how to get a mainframe access

How to get a Mainframe access

In the past it was difficult to get access to a Mainframe. However, today you can connect to a real Mainframe free of cost. In this post, I will list out multiple ways to get a Mainframe access – FREE and PAID both. So let’s start.

FREE – Get a Free Mainframe access

Master the Mainframe 2020 Contest – The BEST option !!!

Every year IBM organizes Master the Mainframe contest. This contest starts in September and ends in December. However, you can complete the contest year around. To complete the contest you get access to a Mainframe. You have to connect to that Mainframe and complete all the challenges. There are two ways to register for the event and get a Mainframe access. One is to Register as a student and second is to register as a Learner. Both, the ways are listed below in detail.

Register as a Student

To register go to the link: https://masterthemainframe.com/

Master the Mainframe 2020 homepage

There you can click the button called “Get Started”. It will take you to a new tab. In that tab, you have to create a new IBM ID. This ID will help you in participating in the 2020 contest. You will get an IP address to connect to your Mainframe. Plus, you will get a username and password as well.

If you are not a student then do not worry, IBM has got you covered. IBM provides you with what they call a Learning system.

Learning System on Master the Mainframe contest

If you want to learn about Mainframes, then this option is for you. Anyone can register for this Mainframe.

Go to the following link: https://www.ibm.com/it-infrastructure/z/education/master-the-mainframe

Here click on the button called “Get Started”.

Signup for the Learning System

It will take you to a new tab where you have to create an IBM ID. You will participate in the MTM contest using this IBM ID.

After creating the ID you can go to the below link to start your Master the Mainframe contest:

https://mtm.masterthemainframe.com/

You will be presented with different challenges. In Level 1.2 challenge, you will get your Username and password to connect to the mainframe.

Level 1.2 challenge will contain your username and password

For the 2020 contest the Mainframe system details are:

IP Address: 192.86.32.153
Port: 623

Below is the login screen for this system:

Master the Mainframe 2020 login screen

Difference between Registering as a student and Learning system

There is literally no difference between the two. Both will give you access to the same system. The IP address will be the same as well, because it is the same mainframe that you are connecting to. Only the registration process is different. That is because, only students are eligible to win prizes. So students have to register separately. All non-students can register and solve the same contest, but they will not be awarded any prizes for this contest.

I have also created a series of posts on Master the Mainframe contest. You can find the full solution of Master the Mainframe 2019 contest in these posts. Visit the below link to read these posts:

Master the Mainframe 2019 solution

Coursera Courses – Courses that provide you with a Mainframe Access

IBM has also released some Mainframe courses on Coursera website. The instructor for these courses is Jeff Bisti. These courses also give you Mainframe access. I have listed the courses below.

COBOL Programming with VS Code

This is an Introductory COBOL course. It is FREE of cost. You will need to pay only if you want a certificate for this course. The course gives you Mainframe access. Go to this link to enroll for this course: https://www.coursera.org/learn/cobol-programming-vscode

COBOL Programming with VSCODE
COBOL Programming with VSCODE

To get Mainframe access to this course you need to fill up a form at this link: https://www-01.ibm.com/events/wwe/ast/mtm/cobolvscode.nsf/enrollall

COBOL Programming with VSCode Registration Page to get a Mainframe access
COBOL Programming with VSCode Registration Page to get a Mainframe access

Once submitted you will receive an email with IP address and your username for the system.

MY userid and password details for the COBOL Programming with VSCode course. IP address and other system details for the Mainframe access are also provided.
MY userid and password details for the COBOL Programming with VSCode course. IP address and other system details for the Mainframe access are also provided.

The Mainframe system details for this course are:

IP Address: 192.86.32.250 
Port: 623
Generate Password for the system

You will not receive password for your userid. For generating your password, you have to login to this Slack Channel. Use the below link to join the slack channel.

https://openmainframeproject.slack.com/

After logging in you will see an app called ‘zih’. Click on it and say anything you want such as ‘hello’. It will then ask your email address and the userid that you have received. Enter these details and then you will get your password.

Generate your Username and Password using zih app on slack
Generate your Username and Password using zih app on slack
Login via 3270 Emulator

Here is how the login screen looks like on this Mainframe:

Login screen for COBOL Programming with VSCode Course
Login screen for COBOL Programming with VSCode Course
Login via Visual Studio Code

You can also connect to this Mainframe using VSCode extension. For that you have to use the below URL on VSCode.

https://192.86.32.250:10443

If you are not aware about ZOWE on Visual Studio Code then follow the below steps to connect using Visual Studio Code.

ZOWE Explorer extension on Visual Studio Code
Install extensions first – Zowe and IBM Z Open Editor

First install Visual Studio Code if you do not have it installed already. After that you have to install an extension called Zowe Explorer.

ZOWE Explorer extension for Visual Studio Code
ZOWE Explorer extension for Visual Studio Code

Also, install another extension called IBM Z Open editor.

IBM Z Open Editor Extension for Visual Studio Code
IBM Z Open Editor Extension for Visual Studio Code

After installation, you will see an icon on the left sidebar, saying Z. Click on it.

ZOWE Icon on Visual Studio Code
ZOWE Icon on Visual Studio Code
Create a new connection profile

You will then see 3 columns saying DATA SETS, UNIX SYSTEM SERVICES (USS) and JOBS.

Click on DATA SETS and then click on the + icon to connect to your mainframe

Create a new profile to connect to your mainframe
Create a new profile to connect to your mainframe
create a new connection to z/OS
create a new connection to z/OS

Give any name and then press the ENTER key.

Give a name to your z/OS connection
Give a name to your z/OS connection

I am naming my connection as “cobol course mainframe connection”. You can name it anything you want. Now again press the ENTER key. It will ask for the profile type. Give zosmf and press ENTER again.

The profile type should be zosmf for this connection
The profile type should be zosmf for this connection

In the next screen it will ask for the URL of the connection. Give the below URL:

https://192.86.32.250:10443
Give the URL: https://192.86.32.25010443 to connect to your Mainframe
Give the URL: https://192.86.32.250:10443 to connect to your Mainframe

In the next screen give the username that you received in your email. My username is z81812, hence i have entered that.

Give your username in the next screen
Give your username in the next screen
Enter password in the next screen
Enter password in the next screen
Give False in the next screen
Give False in the next screen
Press 'Enter' in the next screen
Press ‘Enter’ in the next screen

You will now see a new connection called ‘cobol course mainframe connection’ under DATA SETS. You are now connected to your mainframe using Visual Studio Code.

New profile has been created. You can now connect to your mainframe using this profile.
New profile has been created. You can now connect to your mainframe using this profile.
Dataset operations using ZOWE

All the major operations on a Mainframe are possible using VSCode. You can create a new dataset, edit a dataset, and delete a dataset as well. Also, you can submit JCLs and the resulting Job details in spool can also be seen.

To do DATASET Operations click on DATA SETS and then click on the ‘search’ icon on your connection name.

See all the datasets allocated to your userid
See all the datasets allocated to your userid
If i give here z81812. then it will list all the datasets under my id z81812
If i give here z81812. then it will list all the datasets under my id z81812
Here you can see all the datasets listed under my userid z81812
Here you can see all the datasets listed under my userid z81812

Now I can edit any of these datasets by clicking on them.

Submit a JOB using ZOWE

To submit a JCL I can just go to the JCL dataset, right-click on it and select the Submit Job option. In the below image I have a JCL that compiles a COBOL program. I am going to submit this JCL.

Submit JOB by right clicking on the JCL dataset and then select 'Submit Job'
Submit JOB by right clicking on the JCL dataset and then select ‘Submit Job’

On the right bottom corner, it will confirm that the JOB has been submitted and will display the JOBID as well.

Job submitted confirmation
Job submitted confirmation

Now to see the Job output just click on the JOBS options in the left sidebar.

See the JOB output using the JOBS option in the left sidebar
See the JOB output using the JOBS option in the left sidebar

Here also you have to follow the same procedure. Just click on + icon and then click on the connection name that you have created before. It will then list all your JOBS in SPOOL. You can see the JESJCL, JESMSGLG, and other details using this option.

JOB details in SPOOL
JOB details in SPOOL

These are just a few options out of many that are available using ZOWE. I hope this section was informative for you. If you face any issues then please comment about it in the comment section.

IBM z/OS practitioner course

This course is also available on Coursera. It is a collection of 3 courses. You will not get real Mainframe access but an IBM Remote Lab Platform access. You will also need to create an IBM ID before you can access this environment.

To create an IBM ID go to this Link first:

https://www.ibm.com/account/reg/in-en/signup?formid=urx-19776

After you create your IBM ID go to the below link and register for the course.

https://www.coursera.org/professional-certificates/ibm-z-mainframe

You will see 3 courses in this one course:

1. Introduction to Enterprise Computing

2. Getting Started on Mainframe with z/OS commands and Panels

3. Basic System Programming on IBM Z

IBM z/OS Mainframe Practitioner Course
IBM z/OS Mainframe Practitioner Course

In the second course titled “Getting Started on Mainframe with z/OS Commands and Panels” you will find a lecture called “Course Kit / Exercise guide – Required Download for Lab Exercises”. This lecture contains your Lab details.

After reading that lecture you can go to the next lecture called “Exercise 1: System familiarization“. There you can click on “Launch Lab” and a new window will open which will have your Lab.

Click to launch lab
Click to launch lab
IBM Lab environment
IBM Lab environment
IBM Lab environment interface
IBM Lab environment interface
Get your Userid and Password details for the Mainframe access

Now to get your user id and password details, click on the top left corner called “Course Lab kit”. It will open a new window which will have your username and password.

Get your userid and password by clicking on "Course Lab Kit"
Get your userid and password by clicking on “Course Lab Kit”

You will get TSO userid and password. Also you will get a password for logging into the Windows account of the Lab.

TSO Userid/Password and Windows password
TSO Userid/Password and Windows password
Login to your lab using the windows password your received.
Login to your lab using the windows password your received.
You are now logged in to the lab
You are now logged in to the lab

Click on MVS1 and then enter your TSO userid and password to login

Enter your TSO userid and password to login to the mainframe
Enter your TSO userid and password to login to the mainframe
You now have Mainframe access
You now have Mainframe access
This Mainframe will only work for 80 hours or 15 days, whichever is earlier. IBM does this to save their resources.

Older Mainframe system – Fandezhi system

Few years ago there used to be this system called Fandezhi Mainframe system. It was totally free for anyone to use. However, it was only meant for experienced users. So, you were not allowed to use this system for learning mainframes or training anyone. This is how the login screen looked like:

FanDezhi Mainframe Login screen
FanDezhi Mainframe Login screen

Users were able to generate their own TSO userid using the self help option.

Apply for New TSO Userid on FanDeZhi system
Apply for New TSO Userid on FanDeZhi system

This option is now closed. You have to contact the site support using the below link. If they like then they will give you access to their system.

http://fandezhi.efglobe.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1568&sid=a33543a2d7401a566697e8393f24e3b7

This system too, does not have CICS enabled.

PAID – pay to get a Mainframe Access

Get Mainframe ID on rent

The title is self-explanatory. You can google search for “Mainframe Access for rent”. Once you search this you will get a list of vendors selling Mainframe IDs on rent. The average rate is around $50 per month. The biggest advantage of this option is that you will get access to CICS as well because none of the FREE options have CICS enabled.

ADCD System from IBM

ADCD is a short form for Application Developer Controlled Distribution. This system was designed by IBM for Application Developers. ADCD is a fully functioning z/OS that runs on your PC. It has an annual fee of $900. So, you have to pay IBM to get these files. Once you get these files you can run them using Hercules Emulator. This way you can run a fully-featured z/OS on your own Personal computer. Every single subsystem is available on this system. To know about it click on the below link.

http://dtsc.dfw.ibm.com/MVSDS/'HTTPD2.ADCD.GLOBAL.SHTML(A22DREAD)'

I once messaged IBM support to get this system, but got no response from their side. The login screen of this system look like this:

ADCD system Login screen
ADCD system Login screen

Emulators

MVS Turnkey System

MVS Turnkey is a ready to run Mainframe system for your Personal Computer. It has an older operating system called MVS 3.8j. Also, no installation is required for this system. So, you can just download the system and run it directly, no installation is required. The system can be downloaded from the below link:

http://wotho.ethz.ch/tk4-/

You should download the latest version given at the end of the page, titled “tk4-_v1.00_current.zip

After downloading just extract and run the file called “mvs.bat” and then connect to it using your 3270 emulator.

MVS Turnkey TK4- system
MVS Turnkey TK4- system
I am now logged in to the MVS Turnkey TK4- system
I am now logged in to the MVS Turnkey TK4- system
MVS Turnkey system main screen
MVS Turnkey system main screen

This system has a lot of disadvantages. First is that there is no ISPF on this system. Second, there is no DB2. Third there is no CICS as well. This is because all these are licensed softwares, hence none of these are available on this system. However if you have no other option then this will be helpful in learning about datasets and running COBOL programs.

Hercules Emulator

Hercules Emulator can emulate z/Architecture on your Personal Computer. It can also emulate older architecture such as s/370 or s/390. The Emulator can also run z/OS using ADCD files from IBM. MVS Turnkey system uses this emulator only to run MVS 3.8j. You can download this software from the below link:

http://www.hercules-390.org/
Hercules Emulator
Hercules Emulator

This emulator will only emulate the architecture. You will need an Operating system which will be installed on top of this emulator.

Conclusion

In my opinion, the best option is to get a Mainframe ID on rent. This way you will have access to all the subsystems such as DB2 and CICS. You will also be able to run COBOL-DB2 programs on these Mainframes.

However, if you do not require these subsystems and only want to run COBOL programs, then Master the Mainframe System is the clear winner. This system provides you with the latest z/OS which has TSO, ISPF, COBOL, VSAM and DB2. You can run DB2 SQL queries on this system. However, you will not be able to run COBOL-DB2 program. There is no CICS access on this system.

I hope this post was helpful to you. If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. It may be helpful for them as well.

As a thank you for my efforts, you can also consider buying my course on Udemy, which is around $10 only. You will get 19+ hours of Mainframe tutorial which will teach you TSO, ISPF, JCL, COBOL, CICS, Unix System Services, and VSAM. You can follow this referral link to buy my course. Link: https://www.udemy.com/course/the-complete-mainframe-professional-course-tso-ispf/?referralCode=F35DCE84EBFDE975A112

tso course image
The Complete Mainframe Professional Course

If you know any other way to get a Mainframe access then please comment about it in the comments section. Thank you and i will see you in an another informative post !!!

11 comments

  1. Nice blog. I was wondering if HercPRT works under TK4 coz I would like to see a printed output of my COBOL programs if ever. TIA.

  2. I also have the DUZA mainframe system which is similar to Fan De Zhi but based on z/OS 1.10 instead of 1.6. It’s a customized vesion of 1.10 with System Automation capabilities, NetView etc. Problem is I’ve only been able to access TSO/ISPF and NetView.For some reason it gives an error message when I try enter CICS, IMS and TWS on the panel. I suspect these three components have to be manually started first

    1. DUZA is a pirated copy of ADCD files from IBM. It has CICS. For logging in to CICS you have to make changes to a file called “hercules.cnf”. There you have to give LOADPARM for starting DB2 and CICS. Only then you will be able to login to CICS. LOADPARM of 0A95DB should work.

      1. 0A95DB didn’t work. Found the build structure for z/os 1.10 ADCD Winter and tried 0A82 and added the AC suffix tag from the pre-configured LOADPARM options.

        Table Listing of available pre-configured distributed LOADPARMS.

        LOADPARM Description
        CS (default) CLPA and cold start of JES2. Base z/OS system functions i.e. no
        CICS, DB2, IMS, WAS, etc.
        AC CLPA and cold start of JES2 load IMS and CICS libraries, start
        IMS, DB/2 v8, and CICS.

        I’m pretty sure other options would’ve worked as well but upon logging into CICS I got stuck coz of the error message asking for a transaction name which I didn’t have. I suspect you need to create a COBOL + DB2 program first with a defined transaction name in the program then submit it using JCL or maybe load the program using CEMT before a transaction name becomes available prior to login.
        Didn’t know how to exit the CICS panel coz it didn’t even have a prompt and F3 doesn’t work either so I just shut it down using CEMT.

        Brings back memories when my system operator buddies and I used to throw tapes in the air across the mainframe room whenever the tape drives ask for an SMF backup and taking turns napping behind line printers when the supervisor was on his lunch break. This was about the time they were fixing and preparing for the “end of the world” Y2K bugs. Roger Bowler should have a Nobel Prize for his efforts. : )

        But thanks for the help just the same.

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