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How to prevent job failures through advanced JCL checking and more

By Domenico D'ALTERIO posted Tue February 15, 2022 02:13 AM

  


Introduction

A new IBM offering IBM Z JCL Expert  was just announced, learn more here. In this blog you will learn about the client challenges that this new offering aims to mitigate, what’s changing, why should you act now, how IBM and this offering can help, and the next steps you can take.

Client challenges

As we start our discussion, I’d like you to think about how the world of IT is changing, and how it affects your business. Workloads are becoming more and more complex and growing.

The mainframe environments are no longer an isolated part of the application infrastructure, the connections to other points keep increasing which means more work for the mainframe to do. Businesses are growing their mainframes, adding more transactions and workload. 

Moreover, skilled staff are in short supply: experienced mainframe staff are retiring, and new hires don’t know JCL well. Not only are there companies losing the technical skills of their experienced staff, but there are also years of application and institutional knowledge that are being lost. For companies that outsource their IT support, that knowledge is even harder to transition.

What's now required and how is it different then what I have today?

Competition is fierce; the pace of application delivery is accelerating and to compete companies must speed up their delivery of new applications. Not only are they faced with bringing new applications to the market, but existing applications need to be modernized as part of the overall digital transformation. Customers expect modern functionality and around-the-clock availability from the companies they do business with.  They have more choices than ever, and they can easily go to a competitor.

Not only do you have to deliver faster, but applications also need to be solid when they go into production.  To meet customer expectations, business SLAs are more stringent; interruptions are not tolerated, so you can’t afford to have failures in processing.

Last but certainly not the least, processing efficiency is key to containing cost.  Your business can’t afford to have errors that cause reruns of processing, consuming costly resources unnecessarily.

How IBM can help

IBM Z JCL Expert helps companies speed up the delivery of new applications, as well as the modernization of existing applications, to help businesses keep their competitive edge in the market. IBM Z JCL Expert provides a fit for purpose tool that enables staff to validate their JCL in an automated way, without having to rely on JCL expertise.  Staff that’s unfamiliar with JCL can also learn over time as IBM Z JCL Expert reports on errors found. 

Ensuring that your processing resources are being used efficiently is the best way to contain costs. Using IBM Z JCL Expert to validate JCL and parameters prevents wasted resources from jobs that are rerun over and over to catch and resolve coding problems through trial-and-error. 

Preventing failures before they occur also helps to maintain compliance with SLAs and customer expectations of availability. Providing an automated way for developers, QA, systems and operations staff to check their JCL all the way from testing into production accelerates the entire DevOps and delivery chain, letting staff do more productive work, and allowing the business to realize the value of new functionality faster.

IBM Z JCL Expert provides advanced JCL checking capabilities, performing the validation of syntax and typographic errors as they would be interpreted by JES2. It resolves JCL variables and parameters as well as expanding procedures and ‘Include’ statements.  It will also check whether data sets exist at the time of validation, preventing ‘data set not found’ or ‘duplicate dataset’ JCL errors.  In-stream utility control statements, starting with IEBCOPY in this release, will be checked by the tool.

Many companies have developed site-specific JCL coding standards over the years to ensure certain practices are followed, or that processing policies are enforced.  However, if those standards aren’t followed by staff when coding JCL, typical validation utilities are unlikely to flag them as errors. Inconsistencies may have to be caught manually, which is impractical and time consuming.

IBM Z JCL Expert offers a way to confirm compliance with site-specific JCL coding standards by defining site rules for the tool to validate. Rules are coded in REXX by defining patterns for select parameters of the JOB statement and combining them via Boolean operators. The patterns are described using picture strings and regex-style quantifiers. REXX samples are supplied in the product to assist users in defining the rules.

This feature provides value by offering a means to validate standards that aren’t checked by typical utilities.  QA and operations teams can ensure that production JCL adheres to site-defined standards.  Adherence to site standards can provide value in a number of ways.  Improved business metrics such as job accounting statistics, or execution parameters that limit elapsed times are a few examples.

 IBM Z JCL Expert offers multiple interfaces to interact with the product, to accommodate different user needs:

  • ISPF panel interface and (coming soon) an Eclipse plugin to perform JCL checking in a familiar development environment



  • Batch interface to check multiple JCLs at once

  • REST API and a USS Command Line Interface to automate the JCL checking and integrate it in IT automated processes. IBM Z JCL Expert REST API are provided as part of ZoweTM API Mediation Layer.


Client outcome

Clients that previewed this new offering are really excited about its features and capabilities.   They especially liked the multiple ways to interact with the product to easily enable different users (developers, quality assurance engineers and operations) to leverage it in the environment they are comfortable in (ISPF panels, Command Line, Eclipse development environment) or to integrate JCL checking features in their automation, through the REST API or the Command Line interface.

What are my next steps?

You can leverage the following resources to gain more knowledge about this new IBM offering:
  • Visit the IBM Z JCL Expert product page to see more details about the value add and the capabilities of the product
  • Take advantage of the on-demand webinar (in collaboration with DevOps IBM team) where the product is presented,
  • Join the AIOps on IBM Z Community to be updated with the latest news and deep-dive technical blogs
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