Test Your SMF Knowledge

As usual, this week’s trivia challenge will look back at two Planet Mainframe articles with different themes. This week, our first article will be most relevant for companies that outsource their mainframes to specialist outsourcers. The second should be highly relatable for anyone who has worked on a mainframe for any appreciable length of time. 

If you spend your working life interacting with a mainframe, you are probably accustomed to seeing people’s eyes glaze over when you describe your job. But many people who know a lot about mainframes remain foggy on the issue of mainframe outsourcing charges. 

Steven Thomas’s article “Mainframe Outsourcing Transparency” seeks to clear some of the fog away and empower outsourcing customers to ask the right questions for the sake of their IT budgets. Thomas, who is the CTO and COO at SMT Data, begins his article with the fairly staggering claim that simply asking the right questions—like “How is the basis for invoicing (e.g. MIPS) calculated?”—can make a significant difference to what the invoice looks like. 

Thomas points out some of the key ways in which billing models vary and provides a list of questions that can lead to a much trimmer IT budget. Importantly, Thomas notes that these conversations don’t have to be contentious if they are based on facts. Figuring out what is measured (and how it is measured) is the key to a positive, transparent working relationship – one that works for both customer and outsourcer.

Our second article moves away from the serious business of budget-watching in order to indulge in a bit of nostalgia for the green screen. In his article “What’s Next for Green Screens?,” Trevor Eddolls takes the position of someone with a long history of working on the green screen. 

Eddolls, who is CEO at iTech-Ed Ltd. (and an IBM Champion for several years running), knows that green screens are simply not palatable for the younger generation of mainframers that were brought up in a GUI world. Nevertheless, Eddolls takes us through the evolution of the original green screen to the colour screen and beyond, with some thoughts on what made each evolutionary stage work – or not.

Give these articles a read, then come back and see how much you learned!

1. Which is typically the most relevant data (giving the resources usage at the LPAR level) for outsourced mainframe billing?


2. Which SMF data pertains to cost drivers from Db2?


3. When it comes to billing, is it possible for MIPS to be calculated in more than one way?


4. In what year was the IBM 3270 terminal first introduced?


5. The “green” in the green screen was due to the zinc sulphide coating, which was the cheapest way to get a bright enough screen display?


Sonja Soderlund is an Oregon-based B2B freelance writer. Whether writing about mainframe computers, educational technology, or sustainable retail, she strives to bring clarity to complex issues. Connect with her at sonjasoderlund.com or LinkedIn.