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Automation on IBM Z Has Never Been More Complete

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:36 PM


The IBM Z Service Automation Suite is a collection of products used to automate and control a large range of system elements. It also monitors and supports both the hardware and software resources in a sysplex.

It’s remarkable that the products in the suite have been growing and changing over the years and are mature yet still evolving to support new platforms and software. Taken as a collection, you can use the suite to do anything you need to do—automate and manage—in a highly flexible manner.

IBM Z Service Automation Suite

The suite is a collection of products that includes:

1. IBM System Automation for z/OS

IBM System Automation for z/OS provides a policy-based, self-healing, high-availability solution to optimize efficiency and availability of critical systems and applications. The policy is built from samples (called best practices policies) and maintained as part of system definitions and tells the software everything it needs to know about the configuration and its software. The automation software is designed to reduce administrative and operational tasks, customization, and programming efforts. This savings includes automation implementation time and costs associated with Parallel Sysplex automation, which can be challenging without help and guidance from the product.

Prior to the widespread use of automation software like IBM System Automation for z/OS, some computer operators would monitor system consoles that were full of routine messages looking for exceptions. When IT projects implemented automation, consoles were made quiet through the suppression of routine messages. Only exceptions appeared so that they could be handled. Eventually, the handlings of exceptions were automated and operators were the creators of the policy to do so—some had new jobs as automation specialists.
2. Tivoli NetView for z/OS

Tivoli NetView for z/OS provides network and systems management augmented by automation tools. When I taught classes on NetView, I used to remark that it was a tiger with two heads. One head was its automation platform and the other was its network management toolset. These are two different domains, but when you combine them, you get some really useful capabilities like automating network management. This is done, in simplest terms, by trapping messages that indicate a failure and running an automation routine to recover the resource or notify a human.

Tivoli NetView has a world of capabilities so rich that you could easily spend a decade mastering the many subtle capabilities of the product, including its rich interfaces with z/OS. When you examine how seamlessly NetView works with z/OS, you understand why its automation capabilities are so rich. The scope is from message trapping and responding (every message that runs through the message processing facility) to AT, EVERY and AFTER commands. These commands are used to schedule queries for the problems you miss by relying solely on message-based automation. That automation strategy is another two-headed animal—one that looks for messages with one head while periodically asking “Are you OK?” with the other. This duality is a basic construct of automation thinking.
4. IBM Z Workload Scheduler

IBM Z Workload Scheduler provides the infrastructure to help automate the execution of batch and near real-time workloads and activities that are running to support the organization’s business services. This is a big deal and has been one for a very long time. Organizations that run z/OS often need a plan to run thousands of jobs and then need a highly scalable, highly available workload automation solution to get it done.

This challenging task is best done centrally using a powerful tool like IBM Z Workload Scheduler. If a tool isn’t robust or makes it easy for humans to make mistakes, awful things can happen, such as missed payroll or compliance reports. IBM Z Workload Scheduler is potent and has excellent materials in Tivoli documentation central, including wikis, demos and tutorials.
4. IBM Service Management Unite

IBM Service Management Unite provides a customizable management dashboard, bringing mainframe management information and tasks from different sources into a single management environment. The software is a free-of-charge component available with IBM Service Management Suite for z/OS and IBM System Automation for z/OS V4 or higher.

The dashboards provide a consolidated view of reports so you can recognize and resolve problems quickly. It also provides a single point of control where you can take actions providing integration between different products that have a common purpose. From it, you can issue commands so it’s not just about monitoring, but management. The dashboard is pre-built but customizable so you get up and running quickly and can change it to meet your needs.

Automation up the Stack

By “up the stack,” I mean, “How is automation handled for middleware like CICS, IMS and Db2?” This isn’t the sum of middleware, just some useful examples. Handling middleware is important because middleware, by nature, is close to the application, so application users notice failures or poor performance immediately.

The IMS, CICS and Db2 policy provided with System Automation for z/OS includes all of the definitions necessary to support the startup, shutdown and recovery of systems and resources during operation. The recovery of resources is special and unique within each system and requires understanding and some decision making as it likely impacts current operational support procedures.

IMS automation provides automated recovery for transactions and programs and also enables monitoring of online log data sets, recovery control data sets, VTAM access method control block and IMS connections to the external subsystems Db2 and IBM MQ.

CICS automation provides automated recovery for application components, including transaction recovery and short-on-storage conditions. It also supports monitoring of CICS connections to the external subsystems Db2 and IBM MQ.

CICS Automation of System Automation for z/OS allows the monitoring of events that are issued by CICSPlex System Manager, including support of status programs, allowing you to make definitions so that a program is executed periodically and sets one of the CICSPlex SM severities.

Db2 automation provides automated recovery or specific critical events that may occur during normal day-to-day running of Db2, including handling the key messages seen in Figure 1, below.

Figure 1:
Key messages handled by Db2 automation  

Db2 automation also comes with an automation utility that can be invoked by operators. The INGDB2 utility lets you perform operations like start or stop a table space and terminate active threads.

Is That It?

This article is but a brief overview of the IBM Z Service Automation Suite’s capabilities. If you’re considering implementing the suite, it would be best to make an overall plan to explore system, network, middleware and application automation as part of an all-inclusive system. It’s possible to do this in phases with some product implementations run in parallel—for example, system automation and batch automation at the same time. It’s useful to automate and manage your sysplex with this comprehensive suite of products as it saves cost and time while improving system availability.