NonStop Under 40 – Operation Support – Part 2

Part 2 – Next Generation Training Plan

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In Part 1 of this blog series, we discussed the importance of grooming the next generation of support team for NonStop Operations. As the new work force is younger, it is important to adapt the training to this new group, instead of trying to force feed “legacy concepts” to them. In order to speed up their learning process, we need a new paradigm based on these three tenets: Just-in-time Learning, Learning by Analogies, and Using Modern GUI Tools

Just-in-time Learning

Just-in-time versus Just-in-case

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Most of the traditional courses familiar to us are just-in-case training, including the ones from NonStop Education. For example, an NonStop introductory course may cover many details about Guardian processes or Pathway environment, whether you need to use it now or not, because just in case… you may need it later in the future.  The result is an information overload. Very little is retained until the situation comes up which actually requires the information long forgotten due to lack of use.

In contrast, just-in-time training provides people with vital information they need right now. The approach is to build an iterative learning process based on an incremental road map that an employee can follow as his skill grows. As such, just-in-time online training resources must be quick, convenient, and targeted to the specific goals and needs of the individuals. As an example, let’s say we want to introduce a new Operation Support team member to one of his basic daily tasks of monitoring the application environment. We may want to start with these basic topics for the person to learn:

  • What programs should be monitored?
  • How do I look at the running programs?
  • What does it look like when everything is running normally?
  • What are some common errors?
  • Where should I look for errors?
  • What information should be collected when reporting an error?

Using these topics, a person can be introduced gradually to the NonStop concepts of PROCESS, STATUS, PATHWAY, EMS, VHS and other logs. But just enough practical detail for the person to get his job done for now. The primary benefit of just-in-time online training is that it addresses the immediate benefits in learning. There is a sense of urgency, as the learning is required for the desired outcome, i.e. accomplishing a task. That makes it easier for a person to learn and to retain what was learned.

Learning through analogies

Easier to learn NonStop using examples

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Analogical reasoning is a powerful mechanism for exploiting past experience in planning and problem solving. Similarly, teaching by analogy is especially useful for learning new technologies by helping a person draw on his past experience to understand the new concepts.

Let’s say you are trying to introduce NonStop to a member of the Corporate Windows Help Desk team, who just asked you: “What is NonStop?”

How would you respond?

(A)  ” NonStop is a scalable, high performance system that has built-in nonstop process pairs and mirrored disks that provide fault-tolerance resulting in 99.9999% uptime.”

(B)  “NonStop is a system built on a cluster of servers (like Windows or Linux) connected by an internal super high speed network that can run different applications written in different languages (like Java or C) and services (like SQL Database, Web server, Directory) with a built-in load balancing capability (like F5).”

Which answer do you think would get a better reception?

Granted that the second answer (B) may not completely convey the full value and features of a NonStop system, but it helps a Windows experienced person understand more quickly what it is, in terms that he is already familiar with.

Here are some other helpful analogies to explain NonStop terms to a Windows person:

Windows NonStop
Task Process
Disk Volume
Folder Subvolume
File type File code
Print Manager Spooler
Events EMS
Command.com or Terminal TACL
Task Scheduler  NetBatch

Using Modern GUI Tools
GUI is more productive than green screens

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Asking a person 35 years old or younger to work with green screens is like asking him to use a rotary phone to make a call. We are dealing with a younger generation that grew up using point-and-click with the mouse, now moving over to touch screen for everything they do. Using a green screen will not be productive for them. If we are to bring in younger resources into the NonStop Operation support world, using GUI and other modern tools is a must.

The good news is that is no shortage of GUI tools for the NonStop.

  • TOP – The Operation Pack
  • MOMI
  • Web ViewPoint
  • Prognosis
  • NonStop ASAP
  • HPE ODBC/MX Manager
  • SQL/Xpress, and many others.

Each of these GUI tools access NonStop data for many uses including Operations Support, and may be worth exploring on your own to identify which tool fits your team’s specific needs.

Here is a simple example to illustrate how GUI tools make it easier to train a new person on NonStop.

How do I see what programs are running?

Windows world: Task Manager

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NonStop world using TOP

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How do I look at the files on the system?

Windows world: Windows Explorer

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NonStop world using TOP:

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While these are only simple examples, one can see how a new team member could relate to the GUI display more easily than to these green screen TACL equivalents:

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summary

A well prepared Operation Support team is extremely important to managing a mission critical application environment. As the current NonStop Operation team is “maturing”, it is imperative to start recruiting younger staff, and implementing plans to train and prepare them to learn and support the NonStop environment. With the proper support from management and a good training plan, we can prepare a new generation of Operation Team to continue to provide first class support for critical NonStop applications. The best time to do it is now!

Phil LyPhil Ly is the president and founder of TIC Software, a New York-based company specializing in software and services that integrate NonStop with the latest technologies, including Web Services, .NET and Java. Prior to founding TIC in 1983, Phil worked for Tandem Computer in technical support and software development.

Modernization with TIC Software

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Founded in 1983, TIC Software has been designing, developing and distributing IT solutions to address the technical challenges of modernizing legacy applications for over three decades and counting! We’re proud of our history – helping our clients maintain the highest standards with innovative solutions that keep their business IT infrastructure running smoothly.

Our products and services provide our customers with solutions that optimize: data flow and reporting, gateway and communication development, business intelligence and, of course, legacy application development. We’ve been modernizing legacy applications for a variety of companies in myriad industries such as financial services, healthcare and wholesale distribution. We work with technology partners to leverage the most up-to-date IT innovations – to best serve our clients – many of whom have been with us since day one! Continue reading

Reporting with Report.Web

Better Business Intelligence & Reporting with Report.Web

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One of the challenges organizations face today is capitalizing on the sheer volume of information available and how to best leverage what’s pertinent to help make optimal business decisions. Company databases are filled with a variety of information about clients, prospects, revenues, costs and market trends – but often this data isn’t used to its fullest potential – and one of the firm’s biggest assets isn’t exercised to help the organization grow and prosper.

The vast amounts of raw data collected and stored in a firm’s data repository can be daunting – and attempting to gather this information into an organized report that may be distributed across the enterprise can seem like a Herculean task – especially when dealing with multiple computer architectures. What is needed is a solution that speaks to the many computing environments found in business today for data access and compilation, and then provides a universally readable reporting format via Web-based distribution; in other words Report.Web. Continue reading

Modernize or Migrate? That is the Question…

Organizations that have implemented mainframe computing solutions in the past have two viable IT options as time passes and technology evolves. One option is to keep their systems in synch through modernization – adding current application software, firmware and tangential hardware – to integrate newer features and benefits into existing platforms. Alternatively, they can move away from their existing systems and migrate to a new platform. We’ll take into consideration the challenges (as well as the pros and cons) of these choices as we examine some of the factors to consider when deciding upon which path to take:

• System Upgrade Requirements to Address Ongoing Business Needs
• Costs & Resources Needed to Continually Meet Business Goals
• Clearly Defined Strategy & Road Map to Correctly Guide Efforts Continue reading

Proactive Measure to Alert Application Issues

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Drivers rely on their dashboard gauges, warning lights and alarms to keep them apprised of any potential issues – so shouldn’t the same theory apply for monitoring
your important business applications? Being forewarned at the first sign of trouble puts one in the best position to address the problem before further issues arise.
Like this guy who neglected to monitor his dashboard:

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It’s important to not only be warned of an application error – but also to be informed as soon as possible so corrective action may be taken in as timely a manner as possible. Paying attention to important information that the applications are writing to the logs is critical. Continue reading

Java SE8 is here!


Java SE 8 lands with Lambda expressions making coding easier for multi-core processors

Lets developers treat functions as method arguments or code as data. By Lee Bell

SOFTWARE VENDOR Oracle has released its Java Platform Standard Edition 8, Java SE 8, as well as the latest Java SE
Development Kit, JDK 8. The release of the updated Java software has been anticipated for some time, but was delayed by Oracle as it worked on making the software more secure and some additional features.

Oracle said that Java SE 8 delivers “enhanced developer productivity and significant application performance increases” through reduced boilerplate code, improved collections and annotations, simpler parallel programming models and better use of multi-core processors in more efficient ways.

One of Java SE 8’s biggest new features is support for Lambda expressions, a new language feature in Java borrowed from LISP that lets developers treat functions as method arguments or code as data. Lambda expressions also allow users to express instances of single-method interfaces, referred to as functional interfaces, more efficiently.

IDC analyst Al Hilwa said that Lambda support in Java SE 8 makes it an important milestone for the language and platform because it will make it easier for developers to write code for multicore processors, but he also noted other Java 8 features that mark significant language improvements.

“There are a variety of interesting things in [Java] SE 8, like the Streams API focused on parallel processing large data sets, Project Nashorn’s faster Javascript engine, and of course implementing Lambda expressions,” Hilwa added.

“These are significant changes to the language that will have a long-term impact as we shift into a highly parallel world populated with multi-core devices and big data. To see the team do this while simultaneously investing heavily in securing the platform in the face of escalating malware attacks everywhere is a huge achievement.”

Among the list of new features are a new Date/Time API, Type Annotations, and a set of Compact Profiles, which allow Java SE 8 implementations to be scaled down more easily.

Modernizing SCOBOL Programs Part 3: Blu Age Methodology

Part 3: Blu Age Methodology

In Part 1 of this blog series, we discussed the benefits of modernizing SCOBOL requesters, and the challenge of handling programs with extensive business logic..
In Part 2, we talked about how to approach these business logic embedded programs via re-engineering and the benefits of using a tool like Blu Age.

In this Part 3 installment, we will review how one can ensure a successful modernization project by using the Blu Age tool according to its effective methodology.

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Modernization Methodology

Blu Age is not just a tool suite. It offers a  set of best practice that will facilitate your  modernization process. Here is an overview of the Blu Age methodology.

Establish the blueprint

Re-engineering your SCOBOL program is like redesigning your home in a home improvement project. You wouldn’t remodel your home without having your blueprints at hand, just as you wouldn’t re-engineer your SCOBOL program without first building the model that represents it. You specify the new blueprint of your application in UML by using Blu Age’s MagicDraw tool. This specification includes the all the screen and storage data elements, user interaction, screen flow, and process logic. This represents your “vision” of the new final product, which could include some or all of the functions, features and business logic of the original SCOBOL program.

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A properly reengineered application carries many benefits, including:

  • Maintainability
    Creation of the code based on the new design blueprint using modern development methodology ensures there are readily available resources and tools for it to be maintained easily.
  • High performance
    Test tools are readily available in Open Source or commercial market to measure and tune applications designed with modern framework.
  • Adaptable
    Once an application has been modernized, there is a good chance that its functions will continue to evolve. Adopting a proper design framework will ensure that the new application will continue to adapt to new requirements and can be enhanced easily.

 Analysis

Building a new SCOBOL program model starts with you feeding the SCOBOL program source into the Blu Age tool suite, where it is analyzed, and incorporated into a special knowledge base. One important use of this knowledge base is to help you find repeating patterns of code that you may choose to model, or to ignore and leave behind.

Blu Age’s built-in editor also includes very powerful search and cross reference capability that enables you view code relationship, data attributes, called paragraphs, etc. in multiple windows by clicking on links.

Blu Age can also take the SCOBOL SCREEN SECTION and automatically generate a mock-up version of the user interface in web format. This allows you to visualize the existing user interface, and apply design changes in the process.

Blog BA 2 Mockup

 

Annotation

Once the knowledge base is initialized, you begin to browse the SCOBOL code, looking for paragraphs that contain valuable business rules, calculations, and other key artifacts you want to preserve. The process of browsing and marking your code as “Keep” or “Ignore” is called annotation.

Blog BA 3 Annotation

Blu Age has a built-in capability that facilitates the browsing process and helps you keep track of the progress of your code review of the program. For example, the picture below shows how much of the original program has been reviewed and annotated in the modernization process.

Blog BA 4 Statistics

Patterns

As you identify SCOBOL “keepers”, Blu Age updates the knowledge base to reflect the patterns you identify. The patterns are more than simple text matches. The knowledge base uses artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to help you find other similar code that is similar to a “keeper”, even if it is not identical to your first “keeper”.

This is particularly beneficial because it enables any pattern that you have identified once to be automatically applied to other programs. For example, as we know, many SCOBOL programs were actually “derived” from only a handful of original programs. As you identify and store a paragraph pattern in one SCOBOL program, Blu Age can automatically scan other program sources in the repository and apply the same defined rules to the paragraphs in those programs. This automated process will accelerate your transformation effort dramatically.

Blog BA 5 Patterns

Extracting business logic

TransModeling is the point when the “magic” happens. Once patterns have been identified as useful to retain in the modernized system, you can select any particular code segment for Blu Age to generate an equivalent UML2 model from it. You and your business rule and business calculation experts will review the model diagram to ensure that the right rules and calculations have been properly represented and staged for modernized development. You can also modify the model to remove any obsolete logic or to add some enhancements to it. The end result is a complete model of the new application that includes the business logic of the original SCOBOL program that you have decided to keep.

Blog BA 6 Forward

Forward Engineering

This is the easy part! Once you approve the model developed from your legacy SCOBOL program, Blu Age ingests the model diagram and other information in the knowledge base to produce your modernized code (Java or .Net). The modernized code is now ready for incorporation into the systems engineering build process that is managed by the Blu Age Deliver (BDE) portion of the Blu Age tool suite. You are now on your way to replacing SCOBOL with a state of the art presentation layer, and all business rules and calculations properly located within a modern layered architecture.

Blog BA 7 Forward Engineering 2

Conclusion

Modernizing NonStop applications is a cost effective investment that enables an organization to reduce risk, reduce costs, and to increase agility. Web enabling SCOBOL represents an important part of modernizing an existing Pathway application, as a new GUI will usher a new wave of increased productivity and higher service levels.

Depending on your need and scope, there are different approaches in migrating the UI from green screen to web browser. If your SCOBOL programs include a fair amount of business logic, then you should consider using automated tools to facilitate the modernization process. With Blu Age, you will be able forge ahead  to incorporate important business logic of the existing programs into your new programs, using modern language, framework and methodology.

Like any tool, Blu Age can produce the best result only when it is properly used and well managed. Our advice is to start with a Proof of Concept (POC), which will allow you to better understand the project scope and required effort. Also, seek out professional services assistance from Blu Age and their partners like TIC Software and HP Enterprise Services to help you jump start your initiative.

Based on what you learn from your POC, you and your team will now be ready to plan out the rest of the necessary steps to ensure a successful full scale modernization project.

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Feedback please

Do you find this tutorial blog helpful? Let us know what you think, and how we can make it even better. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to our blogs (top right-hand corner of the home page) to get automatic email notification when a new blog is available.

Phil LyPhil Ly is the president and founder of TIC Software, a New York-based company specializing in software and services that integrate NonStop with the latest technologies, including Web Services, .NET and Java. Prior to founding TIC in 1983, Phil worked for Tandem Computer in technical support and software development.

Stuart Selip’s Closer look at: Model Driven Architecture

MDA Intro

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Guess what?  You have legacy applications.  What are they?  Well, they are COBOL applications that are many years old.  Our loyal developer community is looking forward to retirement, so who will attend to the care and feeding of these “classic” applications? By the way, COBOL isn’t the only legacy technology You’re right if you think PACBASE, “C” and “C++” applications or fat-client solutions like those constructed in the 1990s using PowerBuilder, Delphi, and Gupta SQLWindows are legacy applications today.  These are all “legacy”, but the greatest volume of “good old code” was written in COBOL.

What is in your legacy applications? Usually they contain a mix of business rules, process flows, screen interactions, batch processes, and reporting that, through years of maintenance and enhancement, have grown in size, scope, and complexity. Some of those applications could be called “High Value”, while others are not unique or critical.

Is this good news?  Well, yes and no.  High-value legacy code might just form the competitive basis for your company. The intellectual property (IP) in legacy applications often competitively differentiates your organization from its peers, and you are subject matter experts (SME) of those applications. On the other hand, newly-minted IT professionals no longer study COBOL. Instead, they think more about Objects, Java, C#, and web technologies.   We have a good approach to this situation of legacy code and new coders. We think your high-value code could benefit from some intensive reverse engineering that extracts the intellectual value of the software, and gives it a new lease on life.  Finding the value in legacy applications has been a “holy grail” quest for more than 20 years, but only recently has modernization moved from alchemy to engineering.  How has this happened?  Think Model-Driven Architecture (MDA).

whereis-resized-600What is MDA?

Simply, it is a graphical modeling approach to object-oriented software development, specifying both the static technology building blocks (the classes, information content, and operations)  and dynamic behavior  (“when the online customer clicks on “place order” the system will….”) of a software solution as elements of a model.  Using MDA, you, as SMEs, help capture the IP of your legacy applications, without retaining the code in which it was written.  Think of using MDA as applying an organized process to build a set of really powerful “flow charts” using Unified Modeling Language (UML).  UML wasn’t around when your applications were written, but today it is an industry-standard way of describing systems and programs, covering perspectives from overall system architecture, through internal program design. More than just pictures and charts, with the right companion technology MDA allows you to “generate” modern code, without having to sit there and write it up by hand.

No, we did not invent MDA.  MDA has grown from a standards-making process of the Object Management Group (www.omg.org) in the early 2000s to something practical and useful today.  Now, when you have a UML model ready to go, you can fire up an MDA application generator to read the model, and create modern code for your chosen target technology stack.  Frequently, technology stack choices are Java, or Microsoft platforms, and in an MDA approach, the usual software coding process has been replaced by code generation.  The trick is, you have to build your models right, and select the right generator technology.  With your expertise in your existing applications and TIC’s investment in training and technology, the time is right for MDA modernization.

How do you decide which legacy applications should be modernized?  It takes a rationalized IT portfolio to pinpoint your high-value applications for MDA modernization and lower-value candidates for alternative conversion, or replacement. If you’re not sure about your IT Portfolio, we can help your organization create one. Basically, you need to know about the value the legacy app delivers, vs. the cost to maintain and/or modernize it. For example, though perhaps convenient and familiar to your users, many software solutions (e.g. accounting, payroll) are not business game-changers that lead your organization to market preeminence. “Commodity” applications may not be worth modernization.  Other approaches, like replacement with commercially available “off the shelf” solutions for in-house or “Cloud” access might make more sense.  When you want to know more about legacy modernization, MDA, IT Portfolio Management, or any other forward-looking practice… we are ready and able to have that conversation, and deliver on what follows.

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Feedback please

Do you find this tutorial blog helpful? Let us know what you think, and how we can make it even better. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to our blogs (top right-hand corner of this page) to get automatic email notification when a new blog is available.

stu_selip-resized-600Stuart Selip owns and operates Principal Consulting, LLC, an IT Strategy consulting firm that is a business partner of TIC Software. Prior, as the Chief Executive Officer of Luxoft’s Consulting Strategies unit, he managed delivery of IT Strategy consulting to Fortune 500/Global 2000 firms in the Financial Services, Insurance, and Media industries.