Business challenge

Keen to benefit from new functionality and the assurance of long-term support, ICBC wanted to migrate its core banking systems from IBM z/OS 2.1 to 2.3. How could it minimize the potential disruption?


Working closely with IBM gave ICBC the inside track on z/OS 2.3, enabling it to test new functionality – including APIs that open up mainframe management functions – and build pre-migration experience.



confidence in deploying the new release ahead of major core-systems migration


new applications using APIs that open up mainframe management functions


a clear view of the likely performance and efficiency benefits

Business challenge story

Getting ready for a major upgrade

As the world’s largest bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) naturally requires exceptionally stable, reliable, trustworthy and high-performance systems. To support its 5.7 million corporate customers and 530 million personal customers across 42 countries and territories, ICBC relies on the IBM Z® platform to run its core banking systems.

The production environment, with 160,000 MIPS and 1.2 PB of disk capacity, runs in an active-active IBM GDPS® cluster between the Waigaoqiao and Jiading districts in Shanghai, while Beijing hosts the disaster recovery center. Financial transactions peak at almost 14,000 per second, and the production environment handles up to 1.5 billion IBM CICS® transactions daily, with 40 ms average transaction response time. Supplementing these core systems are more than 7,700 distributed servers with a total of 17 PB disk capacity.

Lihui Liu, Project Manager with responsibility for IBM Z operating system testing and management, ICBC Data Center (Shanghai), comments: “All the core business runs on IBM Z, and has done for almost 20 years; the stability is superb.”

In line with its standard upgrade practice and to make use of the new features in IBM z/OS® 2.3, the bank planned to migrate from z/OS 2.1 to 2.3 for its core production systems. As a way to review the new release and build up experience for migrating its mission-critical production systems, ICBC accepted an invitation from IBM to join the Early Support Program (ESP) for z/OS 2.3. “We weren’t previously aware of the ESP, and we were excited about the opportunity it offered to work more closely with IBM and to understand the new software’s features and usage in advance, including installation and user experience,” says Lihui Liu.

By applying the open API provided by z/OSMF, we are building a truly service-oriented host system operation and maintenance platform.

Lihui Liu, Project Manager, ICBC Data Center (Shanghai)

Transformation story

Enhanced management and open APIs

ICBC worked closely with the IBM China team to review and test z/OS 2.3, in preparation for migrating its production systems. “Our first impressions were positive,” says Lihui Liu. “For example, we think that the HFS to zFS online migration feature will be helpful in minimizing the potential disruption when we upgrade. Equally, we like how the new version of z/OS Knowledge Center no longer requires every user to install a bookshelf, which makes it faster and easier for users to find the technical information they need. We can also just update technical information centrally, and then it is available for all users.”

From ICBC’s perspective, the most significant element in z/OS 2.3 is the integration of IBM z/OS Management Facility (z/OSMF). This software provides system management functions in a task-oriented, web browser-based user interface with integrated user assistance. By streamlining or automating day-to-day system-management tasks, z/OSMF can save significant time and effort in mainframe administration. In particular, it provides a single point of control for defining and updating policies, monitoring performance, maintaining z/OS software, and managing data.

“In terms of the long-term benefits of the new features, I think most highly of z/OSMF, now being integrated into z/OS 2.3,” says Lihui Liu. “z/OSMF enables mainframe users to use open interfaces for applications which benefit our IT operational management. From now on, z/OSMF is a key component of our operating system rather than an independent product, which makes it much simpler to deploy and configure. And because the IBM z/OSMF main lab is here in China, we have received lots of technical assistance, enabling us to achieve benefits quickly.”

ICBC has used the APIs in z/OSMF to build three major management applications. The first realizes one-click automation of the bank’s annual disaster-recovery testing for the IBM Z environment, saving time and effort. The second implements one-click automation for the routine PTF (program temporary fixes) maintenance of the bank’s core system. The third is PTF management, enabling non-specialists to quickly learn the installation and validation of specific PTF patches in production and test environments.  

“The open APIs in z/OSMF will help us improve the user experience in system management,” comments Lihui Liu. “Using the console API, job-related API and data-set-related API, we are able to open up the data and logic on the mainframe to a broader set of users. This could be transformational: once developers understand that they can use services on the mainframe in this open and easy way, I think that all kinds of new ideas will emerge.”

The bank currently uses batched ETL processes to move transactional data from the IBM Z environment to open platforms for analysis. With z/OS 2.3 providing real-time System Management Facilities (SMF) access, ICBC is considering using machine-learning techniques to analyze the live data and use the results to optimize IT operational management.

“Currently, it takes an hour or two to access SMF data, so our response time in the event of system abnormality is not as good as it could be,” comments Lihui Liu. “The real-time SMF access in z/OS 2.3 could help us to respond faster and in a more targeted way to potential issues in the IBM Z environment.”

ICBC expects to take advantage of enhanced features in JES2 to improve the user experience. “Due to resource constraints in our testing environment, it is relatively easy to hit 400,000-job limit of JES2 in z/OS 2.1, which then restricts the ability to log into the system,” comments Lihui Liu. “The enhanced features of JES2 will allow us to reserve additional space, so users will be still able to log in using PCOMM after hitting the limit rather than having to go through the Hardware Management Console.”

Additionally, ICBC believes that the introduction of the Dynamic Large Page feature, which provides performance value to memory access-intensive applications, could help accelerate software patching in its production environment.

The real-time SMF access in z/OS 2.3 could help us to respond faster and in a more targeted way to potential issues in the IBM Z environment.

Lihui Liu, Project Manager, ICBC Data Center (Shanghai)

Results story

Bolstering an exceptionally stable platform

ICBC is now looking forward with confidence to migrating its core systems to z/OS 2.3.

“I’m very satisfied with the whole progress and outcomes of our initial work on z/OS 2.3,” says Lihui Liu. “The IBM China team has provided excellent support, including help with challenges in our own software. We really appreciated the proactive effort and the professional attitude from the whole IBM team.”

ICBC expects to establish a path towards system management service transformation using the open APIs provided by z/OSMF. “By applying the open API provided by z/OSMF, we are building a truly service-oriented host system operation and maintenance platform, and expecting to provide a more user-friendly experience for systems operation and maintenance personnel, while maintaining the quality and efficiency of operation and maintenance management,” says Lihui Liu.

Xiaozhen Zhu of the IBM z/OSMF Development Team comments: “It has been extremely valuable to work with ICBC, the world’s leading bank, in validating the new functions of z/OSMF. We look forward to continuing to build our cooperative relationship with the bank, for mutual benefit.” Qi Li, also of the z/OSMF Development Team, adds: “ICBC has contributed to new functionality, helping to ensure that the final product really meets the requirements in the market.”

While the migration to z/OS 2.3 is a major project that will provide significant new functionality, in another sense it is just the latest stage in the long evolution of the IBM Z environment at ICBC. “ICBC uses the IBM Z platform because of its exceptional reliability, security, availability and scalability. All finance organizations have very high requirements in these areas, but at ICBC they are even more critical because the bank is one of the key components of the national financial system in China. Using IBM Z, backed by IBM’s outstanding service and support, gives us confidence that our core banking systems will always be available.”

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was ranked number one for the fifth consecutive year in The Banker’s Top 1000 World Banks 2017, on the strength of its USD281 billion in tier 1 capital. Established in 1984, the bank has 5.7 million corporate and 530 million personal customers, and operates in 42 countries and territories. The Bank has helped introduce new ideas, new finance and new services to support supply-side structural reform and economic transformation in China.

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