that looks exactly the same as it does on other platforms.

Jeffrey: Yup, yup, yup, that is a very interesting challenge and one that actually celebrates the

value proposition in the mainframe is to be able to deal with administrative control and management control of a system, but also leverage all of the inherent benefits of the mainframe, it’s scale, it’s quality of service, especially it’s security and availability attributes. So this is a really cool thing that you guys are doing.


Jeffrey: Emily what do you think the biggest challenges are for the mainframe going forward. We’ve talked a lot about, you know, what we’re doing here to enable the platform. What do you see as the challenges in front of you?

Emily: I think one of our biggest challenges is really talking about what cloud means, and especially now that we’re getting into container technologies, how a lot of times those container technologies and how they interact with projects like OpenStack are still not very well defined yet. So when you add the in the extra layer of Z systems then that’s an extra challenge of how should these things interact? What do we need to do to make sure that our customers are happy with them, that they like how these things fit together and that it’s easy to put together.

There are a lot of things that you can do if you play around and really hack it but when we’re talking about the mainframe, our customers want something that’s very reliable, very easy, straightforward to put together and very well thought out and backed up by IBM so yeah, there’s a tremendous amount of work to be done with defining that interaction.

Jeffrey: Yeah, the other thing is, you know, more and more every day I see that things are just moving so fast and you have an entire world community, open community developing new tools, new approaches, new frameworks, that get adopted extremely quickly.

I’d imagine that you and your team have to be very agile in responding to the changes that are occurring and the new approaches that are being used to manage a system. It’s not like it used to be.

Emily: Yeah that’s definitely true, if I looked over even just the last ten or eleven years of my career and the different types of system management projects that we’ve seen then getting into cloud, it’s just really exploding when Gawker, and Kubernetes and Mesos, and probably lots and lots of other projects that we haven’t even heard about yet but are going to become very popular.

Our team does a lot of monitoring different listservs, getting involved in different communities. I think one of the great things about IBM is that for nearly any software project out there, there’s probably some team within IBM who’s working on it and so working with the research teams, or teams within other parts of IBM, keeping those lines of communication open is really important to us so that we know about these new things as they come up and we can start having that conversation about how they fit on the mainframe.

Jeffrey:Yeah, no, that’s very cool.

The thing that struck me about one of the challenges that the mainframe faces with respect to cloud, is that there are, I used to say that there are if you asked ten different people what they mean by cloud you’d get at least nine different answers and one of the things that I think could be most beneficial to our clients with respect to mainframe, it’s virtualization and its use in a cloud environment is to try and have the discussion with our clients that cloud isn’t a place, it’s a control mechanism, it’s a model for service delivery.

So one of the things that I think the main frame is very well positioned for, especially in our existing large customer base is to kind of cloudify the enterprise. You don’t necessarily have to move stuff out of the data center to some other service provider in order to get the benefits of the automation and the service delivery model of cloud. You’ve got this mainframe that’s ready to go, it’s ready to plug into these new management approaches so that you can incrementally transform your data center and your IT environment into a cloud service provider.

Emily:Yeah, I mean that’s definitely something that we see going on and the definition of what is cloud and why do I need cloud, sometimes you get system administrators that are not, or assistant programmers that are not really willing to give up kind of control of those things to their developers and other system programmers who maybe are completely okay with that but they don’t want to change the way that they’re building guests, so we’ve put things in like a cloning capability for OpenStack that lets you make an exact copy of another guest.

On the OpenStack side of things, and the developers point of view, it looks like a regular deploy, but in terms of what’s happening underneath it’s just a copy of another guest which then an allow your other maybe existing management tools to set things up like the IP address, and the host name of the guest and things like that and so coming up with tools like that that can hybridize this approach between the new world and the old world is very important to us.

Jeffrey: Yeah, you know what, I could talk with you about this all day if we had the time. The challenges part of his discussion is very interesting to me because, I mean you mentioned some of the perspectives and the attitudes that existing IT staff have related to the mainframe.

You know part of the reason that the mainframe has a reputation for being secure and available is not just because you people at IBM engineer it that way, it’s also because it’s managed that way. There’s discipline and rigor and process, how it’s employed in customer shops in terms of change control and making sure the system runs effectively. And so part of the fear I think some of these people have is that loss of control where they’re afraid that if they don’t tightly control things and everything has to go through the traditional processes, that the system will be degraded in some way.

So I think the challenge for you and others, is to make sure that as the system plugs into these new management approaches and gives more control and freedom to users of the system, that those IT guys can be assured that we’re not breaking any rules, and we’re not introducing any risks or putting the system and the services that are so critical to those customers at risk by doing it.

Emily: Yeah and so one thing that we often like to talk about is the idea of having cloud security separate from your z/VM security so that you have the idea of separate users in your cloud that are not maybe the same as z/VM user ID’s. You could have that linkage but you can also keep them separate and so having things like having our cloud management appliance work with RackAFx for example, so you have those audit records and things like that are definitely very important. To some extent I think that some of the projects like OpenStack and others, are still catching up a little bit to the maturity that the mainframe has around things like security and audit controls.


Jeffrey: Alright, let me hit on a little different subject.

As a woman in the industry, what advice would you have for others who are interested in working in this space, IT in general, but even specific to mainframe. You must have perspective on that.

Emily: Definitely I worked more with mainframe at first and now I’m moving a little bit more into the open source world and definitely in terms of the male to female ratio, the mainframe world is a lot more even and to some extent. I think this is because some of the women who started maybe during the eighties and nineties and things like that are now technical leaders in the mainframe world. There have been a lot of really great women who have been mentors and role models and things like that in the mainframe world.

Then in the OpenStack world, I’m involved with groups like the Women of OpenStack and the OpenStack Mentoring Project and we’re struggling to get double digit attendance for women in some of the OpenStack conferences.

So definitely if you’re a woman, finding the support groups for other women in the industry is really important, but I will say that the mainframe is a really great place to be from that perspective, there are just a lot of inspiring women here.

Jeffrey: Good, good.


Jeffrey: So one last question for you, as an open mainframer project member, what do you hope to see within the Open Project in the community in the future. What objectives would you like the group to achieve in the near future?

Emily: We’re just starting this, as you know the Cloud Stack Consortium as we’re calling it in the Open Mainframe Project, so I’m hoping that this will help answer some of these questions that still remain about exactly what cloud means on the mainframe act, what these technologies, the container technologies and things like that.

I always hope from the perspective of myself and my team working on the OpenStack drivers that we get participation from the other companies. SUSE has been great with that but we’d love to see more partner companies really jump in with both feet to the Open Source projects and get involved with spreading the good news about mainframes.

Jeffrey: Yeah, no that’s great because you know, you mentioned SUSE and others to be able to really demonstrate an effective integration with some of these enterprise management tools around cloud and virtualization and demonstrate the power in using a set of open approaches like OpenStack on the mainframe would be extremely powerful and I think maybe the project could assist in incubating some of that, but also act as a way to spread the good word on successes that we have in that area.

Emily: Definitely.

Jeffrey: So hey listen, Emily this has been terrific. Thank you so much for having the discussion and you’re in Endicott that’s not actually far from me, maybe I’ll get down to see you and some of the old members of the team. I’ve got friends in Endicott and so maybe in the near future, I’ll drop by to see you.

Emily: Well we’d love to see you and we have lots of speedies here so.

Jeffrey : Alright good. So that does it for this session, thank you very much.

Emily: Thank you Jeff.

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“I Am A Mainframer” Interview Series: DataKinetics

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In our first discussion of our new  “I Am A Mainframer Interview series,” Jeff Frey, retired IBM Fellow and past CTO of IBM’s mainframe platform talks with Allan Zander, CEO of DataKinetics, on the use and the value of Linux on the mainframe platform.

You can hear the full recording and read the transcript of the interview below.

If you’re a mainframe enthusiast or interested in the space, we invite you to check out our new community forum!

Create a profile and post a selfie with your mainframe system, and you will receive an exclusive “I am a Mainframer” t-shirt.

Here is the full transcript:

Jeffrey Frey: This interview is sponsored by the Open Mainframe Project, and as a Linux Foundation collaborative project, the Open Mainframe Project is intended to help create mainframe-focused, open-sourced technical community and to serve as a focal point for the development and use of Enterprise and Linux in a mainframe computing environment.

The goal of the project is to excite Linux and the Linux community around the use of the mainframe, and to foster collaboration across the mainframe community, to develop and exploit shared Linux tool sets, resources and services in a mainframe environment. In addition, the project seeks to involve the participation of academic institutions to help and assist in creating educational programs aimed at developing the next generation of mainframe Linux engineers and developers.

Allan, welcome to you.

Allan Zander: Thank you, Jeff. I appreciate being here. I’ve been looking forward to having this conversation with you.


Jeff Frey: Very good. How about to get us started, why don’t you tell us a little bit about DataKinetics, your role and your team?

Allan Zander: Thanks Jeff. DataKinetics has been around for about 40 years now and we provide many performance and optimization solutions for our customers. Over time, frequently used applications may have some complexities associated with them. One of the things that we really love here about mainframes is when you’re a large company and you have revenue-generating applications that are running on your mainframe that are very heavily transaction oriented, there’s always a cost associated with those transactions. When you produce multiple millions or billions of transactions every day, we like to help our customers manage some of that complexity that creeps into those applications.


We help them manage the cost which makes applications a little bit easier to maintain and this tends to reduce the risk which also makes it easier to start building new applications and new functionality, and adding new things to the mainframe that you have – innovating. That’s very much what DataKinetics is all about, and that’s very much our passion.


Jeff Frey: How would you say DataKinetics supports the mainframe ecosystem? When I was with IBM, there was a lot of focus on bringing attention to the mainframe and its support of an open, truly open, standard Linux environment, and a big part of that is ecosystem.

Allan Zander: In a way, being a part of something, even like what we’re doing today by being a member of the Open Mainframe Project, there’s probably no better time than now for software vendors to create ecosystems in what they’re doing. Together, we can really add a lot of value to the customer because, let’s face it there’s probably less than 5,000 Mainframes on the planet and the people that are using them really have a very high reliance on making sure that they happen. These are technologies that we are working on. This is the area that we think is our niche.

The people that tend to have software companies that are working on them, they tend to love the technology that’s there, and they really enjoy working and collaborating together. We’d like to be part of that ecosystem.


We started something, it might be just over a year now, called the Planet Mainframe Blog, and that was to create a space on the web that was a little bit more vendor neutral, that would give people who might be seeking information about the mainframe, a place to go. It might be a place for other technology partnerships to begin to brew too, and start to understand how you can collaborate and build technologies together.

If we were a bunch of small startup mobile app developers, we’d get together and we’d have hackathons and all that type of stuff that would happen. We would build technologies and create new ideas that came from working like that.

For some reason, the mainframe still has this stigma that as users, developers, consumers of the technology we don’t like to innovate, that we don’t do things, and nothing could be further from the truth. We like to be out there talking about things like the Open Mainframe Project  and supporting the ecosystem, making it more well-known of what’s going on and capable, because we really believe in this so we’re out there doing it with you every step of the way.


Jeff Frey: That’s great. I’m glad you mentioned some of the stigma that’s attached to the mainframe. Historically, the mainframe has its architectural roots back as early as 1964, so I think it’s sometimes perceived as being not modern or not advanced, or archaic in some way. I’m glad to hear that people recognize that it’s a very capable platform. It has some of the most modern innovations of any platform in the world. I still am surprised to some degree about the number of people who aren’t aware of Linux on the mainframe platform, and the qualities of service that the mainframe can give to a Linux environment.

Allan Zander: Me too. The mainframe needs some good marketing partnerships. If there’s anything we should probably look at bringing to the mainframe ecosystem, it’s the people that handle marketing for Rolex or Ferrari or something like that!  A mainframe is great tool for what it is. In this day and age, you can pick the operating system and pick your development regime that you want. Do you want it on-premise, do you want it off-premise? Do you want it with Linux, do you want it without Linux? Do you within a processing facility, do you not? You’ve got way more approaches for what you can probably do with this computing platform than you have for any other computing platform, on top of a bunch of resiliency and stability that has evolved over 40 years of development.


Why would you not want to use something like that when you’re a publicly-traded company dealing with billions of dollars of revenue in each and every day? We live and breathe the technology Jeff, so we get it. It’s such a simple message to bring out, but for some reason … I don’t know, we’re engineers, we’re not marketers.

Jeff Frey: Yes I agree. You’ve touched on the value of the platform, but let me ask you, specifically, how does using the mainframe platform support your specific business goals? How do you utilize the platform?

Allan Zander: It is 100% of our business goals and what we are. DataKinetics is a mainframe company. Our innovation that we have, that we develop, that we use is mainframe oriented. So, whether it’s looking at something that is Linux and how maybe you can help customers that are looking at future application development, and finding ways to simplify some of that development for what they have, we provide them some tools or some expertise, or maybe different ways of coming with an economic business case that they’ve never really thought of before by looking at technology from the point of view of “what is the business outcome that you’re trying to do?” We have the number one and the number two in every major vertical that is pertinent to the mainframe today.

One of our best customers is a VERY large credit card company, and we’re right at the heart of the way that they use rules for fraud detection and fraud algorithms. By using technology like what we have, we were able to give them the facility to implement new rules on the fly that would help them detect fraudulent activity instead of having to run a complete QA cycle. A task that might take them months to do, we got it down, literally, to hours for them to implement.

We really believe it’s all about how can you look at technology and match it to the business value that you have. Usually, believe it or not, the mainframe is a pretty flexible environment, particularly if you start looking at ways that your architectures might be able to embrace something, like Linux running on your mainframe. Now you’ve got some of those more easier-to-find skill sets that are out there than what you might have, which may build things on top of it. We help facilitate a lot of that, so the developments for mainframe and mainframe technologies is all we live and breathe here at DataKinetics.


Jeff Frey: That’s cool. Sometimes, as I said, I’m drawing on some past experience here, with some shops, introducing the value of Linux in the mainframe is difficult, not necessarily because of anything technical, but because of preconceived notions or organizational or even political boundaries within the organization. It sounds like you either don’t have any of those problems or you’ve solved many of them if you had them.

Allan Zander: You know, that’s a great point. I love what you just said there. That’s why we like to start with customers with business value. What are you trying to do? Let’s focus on that outcome and solving the outcome, and not make it about an architectural decision, or don’t worry about how am I going to maintain this, or do I have the people that you need that are involved in this.

When was the last time an IT organization had a bunch of people that were just sitting in a corner going, “Well, whenever you’re ready, here we are”? It doesn’t work that way. Everyone is busy, everyone has too much to do. No one can really get what they need to get done during the day, but yet business moves on, and that’s the reality of what we have.

Think about those business goals, and then from there let technology support the business goals. Don’t let technology moderate your business goals.


Jeff Frey: Given all of that, what do you think your biggest challenges or obstacles are in the mainframe environment moving forward?

Allan Zander: In this day, I truly believe a lot of the applications that should be off the mainframe are off the mainframe. What is left on the mainframe today are the applications that are generating revenue for the world’s largest companies in the world. By definition, those applications are complex. The challenges that we have is you’ve got the largest publicly-traded companies in the world literally relying on the mainframe on a daily basis, without fear, to generate them billions of dollars in revenue a day, yet if you’re the largest in the company, by definition you’re the largest, and someone else wants to be the largest, too, so you have to compete. In order to compete, you’ve got to innovate. You’ve got to do things that help you grow, that help differentiate you from the competition, which means you need to makes changes to some of those applications eventually.

I recognize that as a big challenge facing businesses. You want to be able to do that, you want to be able to move your business forward. You have to rely on making some changes to these complex applications that you have, and you need vendors that have been there, done that, got the Tshirt, that have been around and understand the space, that have the customers, that have the resources at their disposal to be able to do that to help get you to where you need to be. As much as I love the ecosystem and as much as I love this space, the number of highly-qualified vendors that is out there is shrinking, but the people that are doing it, who are continuing to make the investments, their skills are growing and, actually, their depth is growing.

If I look at DataKinetics, we’ve grown consecutively over 10% for the past three/four years by being able to focus on what we have and expanding those skill sets to help those customers meet those challenges.

IT itself also moves incredibly quickly. New ideas and new technologies and new concepts and new architectures, even though it already seems like the Cloud and Big Data is old news, were we talking about the Cloud and Big Data four/five years ago even? I’m not even sure we were.


Keeping track of all of that momentum, for a CIO or a CFO to say, “Here’s where we need to be and here’s what we want to do, and how are we going to get there and how are we going to manage these risks associated with it?” I don’t blame our customers at all for taking the time that they do, and being as precise in what they need to do. It is complex and you do need help, and you do need a good set of skills to get you to where you need to be. I don’t think the challenge of finding skill or technology or, “Gee, the mainframe is dead,” is in fact out there. I don’t believe that. I think that’s just marketing hype from distributed companies that are maybe more into the very classic servers and it’s in their advantage to say something like that.

Is a major credit card company suddenly going to upload all of its secure information to the Cloud and run its fraud transaction processing up there? No. How you handle those applications and how you look to move business forward is definitely a challenge, but you know what? Complex applications demand the technical infrastructure to be bullet proof and secure for a reason!


Jeff Frey: You know, the Linux environment, and part of the value I think IBM believes they bring to the Linux environment on the mainframe is that standardization and that flexibility to be able to use the platform in very traditional ways, but also in new ways that hadn’t necessarily traditionally been in use in a mainframe environment. I get this a lot where people are very focused on flexibility and time to market and responsiveness and changing with the rapid changes that are occurring in the business, and you have to have a computer system that is as responsive as the business is.

The one thing I didn’t hear you say as a challenge, especially in the mainframe environment, which some people do allude to is the economics of the platform. I know we’re kind of running out of time here, but I’d like to hear your perspective on whether you think, you must think, that Linux and mainframe in general is a good value economically for what you use it for.

Allan Zander: Absolutely, I do. If where you were going is the economics is, the mainframe is an expensive platform to do, but that is bunk. All you have to do is make some simple Google searches and you’re going to find a ton of research that is well documented that is out there, which will show you emphatically that once you start looking at Linux doing some new devOps regimes on top of something like Linux, and you tie that back to the cost per transaction on top of your mainframe that you have, you are literally running the most economically viable and most stable platform on the planet, period. Don’t take my word for it. Just spend seven minutes on Google, read yourself two or three of the articles that are going to pop up, and if that doesn’t convince you, then you’re drinking the wrong Kool-Aid. I don’t know what to say.

There is a reason why the largest companies in the world that are doing the things that they have continue to use that platform, and continue to expand on it and continue to grow it. It’s because the economics associated with making revenue, when you use a platform like a mainframe, are far superior, still today, than anything else that’s on the market.


Jeff Frey: Let me ask you one last question. As an Open Mainframe Project member, what do you hope to see within the community in the future? Where do you think we can go with this project?

Allan Zander: Sky’s the limit. It’s why we want to be there. I truly believe, despite any stigma that may come with something that has been around for 40 years, it’s to our advantage that it’s been around that long, because right now there actually is no better time in the marketplace for IT to be doing development on top of the server that is handling the system of record for the largest companies in the world, particularly in the finance space where new things are beginning to happen, new paradigms. Look at things like blockchain for example, new payment technologies that might be coming out, ways of handling digital currency transactions and that type of stuff. There has never been a more interesting and exciting time to be in the market, looking at innovation and development in an open, collaborative environment than right now.

Honestly, I think the open mainframe project is going to get together and we’re going to figure out the next Uber that is going to be on the mainframe. I look forward to meeting people in person and collaborating more and more.

Jeff Frey: Well, thank you very much. It’s been a real pleasure talking with you, Allan, and maybe we can meet face-to-face one of the meetings here coming up. With that, I think we’ll close the session. Again, thank you very much for your time.

Allan Zander: My pleasure, Jeff. It was great meeting you.


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A Tribute to Erich Bloch

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Last month, the Mainframe Community said farewell to Erich Bloch. He was 91 years old and passed away of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.  

Erich was involved with developing IBM’s first transistorized supercomputer, 7030 Stretch, and mainframe computer, System/360.  System /360 enabled IBM to dominate the computer market for a quarter-century and this is the same technology that now supports many of the world’s financial, federal, and education systems.  

Len Santalucia, Chairperson of Open Mainframe Project tell us,  “It has been an honor to have had the opportunity to work on the IBM Mainframe for almost 40 years. The world and I owe so much to Erich Bloch who helped develop the IBM Mainframe and his legacy will always be carried on in our daily lives.”

To put things in perspective, just think of this:

If Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn were to shut down it would be just an irritation or inconvenience and the world would still keep functioning. If all the Mainframes in the world were to shut down, it would be a worldwide catastrophe. Airlines would be grounded, banks and financial markets could not function, UPS and FedEx could not deliver packages, and the Federal agencies such as the Federal Reserve, FBI,  and Home Land Security would come to a screeching halt, to name a few consequences.

Today, the Open Mainframe Project will carry on Erich’s Mainframe legacy to the next level where anyone, anywhere will be able to access and benefit from the greatest platform on earth. Erich will is smiling down at us and guiding us as we embark on this next great journey.



Contributed Article by Len Santalucia


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Open Mainframe Project Summer 2017 Intern Program Now Accepting Applications

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Open Mainframe Project is accepting eight student interns during the summer of 2017 to work in the Open Mainframe Project development community. Each intern will work closely with a mentor for the duration of his/her internship. For a list of suggested intern development projects, please see our Project Ideas Page. Internship development projects do not need to be limited to ideas on this wiki page. If you have a great idea for a development activity for Open Mainframe Project, you can submit the idea as part of your application and, if chosen, the Open Mainframe Project Internship Administrator will find a suitable mentor for you.

Each intern will work remotely from his/her location of choice. There is no physical work facility provided or required.

The Open Mainframe Project will also give the ability for each intern successfully completing the program to present their project at an industry conference. The Open Mainframe Project will provide a stipend for travel for each student. To help support the student for presenting, the project will provide professional resources and training to help build their presentation skills.

One of our 2016 interns,  Matthew Franklin describes his participation: “My project was to work on porting and adding on to the Linux system monitoring tool called “htop”.  It was a great experience to work with my mentor, Mr. Nathan Roberts on this project and I enjoyed it very much.  The SHARE conference was also a one of a kind experience for me.   It was very interesting to hear the various experts of the mainframe field talk about new developments in the platform.  It was quite empowering for me to see someone my age take on a project so immense. The whole internship inspires me to keep working hard at these projects and to undertake more projects to further my skills.”

Click here  for more details and to apply!


About the Open Mainframe Project 

The Open Mainframe Project is intended to serve as a focal point for deployment and use of the Linux OS in a mainframe computing environment. The Project intends to increase collaboration across the mainframe community and to developed shared tool sets and resources. Furthermore, the Project seeks to involve the participation of academic institutions to assist in teaching and educating the mainframe Linux engineers and developers of tomorrow. Through our internship program, students can expand their knowledge of mainframe technology, while at the same time helping contribute to open source projects that will make it easier for these infrastructure applications to run on Linux on System Z.

The Open Mainframe Project – A Critical Industry Evolution

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The Open Mainframe Project – A Critical Industry Evolution

The Open Mainframe Project was established to create an open source, technical community that industry and community participants may easily participate in and so that they may contribute to the creation of assets and materials that will benefit the ecosystem around Linux and open source software on the mainframe.

DataKinetics joined the Open Mainframe Project in November of 2015 because it aligns perfectly with what we do at DataKinetics. We’ve been developing products and partnering with other ISVs to provide solutions for multi-platform enterprises for several years now, and intend to do even more in the months and years to come.

Linux on the mainframe

When IBM shocked the mainframe community, and launched Linux on the mainframe in the year 2000, it was a ‘shot heard around the world’.  Immediately it became obvious that the mainframe was about to change forever – and that was a change for the better.

There was no danger then, and there is no danger now of the mainframe legacy passing away. Large enterprises are retaining their high-value z/OS assets, and will do so for many years to come. Why? Primarily because of their massive fiscal investments in the technology, but no less so because the mainframe performs like a champ.

No, the legacy mainframe usage isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But the mainframe is seeing and will continue to see its most significant growth on the Linux side, and that will be accelerated by initiatives like the Open Mainframe Project.

IBM continues to make contributions in this area as well. For some time they have offered up Linux on z Systems – a version on Linux that can run concurrently on the same hardware as a z/OS installation (this has also been called zLinux or z/Linux – as well as LinuxONE, a Linux-only version of the mainframe.

At this time, more than a third of IBM mainframe clients are running Linux – growth in this area is important, but new customers need to be brought to the mainframe, and the Open Mainframe Project is part of the answer to help make that happen.

So where’s the interest?

Why isn’t there a stampede of new customers flocking to the mainframe? Well, there is a lot of history, misinformation and just plain bias to overcome. To folks who don’t know anything about mainframe computing, it reeks of obsolescence and high costs.

True, mainframe systems have been around for decades. But so has the automobile. And just like a Tesla Model S can hardly be compared to a Ford Model T, a z13 mainframe (2015) cannot be compared to an IBM 704 mainframe (1957). Not in proper context, anyway.

It is true that a mainframe system can me more costly to operate, but for good reason. A single mainframe can replace several racks full of commodity servers, consuming far less electric power, floor space and cooling capacity, and can be maintained by a much smaller systems support group. Yes, it can cost more, but the higher cost is more than offset by the amount of work that it handles. Just like the way a city bus costs more than a single commuter car, but hauls far more people to work in the morning.

Further confusing the issue, there are some smart people in IT who just don’t like the mainframe. Sometimes for reasons that aren’t really valid. Whether it’s a lack of understanding of the actual value of the mainframe, or the false perception of it as a “legacy” platform, or any other reason, bias needs to take a back seat – way, way, way back – to the actual numbers that demonstrate cost-effectiveness.

It’s going to be up to us, the mainframe ISVs and other open source champions to show the world that open source mainframe computing is in their own best interest. And not just by a little bit, either.

Open source moving forward

We are serious about our commitment to the open-source community by combining the best of the open source world with the most advanced computing system in the world, in order to help clients manage growing workloads (mobile and hybrid cloud, etc.). Building on the budding success of Linux on the mainframe, we continue to push the limits beyond the capabilities of commodity servers that are not designed for security and performance at extreme scale.

The open mainframe will allow customers to leverage their younger and more plentiful programmers and allow them to use the programming languages and the toolsets that they’re most comfortable using, and honestly, the same programming languages and toolsets that are used most often in today’s mainstream computing environments.

As customers, vendors and champions of mainframe technology, it’s also in all of our own best interests to promote the use of Linux on the mainframe. If the platform goes away, we’re left with doing the work that needs to get done using lesser platforms that actually cost more to run. And that’s going to be a disadvantage for all of us. It deserves to survive and thrive, for the good of customers, ISVs and industry as a whole.

While some vendors spend their time battling about whose products are better, or how they’re more committed than the other, DataKinetics prefers to look ahead and ensure a vibrant and successful future for the mainframe – the right tool for the right jobs. We have that in common with the Open Mainframe Project.

Contributed by Andrew Armstrong (Chief Customer Officer, DataKinetics)

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What Cloud Means to the Mainframe

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Over the summer a plucky band of dedicated mainframers began an ambitious new project: defining what cloud means to the mainframe and how we can help it along. The journey has not been smooth, but they are dedicated to the task. This post chronicles their journey thus far.

For a platform that deploys as many guests as we do, cloud management is a must. Since the dawn of time (well mainframe time), system programmers have needed a ways to manage large pools of resources efficiently and spin up new resources with a minimal amount of fuss. However, the rise of cloud computing paradigms in the past 10 years have thrown a wrench into the works. The great tide of interoperability threatens to wash away all previous solutions. What’s a good sysprog to do?

Wrestling with these big questions is exactly what the OpenStack Cloud Consortium for Mainframe Linux plans to do. The plucky band consisting of Open Mainframers, IBMers, Business Partners and Customers are trying to wrestle with the big questions of cloud. Particularly:

  • Do we need cloud on the mainframe?
  • What kind of clouds are the right answers for mainframe customers?
  • Is there a place for mainframes in open source cloud solutions?
  • What does that place or solution look like? Is it different for z/VM vs. KVM on z Systems?
  • How do existing tools and processes need to change to allow cloud to work?
  • How do cloud solutions need to change to include mainframes?
  • How do we as mainframers want to influence the open source cloud communities?

The consortium doesn’t have all the answers now, but we do have all the questions. We have currently identified three next steps on our interoperability journey:

  1. Identify a small group of mainframe customers who are interested in OpenStack and willing to share their experiences
  2. Get buy-in from the technical and business leaders who will implement the consortium’s findings
  3. Talk with the OpenStack open source community to get their thoughts on the customer experiences

So whether you’re a mainframe developer, customer, or user, the consortium would love to hear your voice! Email to join the mainframe cloud revolution!

You can also catch Emily’s brown bag session from OpenStack 2016 in Barcelona:

Contributed by Emily Kate Hugenbruch: @ekhugen

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Anomaly Detection Engine Update – Esopus Creek

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Esopus Creek is a 65-mile tributary of the Hudson river and like its namesake the first update release of the IBM contributed Anomaly Detection Engine for Linux Logs is now flowing into the wider open source community if you excuse the pun.

In this blog James Caffrey the maintainer for the project provides an update on the progress of the code base. However, first to set the scene, Anomaly Detection Engine (ADE) was a code base around detecting anomalies in Linux logs, contributed by IBM via the Open Mainframe Project into the open source community back at the beginning of the year.

The new delivery of ADE Esopus Creek has four upgrades contributed by the community:

  • support for MariaDB(tm)
  • verify command – is there sufficient information to create a model
  • fixes to additional SonarQube(tm) issues
  • wiki topics
    • example of how to tailor the output of ADE
    • how to contribute to ADE

MariaDB(tm) support

ADE now supports MariaDB.  The Esopus Creek version has been updated to account for the SQL differences between Derby and MariaDB.

Why was the verify command added

To understand why the verify command is important, the way that ADE detects unusual time slices and messages needs to be explained:

ADE assumes that production Linux systems follow a predictable pattern and that differences between from the expected behavior is unusual. ADE is able to detect unusual time slices and unusual messages in Linux logs by comparing the Linux logs for the time periods of interest with the expected behavior of Linux logs.    When the ADE command train runs, it builds a model of the expected behavior which is used during analyze to check the behavior of that time period. Train and analyze uses statistical learning to find what is unusual.

For the statistical learning algorithms to generate helpful results, they need sufficient information to build a valid model.  The verify command checks to see if there is sufficient information available to create a valid model before the model is created.  The java class VerifyLinuxTraining invoked by verify checks if the number of unique message ids is sufficient for the number of intervals included in the training period.  The algorithm is designed to handle both high and low message traffic volume Linux systems.

The verify command, the java class, and the data science have been added to

How to tailor the output of ADE

For each interval and message analyzed by ADE, ADE creates xml that is written to a file.  ADE also provides xslt files that convert the results into html so that the ADE results can be viewed with a standard web browser.  It writes the xslt files to the appropriate places, so that all you need to do to look at the results is point your browser to the file of interest. The ADE wiki now contains examples of how to change the xslt to:

  • sort by column values
  • change the order the columns and remove columns which might not be useful

The xslt files are shipped as part of ADE and can be tailored to meet your needs.  See  for details. For more details on how the files are stored on disk, so you can find the one you want see

The next delivery of ADE – Poesten Kill will focus on reducing the cost of adding new analytics to ADE.  Look for ADE on Slack at #anomaly-detection and follow the OpenMainframe project @OpenMFProject on Twitter for announcements about ADE.

Announcing the Open Mainframe Project interns for Summer 2016

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The Open Mainframe Project is pleased to announce the 7 students that have been selected to become interns for the summer of 2016.  Drawn from 4 different countries the 7 interns represent a global cross section of the academic community that engages with the mainframe and Linux operating systems that it runs.

We are pleased to announce the Open Mainframe Project interns for Summer 2016

  • Allen NG – University of Buffalo
  • Laszlo Szoboszlai – U of Bedfordshire
  • Tuan M. HOANG – Hanoi University of Science and Technology (SoICT-HUST)
  • Matthew Franklin Bent – ECU
  • Sebastian Wind – University of Leipzig
  • Robert Edward Starr – ECU
  • Jovanka Gulicoska – FON University

These students will be working over the summer months on areas such as Docker, Blockchain, and Linux Monitoring tools. For those interns based in the US, they will also be attending SHARE in Atlanta, North America’s premier mainframe user group conference.  Those students based in Europe and Asia are looking to be a part of Guide Share Europe event which is Europe’s premier mainframe focused user conference in the UK this fall. The students will have access to mentors from across industry, with members such as IBM and CA providing top engineers to help work closely with the students. As the undertake their coding assignments.

Check back here for updates throughout the internship program for the progress made by the interns and as the program comes to a close a full write up on the summer 2016 program.

A new step forward for mainframe

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I write this post watching the next chapter of mainframe computing emerging. With today’s announcements from the Open Mainframe Project, a new generation of mainframe-ers is emerging thanks to open source. But this chapter didn’t start being written today.

The year was 1999. I heard about my IBM Colleagues in Germany working on a skunkworks project to make Linux available on the IBM Mainframe. In 2000, IBM decided to officially market Linux across its entire server family including IBM z Systems. The elite IBM Linux Impact team was born in that year. Due to my affiliation with many clients on Wall Street, I was given the opportunity to join this team. Wall Street was already rampant with Linux x86 servers in clusters and racks. When I introduced them to Linux on z Systems and its consolidation virtualization capabilities, they were skeptical and resistant. Through perseverance and persistence of the IBM Linux Impact team, Wall Street began to see the value proposition of Linux on z Systems as did the rest of the industry. Much progress has been made with the growth of Linux on z Systems in the public and private sectors but there is definite room for improvement.

Now today, we as a mainframe community take a new step forward. Where in the past these communities of open source users on the mainframe were fragmented, the Open Mainframe Project brings this together. The formation of this vendor neutral project will take the groundwork laid by vendors and accelerate the adoption and enhancement of Open Source and Linux on the Mainframe by an order of magnitude across the entire marketplace. And with the unique angle of engaging academic institutions, the project looks to ensure that the mainframe will continue to be the platform of choice for the most demanding computational jobs for decades to come.

Whether you are new or experienced with Open Source and Linux on z Systems, you cannot help but feel the excitement all around you. Come with me and join the Open Mainframe Project.

Open Mainframe Project – Inaugural EU Meeting

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Inaugural EU MeetingTo describe my enthusiasm of the Mainframe (also known as IBM z Systems) would take far too many words, but suffice to say I have been a massive fan ever since I left University (quite a while ago now) and had to quickly learn how to be a Mainframe Systems Programmer. Not an easy task when I’d never been taught anything about the system, and even more strange coming from a world where Windows hadn’t discovered virtualisation and even worse, there were no windows – just a green screen!

When I heard the news from LinuxCon in 2015 that the Linux Foundation was going to run and host the Open Mainframe Project, I truly felt that this was a turning point in the Mainframe’s fortunes. Linux has been running on the Mainframe for around 16 years, and yet has barely had the recognition or value it deserves. The Linux Foundation is the perfect agnostic organisation to promote the benefits of running Linux based applications on the Mainframe, and the Open Mainframe Project is a truly exciting prospect to get new people playing with the Linux environment and writing business relevant applications.

I was therefore really excited to attend the first ever EU meeting of the Open Mainframe Project, hosted at the University of Bedfordshire, one of the Project’s academic sponsors. The meeting was well attended by students, seasoned Mainframe professionals and members from the open source community, including Canonical – the organisation behind Ubuntu.

John Mertic, Senior Program Manager at the Linux Foundation led discussions on how the Open Mainframe Project was set up to bring together students, industry experts, developers and system administrators in a collaborative way to create open source based solutions on Linux on System z. As the Linux Foundation would be hosting the environment with support from their 100+ staff,  it would be a truly vendor independent and neutral playing field for new and exciting applications. A board made up of a governing body, an IBM Fellow, lead developers and a committee will decide and manage the projects – which at present consist of focus areas on Docker, Blockchain, OpenJDK and monitoring tools. No IBM software here – this is all open source!

The aim of the Open Mainframe Project is simple –

  1. To promote the benefits of running Linux on the Mainframe (see this great video from MongoDB),
  2. To develop a broad ecosystem of software
  3. To engage and excite students and young people, bringing fresh ideas from academic institutions and
  4. To provide a neutral, collaborative approach to bringing together anyone wishing to learn and do more with one of the most impressive and longest living commercial Enterprise servers the world has known!

I am personally looking forward to working with the Open Mainframe Project and the Linux Foundation to make this a great success. I particularly want to see industry teaming up with academia to develop new and disruptive technologies – just imagine what a Bank could do with limited resource and budget, for example, when they can work with and leverage students through the Linux Foundation! Innovative business projects that may seem like an impossible pipe dream to deliver in a large organisation could be created through this initiative, leading to value for both the organisation and the open source community. All delivered on Linux on System z – an unbeatable combination!