Given limited hardware resources, mainframe code is often tested on emulators before final validation on IBM Z hardware. How can developers maximize the effectiveness of testing on other platforms?
Replacing Micro Focus emulation technology with IBM Z Development and Test Environment (ZD&T) enables developers to run full, unaltered versions of IBM z/OS®, middleware and software on x86 servers.
Raisesquality through accurate test environments that enable testing to come earlier in the development cycle
Increasesflexibility by enabling developers to use testing resources on their own schedules
Acceleratesdevelopment cycles and reduces strain on production Z hardware
Business challenge story
Deploying to the mainframe faster
As organizations compete in an increasingly digital world, getting to market first with new capabilities can provide significant benefits. The ability to rapidly develop, test and release new code can therefore translate directly into competitive advantage, with the result that many companies are building up DevOps capabilities to accelerate application cycles.
Where mainframes are concerned, the need for rapid development is tempered by a degree of caution, because the platform is typically reserved for mission-critical systems. Developers and testers therefore may not always have the same freedom of access to hardware resources as their counterparts on less important platforms.
To eliminate bottlenecks and reduce the need to dedicate high-value IBM Z hardware to non-production workloads, some organizations have adopted emulation as a way to move test and development processes off the mainframe. However, testing on other platforms can never provide full assurance that software will work as expected. IBM generally recommends that Integration and Performance testing be done on the target hardware. Tight controls around the mainframe mean that developers and testers must adapt their schedules to the availability of IBM Z hardware resources, which reduces flexibility and introduces delays.
Torger Thevik, Partner/CIO at Xact Consulting A/S, a consulting firm that helps businesses get the most value out of their IT solutions, comments: “The more cycles of testing you can accomplish on x86 hardware before you move to the actual Z hardware, the shorter the overall time-to-market can be. One of our clients was using Micro Focus Mainframe Express Enterprise Edition for z/OS development, and saw some shortcomings in how closely this solution could emulate the Z hardware. Aiming to provide a development and test environment that would accurately represent the production environment, the client asked us to find a solution.”
Run real mainframe software on x86
Xact recommended that its client replace the Micro Focus emulation solution with IBM Developer for Z (IDZ) and IBM Z Development and Test Environment (ZD&T). By accurately emulating the full IBM Z instruction sets and using virtual processors, I/O, and other devices, ZD&T enables the IBM z/OS® operating system, middleware and other z/OS software to run unaltered on Intel-architecture servers without the need for IBM Z hardware.
“ZD&T provides a comprehensive virtual IBM Z architecture running on x86 servers that enables developers to run exactly the same software stack as on their production IBM Z server,” says Torger Thevik. “This future change will give our client a development and test environment that provides completely accurate results, enabling it to perform more of the total testing workload on x86. As the first step, the company will move its existing development and test environment to a new hardware platform, leaving the adoption of ZD&T to a later date.”
ZD&T runs the latest z/OS software versions and enables developers to exploit the full capabilities of the new generation of IBM z14™ hardware. It supports the full stack of IBM mainframe software, including 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.
“The best place to test software is the target hardware platform, because then you can be more reassured everything will work as expected when you go into production,” says Torger Thevik. “However, it will not always be convenient to test on IBM Z hardware. This is particularly the case for organizations that wish to support continuous integration, deployment and testing within a DevOps environment. ZD&T helps by enabling developers to accomplish a larger proportion of the total testing workload away from the mainframe.”
Faster, more flexible, higher-quality testing
Organizations that wish to develop and test Z software on Intel-architecture servers can now achieve complete fidelity in their test environments thanks to IBM ZD&T. For example, rather than just simulating a CICS-on-z/OS environment, developers can actually run the genuine Z software stack on their Intel servers, potentially enabling them to identify and rectify subtle errors in their code.
With the ability to fire up new virtual test environments in as little as 30 minutes, ZD&T brings greater speed and agility to mainframe test and development practices, helping teams to align themselves with DevOps practices on other platforms. Through zD&T's integration with IBM Application Discovery & Delivery Intelligence, teams can identify the resources needed for their application and then automate the provisioning of a test environment using only those resources. Teams can test early and often, helping them to achieve higher quality and faster delivery, and enabling them to bring more complete and validated code to the IBM Z hardware for final testing. Since waiting for access to mainframe hardware resources is usually the bottleneck, using ZD&T to minimize the amount of work that needs to be done on the Z hardware itself should accelerate the end-to-end delivery process.
“ZD&T gives developers the ability to stay ‘local’ for longer, and to perform meaningful testing of Z code on the Intel platform,” says Torger Thevik. “In many cases today, mainframe developers are no longer working in a vacuum; rather, they are often providing the back-end data and logic for a front-end application running on distributed systems. Where testing needs to be done on real mainframe hardware, waiting for resources therefore also impacts the front-end development team. With ZD&T, everything is more flexible, and teams can set their own schedule for a much bigger proportion of the development cycle.”
The ability for developers to work more independently is particularly valuable where mainframe operations have been outsourced to a service provider. In such a scenario, the time required to get access to testing resources on IBM Z could create project delays. ZD&T gives the opportunity to complete much of the testing workload before going anywhere near the Z hardware. It also picks up new versions of IBM mainframe middleware as soon as they are released, so that the virtual Z environment mirrors the real production environment.
Building on its successful experience with ZD&T, Xact is continuing to work with organizations to help them develop, test and release mainframe code faster and more flexibly, while increasing overall quality.
About Xact Consulting
Xact Consulting A/S is an international consulting firm that helps organizations to get the greatest possible value out of their IT solutions. From its headquarters in Denmark, Xact converts and modernizes data and IT solutions through customized methodologies, using automation and drawing on highly specialized tools and experienced consultants.
Take the next step
To learn more about DevOps offerings on x86 for the IBM Z platform (IBM Z Development and Test Environment ZD&T), please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/marketplace/z-systems-development-test-environment