“DevOps” and “mainframe” are not words you often hear in the same sentence. Yet, the reality is that even in our current age of DevOps, mainframes remain the mainstays of many companies’ IT infrastructure.
That’s why it’s critical for organizations to find ways to bring mainframe software delivery up to speed with modern DevOps practices, which emphasize collaboration, agility and continuous deployment of software to meet quality and time-to-market pressures. It’s also essential to be able to de-silo software delivery teams with a unified pipeline that includes common, modern source code management (SCM) and other tooling.
This is one area where the IBM Z Open Development environment can deliver real value. Built with the goal of supporting modern source code managers such as Git, IBM Z Open Development helps make a common DevOps pipeline, including mainframe teams, more practical through use of modern, open SCM, plus other essential features for developers.
Keep reading for details on how Z Open Development works and what it can do to make mainframes DevOps-friendly.
IBM Z Open Development: Making Developers’ Lives Easier
There is a looming shortage of mainframe developers as the current experts retire; according to BMC’s 2018 mainframe survey, staffing and skills shortage is the second top concern for the mainframe ecosystem. This is not an ideal situation for organizations that rely heavily on mainframes. To solve it, organizations must allow all developers to work on mainframe software, instead of relying on mainframe specialists.
With Z Open Development, developers are armed with the capabilities they need to integrate mainframe work with a common DevOps pipeline that employs a modern, shared SCM. They also have the ability to perform program analysis, edit, build and debug in a way that is similar to other development platforms.
Git is the de facto SCM for the open source community, and enterprises are also embracing Git as the standard SCM for distributed software delivery. Z Open Development makes key Git features such as full Isolation and true parallel development, a reality for mainframe development teams.
Traditional mainframe library managers don’t offer these features; hence, they don’t overcome the isolation that separates mainframe development from development for other platforms. Z Open Development tackles this problem by offering IBM Dependency Based Build and provides enterprises a standardized implementation of Git.
Essentially, Z Open Development is purpose-built IDE for developing and maintaining z/OS application components with a modern SCM that supports parallel development. It provides integrated development and build automation, which can be joined with a common DevOps pipeline. This provides a path to migrate traditional mainframe library managers to modern source code management systems such as Git and Rational Team Concert.
Z Open Development is a neat and lean offering that can help development teams transform their software delivery around a common, automated delivery pipeline. Z developers can join a platform-neutral, continuous integration and deployment pipeline that is inclusive of z/OS. However, Z Open Development offers other attractive features that developers require:
1. Dependency-Based Build
IBM’s Dependency Based Build (DBB) allows clients to set up the build for COBOL, PL/I and other traditional z/OS languages just as they would other distributed languages through the use of modern scripting languages. By following the same model as distributed languages, and using standard scripting languages such as Groovy, the z/OS build can be easily added to the same CI/CD pipeline and managed by the same skills building the pipeline today. This ability to use the same CI/CD pipeline coordinator (such as Jenkins) removes the separation and allows for the creation of one coordinated pipeline. This includes being able to standardize on the approval flows, using the same quality gates and supporting the integration of the multiple parts of the application together.
DBB extends the Groovy language with an additional set of java APIs to allow access to run MVS, TSO and ISPF commands, as well as a facility to run existing JCL. DBB also provides a set of open source samples including a configuration-based build that can be used within your own organization, with minimal modifications.
With its GroovyZ capability, DBB also supports the ability to do automation in the pipeline for any additional configuration required. Since it’s Groovy, existing automation created for other platforms can easily be reused for z/OS.
2. Modern Editors
Developers can use modern editors for COBOL, JCL and PL/I to develop their applications. These editors are familiar and provide syntax highlighting and source code assistance to make coding a breeze.
3. Visual Program Analysis
Developers can check out the graphical views of the logical flow of any program they are working on for better program understanding. Developers can also access the graphical view of data flow within their program to identify different data elements and understand how they are populated and modified.
4. IBM z/OS Debugger
Z Open Development comes with the powerful Eclipse-based, source-level IBM z/OS debugger, which can be used to debug 24 and 31-bit z/OS applications written in COBOL and PL/I. Developers can modify variables during debugging while also being able to insert breakpoints during or prior to debugging. The visual debug capability provides developers with a graphical view of the execution flow through their program.
5. Simplified Integration
DBB integration with the editor enables developers to compile the programs using the same scripts defined for the pipeline build, which includes copying files with any dependencies to a specified host, running a build process and returning errors.
If the shared, modern SCM for the DevOps pipeline is Rational Team Concert (RTC), Z Open Development also offers RTC integration.
6. The Foundation for Z Open Unit Test
In addition to all of the above, Z Open Development lays the foundation for Z Open Unit Test, a unit testing tool for z/OS applications built on the Z Unit capability. Thus, Z Open Development allows developers to streamline and automate not just their SCM process, but also unit testing. Note that the Z Unit capability is also offered in IBM Developer for z Systems.
Empowering the Endangered
DevOps is based on the idea of eliminating silos to have a more collaborative approach to application development for more efficient and predictable output.
Mainframes have long been isolated, which places them in opposition to the fundamentals of DevOps. Z Open Development arms developers with the capabilities they need to build and maintain mission-critical software while still leveraging a shared DevOps pipeline that includes Git and Jenkins. It offers an easy first step to DevOps adoption and equips DevOps teams with the power to develop mainframe applications with familiar, shared skills and tools.