Consider this scenario. A fleet manager, under pressure to reduce costs, decides to replace his large, semitrailer rigs with less-expensive, smaller trucks.
Bad decision. The big rigs were designed specifically to haul extremely large loads over long distances. The smaller trucks are just not up to the task. They can’t match the unique capabilities of the big rigs. What’s more, the manager now has more trucks to manage and maintain. Dispatching has become a nightmare because it requires synchronization of several smaller trucks to carry all the loads that one big rig would have carried. Deliveries are suffering and customers are complaining.
Some IT managers who are under pressure to cut costs are making a similar mistake—moving mature and stable applications and databases off mainframes and onto smaller machines. And the results are not encouraging. Many have abandoned the projects after long and costly efforts because they simply didn’t work. Others have achieved the migration but have suffered in performance or reliability. (Check out our mainframe resource center).
If you are considering moving applications or databases off the mainframe, keep in mind the plight of the fleet manager—degradation in performance can be far more costly to the business in the long run. It is important to consider the value of the business services supported by the applications or databases, and whether that value is increased or decreased by moving to other seemingly less-costly platforms. (Also read Maintaining the Agile Mainframe.)
When you truly understand the business value behind your technology, you’ll find that the mainframe is irreplaceable when it comes to certain applications and databases, and you can readily justify its cost.
That’s where business service management comes in. With an effective BSM approach in place, you can find the right platform for your data center and manage it with a business-oriented approach. By doing so, you’ll increase the business value of your mainframes, as well as that of other platforms—and have the tools to demonstrate that value to senior management.
Assessing Value Beyond Cost
To determine the business value of a resource, it is essential to understand two factors. First, you need to know which business services, and hence which business processes, that resource supports. Second, you need to know the business criticality of those services as measured by the impact of performance degradation or temporary loss of those services. A server that supports online stock trading, for example, is of higher value to the business than a server that supports online access of employee benefits information.
Value assessment also differs depending on the industry. For example, in mutual fund companies, data is the core of the business. As these companies describe it, “Data is our business.” The databases are enormous and include such vital information as customer account balances, securities costs and net asset values. Up-to-the-minute accuracy and immediate availability of this data is crucial. Even a small system hiccup could be catastrophic.
So a company in the mutual funds business places high value on the ability to handle huge data volumes with “always there” availability. That’s why mutual fund companies have typically maintained their databases on mainframes, justifying the cost of the mainframe by its high value to the business.
Right-Platforming and the Role of BSM
Right-platforming means selecting the optimum platform for each job. The right platform must have the required processing and storage capacity to support business services. It must deliver those services at the required levels of reliability, availability and performance. In addition, the platform must have sufficient scalability to meet expected future requirements. And, the more mission-critical the application, the more important the unique characteristics of the mainframe become.
Beyond its foundational strengths, the mainframe is also increasingly adaptable. Its role has evolved from the standalone computer, isolated in the data processing center, to an integral and core component of the organization’s distributed IT infrastructure.
Transitioning to Business-Centric Management
Once you’ve decided on the right platform to power your business, you can set about optimizing management of the data center to derive maximum business value from those resources. Perhaps the most important factor in deriving value from your optimized data center is transitioning from a technically oriented, platform-based and siloed management approach to a horizontal, business-oriented approach.
BSM solutions provide a number of important features that can facilitate this transition. With respect to mainframe management, a comprehensive BSM solution portfolio provides two important capabilities that permit you to leverage the unique capabilities of the mainframe to deliver maximum business value:
- It supports individual management and instrumentation of the mainframe with such features as comprehensive monitoring and alert management, event management, optimization, batch environment management and control, and business-oriented capacity planning.
- It weaves the mainframe into the fabric of the IT infrastructure and seamlessly integrates management of the mainframe into the overall management fabric of the distributed data center environment.
Look for BSM solutions that provide a unified, holistic view of the IT infrastructure and the relationships between IT resources and the business services and processes that the resources support. The solutions should provide a process-oriented approach that is based on best-practice IT processes and should automate, wherever possible, processes that the IT staff has previously had to perform manually.
With the right BSM approach, you can manage the data center as a unified whole, across all platform types—Windows, UNIX, Linux and mainframes. This maximizes the efficiency of IT staff and permits you to realize maximum value from all your data center resources, including mainframes.
Reaping the Benefits
By leveraging BSM solutions to right-platform and manage your data center, you can avoid the costly mistakes made by the hypothetical fleet manager. You’ll not only justify the cost of the mainframe and maximize its value to the business, but in the process, you’ll also drive up the value of the other resources in your data center in several key areas:
Improved service quality. BSM solutions implement and enforce best-practice processes through automation, embedding business process knowledge into the management system rather than isolating it in people’s heads. A comprehensive BSM solution foundation also can improve service quality by enabling proactive incident and problem management before service degradation occurs. Faster problem resolution. A well-architected BSM foundation can automatically discover and display the physical and logical relationships among the components of the IT infrastructure. As a result, the IT staff no longer has to diagnose problems in isolation and can resolve problems more quickly. Reduced service desk workload. The IT staff can leverage user identity information maintained in the environment to determine, in advance, who will be affected by a planned action. With this information, the staff can proactively notify affected users, thereby eliminating calls to the service desk. Enhanced compliance position. By implementing and automating best-practice processes, you put in place the controls necessary to achieve regulatory compliance. What’s more, the ability to integrate user identity data into your environment enables you to ensure the privacy of sensitive information as mandated by government regulations. In addition, a comprehensive BSM approach provides extensive auditing and reporting capabilities to demonstrate compliance to auditors.
Whether you are managing a fleet of vehicles or a data center, it’s important to keep in mind that each vehicle or platform has unique strengths that make it the optimum choice for certain jobs. Simply transferring jobs en masse to lower-cost platforms isn’t the best formula for success. You need to balance cost with business value. A comprehensive BSM solution can help you balance cost and value in a way that is strategic and informed and that maximizes the results your data center delivers to the bottom line.
Ralph Crosby is the CTO for the Mainframe Service Management Business Unit at BMC Software. He’s responsible for setting the strategic technology direction for the entire portfolio of IBM mainframe products. Prior to joining BMC, he worked as a database administrator, applications architect and systems programmer in a variety of environments centered on the IBM mainframe but also including Windows and Unix platforms.
Editor’s note: Caveat columns are written by vendors knowledgeable about the topic presented. However, the vendors often have a stake in the technologies used to solve the problems discussed. Caveat emptor!