There is a lot of talk about DevOps, and how it improves the process of delivering business value. Much of the discussion of DevOps has been focused on web based companies such as Facebook, or the mobile and distributed development teams. But DevOps principles apply just as well to the traditional Systems of Record, z/OS applications. Many of these applications have been around for a long time and have very mature development and deployment processes. These processes include the requirements for separation of duties and audit tracking. Over the years these processes have developed into lengthy procedures, to be comprehensive, the net effect of this has been to reduce the number and frequency of the deployments to reduce risk. However, there is a better way.
In the recent blog posting by Ashok Reddy he talked about the 8 critical DevOps Practices: innovate, deliver, repeat. All of these are as applicable to z/OS applications as any other, for this blog I want to focus on just a few of the practices, Loosely Coupled Architecture, Automate Testing using APIs, Transparency and Minimize hand-offs, Maximize flow.
DevOps is about bringing the entire organization together, including Development and Operations, to more efficiently deliver the business value. The practices of “Transparency” and “Minimize hand-off, Maximize flow” go to the core concepts of the people aspects of DevOps i.e., integrating the organization. By breaking down the barriers between the organizations, people can work together to accomplish the business goals more quickly. This does not necessarily mean actually changing the organizational structure, but it does mean having the organizational structures work together as cross functional teams.
One example would be the monitoring and optimization practices. These are generally done by Operations after the applications are deployed into production. However, if instead Operations and Development worked together in the early part of development cycle to monitor and optimize the application using the same capabilities that will be used in production any issues can be addressed much earlier in the cycle. This also helps both teams learn what is required to monitor and manage the application long before it is ever deployed to production. In many z/OS environments today, the same infrastructure is already available in the test environments, but it is seldom used.
A second example is to have Operations define the deployment automation such that it can be done by Development in early stages and turned over in later stages. This ensures continued testing of the deployment capability and a validation that by the time the deployment is done in production; the deployment process itself will be well tested. Through this integration of Development and Operations you remove the hand off that currently happens only at the final stage just before production deployment.
The practice of loosely coupled architecture is key when building multi-platform applications. Having clear interface definitions between the different parts of the application is essential of a loosely coupled architecture. It is easier to allow the capability to build independently, tested at the interface level and then brought together when the parts are ready. By defining clear interfaces between application components and properly handling forward and backward compatibility, there is less of a requirement for coordinated simultaneous deployments. This allows teams to be less dependent on other parts of the application during the development process, and allows for easier automated testing.
The practice of Automate testing is critical to any DevOps transformation. It provides the capability to improve the speed of delivery while reducing risk. Moving to agile development practices while still requiring people to perform manual tests, will not allow the quick iteration on the capability. Even for existing applications you can generate interface tests to begin to build up automated regression test cases. Automated tests can be generated based on interface definitions such as a JSON schema or a COBOL copybook for new development. The increased focus on testing the interfaces early helps reduce the integration problems generally found late in the development cycle.
These are just a few of the key practices of DevOps but hopefully they have started to demonstrate how DevOps is as applicable to the Systems of Record on z/OS as it is to Systems of Engagement. To learn more read the best practices for a DevOps approach with IBM System z whitepaper or watch the replay of the November 20, IBM DevOps Symposium webcast.
About the Author:
Rosalind Radcliffe is a Distinguished Engineer within the IBM Rational organization. She is Chief Architect for CLM and DevOps. She is responsible for driving the DevOps for multi-platform architecture. This includes System z and Power system. In addition she is responsible for the architecture for the Collaborative Management capability for Enterprise solutions. This includes UrbanCode Deploy and Rational Team Concert’s support for standard Mainframe development activities.
She is a member of the IBM Academy of Technology and a Master Inventor. Prior to Rational, she was in Tivoli responsible for the SOA Management Strategy for IBM.