Beyond the matrix: clicking your way through compatibility


Where oh where, do I find base z/OS compatibility information?

I know a lot of people are doing compatibility product research now that they are planning their upgrade to the new z/OS release.  I seem to be getting a lot of questions about what products are supported on z/OS 3.1, and how to find it.  Also, I know that IBM and other Software Vendors provide something I call a “compatibility matrix” on web pages, and where does that come into play with a base z/OS operating system new release?

I’d like to offer information on how to do z/OS new release IBM product compatibility research, and add some strong personal recommendations on how it can be done with simple methods. 

My brutally frank personal view about  a “compatibility matrix” website…

We do have one of these for IBM, and I’ve noticed other Software Vendors have them too.  However, the IBM compatibility matrix website should not be used for doing new z/OS release upgrade research! (See Technote.)  Now, that IBM website seems perfectly fine if you wanted to do IBM product research on a new z/OS program product, and likely is wonderful for other Software Vendors to provide as well. But the backend IBM data base that IBM website relies upon isn’t necessarily accurate or updated for a new release of the base operating system itself.  

Meaning, you could run a z/OS 3.1 compatibility report, but the results, I would say, are not to be trusted at all.  There is a disclaimer warning on the report, but folks seems to ignore it, and then I’m asked what IBM products are compatible on the new z/OS release because this website doesn’t show z/OS 3.1 information.  This constant question is one of the reasons I’m providing this information in this blog post. 

Another question I usually get:  when will the IBM “compatibility matrix” website be updated to accommodate new z/OS base operating system releases?  My view would be, hopefully never.  Here’s why I say that.  This “out of band” website takes no information into consideration on what software releases an enterprise is running.  Meaning, you click on a couple of drop-downs, you get a report from that query (along with the disclaimer that folks ignore).  There is zero knowledge of what you have running on your systems to produce this report,  There is zero identification even if the product service level is at the correct level for that running software.  I think we can do better, and we do!

So, where should I be looking for new z/OS release compatibility information?

You absolutely must start with the official documentation for z/OS which describes all the requirements for the operating system.  Specifically for IBM product compatibility in that book, you would look at the Appendix called ”Software requirements for running z/OS 3.1” .  The documentation is your starting point, and describes the IBM product dependencies.  Those dependencies are rather simple to understand once you know them: it must be service supported, and not on the exception list, and that you must use SMP/E FIXCATs to identify any missing service. 

Let’s take those documented requirements in smaller chunks:

  • The IBM product must be service supported, and not part of the exception list.  We do have an extremely short list of “exception” products.  These are products in which the minimum required  is higher than the minimum supported release in service.  In fact, right now it is only the zSecure family of products, and Tivioli Event Pump 4.2.2.  So the exception list is not hard to consume.  But, that leaves us with the question, what IBM product levels are service supported on my systems?  For that, it’s simple to find out in just a couple of clicks for your entire enterprise:  use the z/OSMF Software Management’s End of Service Report!

This will produce a tailored visually appealing report for you to see exactly what software you have (both IBM and other participating vendors, by the way) which is out of support, approaching out of support, and is still in service:

I much prefer this report over any “compatibility matrix” website simple query output.  So, first hurdle cleared for the IBM product compatibility research!
  • The IBM product must be at the proper service level, by using SMP/E FIXCAT.   Not only do you need the right (supported) product release, you need to have the right service level.  How do you know what PTFs you need vs. which ones you've already gotten installed? SMP/E FIXCAT is the best tool we have for that!  You need to run an SMP/E REPORT MISSINGFIX command using the FIXCAT  IBM.TargetSystem-RequiredService.z/OS.3.1 on the target zones associated with all your IBM program products.  But, did you know that you can do that also from z/OSMF across your entire enterprise, in a couple of clicks?


And the result will show you all missing PTFs for all FIXCATs, and you can simply just look for the FIXCAT you want (FIXCAT  IBM.TargetSystem-RequiredService.z/OS.3.1).

So, second and final hurdle cleared for the IBM product compatibility research!

In closing

Hopefully this has provided you some information on how to find out the base z/OS operating system dependencies on IBM program products.  It's a one-two punch, and using z/OSMF can help you quickly save time, and produce entire enterprise tailored reports.  If you haven't already checked it out for z/OS 3.1, also pay attention to the Java (Semeru) requirements for z/OS 3.1, in another blog post which is important to understand.  Happy clicking outside the matrix!