IBM has shown new software, tools and services the company hopes will make its mainframes easier to manage, program and administer.

The company is introducing a five-year, $100 million project to simplify System Z mainframe operations and adoption.

The program and tools include an IBM Health Checker for z/OS, which monitors and recommends configuration tune-ups intended to improve system performance and availability, a new management console that looks less like IBM's customary green screens and improved software asset-management technologies that makes it easier for users to control software costs and automate software acquisition.

"It takes a lot of time for systems programmers and administrators to get up to speed overall in terms of implementing the mainframe," says John Burg, System Z product marketing manager for IBM. We are trying to simplify it, make the interfaces less complicated and make it easier to administer and view."

Earlier this year, a Williams Data Systems survey, pointed out that individuals with mainframe skills are in short supply. Almost half of the 135 companies surveyed, indicated that they are hiring IT administrators with one to five years of experience.

The mainframe simplification program makes use of the OMEGAMON z/OS management console from Tivoli Systems. This management console accepts results from the Health Checker and automates and simplifies management tasks.

The program includes the Hardware Configuration Manager (HCM), part of the new z/OS 1.8 operating system. HCM has been enhanced with new configuration wizards and the ability to export and import I/O Definition Files. The program also lets users access RMF (Resource Management Facility) Monitor III reports, which can speed the detection and resolution of bottlenecks and contention for resources.

The IBM Configuration Assistant for z/OS Communications Server, a part of z/OS 1.7, now guides administrators through setting up such network features as intrusion-detection services and helps them avoid configuration errors.

IBM has also simplified application development for System Z servers with support for WebSphere and Rational, as well as for Java and traditional COBOL programs.

The mainframe simplification program tools are available now. z/OS 1.8 is expected to be available by the end of October.