IBM Z tends to be reserved for mission-critical systems. With mounting pressure to accelerate release cycles on Z, how can developers compete with production workloads to get the resources they need?
Tieto offers IBM Z Development and Test Environment – a comprehensive virtual IBM Z architecture and software stack that runs on x86 servers – as a flexible, low-cost service on its private cloud.
< 30 minutesto provision new test/development environments
No waitingin line or competing with production systems for limited resources
Flexibleself-service solution brings the speed and agility of DevOps to Z developers
Business challenge story
Balancing speed with caution
Businesses increasingly choose to engage with employees, partners and customers through digital channels. This trend is raising expectations around how rapidly applications and new functionality can be delivered, and boosting the spread of DevOps.
For organizations that use the IBM Z platform, the desire for greater speed in development is always tempered by the need for caution, because the platform is usually reserved for mission-critical systems. A “fail-fast” philosophy is fine for consumer-facing mobile apps, but much less so for core-banking or insurance-underwriting systems. All the same, the data and logic that reside on the mainframe are at the heart of everything the business does, so the platform must interoperate with others as organizations build new digital tools. And as application cycles speed up generally, there is growing pressure on mainframe development and test practices, which have traditionally been methodical, complex and correspondingly slow.
One reason for slower development cycles on the mainframe is that developers and testers compete with production systems for limited resources – a scenario in which there will only ever be one winner.
Mika Lomu, Principal Solution Consultant at Tieto, a leading IT services provider in the Nordic region, has substantial experience managing test and development on the mainframe. He comments: “The mainframe continues to be a crucial element in the IT architecture, as it keeps the organization’s core data available and secure. However, the need to connect data and logic with new solutions on other platforms is highlighting the challenges that developers face around resource availability. We wanted to help our customers to develop, test and release new code more rapidly, without impacting production workloads on IBM Z.”
Fast, flexible, cloud-based test and development
Working with a real customer – a major steel company – as a test case, Tieto deployed IBM Z Development and Test Environment (ZD&T) on x86 servers, creating a cloud-based solution for mainframe application demonstration, development, testing and employee education.
By accurately emulating the full IBM Z instruction sets and using virtual processors, I/O, and other devices, IBM ZD&T enables the IBM z/OS® operating system, middleware and other z/OS software to run unchanged on Intel architecture without the need for IBM Z hardware. Unlike lesser software-emulation solutions from other vendors, the IBM solution runs the latest z/OS software versions and enables developers to exploit the full capabilities of the new generation of IBM z14™ hardware. ZD&T supports the full stack of IBM CICS®, IBM Db2®, IBM IMS™, IBM WebSphere® Application Server, IBM MQ and major compilers, enabling it to meet practically any standard development and testing requirements.
“Before launching our cloud offering for ZD&T, we had helped customers to successfully move test and dev services to Intel-architecture servers using the same IBM software,” says Mika Lomu. “The only remaining difficulty was that it took several weeks of manual work to set up the environment for each customer. By building the solution on our cloud, we can now offer it on a fully flexible basis, with customers able to get started in a matter of hours.”
Using ZD&T, Tieto can provision a basic development or test instance running z/OS, CICS and Db2 in as little as 24 minutes. At the time of writing, Tieto was preparing to take advantage of RESTful APIs in ZD&T to power automated self-service provisioning, further increasing the speed and convenience for development and testing teams.
“Although there is potentially some ability to reduce costs by saving MIPS, the real benefit of using ZD&T in the cloud is the speed and flexibility it brings,” comments Mika Lomu. “Developers will be able to ramp up a new environment typically in less than an hour, then shut it down when they no longer need it, all without having to wait in line for Z hardware resources. We think that many organizations will be keen to move mainframe development and unit testing to Intel-based servers, although acceptance and performance testing are more likely to remain on the mainframe itself.”
Freedom to embrace agile and DevOps
Tieto’s mainframe-on-the-cloud service, based on IBM ZD&T running on x86 servers, enables customers to create their own test and development environments for IBM Z software with just a few clicks in a web browser. With no need to book Z hardware resources in advance or wait for a scheduled slot, developers can work with greater speed and agility, aligning themselves with DevOps practices on other platforms. In addition to cutting time-to-market for the release of new code into production on IBM Z, the solution can reduce hardware costs by releasing MIPS currently dedicated to test and development workloads. This also makes more hardware resources available for production workloads.
“ZD&T moves test and dev workloads from Z hardware onto lower-cost commodity x86 servers,” comments Mika Lomu. “Many customers have cost constraints around the number of test and dev environments they can run on their Z hardware, because it might take 40 or 50 MIPS just to keep such an environment running, even with no load. By making the development and testing of new mainframe functionality faster, easier and more cost-efficient, our solution opens the possibility of scaling out to run multiple environments in parallel. This frees up development teams to focus on building their apps without having to worry about meeting pre-defined schedules.”
With the ability to fire up new virtual environments rapidly and flexibly, teams can test early and often, helping them to achieve higher quality and faster delivery. The cloud-based emulated Z resources can also be used for education, enabling organizations to train technical staff without any risk of impacting production environments.
“Modern development practices are all about agility,” says Mika Lomu. “By giving Z developers the ability to access mainframe resources whenever they need them, we are potentially cutting out a huge amount of planning and waiting, and enabling the mainframe to be fully integrated into the DevOps chain.”
He concludes: “Tieto has supported businesses using IBM Z for 50 years now. With our latest solution based on IBM ZD&T in the cloud, we’re helping customers keep the traditional benefits of the mainframe – stability, transactional performance, security – while modernizing their environment to meet ever-accelerating development requirements.”
Tieto is a leading Nordic provider of software and IT services with a 50-year track record of success. Employing more than 14,000 people and generating net sales of more than EUR1.5 billion, Tieto aims to capture the significant opportunities of the data-driven world and turn them into lifelong value for people, business and society. The company aims to be its customers’ first choice for business renewal through a combination of its software and services capabilities and its strong drive for co-innovation and ecosystems.