When you flick a light switch, you expect a light to turn on. You don’t think about the structural wiring, transmission lines, substations, transformers, and generators that make that happen - or the highly skilled people who keep these systems running smoothly regardless of circumstances or demand. Electricity is a service that ‘just works’, thanks to this virtually invisible infrastructure.
Mainframe computer systems have earned the right to manage critical systems of record in data centers around the world because they, too, ‘just work’. Just as electrical infrastructure is necessary for you to turn on that light, mainframes require a set of advanced software systems and skilled people - infrastructure - so that critical business systems can manage data with speed and without any outages.
As a leader in Infrastructure Software at Broadcom, it is my mission to develop solutions addressing the most critical business issues that mainframe leaders, such as heads of IT infrastructure, are facing around the globe. Listening to them - understanding their journey and the pressures they face every day - fuels our strategy for solving their problems and supporting their needs from investments they have made in technology. I’ll share some of my most important insights into lessons learned and actions we are taking at Broadcom.
At Broadcom, we have heavily invested in the core competencies of mainframe infrastructure - the people, skills, and technology necessary for mainframes to ‘just work’. On the people side, over the past two years our Mainframe Vitality Residency Program has developed over 60 new Mainframers and placed them into IT operations roles where they maintain and enhance mainframe infrastructure. On the technology side, my team drives a continuous stream of feature upgrades designed to allow our customers to respond faster to market dynamics. Let’s take a closer look.
Like any software development team, we face a long list of challenges to address on behalf of our customers. To optimize our investment in infrastructure, we have transformed our delivery approach to one that is clearly aligned with what our customers need. User-driven design workshops allow us to jointly identify those needs and uncover new ideas. These workshops involve everyone from software engineers, to support and application developers, to end-user operators - all collaborating, asking the right questions, developing strong listening skills, and being open-minded.
By driving strategic direction based on dialog, we are able to co-develop and bring our customers’ businesses to the next level. It was through these workshops that we substantiated the business case behind making simplification and ease-of-use key categories for our infrastructure features. By hiding the complexity beneath, the end user can focus their attention on alert-based navigation systems to resolve performance issues and avoid disruption in the service without having to know complex architecture to diagnose and tune the setting themselves. Much like flicking on a light switch.
This is how active participation with our customers has led to strengthening our investments in the infrastructure workloads on the mainframe that support the management of processes, and data of IT operations management.
One key reason why our mainframe infrastructure remains the ‘it just works’ choice for businesses is our shift over the past few years to an Open First strategy. Exposing systems of record through REST APIs enables our users to easily utilize systems data to inform them how well their infrastructure is running. It also allows us to expose this data to adjacent third party tools and leverage automation solutions to help them tune their environment - running IT operations software more efficiently and optimizing investments.
Embracing open APIs also opens the door for the next generation of non-mainframe users to work with mainframe infrastructure in a familiar and flexible way, just as they do with any other platform. For example, users can utilize modern dashboard tools such as Splunk and Grafana for analytics of CA XCOM™ data transfers and CA IDMS™ database performance for better decision-making and system issue remediation.
When organizations transition to open, the business results are tangible. The 2020 pandemic forced some of our customers into a unique position, facing dramatically increased workloads that impacted performance and required systems to autocorrect and adapt. Consider the case of one of our database customers in international federal banking, who experienced over twenty thousand system deadlocks in the overloaded distribution of resources destined for millions of citizens facing economic crisis. Being able to quickly open their database for access by familiar performance monitoring tools enabled them to respond to the unanticipated demand, and become more proactive in resolving deadlock occurrences.
Infrastructure that embraces open APIs, in conjunction with the right people and the right technology, can more easily morph in response to the needs of any crisis du jour.
It’s a fact of life that nearly all enterprise data systems are hybrid, and managing them is complex. Tight controls are required to ensure that the mix of systems is always running smoothly, as even the smallest human error can result in significant loss of revenue. Our customers asked for a single ‘pane of glass’ view across their hybrid data centers so they could more easily know what is running at all times, and automatically adjust applications for all workloads regardless of platform.
Our response - intelligent infrastructure and application workload monitoring that limits human involvement mainly to exception handling. By drawing system data into adjacent tools, our users can begin to automate the tuning of day-to-day system operations. In addition, by exposing business data - the one true source of information - systems management can be done without moving any data off the mainframe. We are enabling full-on integration of all datacenter tools used to run the infrastructure and the applications that run the lines of business.
For example, we worked with one of our large telecom customers to leverage their investment in our mainframe workload operation tools by connecting them to third party solutions - like their ServiceNow ticketing system. Our ability to provide ‘single pane of glass’ solutions for our mainframe customers allows them to intelligently monitor their hybrid end-to-end solutions, predict potential outages, and automatically fix them (or alert the humans to resolve quickly) so that the ‘flip of a switch’ always results in a light turning on when our infrastructure is running the system.
In 2021 we plan to double-down on open APIs, using them to automate systems management and expose our customers’ most critical business data to application developers who will never need to know they are reaching into a mainframe.
Organizations are using Broadcom’s open infrastructure solutions to move towards modernized solutions on the mainframe – bridging distributed and mainframe tools through automation connecting to the broader datacenter. No more mainframe silos sitting separately from the rest of the IT world!
There’s a lot more ground I can cover on our infrastructure investment commitment to strategically hit the critical pain points of automation, simplification of operations, utilizing analytics and prediction to avoid loss and risk of human error, and increasing the mainframe skills talent pool - but that should be enough energy consumed for now. Until next time, it is good to know that you can flick that light switch and everything will continue to ‘just work’.
If you are interested in discussing further, we can provide you with an MRI - Mainframe Resource Intelligence assessment that will provide substantive insights on your mainframe environment. It’s easy to gain access to this no-cost analysis report. Just go to www.broadcom.com/MRI to learn more and request an assessment.