The Open Mainframe Project has launched Zowe, an effort to make mainframes running z/OS both more accessible and programmable using REST application programming interfaces (APIs).
Announced at the Open Source Summit, the Zowe project is being led by IBM, CA Technologies and Rocket Software.
Matt Hogstrom, chief architect for z/OS Systems at IBM, said the goal of the Zowe project is to attract a new generation of IT administrators to the mainframe platforms and make it simpler to include mainframes within the larger scope of an integrated set of DevOps process spanning multiple platforms.
In addition, IBM, CA Technologies and Rocket Software collectively are trying to create an ecosystem around the mainframe that resembles more of the types of interactions that occur between companies that participate in the Linux community, Hogstrom said. The Open Mainframe Project operates under the auspices of the Linux Foundation.
Now that IBM mainframes are more than 50 years old, IBM and its allies are increasingly relying on open source tools to make sure mainframes stay relevant for another 50 years, he said.
To achieve that goal, Zowe provides access to an extensible z/OS framework that provides new APIs and z/OS REST services. The Open Mainframe Project, as part of Zowe, has also created a unifying workspace based on a desktop app container accessed via a browser and a scriptable command line interface (CLI) that makes it easier to integrate z/OS into cloud and distributed environments using a set of low-code tools.
Greg Lotko, General Manager for Mainframe at CA Technologies, said the contributions to the Zowe Project made by CA Technologies are based on CA Brightside, a set of DevOps tools developed specifically for mainframe environments.
The biggest challenge the mainframe community now faces is a dwindling pool of talent. Most college graduates today have limited exposure to mainframes at a time when many of the IT professionals who do have mainframe skills are retiring. In the absence of skills to manage mainframes, IT organizations wind up making decisions regarding where to put workloads based on the availability of expertise available to run those platforms. IBM, CA Technologies and Rocket Software all have a vested interest in leveraging DevOps tools and processes to eliminate the silo that currently exists between mainframes and other platforms by making it easier to call services residing on a mainframe using REST APIs, while at the same time making it easier to manage mainframes within the context of a common set of DevOps processes spanning multiple platforms.
Mainframes, of course, are still comparatively expensive platforms to acquire. IBM has sharply reduced the cost of mainframes over the years. But the primary economic value proposition of mainframes is that the total cost of operating a mainframe is less than a distributing computing environment running a comparable set of workloads. Mainframes are highly automated, so IT organizations that can afford the cost of entry tend to still favor mainframes for complex transaction processing and analytics applications. The challenge—and opportunity—for mainframe shops now is in turning those applications into a set of reusable services that can be readily invoked from anywhere in the enterprise.