A few months ago, I wrote about the release of Zowe, the first Open Source project based on z/OS. Zowe is a framework for including z/OS in your applications with less pain than we have traditionally suffered. IBM supported this project as part of its view that enterprises need to have interoperability between platforms.
First, let’s cover the pricing. IBM has brought “Pay as you grow” type pricing to the mainframe. While owning a mainframe means you are already expending funds, the new model is designed to simplify licensing and adjust what you are paying based upon actual consumption. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but it is wholly new to the mainframe scene and places mainframe pricing in the same pre-determinable model as cloud. IBM signed on some of z/OS’s biggest developers to offer similar pricing with Broadcom, BMC and Compuware either joining with IBM or offering similar programs.
But that’s not the exciting part for those of us in DevOps. The exciting part is the announcement of IBM z/OS Container Extensions. The ability to drop standard containers onto a z/OS partition and use them as an interface to traditional mainframe data/subsystems is huge from a DevOps perspective. This puts both the processing power of the mainframe and the stable data/subsystems into the DevOps cycle by allowing containers to be treated like any other container. Of course, I haven’t (and due to current work requirements probably won’t) played with it, so I’m likely glossing over some issues that users will run into, the potential is staggering. To finally have mainframe access that fits into the DevOps toolchain like any other system would is huge, and shows that IBM is listening to the market. I’ll be following along to see how it rolls out; I’ve got a fair number of associates working in mainframe shops who will keep me posted, but if you roll out Container Extensions, please let me know how it went.
I’m less excited about IBM z/OS Cloud Broker. This announcement talks about the ability to spin up z/OS environments in IBM Cloud Private. It seems to me that this is counter to most users’ needs, but I can see that some larger z/OS environments might well have asked for it—rather than pull in another mainframe just for seasonal bumps, the ability to provision in the cloud is appealing. However, the number of organizations that fall into this category is small, though important from an “IBM customer” perspective, so it makes sense that the company went this route, but it’s less about new technology and more about giving important customers a tool to avoid large “forklift” upgrades, IMO.
I’m still thrilled to see Container Extensions. I’m looking forward to following where that goes. IBM has been pretty open about the fact that this is a road it is on, not a destination, so no doubt Container Extensions is just a stop along the way. But if it makes it easier for today’s crop of developers and DevOps engineers to access the mainframe sitting in their DC, I’m all for it, and can’t wait for the next stop on this road.