FRAMINGHAM (03/16/2004) - This is the second in a special Fusion series spotlighting enterprise network managers' innovative use of management products to automate processes, prevent outages and save money. Stay tuned for more.
As the end of 2002 neared, Rick Takashima knew he had to find another way to support the one mainframe in his predominantly Microsoft Windows 2000 and Sun Solaris environment.
The IBM Multiprise S/390 3000 H50 remained a necessity because it supported the newspaper's advertising and circulation database, but Takashima couldn't see his manager tolerating a system overhaul or investing big bucks for a system that eventually would be phased out.
Support from the tools he had been using from Sterling Software Inc. would run out soon, yet there were no immediate plans to phase out the mainframe. (Computer Associates International Inc. acquired Sterling in 2000.) His existing support and maintenance contract was close to expiring, and the data center and technical support manager for the Toronto Star -- or "the Star," Canada's largest daily newspaper -- needed to find a cost-effective way to support the essential systems.
"I got a going-out-of-business price on the Sterling Software, and I knew it would be tough to get a better price to support the same systems," says Takashima. He needed to upgrade the software that supported the mainframe environment, but he had to be very mindful of not disrupting the work of the paper's employees. "I didn't want to change anything that was going to require the general users change the way they did their work or conducted their business," he says.
Part of the process of selecting new tools involved identifying what he already used, Takashima says.
He used BMC Software Inc.'s Mainview mainframe management software as well as the now-defunct tools from Sterling. Aside from software, though, Takashima says he had jerry-rigged part of the mainframe to work seamlessly with the adjacent TCP/IP net that supported the majority of the Star's mission-critical applications.
For instance, the newspaper used the mainframe to support select advertising and circulation applications, but in order to route print jobs from those applications on the mainframe to printers on the TCP/IP network, Takashima also needed to maintain a few Novell NetWare servers.
"We used to have to tunnel that print traffic through the SNA net to the IP net, and Novell NetWare made it possible," he says. "But I wanted to find a way to do it without needing to support that extra layer of software."
He estimated that the Star could save tens of thousands of dollars if it could eliminate the Novell servers; renew or find a new contract for the mainframe and print management software, support and maintenance; and minimize the impact of a product change on the data center technicians.
Adding new technology
Enter Computer Associates. As part of its CA Rescue Program, the company offered Takashima its Unicenter CA-Sysview Realtime Performance Management software as a replacement for BMC's Mainview. The Star also signed on to use Unicenter CA-Spool Print Management software.
While Takashima would not disclose the exact cost of the new software or qualify any savings the Star has experienced, he says the software switch allowed him to simplify his net. The print management software eliminates the need to tunnel that traffic through the SNA net to the IP net.
"It's making life less error-prone. For all intents and purposes, this software makes it easier for us to modify jobs," he says. With 10 data center operations staff, he says the simpler the mainframe tasks are, the better. "We have about 100 servers in our data center, so most of the staff aren't experts on the mainframe."
By removing the NetWare from his environment, Takashima says that's one less vendor that he has to manage.
"It obviously easier to manage fewer contracts, but it's also less integration work for me and my staff," he says.