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Empowering Mainframe Teams with Managed Services

16. 10. 2023
Overview

Your monthly dose of mainframe. In today's issue we discuss how various managed services can support an expert team in supercharging its' Mainframe efficiency.

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In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, one thing is clear: Mainframe technology is not fading into obsolescence – it’s here to stay. Focusing on the future and prioritizing reliability, security and scalability justifies higher costs, but one of the biggest obstacles, as discussed in the previous blog post is still skills gaps and achieving resiliency. Especially in situations when the mainframe team can no longer support “operations” with sufficient quality. One of the proven solutions is the use of “Managed Services.”

Think of managed services as a helpful friend you bring in when your mainframe starts acting up. You know, those tech-savvy buddies who can work their magic and save the day. Usually, CROZ experts take responsibility for certain parts or the whole mainframe infrastructure. Most often, the customer team remains in place, while CROZ specialists are handling part of the activities, acting as a part of the customer team. The managed services model generally fills the skill gaps, reduces costs, improves service quality, and frees internal teams to shift the focus from daily operations to more strategic goals.

In the Managed Services model, the client typically retains ownership and management of the mainframe infrastructure, meaning the client remains the owner of the hardware and the equipment remains in the client’s data center. Similarly, the client continues to be the contract holder for the use of software licenses, maintaining a direct relationship with the vendor from whom the software was acquired.

Moreover, by using the managed service, the customer team is empowered by CROZ experts and they can jointly enhance and optimize the mainframe infrastructure.  Employing a “CROZ Mainframe Managed Services” provides true partnership, rather than mere outsourcing of certain activities. It offers multifaceted advantages beyond routine maintenance and incident resolution. CROZ experts go the extra mile by actively enhancing and optimizing your mainframe infrastructure, transforming it into a strategic asset. They not only keep the system running smoothly but also collaborate closely with your in-house team, sharing their expertise and empowering them with new skills.  By leveraging their expertise, you gain access to innovative solutions such as implementing API layers for seamless integration, introducing modern DevOps tools and best practices, upgrading system components, and fine-tuning performance.

And here’s the cherry on top: they can even optimize costs by replacing specific tools with more efficient alternatives.

This collaborative approach fosters knowledge transfer and ensures that your organization remains in control of its mainframe environment while benefiting from the provider’s deep insights and best practices. This partnership not only ensures the smooth functioning of daily operations but also paves the way for continuous improvement and innovation in your mainframe environment, ultimately enhancing your organization’s overall efficiency and competitiveness.

Mainframe technology is here to stay, but but the conversation around mainframes must evolve. We see a threefold answer through empowering mainframe teams by in-place modernization, a managed service model and bringing up new generation of mainframers.

Key Building Blocks of CROZ Mainframe Managed Services

Let’s describe the basic components of a typical CROZ Mainframe Managed Services offering:

Onboarding


Onboarding services essentially include an analysis of the current state of z/OS, z/VSE, z/VM, Linux on IBM Z systems and associated subsystems or software products such as DB2 for z/OS, CICS, MQ for z/OS, IMS products and their high-availability functionalities e.g. Parallel Sysplex, DB2 Data Sharing, CICSPlex, MQ Queue Sharing, GDPS for which managed service services are desired. This is done to view settings, management processes, utilization, used functionality, and to get acquainted with client teams in any way connected to the subject infrastructure. The result of the onboarding service is well-documented analysis results, which are a good starting point for further work with the system, whether it’s classic incident or operations support or any other activities that would be covered by additional service requests. Similarly, along with the analysis results, the client is presented with suggestions for improving system management and operation.

Operations support


Operations support is a cornerstone of mainframe managed services, ensuring the seamless running of mainframes and their associated products. At its heart is the concept of “Run the Bank” daily operations, which encompasses a gamut of activities:

Monitoring and Maintenance: This starts with a standard review of logs, and then delves deeper into monitoring the system’s current state. Tools like the RMF subsystem and OMEGAMON are invaluable here. Regular system upgrades with PTFs ensure that everything remains up-to-date, minimizing operational hitches.

Data Management: Activities range from creating backup copies with tools like HSM, RMM, and OAM, to regular database upkeep with IBM DB2 and IMS DB.

Security: Ensuring the safety and security of mainframe operations is pivotal. This is achieved by working with security subsystems like IBM RACF and CA Top Secret.

Development and Deployment: The mainframe world is not static. Whether it’s old-school legacy methods or modern zDevOPS approaches, development, testing, and deployment processes remain central. This includes harnessing the power of the CI/CD pipeline, orchestrated by popular DevOpS tools such as GitLab, GitHub, and Jenkins.

But operations support isn’t just about the nitty-gritty of day-to-day operations. It goes beyond mere incident management. It’s a comprehensive offering tailored to bridge skills gaps or availability challenges an in-house team might face, ensuring robust support for the entire production environment, and even extending to development and testing environments.

What Does Operations Support Entail?


 Infrastructure Monitoring: This is proactive and can encompass CPU, memory, disk, and more. It’s an integrated component of the CROZ Problem and Incident Management procedures.
 Administration Ownership: To guarantee environmental integrity, proactive maintenance, and accountability.
 Upgrades & Patching: This involves system enhancements and patching in tandem with the customer. It might also involve representing the customer in the IBM PMR process.
⇒ Availability: Ensuring high availability is a shared responsibility.
⇒ Task Management: This includes the delegation of tasks across the CROZ team and managing them via the Managed Services Web-based Support Ticket System.
⇒ Window Management: Both for deployments and maintenance.
⇒ Documentation: Keeping records up-to-date is crucial.
⇒ Client Communication: This is maintained through regular weekly calls and daily interactions.

In the end, it’s all about pre-emptive maintenance, continuous enhancement of systems, and clear communication. Operations support ensures the mainframe environment remains optimized, efficient, and effective.

Incident support


Incident Support is a crucial process for any organization. Incident Management aims to minimize disruption to the business by restoring service operations to agreed levels as quickly as possible.

The focus of Incident Support is to provide triage of all reported incidents and apply the necessary remedies. The CROZ experts collaborate closely with the client’s team and any 3rd party which may be involved (for example, networking, security, vendors…). Note that in an Incident-only support model, the client retains responsibility for production operations of the environment under support, and maintains their own front-line/customer (or employee) facing help desk.

A 24×7 helpdesk along with the necessary Support Request Management and ticketing processes are made available, and this includes the CROZ Case Management System and incident support team. During the onboarding phase, we also discuss requirements for a Service Level Agreement(SLA). Together with the client, we decide on the required level of SLA (24×7 service availability or 8×5, etc.).

While operations support is typically provided during a client’s core business hours, Service Level Agreements (SLAs) can be tailored based on individual business requirements, ensuring every client gets precisely what they need. Additionally, we define items such as Target Time to Action, Target Resolution time, Incident Severity Levels, etc.

Enhancement Request 


To make full use of Managed Services, we always allocate part of the contractual budget for additional services that go beyond operations/incident support. It may include consultancy, customization of specific infrastructure components, performance optimization, integration with other parts of the information system or even software development. Additionally, it may include the installation and implementation of new system components or the upgrade/migration of existing components. Consultancy services typically consist of architecture review, advising on best practices, helping in new system design, or integration with existing systems. Enhancement Service Request hours can be contracted monthly and accrued within the current support year.

In summary, our focus is on optimizing and refining your mainframe environment to ensure it aligns with your business’s evolving needs and objectives.

Why choose CROZ Mainframe Managed Services?


01 Empowering Mainframe Team

Our collaborative approach fosters knowledge transfer and ensures that your organisation remains in control of its mainframe environment while benefiting from the provider’s deep insights and best practices. This dynamic collaboration enhances your organization’s efficiency, giving you the competitive edge you’ve been looking for.

02 Transparent Terms

Our package emphasizes a proactive approach. We continuously monitor client requirements and technological advancements to suggest relevant technological upgrades and tool alternatives, enhancing the efficiency and value of your mainframe platform while streamlining costs.

03 Contract Structure

Our Managed Services contracts are designed for clarity and simplicity. Monthly fees are set based on specific criteria: SLA requirements, allocated hours for Incident and Operations support, and any industry-specific services. Additional requirements, such as specialised consultancy or system integration, are also accommodated within the contract framework.

04 Transparency in Agreement

We prioritize transparency in all our engagements. Every aspect of our contract is delineated explicitly, ensuring there are no hidden charges or ambiguities. This approach facilitates predictable operational budgeting and streamlines the process for additional requests.

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