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DB2 Mainframe Catastrophe Diverted with Open System Migration

Author: Eric Russo | 6 min read | December 8, 2020

This year offers corporate leaders all kinds of ‘teachable moments,’ but perhaps the lesson with the highest value is: ‘always alert to evolving data and database management considerations.’ Datavail has extensive experience assisting its customers in managing database challenges over the years and now posed by 2020.


An emergency project reflects how its expertise helped one customer avoid a digital catastrophe by facing downing a potentially fatal peril triggered by an imminent threat that presented no immediately viable resolution.

Database Failure = System and Business Failure

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of organizations have learned the critical roles that data and data management systems play in maintaining organizational equilibrium:

These facts underscore how data and database management systems inform and drive both small business and global networks and how systems and economies can be devastated when appropriate data isn’t available.

Database Management Mastered … Strategically

The COVID-19 situation is similar to the challenge faced by a Datavail customer at the end of 2019. While not caused by COVID, obviously, this customer faced an equally unexpected development: the imminent (two weeks) loss of all mainframe database support for its entire operation.

The customer offered digital connectivity, voice, and communications services to thousands of on- and off-shore customers. Its database management service provider serviced its extensive (trillions of data bits) tablespaces and databases, all of which required both high security and immediate access. The affiliated 24×7 support services had kept the enterprise in operation for years.

However, in late fall 2019, that vendor abruptly informed their client it was decommissioning its mainframe database server by December 31. Extending extended support beyond that date would cost the company $250,000 per quarter.

The prohibitive cost mandated a different option, and the customer turned to Datavail to find a solution to its problem. Datavail’s experts reviewed the new client’s position and proposed a two-part strategy to:

1. create a viable solution by migrating the data from a DB2 mainframe to a db2 luw open-systems database,
2. within the (now two-week) timeframe,
3. without losing any of the client’s data, and
4. at a cost it could afford.

The client accepted the proposal, and Datavail immediately got to work.

The Strategy – Part 1:

Part 1 of the strategy required assessing the status of the new client’s enterprise on the previous vendor’s soon-to-be-decommissioned database server. However, just gaining access to the server proved problematic as the former database administrator (DBA) had left the vendor company and apparently taken all that client-relevant database information with him. The gaps in access capacity resulted in a delay that added extra pressure to the already time-stressed project.

Once inside the system, the migration challenge only grew more challenging:

  • The client had relied on that DBA to manage all of its data and application functions, and there were thousands of applications, tablespaces, and databases that would require migration.
  • The client also had no personnel available or able to assist with the migration process as the previous vendor had managed all database management activities.
  • Making matters worse: assessment of the server didn’t readily reveal any tools or functions within its capacities that might assist with or curtail the migration; overcoming that knowledge gap had to happen quickly.
  • The data contained in the mainframe was, in itself, a challenge. A wide disparity of data formatting would require extensive repairs to become compatible with the new configuration, and in many cases, those repairs would require individual, hands-on attention.

Not the least challenge was the fact that the database entailed three terabytes of information (3,072 gigabytes), all of which needed to be cleaned, sorted, and organized to migrate correctly.

The Strategy – Part 2:

Datavail devised a small ‘pilot project’ to discern available software on the mainframe to facilitate the migration. Then it created a small but select ‘sample tablespace’ that could export and validate the sample schema and data in the new database. After identifying and repairing any bugs, Datavail’s experts finalized the procedures they would use to move the information from one server to the next. Using those procedures, Datavail’s eight-member migration team was ready to methodically and systematically migrate data segments from the mainframe to its new, db2 luw open-systems destination.

Database Functionality Restored

Not only did Datavail complete the project before the December 31 deadline, but it also accomplished several additional goals to ensure the client had all it would need for full database functionality going forward:

  • It generated iterative views of the data so that users could access their information while reordering it to better fit their new capacities;
  • It left sample scripts and additional artifacts so future users can trace their steps back to earlier configurations, and
  • It created duplicate and redundant data libraries in their original formats to provide users with access to those, if needed, and options if any one version failed.

In the end, the client got all that it wanted: a newly refurbished data management system housed in a freshly configured database, fully functional on the first day of the new year. As good as that was, perhaps the best gift of that holiday season was the project’s cost. Datavail eliminated the issue that had arisen just weeks before and saved the client up to $2 million in annual database support costs.

The Future is Data Technology 

The coronavirus has clearly demonstrated the significance of comprehensive data management to tomorrow’s global digital universe. The Datavail story illustrates how the technology company has already mastered the processes needed to attain and maintain that level of comprehensiveness, to reduce costs, and improve functionality.

Isn’t it time you called Datavail to talk about your mainframe and other database concerns?

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