Art Celestini

Art has a rich history in the mainframe software industry with a record of achievements in the research, development and application of new technology. He is expert in S/390 architecture and in the internal functions and services of OS/390 (a.k.a. MVS and z/OS). Across his career as a product developer, he has amassed considerable expertise in the refinements of software performance, reliability and serviceability.

Art also has many years' experience managing software development and technical support organizations. In these roles, he has built and maintained staffs that were resourceful and productive, and kept their energies focused on meeting business goals.

In recent years, both Microsoft Windows and the Web-Centric Internet have matured into platforms worthy of serious business software deployment. Art has written several Windows applications and continues to build on his working knowledge of Linux. He can therefore provide his overall development expertise and “mainframe-class” quality of services in these areas as well.

The Early Years

Art began his career in 1969 with RCA's Computer Systems Division, providing pre- and post-sales support in the Northern New Jersey field organization. After quickly becoming versed in the architecture of RCA's Spectra/70 computers (similar to IBM's System/360s), he was writing specialized, low-level programs for users that pushed the hardware to its limits — bringing added value to the business relationship between his employer and its customers.

In 1970, Art became a member of a small team of RCA employees assembled from around the country to explore the notion of running the IBM OS/360 operating system (and subordinate user applications) on Spectra/70 hardware. Later that year, RCA announced the fruits of their effort, a software product known as the 360-Mode-Of-Operation, which ultimately made possible the sale of several dozen Spectra/70 systems (a significant number in those days).

In 1971, RCA decided to sell its computer division to Sperry Univac. Art shifted over to work for Sperry, and was asked to join a special development team at Sperry's headquarters in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Roughly eighteen months later, this team released a product know as Spectra Mode of Operation Through Hardware or SMOOTH, which somewhat ironically, emulated the Spectra/70 hardware architecture on a series of Sperry Univac machines. This product helped Sperry hold on to a large percentage of the Spectra customer base by providing it a convenient upgrade path within the Sperry product line.

Consulting in the 1970s

In 1972, Art ventured into the world of consulting. One of his first projects involved a three-year effort developing an on-line transaction processing system for an electric utility. This was a turn-key, custom-written, CICS-like package that ran on Spectra/70s under the TDOS operating system. Working as a member of a small team, Art developed both the Terminal Monitor Program and the access method code for the files holding customer data. While these were written in Assembler, he also developed several of the key business transaction handling programs which were written in COBOL.

In a manner similar to how CICS works today, Art's Terminal Monitor Program handled "context switching" among operations being conducted for multiple on-line terminals, while operating as a single task within the system. His access method code, written at the EXCP-level for performance, included one of the first extensible, commercial data compression implementations, along with an "alternate indexing" scheme that allowed access to customer records by account number, name or address. Breaking new ground for the early 1970's, the introduction of this system gave the client the ability to perform on-line queries and enter service orders for customer accounts, using video computer terminals installed in its customer service facilities.

By the mid-1970s, the first commercial microprocessors began to find their way into business applications — mostly as dedicated word processing systems. Unfortunately, the reliability of these early systems left something to be desired. Because of his comfort at the machine architecture level, Art was asked to explore the possibilities for storing files created with these word processors on larger, more reliable computer systems. He learned the Intel 8080 architecture and developed a program that used a modem to dial-up into the client's PDP-11 system, and allowed uploading and downloading of documents, achieving the stated goals.

Because there were no viable high-level languages available for the 8080 at that time, the program was written entirely in assembler. It handled low-level modem control and eight-inch diskette I/O. (Hard drives had yet to be introduced.) It also handled the "server" logon and terminal emulation, through which it orchestrated a dialog that accomplished the upload and download functions. Aside from the original archival goals, the client went on to use the program as a means to transmit documents (through the PDP-11 hosts) from one word processing system to another — somewhat of an early e-mail system.

In the early 80's, the electric utility mentioned earlier contracted with a nationally-known consulting firm for the complete conversion of their Spectra/70-based applications to run in the MVS environment on IBM System/370s. Well into the overall effort, the consulting firm realized that it had severely underestimated the work needed to convert the on-line transaction processing system, which Art had contributed to several years earlier. As a result of recommendations by the client, the consulting firm contacted Art.

Coming into the project as a subcontractor, Art became familiar with the CICS internals necessary for him to develop an interface between CICS and components of his original terminal monitor program. He also developed an interface to map the original terminal-oriented data to and from CICS-compatible 3270 streams, and an interface to map the original file structures onto VSAM data sets. With these "adapters" in place, he was able to use more than 90% of the original 300,000 lines of COBOL and Assembler code without modification, keeping the cost of the conversion much closer to the original target. The client was highly satisfied with its performance and reliability, and the consulting firm was grateful to be able to complete the overall project within budget.

The Comfort Zone

By 1982, Art had met Linda (his wife, today) and began to prefer the notion of employment that was more secure and predictable than independent consulting. He therefore decided to accept a position with Atlantic Electric as a regular employee. Most of his projects in this job involved working in COBOL and Assembler on traditional business data processing projects. However, one clear exception was an experimental group of programs written in BASIC for the Apple II microcomputer.

Working with the power generation engineering staff, Art developed software for the Apple II to interface with special analog-to-digital converters, that were in turn connected special instruments that monitored air quality. Art's programs periodically polled the instruments through the A-to-D converters, recorded the digital readings, and then at greater intervals, used a modem to dial-up into a second Apple II and forward the collected data. The second microcomputer contained an SNA network adapter which permitted Art's program on that machine to make an RJE connection to the mainframe, so that the readings could be "uploaded" to MVS.

Ultimately, about 200 of the Apple II's were deployed throughout Atlantic Electric's service area to monitor the effect of the Company's generating stations on air quality. "Alarms" were also implemented in the system to alert personnel at the generating stations when certain air quality thresholds were exceeded. Since nearly all of Atlantic Electric's generating stations burned fossil fuels at that time, this system would become critical in helping Art's employer comply with strict, newly enacted air quality regulations.

Commercial Software Development

In 1984, Art accepted a position with Syncsort Incorporated, which became his first intimate exposure to the paradigm of the Independent Software Vendor. He spent his first year as a senior engineer in the technical support group for the company's flagship product, SyncSort MVS. His talents were quickly recognized, and at the beginning of his second year, he assumed the responsibilities of the manager of that same group.

In the two years that he held that position, Art developed several new methods to streamline the group's operation and provide better service to Syncsort's customers. While some basic systems were in place to collect data on customer calls, the presentation of the data by those systems had only limited usefulness. To accommodate his own needs, Art wrote several SAS programs to capture the raw data from these systems and digest it in new ways. His self-crafted tools served him in more rapidly identifying customer support "hot spots," and in evaluating and improving the effectiveness of his staff's response.

By late 1987, Art had developed a good grasp of SyncSort MVS's internals, and made notable corrective contributions during the three years he spent in technical support roles. (At Syncsort, corrective maintenance is the responsibility of the Customer Service Group.) However, while still the Customer Service manager, he conceived of a way to employ a little-used S/390 hardware feature to reduce the amount of data movement that took place in memory during the sort's operation. With one of his aspiring technical support analysts, he conducted a special research project to prove the concept and gauge its potential performance benefit. The idea not only worked as conceived, but with subsequent refinement and meticulous deployment of the technique in the product, it ultimately catapulted SyncSort into the performance forefront of the MVS sort market. The technique is, today, the basis of a Syncsort patent.

Art had clearly demonstrated his value as an innovator. To give him the opportunity to more directly contribute to the core of the product, he was asked to take over as manager of its development group. He began, in that role, by leading his group in the task of transitioning the product to a new level of the MVS operating system, called ESA.

With MVS/ESA came the new technologies of hiperspaces and data spaces, and Art was quick to recognize their potential in improving sort performance. As a result of a focused effort by his development team, SyncSort was one of the first commercial products to exploit these new technologies, which helped it to further solidify its performance leadership position.

Largely due to the ongoing success of the SyncSort MVS product, in late 1988, Syncsort upper management decided to discontinue work on another development project. The group of developers working on that project were merged into Art's group under a different manager, and a new Special Projects group was created that Art was asked to head. This new group was given responsibility for complex research and new technology development tasks. Along with a variety of improvements to SyncSort MVS's sorting and I/O algorithms, this group developed new tools to analyze SMF data related to sorting, and cultivated a new Performance Enhancement Services activity, which became a consulting service that Syncsort offered to customers for a fee.

In 1992, Art relinquished his remaining management responsibilities and focused nearly all of his energies on the various aspects of SyncSort MVS performance. His efforts ranged from researching how best to exploit new types of DASD hardware, to analyzing SMF data from sales prospects that were using competing products, to conceptualizing product enhancements and new product ideas. He also put considerable effort into modernizing an internal SyncSort component known as the Optimizer.

For every sort performed by SyncSort, its overall operation is first "modeled" by the Optimizer. Because storage and I/O resources can be used in so many different quantities and ways, arriving at a "solution" for each sort that is truly optimal, is a complex chore. Moreover, with more than 100 variables for which values must typically be established, the optimization process itself runs the risk of being a notable consumer of CPU resources.

Over time, Art made a wide variety of enhancements to the Optimizer. Many involved dynamic responses to the availability of storage and I/O resources which varied over time. He developed new mathematical models that accommodated resources such as hiperspaces, and through the use of differential calculus derived equations for the various minima and maxima in those models. Then, by implementing those equations in the Optimizer, he achieved more rapid convergence on even more optimal solutions.

In his last several years at Syncsort, Art conceptualized and proposed several promising new mainframe software products. Unfortunately, the Company declined to make the investment needed to explore their potential. He concluded that Syncsort had lost interest in pursuing the development of mainframe products, other than only the necessary enhancements to SyncSort MVS for it to remain competitive.

In mid-1996, Art accepted a position as a developer in the DB2 Utility Laboratory at Platinum Technology. Several of Platinum's DB2 utilities used a common layer of I/O code which was written at the EXCP level. The company, however, wanted to achieve even better I/O performance in order to place its products "head and shoulders" above their competitors. To realize this goal, Art developed what was referred to internally as Tiger, an access method that worked at the level of the STARTIO interface to the MVS I/O Supervisor.

Tiger included novel approaches to both virtual and real storage management, read-ahead and write-behind buffer processing, weighted buffer caching, I/O multithreading, and even system-resident code (in ECSA) that allowed real-time maintenance and multiple version support. Along with a colleague, Art also designed a subsystem data set interface that would permit Tiger clients (Platinum's utilities) to avoid real I/O by processing VSAM and sequential data through pipes (similar to the SAM capabilities of IBM's Batchpipes product).

Back to Consulting

In mid-1999, Platinum Technology was acquired by Computer Associates. At this time, Art decided to move back into the arena of independent consulting. He is now principally focused on providing contract services for software development companies.

Note: Art regards the details of the work he has done for his clients over the past couple of years to be confidential. The following descriptions are therefore kept very general. However, he will gladly provide references within client organizations upon request.

For a commercial, Windows-based CRM product, Art developed a DLL module written in C to provide specialized reports being requested by the client's customers — typically their sales managers. The project involved accessing and retrieving data from the product's proprietary database, formatting data as appropriate, and driving the Windows Graphical Device Interface (GDI) for high-quality, forms-style printing.

For a mainframe file archival/retrieval product, Art developed enhancements to allow the client's customers to more easily manage archive volumes and their contents. Most of the programming was done in COBOL, although one performance improvement involved adding Control-Interval-Access capability to a lower-level VSAM I/O module, which was done in Assembler. The enhancements were packaged as a new program, that the client now sells as an add-on product.

Somewhat unusual in a COBOL implementation, the product allows for the selection of archived files using anywhere from simple to complex criteria. It interrogates a proprietary database (catalog) of information about these files to apply the selection criteria, and then constructs a work queue for copying and/or moving files to new archive volumes. It is particularly useful for the reorganization and consolidation of archives without the need for intermediate recalls.

In establishing a presence for his business on the Internet, Art has recently accrued a working knowledge of the Linux operating system as well as related networking concepts. He has gained experience installing and configuring DNS name servers (BIND and TINYDNS), web servers (BOA and APACHE), a mail server (QMAIL), and other various Linux packages and tools.

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Art's formal résumé is available here:

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