Sunday, 24 April 2011

Network management issues

I want to know what’s going on on my network – what do I do? Well this seemingly simple question has a complicated answer, which is historical and all to do with the separate worlds of the mainframes and everyone else coming together to give us our current complicated environment. Just to summarize, mainframes used SNA and VTAM to communicate and everyone else used TCP/IP. Sometime in the 1990s, all this came together. In addition, we now  have people on iPads and smartphones using our networks – in fact, we can have people on iPads and smartphones controlling our networks!

So, in terms of software, what are our choices for network management?

IBM has Tivoli OMEGAMON XE for mainframe networks, which allows you to monitor VTAM and TCP/IP networks and identify problems within those networks.

CA has its CA NetMaster Network Management for TCP IP and CA NetMaster Network Management for SNA products, which allow users to “proactively manage” their network. And there are a number of other more specialized products including CA NSM NetMaster Option, which lets you “manage your mainframe networks from CA Unicenter Network and Systems Management”.

SDS has Vital Signs for IP and Vital Signs for VTAM, which are both monitoring software.

William Data Systems has a whole range of products including ZEN OSA MONITOR for OSA performance monitoring and management, ZEN IP MONITOR (IMPLEX) for IP performance monitoring and management, ZEN EE MONITOR (FERRET) for APPN/HPR and EE monitoring and management, ZEN TRACE and SOLVE (EXIGENCE) for network problem determination, ZEN FTP CONTROL (FTPALERT) for audited FTP monitoring and management, ZEN EE SECURITY (APIAS) for secure EE deployment across any network, and ZEN AUTOMATION for automating network and operational tasks.

In fact, William Data Systems has just release Version 4.7 of ZEN TRACE and SOLVE, which includes more customer-suggested z/OS network tracing and solution capabilities to help busy z/OS network support people do more in less time – they claim.

If you are plagued by mainframe network issues, you may well be interested in the new features they’ve incorporated into ZEN TRACE and SOLVE V4.7, including:
  • The new “Peek” function, which provides in-flight viewing of active IP traces. This means that it is now possible to view an active trace while it is still running, tracking its progress ‘in-flight', and then stopping it when the condition being sought in the trace is detected. This can save considerable CPU costs and user time.
  • Traces originally captured in OSAENTA, libpcap, or Sniffer format can now be imported into ZTS. This can make network problem solving both faster and easier.
  • As well as being able to accept commands from the operator console, ZEN TRACE and SOLVE now adds the ability to issue any commands (including ZTS commands) from JCL. When combined with the capabilities provided by the new import features, this enables different trace formats to be automatically imported into ZTS for analysis. This greatly simplifies the whole network problem solving process.
  • Tracing of IPv6 is now faster and easier with the provision of improved Flow display text descriptions for recognizable packet contents, as well as the capability to search using IPv6 format addresses.
  • Tracing packets in large Sysplex environments is inherently complex, but ZEN TRACE and SOLVE v4.7 now makes it easier by providing improved facilities for expanding encapsulated data used by Sysplex protocols such as GRE and VIPA Route. Being able to view and expand encapsulated payload data is a vital tool for rapid problem diagnosis in large Enterprise networks.

If you’re finding network management is an issue, it might well be worth a look.

Friday, 15 April 2011

How to create a custom Web Part for SharePoint

I’ve been working recently with Darren Pritchard at a site that’s fairly new to SharePoint. They came up with a number of fairly basic ‘how to’ questions and Darren has put together some basic information for them. It seemed that if these new SharePoint users and had lots of questions, then so would many other sites. So it made sense to make this information available to the SharePoint community as a whole. This site was using SharePoint 2007.

The first thing to do when creating a custom Web Part is to set up a development environment. You need to create a development SharePoint 2007 (SP2007) server and give it a name. For SharePoint 2007 you need Visual Studio 2008 (VS2008). It’s worth noting that you can’t use Visual Studio 2010 (VS2010).

Install VS2008 onto your development SP2007 server. Next install the VS2008 SharePoint plug-in called “VSeWSSv13_AMD64_Build-433.exe”. This can be found at This plug-in adds the Web Part project to VS2008. Once this is in place, you’ll be able to actually create a custom Web Part.

Open VS2008, then click ‘File/New/Project’. Find the ‘Visual C#’ list and expand that. Next click ‘SharePoint’, and in the right-hand box click ‘Web Part’. Give your new project a name. The naming convention is og.wp.%Name%, where:
og = your organization (abbreviated, eg use gs if you’re company is called ‘Great Shoes’, etc.)
wp = Web Part
.%Name% = the name of the Web Part.

Make sure you tick ‘Create directory for solution’ – see Figure below.

Next you’ll see a trust level box. Make sure that it looks like this:

And click ‘OK’.

You can now go ahead and write your Web Part using Visual C#.

The next stage shouldn’t be missed – it’s testing your custom Web Part. You need to tell VS2008 where to deploy the Web Part. Click ‘Project’, ‘%PROJECT NAME% Properties’. On the tabs click ‘Debug’ and change the ‘Start browsers with URL’ box to point to your test site, eg http://yourdevelopmentserver:5003/. Click the cross in the right hand corner to save the changes.

To deploy your Web Part, click ‘Build’, ‘Deploy %PROJECT NAME%’. This will add the solution to SharePoint central admin and deploy the solution to your test site. You can add your Web Part to your test site in the same way that you would add any other Web Parts, and now you can test it.

It’s useful to know how to retract a test Web Part. Open your project in VS2008, click ‘Build’ and then ‘Retract Solution’. This will retract the solution from your test site and remove it from SharePoint central admin. You now need to manually remove the pointer from your test site. To do this open your test site and click ‘Site Actions/Site Settings/Modify All Site Settings’. Under Galleries click ‘Web Parts’ and delete your development Web Part.

Assuming that your Web Part worked as planned (finally!), you’ll want to deploy your solution into your live environment. Firstly, locate your project, eg ‘C:\Users\%USERNAME%\Documents\Visual Studio 2008\Projects’, then double-click on your new project, and locate the debug folder. Within this you should find %PROJECT NAME%.wsp. Finally copy this .wsp file onto your Live SharePoint Server.

I’ll share Darren’s full instructions for installing a solution another time.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Taking the tablets!

A few weeks ago I was talking about how William Data Systems had integrated their ZEN z/OS network management suite of products with iPhones and iPads and they’d also just included Blackberry and Android phones. I’d been particularly impressed how an iPad user had been able to identify where a problem was occurring and taken steps to rectify it. More recently, the iPad 2 has become available, and I thought it was definitely time to to investigate whether I ought to get myself a tablet device.

Now, I feel that I can argue a business case for using a tablet device. I need to browse the Internet when I’m at home, travelling, and with clients, and sometimes a phone just isn’t a big enough screen and a laptop is just too big and bulky to easily carry around. I also regularly need to browse Word documents – minutes of meetings, proposals, articles that I’m writing, etc etc. I also use Excel regularly – for all the things that you’d use a spreadsheet for. And I give presentations and talks that make PowerPoint a must-have – plus an easy way of connecting to a projector.

And, for me, that’s kind of the core usage – a big phone or a small laptop – it’s all down to form factor. A 10 inch book size device seems like the Goldilocks solution. But it has to be more capable than a gloried Netbook with widgets!

So let’s look at my nice-to-have list. It’s got to be fast. It’s got to have USB ports so I can swap files around easily. It’s obviously got to have wifi, and when I’m connected to the Internet I want access to Flash files (I really like those flipbooks rather than downloading and reading giant PDFs). I need it to play AVI files – my back catalogue of films etc would keep me amused while waiting at airports. And two built-in cameras facing opposite ways for Skyping and photographing whatever I can see.

I’d quite like an HDMI port so I can connect to a TV. I’d like a music playing app – like media player. I’d also like something like Dreamweaver so I can work on Web sites, and something like Photoshop so I can edit images. And possibly something like InDesign so I can produce newsletters etc. And I’ll need a firewall and antivirus software.

So, that seems to mean that an Android tablet is probably out and a PC-style tablet is what I want.

Now, the cost of devices varies in different countries, but I’ll give you the UK prices. An iPad 2 with wifi starts at just under £400. The Motorola Xoom is going to be £499. It has HDMI, 32GB of storage (plus an SD card slot), and twin cameras. The Advent Vega is £249.99, but that still uses Android 2.2 not 3.0 (Honeycomb). There’s a 10 inch Dell Streak coming. The Asus EeePad Transformer comes with a mini-HDMI port at £380. And Toshiba has an intereting-looking Android 3 tablet coming soon.

For PC-based tablets, Amazon has a 10.2" Windows 7 Tablet PC with 1.3MP Webcam, G-Sensor, HDMI Port, 3x USB2.0 ports for just under £300. The Zoostorm 3310-9500 SL8 is priced at just under £500. The Asus Eee Slate, which comes with just about everything you could want costs nearly a thousand pounds.

And that’s really the problem. Anything meeting my wish list is extremely expensive, and anything else seems little more than a glorified boy’s toy! It seems that unless I get my hands on something that’s so impressive I’m prepared to pay the extra money, for the moment I will bide my time and see what comes available as we move into the summer. Prices are bound to drop and performance is bound to increase. Don’t you think?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

CA provides May Mainframe Madness

Last week I was talking about the benefits of virtual user group like the Virtual IMS group (at and the Virtual CICS group (at I was suggesting that attending this kind of group meant you didn’t need budgeting approval for time away from the office (meals, hotel rooms, travel, etc) and so made life easier for busy mainframe professionals. CA has taken this idea one step further – they’re devoting the whole May to mainframes, and doing it all virtually!

Details of CA’s May Mainframe Madness can be found at

CA describes it as the largest mainframe-focused event of its kind. They also say it’s the, “largest virtual Mainframe trade show in the world”. The information on the Web page currentlys says: “Every day brings new insights, tools and strategies to help you understand and maximize the strength and relevance of 21st century mainframe solutions. There are more than 100 valuable sessions over every business day in May, so you won’t want to miss a thing! Learn what’s new and find out how mainframe solutions from CA Technologies are leveraging Mainframe 2.0, CA’s innovative strategy to change the way the mainframe is managed forever.”

You can register now for the event at – which redirects to a registration page. CA claims that registration takes only 90 seconds, and go on to say: “The event will feature keynote presentations on everything from debugging to new backup and recovery techniques and 150+ virtual sessions and demos, as well as technical sessions, customer case studies, on-demand education materials, and various mainframe exhibits for approximately 7,500 professionals around the world.”

So why am I telling you about CA’s event in May? Don’t they have their own PR people who get paid to do it? Well, the reason I’m mentioning it is because I’ve been invited to take part, along with long-time friend, colleague, and iTech-Ed Associate, Mark Lillycrop, who’s CEO of Arcati Ltd – the people who produce the much-valued Arcati Mainframe Yearbook, which is freely available for download from Mark and I will be available in what CA calls the Networking Lounge. This is a place where people can take part in scheduled chats as well as watch videos and have unscheduled chats with other attendees.

Other areas in CA’s virtual mainframe extravaganza are the Auditorium, the Job Role Resource Center, and the Exhibit Hall.

Mark and I haven’t finalized a time and date for this event, nor have we agreed on the topics we will be chatting about – but I’m sure it will be great fun and very informative. I’m also sure that I’ll let you have the exact details via this blog, Facebook, or Twitter in plenty of time. And I look forward to meeting you then and hearing your questions.

And if you’re looking for a virtual event to attend, then next Tuesday (12 April) at 10:30 CDT, Ron Haupert, a Senior Technologist with Rocket Software, will be talking to the Virtual IMS user group. The title of his presentation is: “Simplify and improve database administration by leveraging your storage system”. You can find out more about the event including how to register at