IBM mainframe DevOps thought leadership – Imitated but never duplicated

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‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – How competitors recognized IBM’s mainframe DevOps thought leadership and followed suit’

In 1964, when the Japanese first came up with the Shinkansen, or high-speed rail, they unleashed a marvel of technological innovation in the rail industry and changed the face of train travel forever. Not only was Japan first in the world to lay dedicated railway tracks for high-speed travel, they are also the only nation with a spotless safety record (zero accidents in the last 50-plus years of service). With such a phenomenal track record of innovation and safety, it’s not surprising that over the years, others have tried to emulate the Japanese, and have embraced high speed rail travel with varying degrees of success.

The year 1964 was also when IBM introduced its revolutionary System/360 mainframe. The rest, as they say, is history.

how the mainframe changed our world, Mainframe DevOps

Much like the Shinkansen engineers, we at IBM have been at the forefront of many new and decidedly ground breaking innovations since, including Cognitive Computing, and chip design. In keeping with this tradition of innovation, we were at the forefront of recognizing the significance of DevOps for our z Systems customers.

DevOps is all about continuous improvement based on continuous feedback. It’s a feedback loop that requires every aspect of the application delivery life cycle to flow naturally and iteratively, resulting in higher quality deliveries and happier customers. While this blog is focused on tools and solutions, adopting DevOps successfully requires more than just a good set of tools; it requires a cultural shift by the people asked to embark on this journey. It also requires effective processes that support cultural change.

culture - foundational values and principles, Mainframe DevOps

I will cover these important phases of the DevOps transformation journey in future blog posts. For now, let’s delve deeper into the tools that facilitate DevOps adoption, spanning four key areas: Collaborative Development, Continuous Testing, Automated Deployment, Operational Insight.

We have diligently worked to provide an integrated set of offerings across the entire application delivery life cycle to help our customers along this journey. These tools not only work seamlessly with each other to facilitate a continuous delivery pipeline for the mainframe, but are also the only set of offerings that are truly multi-platform and open. It’s not an either-or situation in terms of the ability to leverage existing third-party and open source tools, given the support for open standards and OSLC [1]. These tools facilitate an incremental adoption of DevOps, while addressing skills issues that make the mainframe accessible and fun to work with for young developers joining the workforce.

Collaborative Development

Truth be told, our DevOps journey began more than a decade ago with our foray into providing a modern IDE for mainframe development that allowed our customers to leverage tools and capabilities that were a given for distributed development. Over the years, this offering, Rational Developer for z Systems (RDz) has not only evolved to become one of the premier IDEs in the market, it has also evolved to become a truly integrative platform for collaborative development, in conjunction with Rational Team Concert (RTC), and Problem Determination Tools.

We use out-of-the-box features like automatic syntax checking, software analyzer for code quality, service tooling that supports the creation of traditional and REST interfaces, exiting mainframe code, and program flow diagramming/analysis. With such capabilities, this environment provides an easy on-ramp for millennials to do mainframe development with the same tools that they have come to expect when they develop with java, .net, or other polyglot languages. Rational Team Concert provides industry leading multi-platform collaboration and SCM features, along with robust third-party tool integrations through OSLC, and integrates with JIRA, Jenkins, HP QC, and a host of other tools.

But wait–there’s more. With the announcement of zOS Explorer Aqua in December 2015, we took this integration to a whole new level. Aqua delivers a common installation and integration experience across more than a dozen products spanning Development, Operations, and Runtime. Learn more.

Continuous Testing

Can the mainframe truly support continuous testing? With Rational Development and Test Environment (RD&T) we recognized the need to make mainframe testing more flexible. We provide off-host testing with the real zOS, on x86 Linux, eliminate the competition between test and production workloads (yeah, we know which one wins, don’t we?), and we remove test bottlenecks, which result in flexibility and optimization.

We upped the ante by providing this as a managed service on Softlayer to reduce on-site setup and maintenance costs, and further reduced the barriers to shifting left with robust z and cross platform test virtualization support. RD&T on Softlayer provides a hybrid cloud development environment in conjunction with on-prem mainframes.

Automated Deployment

Here, we focus on the need to ensure consistent and automated deployment processes with parity between test and production environments to maximize quality and customer satisfaction. Urbancode Deploy is a robust multi-platform deployment automation solution in the market, and is a leader in deployment automation for z Systems.

Urbancode Deploy provides true deployment automation support for z with its z Server agents, rather than just providing a glorified workflow tool, while enabling multi-platform deployment orchestration across test and production environments spanning both z and distributed platforms. Urbancode Deploy is tightly integrated with Rational Team Concert to enable deployment of artifacts resulting from RTC builds, while also supporting third-party legacy SCMs.

Operational Insight

Finally, the ability to improve deployed applications based on feedback is a critical component of the DevOps life cycle. One aspect of this focuses on deeper operational insight into deployed applications through automated monitoring and issue identification. To this end, IBM provides best of breed tools to monitor and optimize production code with the Service Management Suite for z Systems, and IBM Operational Analytics for z Systems.

To net it out, we have a compelling set of tools that are rapidly evolving to provide mainframe users the ability to adopt DevOps incrementally, while minimizing risk. We aren’t stopping there, and have an exciting vision for the future, with a focus on SaaS, hybrid cloud, and API management.

Given IBM’s DevOps thought leadership and vision for the mainframe, it’s no surprise that other mainframe vendors are embracing our ideas. Indeed, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (with due props to Charles Caleb Colton). I applaud them for finally seeing the light, but the fact remains that superficial integrations with multiple third-party tools does not make for a compelling value proposition, given the associated costs and limited capabilities. To deliver true value, we at IBM have focused on delivering cost effective, high quality, open solutions, which are component parts of a much broader vision to keep the mainframe vital for the next 50 years.

To find out more and explore what we have to offer visit

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