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LongEx Mainframe Quarterly - August 2009

management: Oracle Database Abandons z/OS

The thought of a software vendor discontinuing support for a product is enough to give you nightmares. Straight away, you're faced with a project to migrate to something else – the bigger and more important the software, the bigger and more expensive the project.

Users of Oracle Database on z/OS had their worst fears realised last year when Oracle did exactly this. We talk about what Oracle was on z/OS, how Oracle moved away from z/OS, and what this means for other non-IBM database managers on z/OS.

In January 2008, Oracle Database quietly said goodbye to z/OS.

The fact that Oracle Database ever ran on z/OS may be a surprise to many, however it has been available since 1986. A genuine alternative to other z/OS database managers, Oracle Database provided:
  • A fully functional relational Database Manager and client application environment. Oracle Database was an EBCDIC based DBMS with Unicode support, and had all the features of Oracle Database on other platforms, including the SQL and PL/SQL languages, Java facilities, and SQL optimiser.
  • Features to allow non-Oracle applications on z/OS (CICS, IMS, Java and batch) to access Oracle databases.
  • Oracle Transparent Gateways on z/OS to allow Oracle applications to access other Database Managers like DB2, Adabas, IDMS, and IMS.

This is now history. In January 2008, Oracle released Note 461234.1 to its customers with an “update” on Oracle Database on z/OS support. Oracle declined to provide LongEx Quarterly with a copy of this note, however an entry on the online forum mydatabasesupport.com reproduces what it claims is the entire text. This text states that Oracle Database 10g R2 is the last release for z/OS. Oracle will continue to support 10g R2, and provide patches to support new releases of IBM z/OS and related software indefinitely. Some of this information is also in a presentation by an IBM representative to the 2008 zSeries Oracle Special Interest Group (SIG) Conference.

The decision to move Oracle Database away from z/OS is a significant change in direction for Oracle. In 2000, a major redevelopment was completed to take advantage of Language Environment, WLM, zIIP and other z/OS and System z features. Work was also underway for an 11g version.

So what do existing z/OS users of Oracle do? The good news is that there's no hurry – Oracle will apparently continue to provide patches to allow 10gR2 to work with z/OS and related software indefinitely. But sooner or later, they will have to move their Oracle database and applications to a supported platform like z/Linux. It appears that none of the Oracle Database for z/OS facilities, including the Client Application environment and Transparent Gateways, are part of Oracle's future plans.

Most existing Oracle applications won't need to be changed as Oracle applications are the same for all platforms. That is, unless the application:

  • Accesses DB2 databases on z/OS. Applications will have to change to use the Oracle Database Gateway for DRDA.
  • Uses Transparent Gateways to access z/OS databases such as IMS directly. These applications have few migration options.

The bad news is that non-Oracle z/OS applications that access Oracle databases don't have many migration choices. IBM may very well gain some extra DB2 customers.

What is perhaps especially interesting is how Oracle has announced, or rather not announced, its decision to move away from z/OS. There's no doubt that Oracle has communicated its intentions well in advance to existing customers. However LongEx Quarterly found no public announcements, press releases or presentations from Oracle explaining its position or migration options. In fact the only publicly available information found from Oracle were brief mentions of Note 461234.1 in the 2008 and 2009 zSeries Oracle SIG conferences. These items mention just the Note number and title during the Oracle Support Update presentations – at the very end under the 'Quick Reference' and 'Useful Notes' sections respectively.

Only current Oracle users with a valid logon and password can view Note 461234.1 on Oracle's support website. Even the title of this note: “Oracle Database on z/OS Support Status,” gives little indication of what's to follow.

Oracle declined to comment or answer any questions when asked by LongEx Quarterly.

What's just as interesting is the lack of comment from industry observers and the media. In fact a search could only find isolated entries in one or two online forums - no magazine articles or blog entries. It's as if Oracle Database never happened on z/OS.

Users of other non-IBM database products on z/OS such as CA-Datacom, CA-IDMS and Software AG Adabas could be forgiven for being concerned about their future. However the vendors of these products state that they have no intentions of following Oracle's lead.

Spokesman Bob Gordon of CA said that "CA remains strongly committed to our z/OS customers, and to the future development of CA Datacom and CA IDMS". Steve Keys of Software AG Australia echoed this, stating that Software AG is “committed to both support and development of Adabas, especially on z/OS, for the long term.”

The decision by Oracle to move it's flagship Oracle Database product away from z/OS may very well be a sensible business decision. Unfortunately, Oracle appears to have done their best to achieve this as quietly as possible.

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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