Little Known z-Radar: Mainframe System Performance Analysis at a Great Price

To say that z-Radar, a small mainframe performance analysis software vendor, is flying under the radar would be an understatement. A Google search finds Z RADAR GPS software; a Dragon Ball Z Radar game; even a Dragon Ball Z Radar light-up watch. But a little persistence leads to this site (https://sites.google.com/view/zradar/home), where a description of z-Radar performance analysis architecture and software demos can be found.
Is following this link worth the effort? For users of IBM’s System z mainframe who are interested in performance analysis tools at a great price, the answer is a definite “yes.” There are dozens upon dozens of mainframe performance analysis tools available on the market (we’ve written about several of these products over the years at www.clabbyanalytics.com – look for reports on Syncsort, IBM, Compuware, CA Technologies [now part of Broadcom], and ASG) – but we haven’t seen any performance monitor software entry-priced at a starting point of $20,000. For what it does, z-Radar is a steal.
What is z-Radar?
z-Radar is a mainframe performance monitoring real time tool that launches as a service (Performance as a Service) from an AWS (Amazon Web Services) public cloud. It essentially takes dull, boring, hard to analyze 3270 performance data and packages it into graphic “cockpits” that allow business managers as well as mainframe administrators to see what is happening in their mainframe environments.
By using z-Radar, business managers can examine transaction rates (a way to see how a business is performing visually); they can look at response times (and call for adjustments to workloads to prioritize workloads and improve performance for certain applications); and business managers can also see the impact of certain workloads on CPU/zIIP usage, services, CICS (a transaction processing system), and DASD (storage). With this information in hand, business managers can formulate trend lines, and do some predictive analysis (and forecasting).
z-Radar is essentially a mainframe performance monitor for business managers – the inverse of having to rely on systems administrators to advise on workload impacts and system resource prioritization.
How does z-Radar Work?
To the mainframe, z-Radar feels like a 3270 user accessing data. Residing on, and launched from an AWS cloud, z-Radar collects mainframe performance data and repackages it for Web-connected devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile devices). These screens simplify the view of mainframe performance such that even lay people can understand what is running on a mainframe – and the impact that a given workload is having on mainframe performance.
As a cloud service, z-Radar does not run as an agent on the mainframe, thus it does not have to be maintained by System z administrative staff. Because it is not hosted on the mainframe, z-Radar has little if any impact on mainframe performance. It does not significantly impact MSU/h (the chargeable cycles used on the mainframe); it does not burn MIPS (CPU processing power); and it does not consume significant amounts of I/O (input/output).
As for security, z-Radar software is granted the same level of security any 3270 user is given. The software looks like a TSO user behind a firewall with all RACF (mainframe security software) protection. Further, the data gathered by z-Radar is protected through encryption over a virtual private network (VPN).
What “Cockpits” are available?
At present, the company markets “cockpits” (prepackaged graphical views) of MSU/h, CPU central processing, services, CICS, DASD, FICON (networking), zEDC (for data compression), batch eternal loop detection, workload consumption and batch performance. The company is also eager and willing to work with customers on customized cockpits.
Summary observations
z-Radar executives tout z-Radar as a software service that allows business managers to deal quickly with business situations (risks and opportunities). They point out that the software is easy to use, and instructional videos verify that this is true. In short, z-Radar offers “eye ready” capacity planning using the company’s “Volumetry cockpit”.
One of the primary contacts behind z-Radar is Leonard Santalucia, the CTO of VicomInfinity. He leads the zRadar’s technical and business development. (LSantalucia@vicominfinity.com)

The link http://demo.z-radar.com provides access to a live demonstration of the z-Radar service. When browsing this site, you can see z-Radar working in real-time. For demonstration purposes, it is connected with the VicomInfinity’s IBM z14 system.

Where z-Radar differs from the other mainframe performance monitoring tools that we have written about is in depth of analytics – and in price. Other tools offer much more automated performance analysis (using analytics, AI, and other technologies) that can support fine grain performance analysis, predictive analysis, and make recommendations for workload balancing. z-Radar provides users with performance information predictions but is lighter on business analytics modules. On top of that, alerts are produced in near real time when thresholds are crossed. They can be highlighted by color and sound, and through z/OS console messages.
When all is said and done, the question is “is the higher cost of performance monitors that perform granular performance/predictive analysis justified?” For many enterprises, granular performance management is worth the price mostly because it can save MSU usage (billable mainframe hours) while reducing the cost of management (lesser skilled administrators can manage a mainframe – because the more advanced packages do the analysis [thinking} for those administrators.
But for enterprises looking for an easy to use, low cost mainframe performance management environment that provides a good overview of mainframe performance (and can be used by business managers), z-Radar is definitely worth evaluating.

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