The Mainframe Hardware Track Debuts at SHARE Pittsburgh

SHARE Pittsburgh (Aug. 4-9) is just around the corner. SHARE events offer a variety of sessions with experts eager to share their knowledge, ranging from the latest software updates to applications and mainframe hardware. Mainframe hardware is the backbone of the industry, but often new tracks at SHARE events highlight new trends in technology. Looking at the session content for Pittsburgh, the SHARE Program Council wanted to highlight mainframe hardware sessions in a similar way. With so many great sessions on mainframe hardware, James Vincent, senior systems architect at Velocity Software, Inc., and deputy director of SHARE Conference Operations, says, “Creating a track to help people locate hardware topics was an easy solution. It was an easy add for SHARE Pittsburgh.”

Some of the sessions in the Mainframe Hardware track that we’ll highlight here include:

Jerry Stevens, senior technical staff member and master inventor at IBM, will lend his technical knowledge to a number of sessions in the Mainframe Hardware track. He explains the importance of the communications server: “Every byte of data flowing on and off of Z flows through the communications server stack, the I/O infrastructure, and the adapters of our platform. A baseball analogy might view this as the ‘battery’ (pitcher and catcher in communication terms becomes the transmitter and receiver). Being a part of the battery can be both challenging and inspiring.” Additionally, “these topics represent the various strategic IBM Z platform communication technologies, such as access to Ethernet through OSA Express, access to internal Z networking through HiperSockets, and how to optimize both forms of internal and external communications using Shared Memory Communications, RoCE Express, and ISM,” he explains.

Stevens says that the biggest challenge facing the communications server has been “[adjusting] solutions to the ever-changing evolution of communications”, moving from predominantly SNA/APPN-based protocols to TCP/IP and sockets-based protocols and workloads. “Today, IP-based communications are shifting into cloud-based network solutions, such as Docker and Kubernetes-managed containers and networks. Yet even today, APPN workloads remain just as critical to many of our customers as they ever have been,” Stevens says.

What to Expect from Mainframe Hardware Sessions

Shared Memory Communications (SMC) with z/OS Communication Server provides an overview of the Shared Memory Communications over RDMA (SMC-R) capability introduced in z/OS V2R1, as well as the newer Shared Memory Communications-Direct Memory Access (SMC-D) technology available on the z13 and higher. Experts will discuss how the SMC-D with Internal Shared Memory (ISM) provides highly optimized intra-CPC communications and is expected to provide substantial improvements in performance, throughput, response time, and CPU consumption compared to standard TCP/IP communications over HiperSockets. Stevens explains that attendees will learn about the free tool offered in the z/OS CommServer that can evaluate workloads and how expanding this technology to other workloads could factor into their data center communications decision making down the road.

The z/OS Communications Server Performance: Optimizing Your Network Encryption with z14 session will examine how enabling network encryption affects the performance of workloads, both CPU consumption and latency impacts, as well as how traffic patterns affect how network encryption performs. Additionally, presenters will review the performance enhancements offered by z14 when it comes to network encryption, as well as tips for optimizing performance when enabling network encryption.

The Getting the Most Out of OSA and HiperSockets with z/OS Communications Server presentation will focus on how the z/OS Communications Server uses OSA for IPv4/IPv6 LAN connectivity based on Queued Direct IO (QDIO) architecture and the operational aspects of OSA and its configuration options for optimizing both inbound and outbound network traffic. The focus will be on the software use of OSA in understanding how the hardware and software cooperate to deliver the desired function.

In the Optimizing Your Linux and z/OS Solutions with Shared Memory Communications session, speakers will explore what happens when z/OS and Linux are connected through a highly optimized network and how to optimize the combinations when you enable SMC between the two platforms. IBM software engineers and SHARE Pittsburgh session speakers Fimy Hu and Veng Ly say, “Recent generations of IBM Z have increasingly more processor cores, which allows for consolidation and colocation of applications into a single IBM Z CEC. This can help customers simplify their data centers and improve their IT economics. SMC-D can be deployed in this CEC to further improve network performance and reduce processing costs.”

SMC-D is deployed between the SAP Db2 database server running on z/OS and the SAP application servers running on Linux, and is recommended for internal network communications in a collocated IBM Z environment. It can lower CPU utilization and improve network latency, they say. Hu and Ly add, “SMC-D may yield improved communications between SAP application servers and Db2 databases running on z/OS LPARs.” They caution that users should check the suitability of SMC-D for their systems and workloads with the SMC-AT tool and reminds users that existing communication tools, like HiperSockets, are still needed for the initial SMC-D handshake and also as fallback.

A User-First Approach

Holden O’Neal, director of SHARE conference operations and software developer at SAS Institute, says, "The technical content that is covered at SHARE is vast, ranging across the ecosystem from z/OS systems programming to application development. All the layers of our industry would not be possible without the robust and reliable hardware at its foundation; that is why we decided to create the Mainframe Hardware track. This should make it easier for attendees to quickly find sessions that will be covering the newest insight into mainframe hardware advances and maintenance best practices.” And like Stevens, presenters in the Mainframe Hardware track want user feedback to further improve the z/OS communications server, its components, and the user experience. The SHARE community welcomes your feedback and urges you to network with your colleagues to push the mainframe toward the future.

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