The drag factor of managing a sprawling distributed server landscape prevented Compuware from achieving the speed and efficiency it needed to embrace DevOps—and the company looked for a new approach.
Compuware created a two-platform IT strategy, keeping strategic systems running on IBM Z enterprise servers connected via RESTful APIs to public-cloud-based SaaS applications for non-strategic workloads.
USD5 millionin annual cost savings by removing 19 tons of obsolete equipment
Shrinksdata center footprint to enable further floorspace and energy savings
EnablesDevOps culture across on-premises enterprise servers and cloud resources
Business challenge story
Distributed infrastructure hinders innovation
IBM Z enterprise servers remain the strategic platform of choice for business-critical data and transactional processes in many large enterprises today. However, as companies seek to build out new systems of engagement on distributed platforms or in the cloud, they may run into misconceptions about the potential of their mainframe platforms. In particular, decision-makers may not be aware that today’s enterprise servers fit perfectly into an agile, DevOps-oriented IT organization.
As Compuware moved its internal development process from the traditional waterfall approach to an agile approach, its technology team looked for potential obstacles to productivity in the existing infrastructure.
Keith Sisson, Director of Technology at Compuware, says: “We identified our distributed x86 environment as one giant constraint: we were spending a tremendous amount of time and money on support. There were near-constant security updates and software patches to manage, and we were continually replacing old hardware across hundreds of servers in dozens of racks.”
Compuware analyzed its software assets, sorting them into two broad categories: strategic (vital to the core work of the enterprise) and compulsory (supporting important internal business functions such as HR and finance systems, but not providing competitive differentiation).
“We saw that our strategic systems—manufacturing, inventory, licensing, internal development, and so on—were almost exclusively on our IBM Z enterprise platform, while the compulsory systems were all in the distributed environment,” says Sisson.
The challenge for Compuware was to create a robust yet highly flexible infrastructure that would enable easy integration of business logic across different platforms, while dramatically reducing the time and effort spent on low-value systems administration.
Compact and efficient infrastructure
Compuware devised a two-platform IT strategy in which all strategic systems run on-premises in its IBM Z environment, and all non-core systems are replaced by software-as-a-service solutions (SaaS) in the public cloud, using RESTful APIs to interact with business logic and data on Z. To further increase the value of this strategy, Compuware recently upgraded its Z environment from IBM z13® to IBM z14™ servers.
“z14 gives us increased efficiency in terms of energy and floorspace, significantly reducing the cost of running our facilities,” says Sisson. “The new-generation servers also offer a 15 percent Java performance boost and give us the opportunity to gain experience with the new pervasive encryption capability. They are also helping us continue our DevOps journey on Z.”
The two IBM z14 ZR1 servers deployed by Compuware fit in an industry-standard 19-inch rack, and are more physically compact than the z13 servers they replaced, each of which required more than a full rack of data center space.
“We pay our landlord based on the square footage of our equipment, so we were previously paying for two racks’ worth of power and space for each z13,” says Sisson. “The z14 servers each fit in a single rack, and they also provided 16U of empty space, enabling us to consolidate the HMC and some networking HW from other racks.”
One of the z14 servers is used primarily to run Compuware’s strategic applications, while the second is used for developing all the code for the company’s mainframe software products. The company uses IBM DS8870 storage systems, and is considering an upgrade to DS8880 systems to take advantage of integrated cloud backup features.
Now entering the fifth year of its new strategy, Compuware has shrunk its on-premises IT footprint from 77 racks to just 12, eliminating 19 tons of obsolete equipment in the process. The company runs client tours of its data center, in which the empty floorspace has markers—wryly termed “tombstones”—detailing the equipment that used to occupy the space and the amount of money Compuware has saved by removing it.
“Although we have certainly saved millions of dollars, this exercise was not primarily about cost reduction,” notes Sisson. “Rather, we wanted to eliminate the constraint of our x86 landscape, which was a significant drag factor on our plans for a faster and more efficient business. Replacing on-premises x86 software with SaaS solutions meant that we could access the latest business functionality without any of the cost or complexity of actually running the software ourselves. And we were able to recycle all of the cost-savings into innovation.”
Achieving a successful transition to a DevOps culture requires businesses to embrace continuous integration and testing. Compuware uses the IBM z/OS® Provisioning Toolkit in combination with one of its own automation tools to dynamically create test suites running IBM Db2® and IBM CICS®. The company has integrated a third-party problem-tracking system to enable further automation.
Tearing up the rule book
The ongoing phasing-out of on-premises x86 systems in favor of SaaS solutions in the cloud is saving Compuware USD5 million annually, largely through the avoidance of capital and operational expenditure on a large distributed server environment. Upgrading from z13 to z14 servers has brought further cost advantages, shrinking the environmental footprint of the mainframe environment to generate USD12,000 in annual savings for electricity alone.
The faster zIIP engines in the z14 servers have relieved workload pressures, enabling Compuware to run close to 100 percent utilization without actually hitting that limit—ensuring consistent high performance at all times. Sisson says: “We opted for a modest 10 percent increase in MIPS, but gained more than that because of the change in utilization. We’re also seeing greater efficiency in systems administration on the z14 servers, thanks to a more user-friendly interface.”
The modernization of its enterprise platforms has brought about a whole new way of thinking about IT at Compuware. “Rather than trying to determine what should run on which platform, we ask, ‘how can we best solve this challenge?’,” says Sisson. “We can do this because of the seamless way that IBM Z uses standard REST APIs to integrate with cloud-based services. REST is built right into CICS, so you can use these microservices to enable systems of engagement in the cloud to consume mainframe data and logic as a service. This makes Z an excellent fit with our enterprise DevOps culture.”
Compuware aims to be the mainframe software partner for its clients for the next 50 years, and the company is “drinking its own champagne” by investing in its two-platform strategy. The company believes that mainframe and the cloud make an unbeatable combination when driven, as equals, within Agile methods and a DevOps toolchain.
“Some people believe that you have to do things differently and go slower on the mainframe,” says Sisson. “Our own experience of enabling mainframe programmers and operations staff to be more agile and productive demonstrates precisely the opposite: the mainframe can be treated like any other mainstream platform.”
He concludes: “When we show our clients what we’re achieving with DevOps on IBM Z, that’s when they really understand that the platform is not only viable, but extremely valuable.”
Compuware provides software products within a unified DevOps toolchain, helping cross-platform teams to manage mainframe applications, data and operations. The company supports a global base of clients, empowering their developers to build, analyze, test, deploy and manage COBOL applications with agility, efficiency and precision.
Take the next step
To learn more about DevOps on IBM Z, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/it-infrastructure/solutions/devops
For more information about IBM z/OS Provisioning Toolkit, please visit: IBM z/OS Provisioning Toolkit
To learn more about Compuware’s two-platform strategy, watch: compuware.com/video/2-platform-it/