In this edition of I am IMS, we chat with longtime IMS technical professional Curt Bergkvist, who is a System Programmer for Handelsbanken in Sweden.
Curt’s introduction to IMS was as an end user in 1980. At that time, they had a single keyboard/printer with which to retrieve customer data. Any mistake in the request could delay the response by 20 minutes or more, a time during which the printer could not be used by anyone else. To this day that behavior informs how their applications are designed, in an effort to reduce I/O and CPU consumption and keep response times as low as possible.
After eight years supporting different Handelsbanken branches, Curt branched out and applied to learn COBOL. “It was fun to learn programming, and a completely new world opened up to me.” His first project was to develop IMS programs that stored and tracked changes in keys that VTAM used to encrypt traffic between IMS and the clients – which today is managed by SSL. As a developer, Curt worked on a homegrown application system that uses IMS Fast Path databases as MQ queues. “Of course the solution scales better when it comes to performance, since it’s IMS,” remarked Curt. In the late 1990s, Sten Rohlin, a longtime IMS System Programmer for Handelsbanken, encouraged Curt to switch from Developer to SysProg. “I had the privilege of working two brief years with Sten, learning the basics of IMS system programming, before he left us much too early.”
In the years that followed, Curt and his team became long time participants in the IMS early release programs (QPP and now IMS Gold). “It’s a great way to learn about new and existing functions, and also to be able to share your ideas.” Another way that Curt built his knowledge base on system programming is the well-known IDCP System Programming courses at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. “I participated in the first courses a couple of years ago, to see if it would work as an introduction for a trainee program for our team. I found it so interesting and fun that I ended up doing all three years. It’s a great way to learn how all of the different parts of z/OS work in detail.”
With the introduction of the IMS Client Internship at IBM Silicon Valley Lab, Curt has found a new way to keep his skills at the top level. “Whenever a remote IMS internship is announced, I try to attend. I think it’s an excellent way to introduce new IMSers to the community. I also enjoy the podcast TerminalTalk. It offers different topics on mainframes, from mainframe packaging to mainframe hacking. My favorite episode so far is Episode 84. Take some time and listen!”
His ongoing System Programming responsibilities keep Curt and his team very engaged. “We are running a 2-way data sharing system, both IMS TM and DB. We transformed all full-function databases to HALDBs a couple of years ago to simplify the environment. We have a number of Fast Path databases acting as MQ queues, which I mentioned earlier. IMS TM gets almost 100% of the workload thru OTMA, with 90% of that using the IMS-MQ bridge and the rest via IMS Connect. We do have some applications using asynchronous callout through IMS Connect. This was a bit difficult to explain to our business partner: that they needed to do a resume tpipe as a client, and then act as a server when it comes to the application requests. At the moment we have all development systems running IMS Managed ACBs except one; we will save this as a rehearsal system when it’s time for production. We have started to test and feed elasticsearch into our analytics platform with IMS transactional data using IBM Z Common Data Provider. It’s important that decision makers and developers themselves can see how well and scalable the environment behaves when it comes to performance and cost.”
We started to wonder whether Curt has any extra time to pursue non-technical activities.
“Of course! I enjoy outdoor activities with my wife; both of us like golf, horse riding, gardening or just to be out walking with our 12-year old miniature pincher, Fridolf, who was a gift from our daughter. I also like hiking and fly fishing together with my son in the Swedish mountains. The very best is when all family members can spend some time together in our small holiday cottage in the northern part of Sweden. Earlier this year I started my first two beehives, a very interesting hobby. I’m looking forward to April of next year, when the activity in the hive will start up again.”
Thanks for sharing your IMS story, Curt!