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November 03, 2009

Batch Modernization on z/OS

Much has been written in blogs and z/OS forums about the need to hire a younger generation to take over for the aging workforce. The reality is that fewer computer science graduates are wanting to work on the mainframe because it wasn't taught to them -- and because the mainframe wasn't part of their curriculum, they view it as outdated technology and a career dead-end.

Now, companies like IBM and CA are introducing products that are geared toward this new Xbox and PlayStation generation. And, just as Windows replaced DOS, you'll see the web browser replace ISPF and TSO. This will make the transition from developing and working on Windows and Internet Explorer much smoother and more familiar. However, while all this is great for the online transaction processing systems, what about the boring batch systems that are written in COBOL and execute using Job Control Language (JCL)? How can these batch-running programs send e-mail or save reports in PDF format so they can be shared and used by modern Web-based applications?

The recently released IBM Redbook, "Batch Modernization on z/OS," attempts to answer these questions. The publication explains why we need to implement new technologies like Java and PHP on z/OS. It also provides sample DB2 DDL and source code for implementing sample applications.

From my reading, I learned the interesting fact that some standard Java APIs are available to help you interact with z/OS services. For example:

•    MVS dataset and VSAM access to interact with z/OS specific data
•    Condition code passing for integration of Java batch jobs into z/OS job nets
•    z/OS Catalog search
•    Interaction with the MVS Console
•    Conversion of COBOL/ASM data types to Java types
•    Invoking DFSORT to effectively sort data
•    Access to z/OS Access Method Services (IDCAMS)
•    RACF APIs to integrate Java into the z/OS security model
•    Writing of Logstreams (e.g. as an Appender to LOG4J)
•    Submission of Jobs from Java

Since batch jobs do a lot with reading, writing and sorting sequential and VSAM files, it makes sense to provide these services available to Java programs. The world is changing very quickly, and the way we build and support applications on z/OS is changing just as rapidly.

As one who's repeatedly expressed his love of Redbooks, let me tell you that, from what I've read, "Batch Modernization on z/OS" is one of the most valuable Redbooks available to both traditional mainframe personnel and LUW (Linux, UNIX, Windows) pros who are getting started with z/OS. If your company is modernizing its batch systems, you owe it to yourself to download and review this publication.

And, if you or your company has already gone down the road of modernization, please take a moment to post a comment. It's always nice to learn from those who've gone through the process.