DTS Webinar Recap: Understanding Your ACS Routines

2023 brought us back to the classroom in this installment of the DTS Complimentary Educational Webinar Series “Understanding Your ACS Routines.” While many of CTO Steve Pryor’s webinars take on a “teach by example” approach, this webinar, due to the very nature of the topic, took on a lecture style delivering a large amount of information in the allotted time, all of which is available to review on-demand. The slide deck, along with two help files (ACSINFO and ACSCOMP), which provide a REXX example of obtaining ACS routine change information from DCOLLECT, are available for download as well.

Understanding Your ACS Routines
In z/OS®, the Automatic Class Selection (ACS) routines lie at the heart of data set creation and use. Every data set, new or old, SMS managed or not, of whatever format, relies on the ACS routines to assign the proper SMS classes and control data set use. The ACS Routine language is simple, compact, and deliberately limited in scope, yet many installations suffer from large, unwieldy, confusing ACS routines containing ancient code which are updated only rarely and with trepidation.

In this webinar, we examine the ACS Routine language itself, the best practices and proper use of the language constructs, ACS testing, and provide some suggestions on how you can improve the ACS routines in your data center.

ACS Routines, an Early Form of Artificial Intelligence?
As z/OS grew (in form and popularity), the need for system-managed storage grew as well. The goal of ACS when released in 1989 was to relieve storage administrators of the many detailed, mundane tasks of adding and removing volumes and keeping track of where every data set was stored. In a word, automation.

ACS routines automate the task of determining the SMS classes and storage groups for data sets and objects in an SMS complex. For storage administrators, ACS routines automate and centralize the process of determining SMS classes and storage groups. ACS routines also help convert data sets to an SMS environment.1 But you can’t “set it and forget it.”

General Consensus: Most Every Installation’s ACS Routines are a Mess!
Fact is, most everyone’s ACS routines are a mess. Why? Because only the most experienced, knowledgeable storage administrators understand them in the first place. So as the years rock on, they are rarely updated, and changes are often poorly documented.

Numerous Problems Can Occur Due to Incorrect, Outdated, or Misunderstood ACS Routines

  1. Data sets can be allocated to incorrect locations (wrong storage group) leading to out-of-space conditions, performance issues, or access issues such as enqueue conflicts.
  2. Data sets not correctly backed up/archived/restored (wrong management class) lead to availability issues and possible restore failures.
  3. Data sets get incorrect space or other allocation characteristics (wrong data class) leading to out-of-space conditions such as X37 ABENDs or IEC070I VSAM errors.
  4. Data sets get wrong encryption key label, wrong VSAM RLS attributes, or other incorrect attributes.

You Set the Policies, ACS Routines Are the Enforcer
The ACS routines, along with the storage management policies, reside in a collection of data sets that IBM® refers to as the SMS Configuration. The Source Control Data Set (SCDS) is where ACS routines are defined and updated. But they are not active here. They become active when copied to another VSAM data set, the Active Control Data Set (ACDS).

The ACDS provides the active configuration – the storage management policies – that are being executed. Other elements of the configuration are the Communication Data Set, which contains space statistics and other real-time information about the SMS complex, and the SYS1.PARMLIB member (IGDSMS00), which contains a number of SMS parameters (40 to 50 or so) that influence what the ACS routines see, and the way data sets are allocated.

Examples and Additional Resources
As with every DTS webinar, the video, slide deck, and example files that accompany the webinar provide usable, helpful information in today’s z/OS shop. Pryor also includes information on key reference resources available for those who need it.

Steve makes himself available as an additional resource as well and can be reached at steve@dtssoftware.com.

Want a Free Analysis of Your ACS Routines?
Did you know DTS Software offers a free analysis of your ACS Routines? Let our team of coding experts provide recommendations on how to make the code more understandable, readable, and efficient. We’ll look for “dead code,” duplicate or confusing logic, and possible performance issues, and provide ease of understanding of the analysis. Learn more and sign up for your free analysis on our website.

Learn More in Our Webinar Available On-Demand
Along with the library of past webinars, “Understanding Your ACS Routines” is a 60-minute informative and educational look at an important topic in the mainframe space. If you weren’t able to attend or would like to review the material presented, you can view it on-demand and download a copy of the slide deck to keep as reference material. Be sure to join us each month for our complimentary webinar series. Go to www.dtssoftware.com/webinars for more information.

DTS Software to Sponsor, Host Educational Speaking Session at SHARE Atlanta

DTS Software CTO Steve Pryor and Mainframe System Engineer Jerry Spencer to Deliver z/OS® Learning Session at SHARE Atlanta.


Raleigh-based global mainframe storage management software manufacturer DTS Software today announced its participation at SHARE Atlanta 2023, March 5- 8 at the Hyatt Regency. The event will feature technical sessions covering topics including DevOps, security, IT operations, multiple virtual storage, professional development, and more.

“Education and relationship building are two of our core values at DTS, and this is what SHARE conferences are all about,” said Tara Velozo, CEO of DTS. “Few organizations deliver such high-quality professional development training while also encouraging a welcoming and engaged community, and we’re proud to be a vendor as well as to host an educational speaking session at SHARE Atlanta.”

DTS will be in booth #227 to discuss their storage management software offerings that help customers monitor, manage, and automate control storage subsystems in IBM® z/OS®. Attendees can stop by the booth to receive a free analysis of their DFSMS ACS routines by expert storage management engineers, including suggestions on how to improve ACS routine efficiency, reliability, and readability.

On Tuesday, March 7, DTS CTO Steve Pryor and Mainframe System Engineer Jerry Spencer will be giving their presentation titled “z/OSMF Workflows for the Baffled Sysprog” in the Systems Management & Automation track from 4-5 p.m ET US.

The presentation will be geared towards seasoned system programmers tasked with creating z/OSMF workflows for novice programmers.

A mainstay as a speaker at mainframe industry conferences, Pryor has decades of experience hosting educational presentations, and his popular webinar series with DTS attract hundreds of attendees a month who are looking to further their knowledge on a vast range of mainframe topics.

“During our presentation, Jerry and I will go over the best way to start a workflow, and how to create a workflow that is coherent and accomplishes the desired result,” Pryor said. “We will demonstrate this using the task of onboarding a new TSO user and we think this will be a great presentation for anyone to attend who is looking to foster new talent on the platform within their organization.”

DTS’ Educational Speaking Sessions at SHARE Atlanta

Title: “z/OSMF Workflows for the Baffled Sysprog”
When: Tuesday, March 7 | 4-5 p.m.
Where: Hyatt Regency Atlanta Focus Area: Core Platform
Speaker: Steve Pryor, Chief Technology Officer & Jerry Spencer System, Mainframe System Engineer
Audience Level: Intermediate

Pryor and Spencer’s presentation will also be live-streamed for virtual conference attendees and will be available on demand afterward for conference attendees who couldn’t make the session, but who are still interested in the subject matter.

SHARE is an independent, volunteer-run association providing enterprise technology professionals with continuous education and training, valuable professional networking, and effective industry influence. Twice each year, SHARE gathers the leading subject matter experts, vendors, and business visionaries in enterprise IT for a week of education and innovation. For more information about SHARE Atlanta, visit http://www.share.org/Events/SHARE-Atlanta-2023.

About DTS Software
DTS Software is recognized worldwide as a leader in enterprise storage management technology. Specializing in products for the IBM® z/OS, Hitachi V-OS3, and Fujitsu MSP operating systems. DTS products provide superior function and features that allow managers and users to utilize their investment more effectively in storage systems. The company was founded in 1991 and currently has more than 1,000 customers in the US, Canada, Europe, and the Far East, and offers full-year, free trials of many of their products. For more information, visit https://www.dtssoftware.com.

Education and Modernization Are Keys to Fighting Skills Gap in the Mainframe Space

Over the past three years, the world has undergone arguably one of the largest labor market shifts in recent history. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen a massive uptick in union organization, an overnight shift to hybrid and remote work options, and what some have come to call “The Great Resignation.”

Perhaps the most obvious symptom of this era has been the near ubiquity of “help wanted” signs in local restaurants, grocery stores, childcare centers, etc. Undoubtedly, though, this movement has affected every sector of the job market.

The mainframe industry has been careening toward this reality for decades. Eclipsed over time by the attraction of newer tech, the mainframe’s talent pool is dwindling. One of its major strengths – reliability – is also one of its downfalls, as a platform so well-designed that it rarely breaks down was seemingly forgotten over time. Out of sight, out of mind. That is until the mainframe staff began to retire and replacements weren’t readily available.

The first and second generations of mainframers who entered the field at a time when the platform was relatively new and more likely to be a sought-after career path, are aging out. Some are even retiring early after enduring the challenges of working through the pandemic.

While we’re seeing some programmers working past the age of retirement, there are often few suitable candidates to replace them. And many of today’s generation of college graduates haven’t even heard of the mainframe, exacerbating the lack of available talent.

A part of the solution, and one that is happening organically, is that non-mainframe developers are moving over to the mainframe because the opportunities are greater for advancement. The mainframe is also a more strategic environment than Windows/UNIX-based systems. Because it is the most important, technical IP in the organization, some young programmers are attracted to working with the mainframe, knowing it will bring them increased satisfaction while making more of a difference.ie.

Understaffed and Underfunded. How Long Can It Last?
According to a recent study by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Deloitte, 79% of 261 business and IT leaders surveyed cited their top mainframe-related challenge is acquiring the right resources and skills to get their work done. Seventy-one percent said their mainframe team is understaffed and 54% said their team was underfunded.

These numbers should be alarming to us all! Though this fact may elude folks outside of the mainframe community, we know well just how essential the mainframe is to processing and safeguarding the world’s most critical data. From government to healthcare, airlines, banks, and more, the mainframe is an essential component to keeping these industries up and running. And without the workforce to maintain the platform, we all could suffer disastrous consequences in the industries that most rely on the mainframe – telecom, banking, insurance, healthcare, and government.

Fortunately, with the rest of the world experiencing major workforce shortages, this moment has forced everyone to take a deep look at how to rebuild IT infrastructures sustainably for the future. The problem is no longer ignorable for the mainframe industry, and that means there’s a renewed urgency to address challenges that have faced mainframers for decades.

So how do we begin addressing these challenges? At DTS Software, we believe the solution to closing the skills gap starts first with replenishing the talent pool. Education is key. Education efforts will inevitably take a long time to come to fruition, so this must be the most urgent aspect of the strategy. One upside to an aging mainframe workforce is the fact that the knowledge and experience level of today’s professionals is sky-high. These folks are bursting at the seams with mainframe knowledge, and this knowledge must be transferred to the next generation, or we risk losing it.

DTS Software founders are some of these professionals with a lifetime’s worth of knowledge under their belts, and they are dedicated to providing the highest quality educational resources out there. DTS CTO Steve Pryor’s monthly webinar series has been viewed by thousands of mainframers in the industry looking to learn new skills or brush up on highly technical aspects of the platform. Our library of Steve’s webinars is free and open to the public for viewing on-demand, and registration is open now for our January webinar titled “Understanding your ACS Routines” taking place Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 11 a.m. ET.

The second strategy to begin closing the skills gap is to lean on technology to optimize the jobs of mainframe professionals, so they can handle the ever-increasing demands of their workloads. Mainframe modernization is essential to easing the transition for the next generation of workers who will be tasked with managing more data than ever before. At DTS, we take this role seriously as pioneers in enterprise storage management software, and we’re one of many companies innovating to bring mainframe technology into the 21st century and beyond.

Though the road ahead will be challenging, we know our greatest strength as mainframers is our sense of community and collaboration, and we’re looking forward to a new year of building a strong foundation for years to come.

To view DTS’s library of on-demand webinars, and learn more about our enterprise storage management software, visit dtssoftware.com or email us today at support@dtssoftware.com to speak directly with one of our experienced customer service representatives.