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Share mainframe users upgrade to z/VM 5.2 and CICS 3.1

Share users at this week's conference presented stories of upgrading to new versions of z/VM 5.2 and CICS 3.1.

BALTIMORE -- Early users of IBM's latest mainframe technologies, such as mainframe virtualization z/VM, CICS and DB2, said that being able to test the product before it hits the mainstream and seeing its benefits outweigh the bugs that often come with it.

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These users, who told their stories during the SHARE conference this week in Baltimore, are part of IBM's various early support programs, or ESPs. The programs allow users to test new products in a live environment before IBM starts selling them under general availability.

Users adopting z/VM 5.2 and CICS 3.1 were able to share their stories. Overall, they said, the upgrade was well worth the trouble.

"It was easy to install. We've been very happy with this release," said Steve Ware, systems coordinator at the University of Florida. "CICS is going to continue to be a player at the University of Florida on the mainframe."

IBM announced CICS 3.1 at the end of 2004, and early support programs started shortly afterward. CICS is an online software program for customer transactions. Ware, whose data center has a zSeries 800 running z/OS, CICS and DB2, said the University of Florida was part of the CICS 2.3 early support program, so testing CICS 3.1 was practically a given.

"It added a lot of functionality," he said. "Web services were built right in."

For Ware, it wasn't the technology that caused the glitches. It was the other stuff. For example, Ware had to justify a 15% increase in licensing costs for CICS 3.1 to his superiors, a process that took more time than he wanted.

Another issue, albeit smaller, was that no hard copy of the installation guide was available. It was all online.

"I understand that IBM doesn't want to be in the publishing industry anymore," he said. "It's all well and good."

Susanne Branson, senior systems administrator at the University of Iowa, added that its data center and campus was keen on Web-enabled applications, so that feature within CICS 3.1 was a major selling point.

"Web services has been well accepted on campus and that was our main reason for going to 3.1," she said. "We really wanted to have Web services."

Branson added that for an upgrade to CICS 3.1 to work well, "you want to be really updated on the maintenance. Stay current."

Mainframe virtualization

Over in the land of z/VM, users detailed the bugs they battled in adopting version 5.2, but said its 64-bit capabilities were a big selling point in being able to access more real storage than was possible before.

Martha McConaghy, the systems, network and operations manager at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., had some early issues with z/VM 5.2 that she detailed at the Seattle Share event earlier this year.

But at that time, she was still trying to resolve an issue where the virtual machines could not log on; they would just "hang" in a suspended state. Another problem surfaced later where sending a message to a virtual machine would force the same suspended state.

Since the Seattle conference, she discovered that the issue was DB2. Something in the way that DB2 manages pages on a heavily loaded system was causing the hang-up, but it was only happening to shops running DB2 for z/VM.

She has since been sent a test fix, but the official program temporary fix (PTF) hasn't been released yet. McConaghy said she expects one soon, hopefully by the end of this month.

"We had a number of problems, but I'm not complaining," she said. "We know going into an ESP that we're going to have problems. That's why we do them."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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