1. IBM Education Offerings
2. UKCMG Annual Conference in June
3. The Death of FLEX-ES
1. IBM Education Offerings
In our previous Cheryl’s List (#114), we included we included an item about where to find z/OS training without spending a lot of money. We mentioned some of the introductory z/OS sessions at SHARE, which can be downloaded for free if you cannot attend the conference. Although attending a week of SHARE does not present the same in-depth training that can be obtained in the classroom, it does provide a good introduction for someone new to z/OS. We also think the cost of attending SHARE is usually less than you would pay for most classes of the same duration. Another factor is that many of the organizations that used to offer classes are no longer doing so.
One of our readers was quick to point out that IBM has long offered a broad range of classroom instruction, and continues to offer many classes related to z/OS and other topics. Having attended many of these classes ourselves, we agree that they are quite good, and can be helpful if you select the correct class and you have the expected prerequisite background before attending.
Our reader suggested that you use the link http://www.ibm.com/training/us for a list of the current classes offered by IBM in the United States. Choose the link ‘Course catalog’ from the left-hand menu bar, and then choose ‘IBM System z’ under the Hardware topic. From there, you can choose course areas such as z/OS Basics (21 classes), WebSphere for z/OS (7 classes), z/OS Security Server (7 classes), and other System z9 and zSeries topics (19 classes). There are also many other classes offered that are not related directly to z/OS, such as Parallel Sysplex and Printing Services.
We think management that does not see education as an investment are making foolish decisions that will not be in the long-term best interests of their organizations. If your management still values and funds education, consider some of the classroom courses still taught by IBM and other organizations. If your management is not as enlightened, you may still need to rely on some of the less expensive options that we mentioned previously.
2. UKCMG Annual Conference in June
We recently received an invitation to present a session at the annual UKCMG conference, to be held at the Whittlebury Hall Hotel in Northampton on June 25-27th. Unfortunately, we had scheduling conflicts that prevented us from attending. But if you live in the area, or if you will be there during the latter part of June, please consider supporting this conference.
In addition to the more traditional topics, we were informed that this year’s conference will include state-of-the-art topics such as:
- Performance Engineering and Testing
- Doing ITIL in the Real World
More information can be obtained from http://www.ukcmg.org.uk. We have attended this conference before, and really enjoyed ourselves. If you are a CMG member but have never been to UKCMG, why not go have a look at how they do things on the other side of the pond? We think you will be impressed.
3. The Death of FLEX-ES
In the early part of 2003, we replaced our old P/390 development box with a FLEX-ES system. This became our primary development and test system, and it has served us well since it was installed. The FLEX-ES systems emulate IBM hardware, and allow you to run z/OS on smaller platforms. Our system runs on a ThinkPad laptop under Linux. It is really an experience to boot up your laptop and then be running z/OS within twenty minutes. You can enter console commands, use TSO, and even run batch jobs. It’s your own private z/OS system that you control. We have mentioned our FLEX-ES system numerous times in our TUNING Letter and at SHARE. They are also popular within IBM, and it is not uncommon to watch an IBM speaker at SHARE use a FLEX-ES box as part of the presentation.
The FLEX-ES emulation product is sold and maintained by Fundamental Software Incorporated (FSI), and the systems are sold through IBM Business Partners. There are two types of FLEX-ES licenses – one for commercial customers, and one for ISV (Independent Software Vendors) customers that participate in the IBM PWD (PartnerWorld for Developers) program.
Unfortunately, it appears that the FLEX-ES option may soon be dead unless something radical happens. In October of 2006, the Business Partners who sold FLEX-ES systems announced that no new licenses could be sold after that month, unless IBM and FSI could make some new arrangements for licensing agreements that were set to expire on November 1st. Those agreements have still not been reached, so new licenses have not been available since then. All PWD licenses were sold with a built-in time limit, which is controlled by a hardware dongle that attaches to the machine. When the time limit expires, FLEX-ES will no longer run on that system. So depending on when an ISV last renewed their FLEX-ES license, they should have 2-3 more years to find an alternative.
There have been a number of articles printed on the FLEX-ES situation, and they go into much more detail than we wish to present here. The cover story in the current issue of z/Journal has a lot of background information. If you would like to read this article, use the link http://www.zjournal.com/redir.cfm?rid=222 to access the April/May issue, and look for the article The State of IBM Mainframe Emulation on pages 63-64.
Since this situation first developed, we have been in contact with IBM to try and get some answers. At first those answers were very general, but we were assured that IBM would not abandon its PWD members. Now seven months have passed, and so far the solutions offered have not been good. We were going to mention this in some of our sessions at the last SHARE, but IBM convinced us that we would be pleased if we just waited until May. Well, May is almost history, and no solution is yet in sight.
Some members have already migrated from FLEX-ES to IBM System z9 Business Class machines. IBM claims that a low-end model of this processor can be obtained for about $100,000. But when you add in costs related to other hardware and software licensing, the costs can be much greater. Other solutions are available through IBM, but none of them can compare with the cost and the convenience of the current FLEX-ES systems.
We recently met with other ISVs that have an interest in resolving the problem. We were surprised to see representatives there from some of the larger vendors. We learned that although these big vendors do not use FLEX-ES as a development platform, they are very interested in using them for product demos. We have all been in presentations that were disasters, either because the presenter could not connect to a remote site, or because they could not get their software installed and running on the local machine. Having a self-contained solution like FLEX-ES is a slick solution for these kinds of problems. Some vendors said that having a demo that runs on a laptop is pretty much standard in the industry, and not having this available for z/OS puts them at a distinct disadvantage when competing against other products.
A lot of time could be spent trying to assign blame in this situation, but that would accomplish little. Based on what we have heard, there is enough blame to go around both outside and inside of IBM. But although IBM may not have been the cause of the problem, they are the only ones that can come up with a workable solution, because they control the licensing for z/OS. We are convinced that this is not a technical issue, and that a workable solution could be developed if there was enough incentive. We must give credit to many of the IBM people we have contacted regarding this problem. They have seemed to be sincere and committed to working with PWD members. Unfortunately, there appear to be larger forces in IBM that either don’t want a solution, or are moving so slowly that a timely solution will not be achieved.
We suspect that most of our readers work for large organizations with lots of hardware and processing power. So you might ask, “What does this have to do with me?” If IBM continues on this path, small software vendors will either have to raise their prices considerably or will leave the software business. That will provide less competition and fewer choices for all z/OS users. These negative consequences will be bad for the entire platform, no matter how large or small your operation. IBM has expended a lot of effort with programs like the Academic Initiative, designed to introduce current students to the z/OS platform. Ironically, small-end systems such as the FLEX-ES boxes could do even more to promote and extend the reach of z/OS, and yet IBM seems to be trying to kill that market. No matter how small and cheap the System z machines become, they will never do as much to promote z/OS across the industry as having a laptop-based z/OS option.
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand why having an option such as FLEX-ES is vital to the health of the entire z/OS community. Perhaps our readers who have more influence with IBM will help them to see the light as well.