opinion: Does the z/OS Management Facility Match the Hype?
In z/OS 1.11, IBM announced a software product to provide web–accessible GUI screens to ease the task of z/OS administration. IBM touted this as
“the new face of z/OS.” So how does it look? We take the microscope to the z/OS Management Facility.
OK, it sounds like a great idea. Let's create a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to make z/OS administration easier. Currently systems programmers have
a huge workload, usually with too few people to do it. There are a million things to learn, and every year new z/OS features add more. So creating a way
to make this easier sounds great – make it like Windows. However this idea has been tried before, and I've never been overwhelmed with the results.
Previous attempts from various z/OS monitors have tended to provide only a handful of features at the expense of extra software, tasks and management
effort. Meanwhile z/OS systems programmers continue to rely on the tried and true 3270 screen.
IBM have had another go at this idea with their z/OS Management Facility, or z/OSMF for short. Let's take a look at it.
When I first heard that z/OSMF used an OEM version of Websphere Application Server, my heart fell. There's no doubt that Websphere AS is the best
J2EE platform for z/OS, but I've had some bad experiences with it. Amongst other things, it can be tricky to setup, and is a CPU and memory hog. Users
not currently running Websphere AS may be surprised at the recommended minimum z/OS requirements: quoted as 2GBytes of memory and 120 MIPS in a
2011 Orlando Share presentation. What's
more, you can't use your existing Websphere AS regions – you must use the special OEM version. But that's not all.
Most sites won't have implemented the relatively new Common Information Model (CIM), the z/OS implementation of the standard CIM Server. However
this will be needed for the Incident Log and Workload Manager functions. The z/OS Common Event Adapter is also needed for the Incident Log. But this
is an easy setup, and needed for CIM in any case. System REXX is also going to be handy, but isn't difficult to get running.
All of these are strategic products for IBM, and come free with z/OS. So I can understand why they are used. However a big disappointment is the fact the
RMF Monitor III and the RMF Distributed Data Server (DDS) is needed for performance monitoring; probably because this feature is pretty much RMF PM. Users
of BMC CMF are out of luck.
The good news is that the installation process itself is not too difficult, and can be easily done in a day or two. The z/OSMF Redbook is gold here.
The original function to come with z/OSMF in z/OS 1.11, the Incident Log is intended to ease the pain of detecting z/OS problems, and sending diagnostic
information to IBM. In many ways this reflects a concerning trend where z/OS systems administrators rely on vendor support for problem determination.
The incident log by default will list any system abend or dump that has happened in the past three days. Basic information about the dump is shown, and a
mouse–click will show supporting information such as syslog and EREP data – all nice features. But the best thing is that it is easy to send this information
to IBM support. A PMR number can be added to any problem, and all information sent to IBM by following the bouncing ball. The IBM PMR will even be updated to
show receipt of the information.
This is great when sending dump data to IBM, but otherwise is a feature most sites will already be doing with automated operations tools.
The z/OSMF currently has three functions for z/OS configuration.
The WLM task is a GUI for managing WLM policies and definitions, and was introduced in z/OS 1.12. It doesn't provide anything that can't be done using
the standard ISPF panels. OK, it does put this in a nice GUI format that new systems programmer may find easier. But I'm not that impressed.
The Configuration Assistant for z/OS Communications Server has been around since z/OS 1.8, with a GUI to generate TCP/IP configuration files for things
like security, quality of service, intrusion detection and policy based routing. Now this is a nice tool, but you don't need z/OSMF. It can be downloaded
free from the IBM website.
The final configuration tool is the DASD Management facility, introduced in z/OS 1.13. DASD management has become a lot simpler over past years, and today
the most common task is to monitor DFSMS Storage Groups, and add extra volumes if needed. The z/OSMF DASD management tool covers this, but no more. Anything
more complicated requires you to switch back to your 3270 emulator.
z/OS monitors such as Tivoli Omegamon, ASG TMON, BMC MAINVIEW and CA SYSVIEW have for many years provided screens for viewing z/OS performance. Canny
z/OS systems programmers have also been aware of the free GUI screens provided by the Windows based RMF Performance Monitor (or RMF PM), working with the RMF Distributed
Data Server (DDS) and RMF Monitor III. From z/OS 1.12, z/OSMF has incorporated the RMF PM screens into its Performance Monitoring, but without any big
Most sites won't be impressed, and will continue to use their existing z/OS performance tools.
This sounded exciting. Any mainframe site with multiple z/OS images will have a standard procedure for migrating systems software. Most commonly z/OS
software will be installed and tested on a small test system, and then migrated through developments systems to the final production systems. Systems
programmers will usually have a standard suite of jobs to achieve this.
The z/OSMF Software Deployment function, available in z/OS 1.13, looks to take the work out of it. It can copy software from one z/OS system to another:
either in the same Parallel Sysplex (a local deployment), or in another Parallel Sysplex (a remote deployment). z/OSMF won't do the actual copying. However
it will prepare a suite of jobs to create an SMP/E environment and possibly catalogs, and FTP the source software to target disk volumes. It also provides
wizards to step you through the process, and even check for possible missing sysmods.
The idea here is clearly to allow junior systems programmers to perform software deployments, a task that some sites may be hesitant to allow.
The flip side is that sites with an established software deployment procedure will have to re–write it to use z/OSMF, not a trivial exercise. And of
course z/OSMF must be running on both source and destination systems.
This feature can only be used to copy an entire environment, there's no option to merely install maintenance onto existing software. It will also only
work with SMP/E packaged software – from IBM and other vendors.
Most sites won't rush to implement this new feature.
The idea of dynamically adding CPU resources to a z/OS LPAR when needed has been around since the z9 processor. This can be monitored using the Windows–based
Capacity Provisioning Control Center (CPCC), available from z/OS 1.10. The z/OSMF Capacity Provisioning feature is effectively the CPCC, but only the
monitoring part. It can't be used for CPCC administration tasks, which is surprising and reduces its appeal.
The idea of centralising z/OS tools running on Windows is excellent, but there's little reason to use this feature if you are comfortable with CPCC.
Under the Covers
Thank goodness IBM didn't create yet another userid and password to use the z/OSMF; an authorised mainframe userid and password is all you need. Access
to individual z/OSMF functions can be set using the z/OS security product, or internal z/OSMF screens, which sounds reasonable.
Java based applications can often have problems with a particular browser setup. The z/OSMF has an excellent setup checker at
https://hostname:port/zosmf/IzuUICommon/environment.jsp. z/OSMF currently works fine with the common Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers. Other browsers
may also work, but IBM won't guarantee it.
It is obvious that IBM sees the z/OSMF as a strategic product as an entry point for z/OS administration. They've setup a good looking base, and are
pushing in as many existing tools as they can to make it look good. They've also added features so you can add your own links to other webpages and web–based
tools. IBM have even added an ISPF interface in z/OS 1.13, hoping to lure more users while admitting that ISPF will still be used for a long time to come.
z/OSMF also has the advantage of being a common point when managing multiple z/OS images. The days of having ten different 3270 screens open at the same time
may be limited.
However at present, z/OSMF is yet another software product to be installed, managed and maintained. It consumes memory and CPU, and I'm not convinced that
the returns on this investment are worthwhile. It's light on features, most of which were already available as standalone products. More clever wizards and
tools are needed to make z/OSMF worth the effort.
z/OSMF is also a continuation of a trend of de–skilling mainframe resources. Recent mainframe staff rarely have the depth of knowledge attained by us
veterans of MVS and OS/390, and relying on GUI products such as z/OSMF provides another reason not to acquire those skills.