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LongEx Mainframe Quarterly - February 2024

management: Five New z/OS Technologies We Can No Longer Ignore

50 years ago, IBM announced the MVS operating system, now called z/OS. Over these 50 years, IBM has continually changed z/OS to keep it relevant. This change hasn't stopped in recent years, and today there are some technologies that z/OS systems programmers and administrators can no longer ignore. They're not coming, they're already here, and are probably running on your z/OS system today.

Let's take a look at five (relatively) new z/OS technologies I think need to be understood by z/OS systems administrators and others working with z/OS today.

5. z/OS Container Extensions

When you first look at it, zCX doesn't sound that exciting. Great, we can run a Linux application in a Docker or similar container as a z/OS address space. So what?

As a z/OS address space, zCX applications can be managed by z/OS administrators. They can be started using the same automation features as other z/OS features. They can be started and stopped together with their 'partner' z/OS address spaces. We don't have to worry if they are down: we can see from z/OS consoles and monitoring.

zCX applications can (mostly) run on zIIP processors but have a fast TCP/IP connection to traditional z/OS workloads. Software development on Linux using frameworks and open-source software available will always be faster than similar development on z/OS, and there are more developers familiar with it. So, I'm expecting fewer software products for z/OS, and more for zCX. In fact, I expect some z/OS software to 'move' to zCX, and we can already see this. For example, IBM Z Workload Scheduler now has a zCX based z/OS agent and console. z/OS Connect has introduced a zCX based server, and IBM App Connect Enterprise has jumped on the zCX bandwagon.

zCX also opens the door for popular non-mainframe tools to be used with z/OS. Think Git and Jenkins for applications, Kafka and RabbitMQ for messaging, Ansible for testing, Prometheus and Grafana for monitoring.

4. Zowe

Zowe has been a slow burn since it was first announced in 2020, but it's picking up steam. Providing a big bag of goodies, perhaps the most useful is the command line interface: allowing users and scripts to access z/OS resources from a Windows command prompt or UNIX shell command.

The 2023 Arcati survey states that 38% of respondents say they are using Zowe: double the number in the 2022 survey. New mainframers are particularly interested in Zowe Explorer and other environments using Zowe to work with the mainframe. Zowe also allows beginners to access and use z/OS SMF records using Zowe SMF Explorer.

3. Websphere Liberty

In 2021, I wrote an article showing that Websphere Application Server for z/OS (WASz) Liberty is now a base feature of z/OS. IBM products like z/OS Management Facility and z/OS Connect need it. The 2023 Arcati survey showed that 50% of respondents are 'web enabling Websphere Application Server.'

2. z/OSMF

First announced in z/OS 1.11 in 2009, z/OSMF has quietly grown from the fledgling solution I wrote about in 2012 to an essential z/OS systems administration product. Want to upgrade z/OS or your mainframe hardware: you need to follow a z/OSMF workflow. Want to configure TCP/IP on z/OS? You're going to want to use the IBM Configuration Assistant for z/OS Communications Server: it runs on z/OSMF. Want to use the new z/OS AI Framework? It's controlled from z/OSMF.

z/OSMF also provides RESTful APIs to access and manage z/OS that are becoming essential for users looking to leverage things like Zowe and Ansible.

1. JSON and RESTful

Up to now I've been talking about software products. But perhaps the biggest technology is RESTful APIs: lightweight JSON compliant APIs. With RESTful and JSON, mainframe assets can be used by anyone with an authenticated HTTP connection to z/OS. Core products like Db2, MQ, CICS and IMS all have features to expose their assets via RESTful and JSON. z/OSMF provides such APIs to access z/OS datasets and jobs, the z/OS console, and z/OSMF workflows. Other software like Zowe Zebra allow RMF and SMF data to be accessed using RESTful and JSON, and RESTful and JSON are the key for anyone considering Node.js programming with z/OS.

RESTful and JSON have become key technologies for working with z/OS workloads.


There are few surprises here, yet I regularly talk with mainframe staff unfamiliar with these technologies. Many sites have WASz, but few have monitoring to the level they'd have with CICS or IMS. Most have z/OSMF, but usually only the bare minimum needed. Some have Zowe, but it's only used by new mainframers.

These technologies are here to stay, and if they're not already as important as your IMS or CICS regions, they soon will be.

David Stephens

LongEx Quarterly is a quarterly eZine produced by Longpela Expertise. It provides Mainframe articles for management and technical experts. It is published every November, February, May and August.

The opinions in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of any other person or organisation. All trademarks, trade names, service marks and logos referenced in these articles belong to their respective companies.

Although Longpela Expertise may be paid by organisations reprinting our articles, all articles are independent. Longpela Expertise has not been paid money by any vendor or company to write any articles appearing in our e-zine.

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