IBM has expanded its efforts to bring DevOps best practices to the mainframe by adding automated unit testing capabilities for CICS COBOL programs using Db2 to IBM Developer for z/OS (IDz) V14.2.1. The company is also making an instance of z/OS available within a Docker container that can be deployed on an x86 platform.
Sanjay Chandru, director for IBM Z DevOps, said both capabilities will play a critical role in enabling IT organizations that have invested in mainframe to be much more agile. The Docker x86 capability will enable developers to build and test applications without requiring access to a mainframe, while IBM’s automated unit testing tools provide a much lighter-weight alternative to previous generations of tools, he said.
In addition to automating assertions and pass/fail checks, the automated unit testing capability for IDz makes it possible to invoke the tests from within either the tool itself or as part of a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline, Chandru said. DevOps teams also can now store tests in a modern source code management application alongside the code being developed, he added.
The IBM unit testing tool can now intercept EXEC CICS and EXEC SQL application calls under CICS to allow data capture during a live run. This recorded data can then be used to create additional tests, including negative tests, in a virtual environment without having CICS because tests are now run as a batch job, Chandru said.
Finally, IBM is also making it possible to export test results in PDF or XML in addition to JUnit and SonarQube formats.
Chandru said interest in applying best DevOps practices in mainframe environments has increased dramatically as organizations embrace digital business transformation initiatives. Almost invariably, projects access applications that run on mainframe environments but still process most of the data within enterprise IT environments, he noted. Many organizations are now developing microservices-based applications that rely on mainframes at their back end, he added.
However, given the rate at which those applications are being developed, legacy approaches to building and deploying mainframe applications are not able to keep pace with the rate of innovation now expected, said Chandru. As a result, IBM is encouraging organizations that have mainframes to shift responsibility for building and deploying applications much further to the left, he said.
Long term, IBM wants to make developing applications for the mainframe “unremarkable” in the sense that tools for building and deploying applications for any platform should work equally well on mainframes, Chandru said, noting that approach will significantly expand the pool of developers that can build applications for the mainframe.
It may be a while before DevOps best practices are employed pervasively across mainframe environments, many of which are steeped in legacy waterfall approaches to application development. However, there are pockets of IT teams within mainframe environments that are starting to appreciate the need to be able to respond to changing requirements more rapidly. The only issue that remains now is to determine just how deeply best DevOps practices on the mainframe will be embraced.