Addressing the modern need for mainframes to support real-time systems of engagement like those used in the banking industry, Compuware in October announced Compuware APM for Mainframe, which the company said is the first application performance-management solution that distributed-system and mainframe teams can both use to monitor the performance of Web, mobile and cloud applications.

“The way that these applications and these groups have traditionally been managed is, you had a team that worked on mainframes and knew everything about the mainframe, and then you had a whole other completely different group that worked with distributed, Web-based systems,” said Jeff Loeb, VP of global marketing for Compuware’s APM Business Unit. “They didn’t share the same tools to look at how applications are managed. It was the classic case of, when these two worlds collided, there was lots of finger-pointing. So now what we’ve done is married the world of the Web-based, distributed system with the world of the mainframe.”

Compuware APM for Mainframe is available in two versions: PurePath for z/OS Java, for monitoring mainframe Java applications; and PurePath for z/OS CICS, for monitoring Customer Information Control System (CICS) application transactions in interconnected CICS systems.

Compuware announced its new solution amid two growing trends: that applications are becoming more business-critical and mission-critical; and that the mainframe world has changed considerably as business systems need to be increasingly responsive to these applications. “Typically, when organizations have mobile, Web or business applications that put performance pressures on the mainframe, they are blind and can’t trace transactions from the distributed tiers deep into the mainframe,” said Bob Paul, CEO of Compuware.

But, by combining its dynaTrace PurePath technology with the mainframe application-management capabilities of its Strobe solution, the company said that this solution not only gives both distributed system and mainframe teams the same end-to-end visibility into application activity, but it helps both of them resolve performance problems faster, postpone hardware upgrades, and accelerate time-to-market for new applications.

Compuware APM for Mainframe can also help companies reduce mainframe MIPS (millions of instructions per second) costs. “The cost of the software that runs on mainframes is based on how many MIPS you buy,” said Loeb. “The more MIPS you buy, the more capacity you buy. It not only costs you more on hardware, but it costs you more on software as well. Companies that run mainframes are really concerned about using the mainframe very efficiently. So one of the problems that this solution solves is it allows you to control mainframe costs by delaying or deferring investments in additional hardware.”

Nowadays, as the app environment becomes more complex, with more people accessing apps over different kinds of devices, and as cloud services and other modern forms of application architectures take root, Loeb said using a solution such as this can help guarantee that your applications are delivering great user experiences. “The mainframes of old would handle more batch transactions, so they would run overnight and crank out lots of calculations, lots of numbers,” he said.

“But they weren’t so connected to a specific user doing something. All that has changed now. Now, if you’re a bank, you’re allowing people, through mobile devices, to transfer money, and those transactions have to go through a mainframe. The mainframe world has changed dramatically as the systems have to be responsive to these asynchronous transactions.”
Not just tracking
Today’s systems not only have to be more responsive, but performance issues need to be resolved more quickly as well. Since many mainstream retail-banking applications still run off mainframes, you need to know, in terms of performance monitoring, what’s going on when problems arise.

For example, take the transactions from a customer who is using his or her bank’s online banking system. “Their transactions are going from the mobile device to a distributed server environment—which is what most modern companies use—and then to a mainframe behind that,” said Jonah Kowall, analyst and research director at Gartner. “So the issue is, if there’s a performance issue, and you don’t have the visibility from distributed to mainframe, it can be difficult to isolate it, to pinpoint the issue. You can only say that the issue is somewhere in the mainframe or the issue is in the distributed environment.”

“Plus, the awful thing about live applications is that, when something bad happens, it happens, and then the moment’s gone. No one’s going to spend time recreating it,” said Alan Rodger, senior analyst at Ovum. “So you need information about what happened at that point when, suddenly, a thousand customers or users in the call center couldn’t get what they wanted. What was the reason for that? You can’t let that happen again.”

By using an APM solution such as Compuware’s tool, “The performance team then has evidence to say to the developers, ‘Look here, this is what happened, we’ve got the graphics behind this, and we can drill down into what the transaction was doing,’ ” Rodger said. “You can see how powerful that is. It’s going to be up to the developers to fix it, but they don’t have to look for what the problem was because the APM solution’s done that in considerable detail.”

According to Compuware, its end-to-end solution can map each mainframe transaction procedure—including timings—to determine which procedure steps are taking longer than expected to complete. With complete n-tier visibility, from a user’s browser across Web and app servers through message brokers into CICS and all the way to the database, the company said operators can immediately determine the problem’s root cause and fix issues before they turn into serious problems.

Other companies that build management software for mainframes—namely, BMC, CA, HP and IBM—have been in the APM space for many years. But Compuware is the vendor that is providing the most agile offering right now, according to the analysts we spoke to.

“Their solutions do not tend to be as agile as Compuware in terms of the distributed environment,” Kowall said. “So, the way that you have to look at it is that there’s a mainframe, which is separate, and then there’s a distributed environment, which is where most of the growth is. The issue is that, if you look at the way that most applications are put together—especially in certain industries where mainframes are the critical back-end component—the visibility from distributed to mainframe has been pretty limited. Up until now.”