Mainframe programmers can fix faults faster and cut downtime with new proactive knowledgebase from Macro 4

New advance eases impact of mainframe skills shortages by automatically sharing expert knowledge


Software and services company Macro 4 has introduced a new knowledgebase feature for its mainframe fault analysis tools to help the new generation of programmers resolve faults faster by automatically tapping into the many years of experience built up by long serving mainframe experts.

“The M4Knowledgebase is designed to proactively analyze any current fault a mainframe programmer is trying to fix and to present him or her with instances of similar faults that may have occurred previously, together with in-depth information on how they were resolved by past or present colleagues. A key aim is to get problems resolved faster to minimize costly downtime,” explained Alan Ackers, Head of Development at Macro 4. “What really stands out with this new feature is the fact that relevant information is automatically presented to the programmer at the touch of a button, rather than him or her needing to go and search for it. Add that to the wide range of detailed information from various sources that can be pulled together - screen views, links, program code as well as notes and instructions entered by other programmers - and you have a very powerful productivity tool,” Ackers added.

M4Knowledgebase is built into the latest version of Macro 4’s M4Explorer, a user-friendly fault analysis portal that allows programmers to interact with the company’s mainframe fault analysis tools via a web browser.

According to Ackers, the knowledgebase feature was developed as a direct response to customer requests for a way of capturing the vast bank of on-the-job expertise and knowledge that is accumulated by experienced mainframe experts who will soon be coming up to retirement age: “The mainframe skills crisis means that there will be fewer highly experienced mainframe programmers around and customers are demanding technologies such as this to transfer knowledge to newcomers to help reduce the potential negative business impact – such as more production downtime or poorer performing systems because less experienced staff take longer to find fixes. Ultimately productivity, sales and service can be affected, so speeding up the whole process could improve your bottom line,” said Ackers. The new feature is built around a virtual notepad into which technicians can drag and drop relevant information about faults they encounter so that it can be available to colleagues who may be called on to resolve similar issues in future. “They can paste in parts of relevant program code and screen grabs, as well as detailed analysis of applications that were running at the time of the fault, including what data was in memory, what values were in the mainframe registers and what the call sequence was – essentially everything another programmer would need to know in order to investigate and solve a comparable problem,” Ackers explained.

The data within the notepad is indexed and placed in a searchable repository that has been developed using Macro 4’s expertise in document management technology, another major part of the company’s business.

“In addition to proactively presenting information to mainframe programmers as they strive to resolve a fault, the M4Knowledgebase includes powerful search facilities so that users can search through all previous fixes for themselves, using a wide range of criteria – such as program step name, subsystem or operating system level, as well as by programmer name or abend code,” concluded Ackers.