The most dangerous phrase in [our] language is, “We’ve always done it this way”.Grace Hopper
Maintaining Content on the Mainframe with VSAM
In the past, storing data in the Mainframe and accessing it using VSAM was common practice. Today, there are modern solutions to maintain data in a way similar to VSAM, without having to worry about outdated Mainframes and exorbitant maintenance costs.
What is Mainframe VSAM?
VSAM (Virtual Storage Access Method) is an access method for IBM’s mainframe operating system, MVS, now called z/OS. VSAM succeeded, and expanded upon, an earlier IBM file access method, ISAM (Indexed Sequential Access Method).
Using VSAM, an enterprise can organize records in a file in physical sequence (the sequential order that they were entered), logical sequence using a key (for example, the employee ID number) or by the relative record number on direct access storage devices (DASD).
How does Platform 3 Solutions help?
Platform 3 Solutions helps organizations transition from legacy systems, like Mainframe VSAM, with the unique solution, Archon™.
Archon™ will analyze the information and allow for categorization, classification and the ability to act on the data.
For example, you might be considering a replacement for the mainframe. Some of that data needs to be migrated to the new system. Some of the data need to be retained for compliance reasons and some can be defensibly deleted.
In this scenario, value is created by decommissioning the mainframe, providing relevant data to the new strategic system, archiving key data to meet data retention and access rules, and finally by simplifying your operations.
Customer Success Story
Years ago, the City of Lexington, KY moved multiple different business services off of their 50-year-old Mainframe. Business services such as sewer management, unemployment benefits, payroll, all of which contain a significant amount of privacy protected data and records–records that need to be kept well beyond their active life.
The City of Lexington had been paying a substantial amount in maintenance and license fees for their Mainframe that had essentially become an expensive way to store archived information. Wisely, the IT department hired Platform 3 Solutions to decommission the Mainframe and provide a modern solution to maintain the legacy data.
The unique value Platform 3 brings is the capability to work with VSAM files and transfer the data quickly and seamlessly into a readable format without a rewrite.
Top 4 Challenges for Archiving Content from Mainframe VSAM
Challenge 1: Accessing VSAM to pull data
COBOL copybook is the only way to read a fixed-length or variable-length file in the mainframe environment separate utilities. The JCL/COBOL utilities program needs to be written to convert them into CSV or target ASCII format. Platform 3 Solutions’ Archon ™ can understand the COBOL copybook and use them to generate the output files in XML/CSV/SIP format.
Challenge 2: Handling encoding formats
The VSAM and flat files in Mainframe are encoded in EBCDIC code page and contain binary and packed decimal data, which cannot be directly used in a Windows or Unix machine. They need to be converted into readable numeric fields using SORT, JCL utilities or any COBOL application program. Archon™ can read the binary files from mainframe, convert the EBCDIC encoded binary and packed-decimal fields into UTF-8 encoded fields automatically.
Challenge 3: Extracting ALL content and metadata
This is a big challenge as data is stored with formatting and presented as a document during run time. Archon™ can extract all the metadata and content as a Parquet, XML, JSON, PDF or any other format of your choice.
Challenge 4: Managing different application groups and providing access to the end-user
We can also transfer and build application groups in the archive similar to the current access model setup in Archon™ to maintain secure access to the end-user.
Platform 3 Solutions, with its in-house capability to archive Mainframe systems with Archon™, seamlessly extracts the data from the legacy Mainframe VSAM platform to a modern archival application. Archon™ has a binary stream reader with the unique capabilities to read IDMS layouts and DCLGENs quickly and efficiently to generate compatible output that could be loaded into any RDBMS target.
Archon™ identifies and eliminates EBCDIC junk values and fixes data inconsistencies. In addition, Archon™ provides advanced compliance features such as retention, purge and holds. The post-archival user will have a better user-experience, more secure access, and improved search functionality compared to using the mainframe.
Looking to sunset your mainframe and leave VSAM behind? Contact Platform 3 Solutions today.