Mainframe Data Streams Reincarnated
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
by Ben Smith
Are you the unfortunate soul that must decipher and manage specialized data streams older than yourself? Are the folks who customized this output for use at your organization long gone? Would you like to give these data streams a new lease on life? Then I have good news: this can be accomplished by simplifying your output management while simultaneously reducing cycles on your mainframe.
The most common mainframe-specific data streams are AFP (Advanced Function Presentation), LCDS (Line Condition Data Streams) and Metacode. AFP was originally created by IBM (and now owned by Ricoh) while LCDS and Metacode are from Xerox Corporation. LCDS is text-based; Metacode can contain text and graphics. Both LCDS and Metacode are most often controlled by text-based commands known as DJDE (Dynamic Job Descriptor Entries). As you can see, the alphabet soup is quickly starting to simmer. Keeping all the resources for these formats organized during changes while attempting to decipher ‘circa 1980’ code is only half the problem. There is also the matter of managing this environment on an expensive z/OS platform.
In most cases, the mainframe-generated, highly specialized data streams are printed via high-speed print devices designed with engines to handle them. Both IBM and Xerox have complete lines of print devices that recognize and manage their respective special printed output. The primary issues here are the cost of high-speed printers, floor space for these “tree-eaters,” and CPU cycle usage on the z/OS platform. Another issue is the complexity of the specialized data streams. Each requires an understanding of print resources and their dependencies on each other. Most often, IT staff capable of managing older IBM and Xerox print resources are few and far between.
An obvious opportunity for simplification is to somehow convert the specialized print streams into something more common in terms of usage and portability. In other words, transform the old document formats into those that are supported by devices currently used throughout the organization. The target output options should support the user requirements without a need to purchase or replace equipment.
The deciding factor for choosing a new output format is the desired output destination (e.g., a printer, MFP, or online viewing client). For example, LCDS, Metacode, and AFP can be transformed to common formats like PostScript, PCL, or PDF. If printed output is needed, PostScript, PCL and/or PDF are good candidates, depending on the printer fleet currently in place. If electronic viewing is required, PDF is the smart choice due to the readily available readers like Adobe Acrobat.
Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc. (LRS) offers specialized data stream transformation tools that run on multiple operating system platforms including UNIX, Linux, and Windows. These tools ingest output generated on the mainframe and produce a suitable format to match your print and/or viewing requirements — without the need to purchase new devices. LRS data stream transformations also remove the burden and costs of handling the specialized data streams on the mainframe.
The bottom line: if you are the person responsible for managing legacy data streams, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The complexity and costs of handling specialized output data streams can be managed on less expensive operating systems by leveraging data transforms that support commonly-available output destinations.
If this scenario sounds familiar, contact LRS and we will be glad to help.