JES2 or JES3plus™: Customers Have Options

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By Scott Fagen, SHARE Director of Industry Influence 

To quickly recap the major events around JES3:

In July, 2017, IBM announced that JES2 was the strategic Job Entry Subsystem (JES) for the z/OS Operating System and that JES3 would continue to be supported and maintained with its current function.

In the following months, 16 JES3 customers formed a working group that eventually became the SHARE JES3 Task Force in March 2018.

In February 2019, IBM announced that the last version of z/OS to include JES3 will be the release following z/OS V2.4. In these and prior announcements, IBM has demonstrated their commitment to JES2, developing a number of marquee JES3 functions for JES2, easing the cost and risk of such a conversion.

In March 2019, SHARE released our Position on IBM Withdrawal of JES3 indicating that SHARE felt that that best result for the industry would be that IBM reconsider their Statement of Direction or that IBM agree to allow another entity to take up the mantle of JES3 for those customers who felt that a JES3 to JES2 conversion was not in their best interests.

In October 2019, Phoenix Software International announced that it had come to an agreement with IBM to license the source code for IBM’s z/OS Job Entry Subsystem 3 (JES3) and would bring to market a compatible, derivative product, JES3plus, in March 2020. This agreement between IBM and Phoenix breathes new life into JES3 and offers customers who rely on it a supported alternative and a plan for future enhancements.

After speaking to affected customers, SHARE feels that this is a good result for the mainframe ecosystem. 

When asked about JES3 and its importance to Texas A&M University, Chief Systems Engineer James Lund shared that his organization was highly supportive of the agreement between IBM and Phoenix. “As a state agency, Texas A&M University doesn’t have the level of funding and/or the manpower to expend on the conversion from JES3 to JES2. For us, the status quo [staying with JES3] was the better path to take.” Lund added, “We have no doubt JES3 support is in capable hands at Phoenix.”

For customers migrating from JES3, Tom Wasik, IBM JES development lead, said IBM has implemented a number of key JES3 capabilities into JES2. For instance, a JES3 disk reader can pass jobs into JES2 via operator commands, and IBM offers support for the JES3 ROUTE XEQ JECL (adding to the list of commonly used JES3 JECL that JES2 understands, including the //*NET JECL). JES2 also allows multiple jobs in an NJE job stream to reduce NJE incompatibilities. IBM, he added, also created a policy infrastructure that supports customizing how JES2 processes jobs without the customer having to write exits. This will continue to be enhanced over time with additional functions to help JES3 customers migrate their exit functions to JES2. Some of these changes are functional, such as those mentioned above, while others assist the planning and migration processes, including the JECL usage tracker that was added to JES3 and JES2.

Additionally, there have been a number of SHARE presentations by both customers and IBM detailing the journey from JES3 to JES2, which can be found in the MVS Conference Proceedings Library. Here are some of the presentations (may require membership logon to access):

A representative from a large U.S. government agency explained that the cost and complexity of migrating to JES2 from JES3 made it harder for some users to justify. “Even as IBM made a number of enhancements to JES2 that lowered the technical cost of migration, at the end of the day, the client would still have to manage a transition where there would be no measurable return on the investment or, possibly, a negative return. With a scarcity of IT dollars available and many government officials looking to move their investments to the cloud, spending on JES migration with no likely return and possible disruption in other z/OS functions is difficult to justify,” said the representative.

Other customers expressed a cautious optimism. At a minimum, the introduction of JES3plusTM can delay the implementation of a conversion, if not forestall it indefinitely.

According to Dan Gateno, Program Manager - IBM z/OS Project Office, IBM has deep technical depth in both JESes, but the knowledge of how to actually migrate a JES3 installation to JES2 rests with the customers and vendors that have done this over the years. Each migration does require its own, unique planning, preparation, and implementation. IBM has a dedicated JES3 email address for customer inquiries. The email is monitored by both JES development and IBM management to provide answers to a broad range of questions, not just on migrations, he added. Per request, IBM can also host conversations with JES3 customers working through their own migration processes, with help from IBM technical and offering management, explained Gateno. Vendors offering migration assistance services can be found through IBM PartnerWorld (Search on "JES3 Migration" for results of companies who provide this service).

The Future of JES3

The JES3 source code licensing agreement allows Phoenix to create its own derivative work based upon the original IBM JES3 source code. A government agency representative called the agreement “historic and unprecedented.” Phoenix Software International Chief Technology Officer Ed Jaffe added, “Our company’s intention is to extend the life of JES3 indefinitely, while adding new functionality along the way.”

Phoenix Software’s JES3plus™, is scheduled for general availability in March 2020, said Jaffe. V1R0 will be a plug-compatible solution that is functionally identical to z/OS JES3 V2R4 in virtually every respect. This should ensure that installation customizations, including user exits, source modifications, message automation, operator commands, job and device setup, tape high-watermark setup, NJE and RJP partner interactions with z/OS systems, DevTest and production JCL, production control procedures, and log and output post-processing scripts, will continue to work unchanged.

Jaffe explains, “We really want customers to understand that Phoenix’s JES3plus™ is an opportunity not only to continue leveraging the JES3 technology they have relied on for decades, but also to invest in its future as z/OS continues to evolve. The migration path from IBM’s JES3 to JES3plus™ will be trivial and available to existing customers at no additional cost.”

 Customers Can Make Their Own Call

For JES3 customers, large and small, looking to transition to JES2, IBM has held a number of individual and group meetings, in which various requirements were identified, prioritized, and as appropriately sized, to implement JES2, Wasik said. The JES team continues to listen to the concerns and needs of JES3 customers to determine what additional changes may be required. IBM's team of developers, testers, and service personnel have all worked with migrating customers to help answer questions, solve problems, and provide guidance. We will continue to do so for our JES3 customers. “For customers that do not have the budget, in-house expertise, ability to make a multi-year commitment, and/or the inclination to perform the analysis and conversion to JES2, the agreement between IBM and Phoenix provides them with an opportunity to protect their investment in JES3 and enjoy future functionality enhancements,” added Jaffe.

The Bottom Line

As stated before, SHARE believes that this is a good outcome for the mainframe ecosystem and the customers who now have greater choice moving forward. Additionally, this kind of agreement between IBM and an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) can serve as a good model for transitioning technology that one company is no longer interested in maintaining to another that is. SHARE applauds the efforts of IBM and Phoenix Software International in crafting this historic agreement.

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