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Blog | Open z/OS Enablement Work Group

Open Mainframe Project launches an Open z/OS Enablement Work Group

By | September 20, 2021

Written by Kip Twitchell,  Chair of the Open z/OS Enablement Work Group and the GenevaERS Technical Steering Committee


Open z/OS Enablement Work Group

The Open z/OS Enablement—or OzE—Work Group launched by the Open Mainframe Project seeks to lower barriers to access z/OS.
z/OS is the premiere operating system for IBM System Z mainframes.  Z is used to denote zero downtime; the System Z hardware has incredibly high reliability.  z/OS is the operating system which exploits this hardware to its fullest.
But the shared nature of z/OS makes gaining access difficult.  Unlike highly-partitioned cloud environments with no shared resources and thus low security risks, highly secured shared resources are the power behind z/OS.
The OzE workgroup explores ways to enable access to z/OS.


The Power of Experimentation

The makers of the Raspberry Pi recognized the decline of experimentation in the PC world.  As more and more people depend on computers for their digital lives, fewer and fewer would experiment with operating system settings close to the machine hardware putting their PCs at risk.
This decline in experimentation risks reductions in innovation: if the next generation of computer and operating system developers do not understand computer fundamentals, innovation stops.
Open-Source communities are the power behind today’s software innovations.  Growing individuals capable of understanding and using z/OS is critical to this important computing platform.
The world needs to enable z/OS open-source experimentation.


Imagine If You Will….

Imagine wanting to learn a new operating system and being able to go to a webpage to learn about the system.  Then, what if one were able to select the system, and either run it locally in a container, or signing up for a free account on a hosted system to get started.
After a few stumbling attempts, one realizes a wrong turn was taken early in the configuration process, and the system needs to be re-imaged.  Having a containerized or hosted system means this is easy.
This is real learning, with real results.
This world isn’t too hard to imagine because it happens all over the place, with all kinds of computing resources—except z/OS!


Authorized Access at Lower Costs

Someone once said there is nothing more perishable than an unused MIP, or mainframe computing cycle. Even the most highly utilized z/OS systems have less utilized periods.
The tremendous security available on z/OS systems means resources can be shared appropriately.  However, quite frequently granting and configuring this access requires highly skilled system programmers, and use of applications still supported by commercial developers.
The OzE project seeks to increase access at lower costs by automating system tasks and providing means for control and authorization of commercial resources.


Multiple Approaches

The working group has explored the landscape and determined there are multiple ways this might ultimately be solved.  They can be broken down in the following categories:
  • Bare System Z hardware OR through emulator systems
  • Shared systems OR individually controlled
  • Those for only one organization members OR which are open to many organizations
The needs for these shared systems will likely develop over time from simple to complex.
  • Simple system access might be granted through UNIX Systems Services (USS), a UNIX interface z/OS.  This approach contains users inside z/OS, requiring few security settings, and has a lower learning curve for many new developers coming from Linux systems.
  • Medium system access would grant typical TSO (Time Sharing Option) access, which requires greater system administration and more use of required commercial software which would need to be controlled by the owners.  This also requires greater operating system knowledge by users to use it effectively.
  • Medium Plus access would grant greater application software access, such as databases and application development tools, increasing the system access requirements and knowledge of the users.
  • Complex systems would be needed for System Z Sysplex control, an extremely scalable model using multiple System Z systems as one configurable unit.


A Journey of a Thousand Steps…

The problems to be solved to increase experimentation, open-source development, and innovation on z/OS systems are not trivial.  Yet the OzE project provides a home for thinking about how to make this possible and taking the next step in the journey
Join us for a meaningful conversation as part of our working group.  Sign up for the e-mail group and calendar at the Open Mainframe Project e-mail list (
Open z/OS Enablement:  Transformation of the World’s Most Important Computing Platform.
Open Mainframe Summit
If you’d like to learn more, don’t miss my session titled, “The Mainframe, Open Source, and Renewal of Financial Services,” at Open Mainframe Summit on Thursday, September 23 at 11-11:30 am EST. Register for the Summit here and add my session to your schedule here.