Streamlining some traditional tasks and automating others using IBM® z/OS® Management Facility (z/OSMF) can help you simplify areas of z/OS system management.

At the IBM Silicon Valley Laboratory, the IMS team recently completed a case study to demonstrate how you can leverage z/OSMF within an IMS™ context and environment.

This article describes the basics of our case study and its results, and gives examples of how you can use z/OSMF to simplify IMS installation, configuration, and operations.

What’s z/OSMF?
z/OSMF is a no cost z/OS feature that provides a framework for managing various aspects of a z/OS system through a web browser interface. It delivers task-oriented solutions using a modular framework.

Introduced in z/OSMF V2.1, a new core function, Workflow Services, now provides system programmers with the capability to:

  • Streamline common tasks.
  • Simplify environment operations.
  • Perform z/OS management tasks more efficiently.
  • Reduce the possibility of user errors.
  • Provide a smoother user experience.

The simple interface and flexibility of the workflow services plugin are particularly useful to aid new system programmers in understanding the tasks, processes, and operations of System z®.

Workflows: How do they work?
A workflow is a framework that allows you to code a simple XML file, import it into z/OSMF, and then deploy a step-by-step activity flow that guides your users to complete a specific task or to follow a given process.

In addition, the beauty of using an XML file lets you provide your users with instructions for each step within the workflow. And you can code each step to be run either manually or automatically.

The reality of today’s System z environments is that roles within business organizations are often very well-defined and authorization to perform certain tasks is strictly controlled. To account for this reality, z/OSMF makes it possible for you to assign individual steps within a workflow to other users that have either the authorization or the skill level required to perform a subtask.

Approaches to simplifying IMS
Configuring a product or component on z/OS can be complex. Many system administrators want a consistent, simplified, and reduced error-prone way to configure IBM software. Because IMS doesn’t escape this reality, the IBM IMS Advanced Technology and Solution Integration (ATSI) team explored how z/OSMF can be used within the IMS ecosystem.

To begin our project, we used a two-way Parallel Sysplex running z/OS 2.1 and then installed and configured z/OSMF V2.1 at SPE3 level. To challenge the limitations of this framework, we chose to perform two relatively and separate complex multi-step tasks:

  1. A complete provisioning of an IMS database/data communication (DB/DC) system from scratch.
  2. A provisioning of a simple HDAM database.

Task 1: Complete provisioning of an IMS DB/DC system
For IMS provisioning, we first analyzed the entire process of installation and configuration of a “typical” test system. The basis for the workflow design was the IMS Installation Verification Program (IVP) panels, which implied evaluating hundreds of variables and several dozen jobs.

It’s clear that though the granularity of the IVP provides a great degree of customization and flexibility, it can be time-consuming, especially for the inexperienced. For example, it’s not necessarily intuitive to what definitions are needed to activate a given subcomponent, which jobs aren’t necessary, or what a given parameter value implies.

The granularity of the IVP process is why we made a series of assumptions and simplifications geared towards creating a system that would be versatile enough to handle any type of application, could originate from any communication protocol, and would be able to handle the vast majority of the typical test environment workloads. Our assumptions included the presence of features such as IMS Catalog, IMS Connect, Open Database Manager (ODBM), and Structured Call Interface (SCI).

To reduce the knowledge that your users would need of the environment they’re in (often a challenge with new employees), we envisioned the IMS provisioning workflow to use an environment variable file, a text file, containing all the resource names related to our Parallel Sysplex that were unlikely to change, regardless of the software levels used.

To simplify the choice of the IMS system library levels and minimize the use of SMP/E, we opted to start the provisioning process by retrieving a DFDSS DUMP of all the installation libraries from a secure remote server.

Forcing the workflow to use the resulting large binary file would allow the provisioning of a system without requiring your users to know, or care, to identify a stable IMS maintenance level, assuming the file is periodically refreshed. Any SMP/E consideration can also be overlooked for a non-production IMS system. Also, the workflow process can help your users by providing documentation, links to useful information, and step-by-step instructions embedded inside the XML file. With these items your users can gain a complete understanding of each step’s goal, without leaving the web browser session.

The result of our study for task 1
The result was successfully creating and executing a z/OSMF Workflow, or an XML definition file, that contained 40 discrete steps and 37 dynamically-built jobs that could install, configure, deploy, and start a system and its subcomponents in the form of a fully functional IMS DB/DC system—a system capable of accomplishing any testing goal or could be used by any type of application.

To test the limitations of our concept and for demonstration purposes, we made all the steps capable of automatic execution. Specifically, after you provide a minimum set of input variables at the beginning of the workflow, the entire IMS provisioning can be completed with a single click and within seven minutes!

The following simplified use case helps you understand the activities, scope, and effort needed to replicate an implementation similar to the one we used in our approach to doing a complete provisioning of an IMS DB/DC system.

An IMS systems programmer can follow these steps to prepare the z/OSMF workflow environment similar to task 1:

  1. Install z/OSMF 2.1.
  2. Configure z/OSMF and its plugins (workflow services).
  3. Start z/OSMF server.
  4. Define and authorize users to access z/OSMF web interface.
  5. Collect the key environment variables.
  6. Create the XML definition file that your target users will use to accomplish a given task; for example, IMS_DB1.xml.
  7. Provide your users with the z/OSMF web-interface URL and location of the XML definition files and properties files, which contain the z/OS and IMS environment information.
  8. Periodically check the z/OSMF web interface for notifications, tasks to act upon, and requests to satisfy.

Task 2: Provisioning of a HDAM database
The second complex multi-step task we chose to perform was the provisioning of a simple HDAM database.

This use case, one that likely can best highlight the value of the solution, helps you understand the process from your target user’s point of view.

Part of the case study performed by the ATSI team was to create a workflow that would create and make available an IMS database to an IMS application. Also, in this use case, we made assumptions and simplifications more to illustrate the potential of the concept for a production-ready implementation.

We created another XML definition file to deploy a sample payroll database based on an HDAM database organization.

One of the assumptions we made for task 2 was that users of the workflow would have the knowledge and the understanding of how to modify a PSB and DBD starting from the skeleton provided by the workflow.

A database administrator can deploy an IMS database following these steps:

  1. Access the z/OSMF URL as instructed by the system administrator.
  2. Log on to z/OSMF.
  3. Click Workflows on the left navigation bar.
  4. Create a new workflow instance: Click Actions from the main Workflows menu.
  5. Select the XML definition file that matches the DB type you want to deploy.
  6. Specify the Workflow properties file that contains the z/OS and IMS environment information, as directed by the system administrator.
  7. Assign ownership of the steps as appropriate and necessary, based on the workflow-specified skill level or authority.
  8. Execute the workflow steps either automatically or manually.
  9. Enter those variables that aren’t contained in the properties file from step 6 and that are specific to the tasks performed.
  10. Access the workflow history of each step’s Status to verify the process.
  11. When all steps are performed and completed, the workflow is complete. Workflow steps can be overridden or skipped as needed by an installation.

Figure 1 shows a sample z/OSMF workflow to provision an IMS system.

Conclusion
z/OSMF offers an opportunity for many customers to leverage their significant investments in System z and IMS. Even though certain knowledge of IMS concepts is still necessary, there’s an unquestionable value using a web interface that can hide some of the complexities of the System z world.

Figure 1. Sample z/OSMF workflow to provision an IMS system
Figure 1. Sample z/OSMF workflow to provision an IMS system

Our investigation revealed clear advantages to implementing z/OSMF in an IMS context to help with:

  • Consolidating existing desk procedures.
  • Simplifying routine operations.
  • Structuring processes in a series of repeatable steps.
  • Guiding typical users through a standardized task or process.
  • Opening IMS to new users.

Need more information?
If you’d like some assistance with deployment, IBM subject matter experts can help you better understand, plan, implement, and integrate z/OSMF for IMS into your environment. Just send an email to: Daphne Isom, Dario D’Angelo, or Chad DeLuca.

We are Seeking Sponsor Users for the IMS z/OS Cloud Enablement Beta Program.

Sign Ups are currently available. For more information, contact: Daphne Isom

  • Sponsor Users get exclusive access to the latest IBM provided workflows before they are available to the public.
  • Give invaluable insight to the continued success of IBM and IMS by providing user feedback on the IBM issued workflows to the development team at Silicon Valley Laboratory.

See these web sites for more information:

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