Master Z
Mainframe

9 ways to Master the Z

So you are now working on the mainframe platform. You wanted to keep up with the latest and greatest or you just wanted to get to know a topic or feature associated with the mainframe. Either you just started your job in a mainframe shop or you are an experienced mainframer wanting to know some specific information on the mainframe. Where do you start? Where do you go to look?

In this article, I suggest some helpful ways to get you started. If you haven’t already seen my earlier article about the latest trend in Z, the mobile Apps, then I highly recommend you read that article first (hint: some apps I suggested in that post will be of great use here for you to get started on topics!).

This information isn’t particularly aimed at someone wanting to get started with mainframe technology. Although some of the approaches mentioned below may be relevant to you as well, there are other better venues for you to get started on the mainframe. I will make a separate detailed post for you, I promise! Here we go with the list (in no particular order):

1. Z Favorites

Z Favorites for Z Systems is a collection of links to helpful Z Systems Websites. It has links to various interest categories, such as products, product documentation, software and solutions, support and more. If you need anything then Z Favorites has it!

IBM zFavorites

Pro tip #1: Bookmark the site: Z Favorites

Pro tip #2: Use the search feature of Z Favorites; you will get results from all domains.

2. Attending Mainframe centric conferences

SHARE is an independent volunteer-run information technology association that provides education, professional networking and industry influence.

The Computer Measurement Group (CMG) is a not-for-profit, worldwide organization of IT professionals committed to sharing information and best practices focused on ensuring the efficiency and scalability of IT service delivery to the enterprise through measurement, quantitative analysis and forecasting.

The International Db2 Users Group (IDUG®) is an independent, not-for-profit, user-run organization whose mission is to support and strengthen the information services community by providing the highest quality education and services designed to promote the effective utilization of Db2.

These conferences offer the best-of-the-best sessions, with several topics on mainframe. Attending these conferences is one of the best ways to keep with latest and greatest happenings in the mainframe fields. You will hear straight from the experts. I see these conferences as continuous education.

Pro tip #1: If you are planning to attend then get the relevant apps for these conferences. For links and other details regarding these apps, check my earlier article —Successfully Organize with Mainframe Mobile Apps.

Pro tip #2: Planning to attend these conferences? To reap the fullest benefits of attending these conferences, check out my article on share.org.

Pro tip #3: One of the benefits of attending these conferences is you get a chance to meet and talk to in-person with experts. You not only get a quick start on the topic of your interest but also you get your queries answered right there from experts.

Pro tip #4: Are you more of a hands-on approach person? Then you are in luck. Conferences like SHARE and CMG offer excellent hands on labs / workshops on various topics. These labs / workshops are developed and supervised by experts. You get a quick start not only on the theory side, but also on practical side. What a way to start!

Pro tip #5: If you missed attending the conferences but still wanted to get your hands on handouts of sessions of great interest to you, then do a Google search on the specific site. Example: IPCS site:share.org, will give you results from share.org for the topic “IPCS”.

3. IBM Redbooks

IBM Redbooks core content typically provides positioning and value guidance, installation and implementation experiences, typical solution scenarios, and step-by-step “how-to” guidelines. It sometimes reflects working experiences about a specific topic and often includes sample code and other support materials.

By the way, while researching for this article, I got curious on the name “redbooks” – why red books? Why not blue or white or green book? A quick search on Wikipedia gave me the following on the history:

It happened that in the Center storeroom was a pallet of red oak tag that had been previously ordered to be made into various posters to hang around the center. Without much thought, this heavier red paper was stapled on as a protective cover to the document, printed with the WTSC logo (a series of circles representing the world that one of the SE’s had sketched out) and the first of the IBM Redbooks was born.

4. zNextGen community

zNextGen is a user-driven community of over 1,000-members, representing 24-countries for new and emerging Z System professionals that has the resources to help expedite your professional development and skills-sharpening. Apart from hosting sessions at SHARE with zNextGen track, zNextGen also offers its members (free to join) virtual monthly sessions on various topics by experts. zNextGen has a library full of presentations that you can check for the topic of your interest.

Pro tip #1: Join the zNextGen community! Its free.

Pro tip #2: Are you an expert and wanted to share with zNextGen? Then get in touch with zNextGen leadership team.

5. Z Council Events

IBM Z Customer Council brings resources through Subject Matter Experts for Z in various cities. Topics include modernization, migration workshops, security and many others. Join ZCouncil Events in a city near you.

Pro tip#1: Bookmark the site: ZCouncil Events

6. z/OS Hot Topics

Hot Topics content is written by IBM technical experts – the people that design and write the code. These articles provide insight into products and functionality from a developer’s perspective.

Pro tip#1: Bookmark the site: z/OS Hot Topics

7. Mainframe magazines, Tech journals, Mainframe websites

Some of the best mainframe magazines, Tech journals, and Mainframe websites offer excellent articles on the latest and greatest trends in the industry straight from the experts in the field. IBM system magazine, Enterprise Tech Journal, Enterprise Executive magazine and websites like destionationz.org, planetmainframe.com, share.org etc.

Pro tip #1: Subscribe to the digital copies of these cost-free magazines and tech journals.

8. Mainframe annual surveys

Every year, several surveys are conducted across the mainframe community. These surveys are conducted among various mainframe users. The results of these surveys offer insights about the general trends of the mainframe technology. There is one from BMC, one from Syncsort and one from Arcati. If you are a strategist then you need to keep an eye on these surveys. The surveys reveal key trends that shape the future of the technology. For example, surveys may disclose, key challenges the industry is facing, the top priorities going forward, growth trends, mainframe modernization and changing workforce etc.

Pro tip #1: Search Google for “Annual Mainframe Survey” and subscribe or register to download the digital copies of these surveys.

Pro tip #2: Even if you are not a strategist, but a mainframe professional/user, it is good idea to be aware of where the industry is heading. With several myths floating about mainframe computing (such as outdated, dead, irrelevant etc.), it is difficult get an unbiased view of the industry. The annual surveys offer just that – an actual mainframe user driven surveys results.

9. IBM developerWorks

The developerWorks  is a free web-based professional network and technical resource center from IBM for software developers, IT professionals, and students worldwide. You will find tutorials, tools and community.

Pro tip#1: Bookmark the site: developerWorks

There you go! If you are a system programmer, or an application programmer, or in sales, or an architect or a strategist, or a mainframe user, listed above are some of the best ways you can keep on top of Z!

My approach: When I am planning to attend either SHARE or CMG conferences, I look for the sessions, labs or workshops that I am interested in at that time. If conferences are not imminent then I usually search for handouts from earlier conference proceedings on the topic either from SHARE or CMG conferences or zNextGen virtual meetups. That gives me a quick start on the topics I need. These SHARE, CMG, zNextGen, IDUG conference presentations stems from experts on the subject, and they do good job explaining concepts. I then go and search on zFavorites for IBM Redbooks or other manuals to get in depth concepts of topics.

In addition, keeping up with what’s going around the industry, I follow various mainframe centric conferences, read magazines and annual surveys, and check Z Favorites. That should give me a solid understanding of the trends in the technology I admire!

Now, It’s quiz time.

  1. What’s your approach? How do you stay up with latest and greatest of mainframe? Please share with me on my blog (see author bio for more details).
  2. Mainframe systems are ___________
    a) Size of big room
    b) Dead
    c) Outdated
    d) None of the above

I am sure you know the answer 🙂

 

Hemanth Rama

Hemanth Rama

Senior Software Engineer at BMC Software
Hemanth Rama, a millennial mainframer, is a senior software engineer at BMC Software. Hemanth has 13+ years of IT experience and he holds 3 patents. Hemanth is recipient of IBM z Champion award 2018. Hemanth writes regularly for many popular IT websites and also on his personal blog. He passionately speaks about mainframe technologies at various conferences, symposiums and user groups. Hemanth writes regularly for many popular IT websites and also on his personal blog.
Hemanth Rama

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  1. Pingback: My article on Planetmainframe – Path2SiliconValley

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