ACF2 vs RACF: Selecting the Perfect Tool for Your Requirements

ACF2 vs RACF: Selecting the Perfect Tool for Your Requirements

ACF2 and RACF are two of the most recognized security software products that can be applied in the mainframe computing environment. ACF2 and RACF have advanced features and securely manage the access control and security of large enterprise systems.

Originally, ACF2 was developed by the Broadcom Company, which was known as the Computer Associates Company; still, this system is rather flexible, highly controlled, and quite easy. On the other hand, there is RACF which was developed by IBM and is an integral part of z/OS operating system and hence can be said to be well integrated security software.

This is something that IT personnel would encounter after working for some years in the organization and have adequate power to select between two security softwares that is ACF2 and RACF. Now, let us look at the different features of the approach, important considerations and guidelines on choosing the correct tool.

Key Features Of ACF2

  • Flexible Access Control: ACF2 has a strong and comprehensive authorization mechanism whereby security can be granted to users, roles, resource and properties of the resource.
  • Comprehensive Logging and Reporting: Two important features of the ACF2 product are logging and reporting that allow you to work with the mainframe product, which has many functions that enable you to monitor the activities of users, access attempts, and security incidents.
  • Simplified Administration: The major strength seen when implementing ACF2 is that the system administration is well organized and easily manageable through the command line utilities making the work easier for the security administrator in managing the security environment.
  • Advanced Threat Detection: ACF2 also has functions for threat tracking and security threats and this is a break in procedures, attempts to gain unauthorized access, suspicious users and data leak.
  • Compliance and Regulatory Support: This makes ACF2 useful in ensuring an organization complies with the various regulatory requirements such as the PCI DSS, HIPAA, and SOX through its security control and features together with its support for audit reporting.

Key Features Of RACF

  • Tight z/OS Integration: RACF is a part of the z/OS operating system; however, it is a local and strongly integrated system that is designed for use with mainframe.
  • Robust Access Control: RACF is a robust solution, and it has numerous features that can be used to ensure that access control is well implemented at the resource, user, and group level.
  • Centralized Security Management: RACF is a security administration system that empowers the user to secure from a central point and consists of aspects of security control for users, resources, and applications.
  • Advanced Auditing and Reporting: In auditing and reporting, RACF has more extensive capabilities than other security software, which assist one in observing the security incidences, users, and patterns of the mainframe systems.
  • Seamless Integration with Other IBM Products: RACF works well with other important products that have been developed by the IBM to suit mainframe computers such as the DB2, IMS and CICS.

Comparing ACF2 And RACF

When it comes to comparing ACF2 and RACF, there are several key factors to consider:

  • Flexibility and Customization: In particular, ACF2 is generally believed to be more flexible and customizable than other tools of this type, which allows to build the necessary security system for your company. It is also important to note that while RACF is more fully integrated with z/OS operating system it may be more highly structured in terms of security.
  • Ease of Use and Administration: These are some of the advantages of ACF2; It is less complex to use and manage in comparison to RACF since it has a more effective and friendly user interface and command line utilities. While there may be some complexity associated with RACF in terms of understanding for the security administrators, it is a tough solution to try out.
  • Reporting and Auditing: ACF2 and RACF offer powerful reporting and auditing capabilities, although it is possible that the differences between the two can be site dependent, depending on the aspect being evaluated. It is not possible to determine which of the two is superior to the other, and one will have to weigh the options that his/her organization requires in order to decide which of the tools is more appropriate.
  • Threat Detection and Response: ACF2, RACF have protection against threats and their actions might be dissimilar, and include safety features for threat identification. Other features include the level of security required by the organization and how effectively the tools meet the requirements.
  • Integration and Ecosystem: RACF has very strong coupling with the z/OS operating system and other IBM mainframe software products which might be advantageous for the organization if it uses IBM products and services. While ACF2 is not as popular as ACP, it is equipped with a wide variety of third-party add-ons and has a strong community surrounding it.

Considerations To Make When Choosing The Right Tool

When choosing between ACF2 and RACF, consider the following factors:

  1. Organizational Requirements: As it regards security aspects, one must think about the access levels, auditing, and reporting that are needed for the organization and about compliance with the existing legislation.
  2. Existing Infrastructure and Ecosystem: Supposing you already have in place a structure for Integrated IT environment in your organization, how do you link the mainframe operating system to other IBM products and third parties?
  3. IT Team Expertise and Preferences: Consider the skills and preferences of the IT security staff as well, because the ease of use and controllability of the security solution can significantly impact its adoption by the team.
  4. Cost and Resource Considerations: Illustrate how the price for licensing, the cost for implementing the ACF2 and RACF, and the cost of maintaining it are different and the resources needed for each solution.
  5. Future Scalability and Growth: Assess the sustainability and growth potential of each solution which you may need more or a different level of security at some point in the future.

Implementing ACF2 Or RACF: Common Mistakes and Recommendations

Regardless of which tool you choose, there are several best practices to consider when implementing ACF2 or RACF:

  • Establish a Comprehensive Security Strategy: Formulate a clear and concise security plan that is appropriate to your organization’s business goals and risk mitigation framework.
  • Engage Stakeholders and Secure Buy-in: Engage the IT management, security departments and other business units to ensure they support the initiative.
  • Conduct a Thorough Assessment: Carry out a thorough risk assessment of your organization’s security status in terms of the current policy, current controls, and user access rights.
  • Develop a Detailed Implementation Plan: Develop a clear deployment plan that should include the key activities, expected time frame, and needed resources for the intended undertaking.
  • Provide Comprehensive Training and Support: Make sure your IT security team is well trained on the selected tool, the functions, and capacities of the tool as well as how to manage and update the tool.
  • Continuously Monitor and Optimize: Continuously audit and fine-tune the security environment by using lessons, threats, and business requirements, as acquired over time.


Deciding whether to implement RACF or ACF2 for the mainframe security is one of the most important decisions that must be made taking into account the needs and the scale of the company, as well as its plans. It is crucial to know the significant characteristics and distinctions between these two security tools and to assess the factors that can affect your organization’s choice to protect the mainframe and meet the requirements of the industry’s rules and regulations.

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Written by Avatier Office