Module code: COM3015

Module Overview

Mainframes play a crucial role in many large enterprises where security, reliability, availability, manageability, scalability and predictability are key concerns. 80% of the world's corporate data resides or originates on IBM mainframes. IBM mainframes (“System z”) are used by 95% of US Fortune 500 companies, 71% of global Fortune 500 companies, all of the top 25 worldwide banks, 23 of the top 25 US retailers and 9 out of 10 of the world's largest insurance companies. The mainframe operating system z/OS supports large-scale databases through DB2, IBM's flagship mainframe database software, and IBM's mainframe transaction serving software CICS handles more than 30 billion transactions per day.

The IBM Mainframe Computing module introduces students to mainframe concepts and “Large Systems Thinking” and provides the knowledge and skills necessary for using mainframes and preparing for a career in large systems computing. Experienced IBM IT professionals who are Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in mainframe computing provide the module.

Software and hardware technologies that will be covered include System z and zEnterprise, z/Architecture, Parallel Sysplex, TSO/E, ISPF, datasets, DFSMS, ISPF, JES2, JCL, SDSF, DB2,  CICS, CMS and REXX. Further topics that may be covered include RACF, SMP/E, PIPELINES, MQ and WAS.

Mainframe Computing in general provides for an interesting background to, and contrast with, Cloud Computing, and in relation to Business Systems and Distributed Computing more generally.

Module provider

Computer Science and Electronic Eng

Module Leader

CROSSAN Andrew (CS & EE)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): 15

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 101

Lecture Hours: 22

Laboratory Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 10

Captured Content: 6

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

1. Fundamental concepts of the System z mainframe including its real-world usage, hardware and architecture.

2. Fundamentals of z/OS®, the IBM “flagship” mainframe operating system, covering hardware, virtual storage, workload management and interactive usage.

3. Mainframe workloads and the major middleware applications in use on mainframes today, including batch, enterprise database management and transaction serving.

4. Virtualisation of enterprise Linux workloads using the mainframe's hardware and microcode virtualisation support, along with IBM's hypervisor operating system z/VM which can host and manage thousands of separate Linux virtual servers securely and reliably on a single mainframe.

5. Data sets (DFSMS, allocation, VSAM, catalogs)

6. Batch processing: JES, JCL, SDSF, utilities

7. Systems programming: customizing the system, change control, system initialization

8. Advanced, specialised areas of mainframes such as z/OS systems programming, enterprise security or enterprise application programming.

9. Mainframe software, technologies and business considerations including, but not limited to: System z10; z/Architecture; Security overview (RACF, integrity); Parallel Sysplex and continuous availability; ISPF; DB2; CICS, MQ and REXX. Additional topics may include: Networking (TCP/IP, SNA, VTAM), WebSphere MQ, WebSphere Application Server (WAS).


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework COURSEWORK 100

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate :

  • Analysis and critical evaluation of the basic concepts of the System z architecture.

  • Both theoretical and practical knowledge of the System Z Operating System

  • A professional understanding of mainframe computing and business critical systems

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Coursework - The individual project, which involves use of the Zeus mainframe and is assessed through written deliverables and development and configuration within the Zeus environment. This addresses all LOs

Formative assessment and feedback

Students will be able to seek formative feedback in the lab sessions, and in relation to preparatory work for assessment, with the SMEs and use these opportunities to gauge their progress. 


Module aims

  • provide students with a professional and practical understanding of the leading industry standard for mainframe design, the IBM Mainframe
  • Expose the fundamental concepts of the System z mainframe including its usage, hardware and architecture
  • Offer understanding of mainframe workloads and major middleware applications, virtualisation of enterprise Linux workloads, Introduce advanced mainframe topics such as z/OS systems programming, enterprise security or enterprise application programming.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Analyse, and critically evaluate the basic concepts of the System z architecture KCT
2  Demonstrate both theoretical and practical knowledge of the System Z Operating System KC
3  Demonstrate a professional understanding of mainframe computing and business critical systems KPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

introduce students to mainframe concepts and “Large Systems Thinking” and provide the knowledge and skills necessary for using mainframes and preparing for a career in large systems computing.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  •  SMEs running weekly workshop sessions face-to-face at the University. These typically involve ~ presentations and practical investigation with a “live” mainframe system, IBM's European University hub mainframe “Zeus”.

  • 24/7 access to Zeus from any internet-connected system to enable further investigation, and teaching materials via IBM’s Moodle-based materials.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: COM3015

Other information

Digital Capabilities

Mainframe computers play a vital role behind the scenes in everyday life running many banking systems for example. This module teaches students how to work with these complex systems where resilience is key and system downtime must be avoided.  Students get the chance to develop on a remote mainframe computer to provide the practical experience to go along with the theory.


This module provides both theory and practical skills for working with and developing for mainframe computer systems. These are skills that are vital in certain industries such as banking  where they are highly valuable to employers. The focus on distributed and scalable systems means that the material taught on this course is applicable more widely also.

Global and Cultural Skills

Computer Science is a global language and the tools and languages used on this module can be used internationally. This module allows students to develop skills that will allow them to reason about and develop applications with global reach and collaborate with their peers around the world.

Resourcefulness and Resilience

This module involves practical problem-solving skills that teach a student how to reason about complex hardware and software systems through combining the foundation theory taught with practical technologies for systems that are in everyday use.

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.