Todd Havekost -

The mainframe skills shortage for z/OS performance analysts and capacity planners has left many organizations struggling to ensure availability. Current experts are often overworked and lack the manpower, resources, or tools necessary to effectively perform their jobs. This is often caused by a reliance on manual processes and the limitations of in-house developed solutions, rather than leveraging the built-in, automated capabilities provided by an effective performance solution.

This can put the availability of the infrastructure and applications at risk. Many enterprises are finding it to be difficult to replace or supplement z/OS performance skills that are becoming increasingly scarce.

In his blog, “Bridging the z/OS Performance & Capacity Skills Gap,” Brent Phillips wrote about the availability and efficiency benefits that can be gained from modernizing the analysis of the mainframe infrastructure using processes that leverage artificial intelligence.

Modernized analytics can also help solve the skills shortage by making current staff more productive and getting newer staff up to speed more rapidly. An effective analytics solution that will expedite the acquisition of skills for z/OS performance analysts and capacity planners needs 5 key attributes. These attributes are covered in detail with illustrations in the paper at the link at the bottom. In this blog I will briefly introduce 3 of the key attributes.

1. Speed: Fast and Current

Having a solution that makes information easily accessible enables analysis to begin quickly without the need to write programs or other methods requiring extended time to master. Having a tool at your disposal with an already familiar, intuitive interface that doesn’t require years to learn how to use overcomes one of the steepest initial barriers to effective analysis.

One prominent symptom of today’s shortage of performance and capacity skills is that many sites have significant gaps in visibility into the metrics required to support newer technologies. In the realm of z/OS performance and capacity planning that means supporting the newer RMF and SMF data types to provide the visibility required to manage emerging technologies. This eliminates the need to invest resources developing one’s own in-house solutions to process and report on new data sources.

2. Usability: Visual and Interactive

Easy visibility to data boosts learning and productivity and surfaces issues otherwise difficult to identify. This easy visibility to data provides several very significant benefits, such as making it easy to identify patterns and trends, compare intervals, and identify cause and effect.

Analysts benefit when insights are made apparent by the data and key insights “jump off the page.” Particularly valuable insights can often be gained by combining variables on the same view or integrating data from separate SMF records.

A flexible drilldown capability offers one of the greatest boosts to learning and effectiveness for performance and capacity analysts. The ability to quickly and easily drill into alternative analytical paths is particularly helpful for newer analysts who have not had years to develop “I’ve seen this dozens of times before, so I know where to look before I even start” skills.

Though a less experienced analyst may not know precisely what to look for, he or she can begin exploring with minimal effort. And the cost of going down the “wrong path” is reduced to the time it takes to do a few clicks.

3. Intelligence: Predictive and Contextual

A third key attribute of an effective solution to the performance skills gap is that it identifies those metrics that warrant particular attention, and evaluates them for their potential impact on availability and performance.

Most aspects of the z/OS infrastructure have dozens if not hundreds of available metrics, but an effective solution expedites analysis by answering the question “where should I start looking?”. It identifies the critical metrics and consolidates them into a single view or handful of views.

Along with selecting the key metrics, an effective solution also identifies “good” and “bad” values for those metrics. It calls attention to values which may warrant further investigation. To be most effective these threshold values must incorporate z/OS-specific subject matter expertise, rather than just reporting statistical anomalies.

Most importantly, an effective solution automatically applies those values reflecting hundreds of technology-specific rules to rate the thousands of z/OS infrastructure elements in your environment. This comprehensive process to proactively identify current or potential risks to availability must be automated because manual checking would be far too time-consuming and tedious.

Overcoming the Mainframe Skills Shortage for z/OS Performance and Capacity Planners

Through providing these capabilities, an effective performance analytics solution will significantly enhance the productivity and effectiveness of the current staff, while at the same time enabling newer staff to get up to speed much more rapidly.

In so doing, this type of solution leveraging modernized analytics can help overcome today’s skills shortage in these disciplines.

Download my paper, “5 Key Attributes of an Effective Solution to the z/OS Performance Skills Gap,” to get a detailed understanding of each of the 5 key attributes with accompanying illustrations.

This article's author

Todd Havekost
Senior z/OS Performance Consultant
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