Mainframe FICON Connection for Analytics

By Hubert Yoshida posted 08-05-2019 00:00


On the occasion of the 50thanniversary of the Apollo lunar landing, I posted a blog about my experience with IBM mainframes in support of North American Rockwell’s work on the Lunar command and service modules. The architecture for the first S/360 mainframe which was introduced in 1964, is still alive and well today. While the first mainframes had less processing power and memory than today’s iphone, technology has kept apace and today’s mainframe (IBM Z Systems) still plays a central role in the daily operations of most of the world's largest corporations. In banking, finance, health care, insurance, utilities, government, and a multitude of other public and private enterprises, the mainframe computer continues to be the foundation of modern business. And as such mainframes generate a lot of valuable data for analytics.

However, combining mainframe data with other forms of data is difficult since mainframe data is formatted in EBCDIC while open systems data is coded in ASCII. ASCII and EBCDIC are two character encoding standards. Therefore, in order to combine data from mainframes with data from open systems, there has to be a translation of the data format. However, the bigger problem is in the transmission of the data between mainframes and open systems in order to combine the data for analysis. Normally this would have to be over TCP/IP using FTP, File Transport Protocol.

Although the core data may reside on the mainframe, the bulk of data today is unstructured data residing on open systems and now IoT and mobile devices. AI and ML programs are primarily built for open systems. Therefore, data is usually sent to an open systems server for translation and analysis in combination with other data, and most of the data is sent over FTP from the mainframe. This presents a problem since FTP ports are wide open and there are insufficient controls and restrictions on what types of data can or cannot be sent via FTP credentials in the clear. While there are secure transfer protocols like SFTP and FTPS, clients do not like to use them due to the overhead and costs associated with encryption. There have been many recent reports of data breaches related to FTP. FTP was never designed with security in mind and because of that, it’s become one of the favorite venues for hackerslooking to get into a corporate network.

In order to solve this problem, Hitachi Vantara and Luminex have partnered on a Mainframe Data Integration (MDI) platform that leverages the Luminex mainframe channel I/O interface to securely share and transfer data between mainframes and distributed systems environments using the FICON channel. Since FICON channels are specifically designed and optimized for the purpose of moving data from and to the mainframe. MDI provides a faster, more secure, cheaper (less CPU) and easy (native) platform for connecting mainframe data vs. TCP/IP. A financial customer was able to reduce their fraud detection investigation from 50 days down to 5 days and instead of spending 90% of their time on data collection and only 10% on analyzing the data, they can now spend 80% of their time on investigations, improving the quality of results.


I will be presenting this along with other topics at a SHARE Lunch and Learn in Pittsburgh this week.

LNL: [15] The Connected Mainframe

  • Room: Room 317-318
  • Session Number: 25817

Thursday, August 08, 2019: 12:45 PM - 1:45 PM

Luminex will also be presenting the MDI

Adventures in Mainframe Data Integration:
How MDI is Changing the Value and Economics of the Mainframe
Tuesday, August 6
2:15 PM - 3:15 PM
Room: 403-404