NYC Summit Exhibitor Focus: IBM Z Systems

In anticipation of our New York City Summit Event on October 19th, we’re highlighting some of the great partners who will be in attendance in this Exhibitor Series. We’re excited to share our latest Q&A with Nathan Brice, Senior Offering Manager, Z Systems Monitoring & APM at IBM. 

AppD: Can you share some details of the partnership between IBM and AppDynamics so far?

NB: In my role, I’m very focused on the tools required to manage our clients’ mainframes. Many of our clients have systems that have been running without any unplanned outage for decades, and the tools to manage these systems are critical.

It seemed to me that the rapid rise of APM software, looking at the entire end-to-end application, hasn’t to-date been able to deliver meaningful visibility into the mainframe. For many of the largest enterprises in the world, it’s often the most critical application components that are running on the mainframe.

I thought there was a tremendous opportunity to partner with AppDynamics, bringing together your market-leading APM product, together with our expertise on the mainframe, to deliver true end-to-end visibility for large enterprises with mainframes.

AppD: The integration extends the visibility of AppDynamics’ Map iQ and Diagnostic iQ into mainframe subsystems such as CICS and DB2. Can you explain this in more detail?

NB: With our planned IBM offering, you’ll install new agent code on the mainframe to track transactions in key mainframe z/OS subsystem. We’ve focused on CICS Transaction Server for the initial release as it’s one of the most commonly used subsystems. We support MQ, http & SOAP as entry points into CICS and Db2 and IMS DB backend databases. So now, in the AppDynamics flow map you’ll see additional nodes for MQ, CICS, Db2, IMS DB that are running on the mainframe.

AppD: What are the main benefits of the integration for IBM Z and AppDynamics customers?

NB: The key benefit is going to be faster isolation of problems. When transactions are slowing down somewhere in the mainframe, clients today might start by investigating the entry point, then the transaction server and then finally the database. Sometime all in parallel. Being able to clearly isolate which component is causing the slowdown is going to significantly speed problem determination and help get directly to the right mainframe engineer who can debug root cause.

There is also a huge benefit in understanding the true structure of the application. Being able to visualize where the transactions really flow, and which systems they interact with is very important when some of the back-end services have been enhanced, modified and tweaked over many, many years.

AppD: How can the integration support collaboration between two traditionally siloed teams?

NB: Typically, mainframe teams are still siloed away from other teams. The mainframe is often perceived as old, difficult, complicated and unless you work on an IBM Z System today, then this is probably what you believe too. I believe the integration of mainframe components into APM dashboards is going help application teams realize that the mainframe is just like another platform and foster greater collaboration between the teams. They will be able to understand the topology – and see just how quickly the transactions are processed!

AppD: More than $6 trillion in card payments are processed annually by mainframes. What other evidence do you have that having insights into mainframe performance is still very relevant to applications today?

NB: Most people don’t realize it, but you interact with mainframes every day. When you take cash out of an ATM, book a flight or a hotel room, or pay for something with a credit card, typically the back-end system of record that processes that transaction is going to be running on a mainframe. The latest IBM Z14 machines can process 12 billion encrypted transactions every single day. That’s the sort of scale you now need as a large retailer on a busy Black Friday.

In today’s digital world, the total volume of transactions is exploding as end-users’ expectations are rapidly evolving. How many more times to do you check your balance using a smart phone banking app compared to when you had to visit a physical bank branch? These systems of record running on the mainframe are the backbone to the modern economy.

AppD: One beta customer has said, “Before this integration, the mainframe was just a black box and we couldn’t truly manage our applications end-to-end.” Is this typical of the feedback you have received to date?

NB: Yes, that’s a very common response. In fact, one of the most enjoyable aspects of this project has been working closely with many clients as we designed the product. In my 20 years with IBM, I’ve never worked on a project that has had so much positive feedback. There is a clear demand for this capability and I’m really excited about working closely with our beta clients and sponsor users as we continue to design and develop additional capability.

AppD: Why should delegates come to the IBM booth and attend the breakout session at the NYC Summit?

NB: If you work in an enterprise that uses a mainframe and you either already have, or are considering purchasing AppDynamics, then come along and learn more about what we’ve been doing in this space. I’ll be there in person as will our project architect, Aaron Young. We’ll be able to show you a demo, talk about our future plans and answer any question you may have. Come along and find us at our booth.

Register here to book your free place at the NYC Summit on October 19th and meet the IBM team there.