by Peter M. Horbach

Advantages of modern data synchronization in a hybrid IT environment

Almost every company equipped with a hybrid IT infrastructure has to deal with this problem: How is identical data kept synchronized on different platforms and data storage systems?


Real-time data synchronization is necessary in situations where it is important to propagate changes to data immediately and in real-time to all relevant systems and users. Here are some examples of when real-time data synchronization may be required:

  • Financial Transactions: In the financial industry, transactions need to be synchronized in real time to ensure everyone involved is aware of the current status of the transaction.
  • E-Commerce: When a customer places an order or their master data changes, the changes need to be propagated in real-time to all systems holding that data to ensure inventory is updated in real-time.
  • Social Media Platforms: Social networks need to be synchronized in real-time to ensure users are kept up to date with changes to their contacts or posts.

This list goes on and on, depending on the type of business and its needs.

Timely data synchronization poses a particular challenge when a mainframe is involved.

Using a mainframe

Many companies around the world have relied on the performance of a mainframe, possibly for decades. The advantages of the mainframe are well known:

  • Reliability: Due to their special architecture, they can run continuously and have a very high level of availability.
  • Performance: Mainframes are able to process enormous amounts of data and transactions. You can easily serve thousands of users and applications at the same time.
  • Scalability: Mainframes can easily scale to meet a company's changing needs.
  • Security: Mainframes are very secure and provide a robust environment for protecting corporate data and applications.

Mainframes are still an important part of the IT infrastructure of companies and organizations. They are used in industries such as banking, insurance, government agencies and industry to process critical transactions and business processes.

New infrastructures are nevertheless also part of these companies. The reasons for use are usually costs, better flexibility, modern data management systems (relational databases, cloud), use of standard software instead of old applications and a lack of young people for the maintenance of the applications and operating systems.

Role of a mainframe in a hybrid IT

The relationship between mainframe systems and open systems is complex and has changed over time.

However, with the development of open systems such as Windows, Unix, and later Linux, and the introduction of commodity hardware such as x86 processors, companies have begun to reduce their reliance on mainframes. Open systems enable companies to operate their IT infrastructure on a variety of devices and platforms and thus be more flexible. Open source software has also helped reduce costs and accelerate innovation.

These are all reasons to deal with cross-platform data synchronization in the case of hybrid IT.

Data Synchronization

Real-time data synchronization refers to the process of updating data in real-time as changes are made to ensure all systems are always up to date. This process is especially important in situations where multiple systems or applications are accessing and making changes to the same data at the same time.

Timely, real-time data synchronization helps increase data accuracy, improve process efficiency, and optimize user experience by ensuring all systems and applications are always up-to-date.

Types of data synchronization

There are several methods to detect changes to databases or files in real time. Some of the most common methods are:

Self developed programmed solutions:

  • Trigger: A trigger is a piece of code that runs when certain events occur in a database or application, such as when a new row is added or an existing row is updated. Triggers can be used to detect changes in real time and automatically take appropriate action.
  • Polling: Polling periodically queries the database or file to see if any changes have been made. This method is less efficient than triggers because it consumes resources when no changes have been made.
  • File system monitoring: File system monitoring can be used to detect changes to files in real time. Most operating systems provide APIs to monitor changes to files and directories and send notifications when needed.
  • Messaging systems: Messaging systems can be used to detect changes in real time and forward them to other systems. In this approach, messages are sent when changes are made, and other systems subscribe to these messages to respond to changes.  

The disadvantage of these solutions is the complex nature of the implementation. In any case, programming capacities are tied up for the development, testing and maintenance of the applications.

If the changes are detected on the mainframe, special know-how of the different data systems and the requirements of the operating system is required.

Hardware based solutions

A common form of hardware solutions are FlashCopy systems.

These are systems that provide a way to make copies of data from one record to another without actually having to physically copy data.

The virtual copy can then be used for various purposes, such as backups, testing and development, or analyzing data.

Hardware-based solutions cannot be used sensibly for data synchronization between different platforms, where an adjustment of the data forms and structures is also necessary or the change data still has to be logically prepared for the target (e.g. mainframe IMS to PostgreSQL).

Change Data Capture

Change Data Capture (CDC): CDC is a technology that captures changes to databases or files and propagates them to other systems or applications in real time. CDC is especially useful when multiple systems need to access the same data and respond to changes.

Data synchronization with tcVISION

The tcVISION solution from B.O.S. monitors the changes on all platforms involved in real time and replicates these changes to all systems and applications involved. This means that changes made in one system are immediately visible in all other systems.

An example of real-time data synchronization with a mainframe (e.g. under the z/OS operating system) is the use of cloud storage systems. If a file or database is changed on the mainframe, the change is automatically propagated to the database or application on the cloud system where the target database is stored. This means that the user always has access to the latest version of the data .

tcVISION supports a variety of databases and file systems, as well as different platforms and operating systems.

A hybrid IT with a mainframe and the operating systems z/OS and z/VSE represents a particular challenge for timely data synchronization. The reasons are obvious and have already been described several times in this blog:

  • historically grown databases
  • non-relational database systems
  • Record and data structures that are not compatible with modern databases

As a rule, the mainframe-based databases are indispensable for a company and usually also the basis for the expansion of IT in the direction of new systems and technologies.

A data synchronization with tcVISION between hybrid IT environments, including the environment of a mainframe under the operating systems z/OS, z/VSE and z/VM, offers the provision of different change data capture technologies. These can be used depending on the change frequencies, latency times or individual requirements of the application. The tcVISION solution thus offers a high level of integration capability.

Processing rules for data exchange and mapping information for all files or databases involved in synchronization are stored in a central repository. This repository is equipped with a history guide so that older data structures can also be processed with the mapping information valid at the time the data was created.

The advantages of data synchronization with tcVISION lies in the variety of different methods that can be used depending on requirements and application profile.

The methods are:

  • Real-time change data capture
    • Real-time log processing
      • For databases on the mainframe and hybrid systems
      • DBMS extension for obtaining change data directly from the file or database system (mainframe)
    • LOG evaluations
      • For databases on the mainframe and hybrid systems
      • Event or time driven
      • Processing of the change data in a defined period
      • Processing of mainframe archive logs also under Windows, Unix or Linux
    • Bulk transfer
      • Efficient transfer of whole or partial databases
      • Parallel processing of partial databases
      • Best solution for periodic bulk data transfers
    • Batch companion
      • Determination of change dates based on snapshots
      • Available for all file formats, especially sequential files (flat files)

All forms of data synchronization offer safe restart options in error situations.

tcVISION is an extremely flexible, cross-system solution for real-time, bidirectional data synchronization and replication based on change data:

  • Data exchange becomes a single-step operation.
  • the use of middleware or message queuing is not necessary.
  • The data exchange takes place in raw format in compressed form and is reduced to the delta of change data.
  • Data can be moved unidirectionally or bidirectionally in real-time, time-controlled or event-controlled.

For more details, please visit our website, register for our newsletter or arrange a personal workshop directly. We introduce you to tcVISION tailored to your situation, infrastructure and requirements.

Peter M. Horbach has been active in the area of data synchronization and replication with more than 40 years of IT experience. He manages the international partner business for BOS Software and writes for our blog.

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