Applying DevOps in Mainframe Shops

I recently spent time with Compuware CEO Chris O'Malley, who brought me up to date on what the well-known mainframe development tool vendor has been doing recently. O'Malley began the interesting conversation with "We want to be a home, not a hospice, for the mainframe," going on to describe what the company is doing to serve DevOps practitioners needing to focus on rapid development.

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O'Malley pointed out that DevOps is a mechanism for organizations to create a systematic, rapid development environment in which improvements are made, prototyped, documented and put into production very quickly. This approach has been growing in popularity in the industry-standard systems world, but has been somewhat anathema to mainframe developers.

He pointed out that the world expects companies to respond to business and customer needs immediately. The careful, measured pace of mainframe development, while producing reliable, rock-solid computing solutions, hasn't been able to keep up. Compuware, under O'Malley's leadership, has been bringing tools and services to the market that make it possible for mainframe development cycles to be accelerated and to support DevOps "scrum teams." Scrum, by the way, is an approach to iterative and incremental agile software development.

After all, he pointed out, developers really don't care what platform their products execute on. If they had development, testing, documentation and other tools to support agile development for the mainframe, they'd be happy to use them when the application needed to be reliable and rock-solid.

The conversation turned to the company's own development process, and how O'Malley turned it on its ear when we started with the company two-and-a half years ago. He said that he pushed the development team to convert from a "waterfall" development process to a "scrum" model in a two-week period.

Compuware's Rapid Development Product Portfolio
To support rapid development and deployment in a mainframe computing environment, Compuware now offers tools that "get rid of esoteric differences between platforms," making it possible for mainframe development to be as speedy as necessary on industry-standard platforms, but still produce code as reliable as needed for mainframe applications. They include:

  • Abend-AID. This tool helps developers address a mainframe application failure without having to toil over pages of a memory dump while cross referencing it with the code they've developed. It takes on that burden and makes it possible for developers to think in source code rather than machine code.
  • File-AID. A cross-platform file and data management tool that makes it much easier for developers to work with and manage the test data they use during the development process.
  • Hiperstation. A mainframe application quality assurance and data protection tool making it easy to run tests on numerous conditions and configurations.
  • ISPW. A modern source code management system that helps developers execute parallel development using multiple teams. The company also offers ISPW SCM Migration Service, which is designed to help organizations wishing to migrate from other tools, such as CA Endevor, CA Panvalet, CA Librarian, Micro Focus/Serena ChangeMan and homegrown systems, to the latest release of ISPW SCM.
  • Strobe. A tool that helps developers monitor and manage mainframe application performance, designed to highlight areas of inefficient code so that it can be corrected.
  • Topaz. A mainframe application and data visibility suite designed to help developers create code. It includes tools that allows developers to look into how mainframe programs are interacting; examine the relationships between and among data items; study Java application performance; and an Eclipse-based workbench.
  • Xpediter. A mainframe interactive debugging tool simplifying the process of developing complex, multi-application workloads.
Dan's Take: Overcoming the Culture Wars
I was impressed with both O'Malley's dedication to the mainframe and to bringing it into the 21st century. He shared a number of war stories with me about how his customers have moved to an agile development process and how they were able to both improve application development and attract today's developers.

The mainframe has 50 years of evolution under its belt, and is one of the most reliable platforms for enterprise applications. The purposeful, careful -- albeit slow -- development process used to be an advantage. Now, O'Malley would say, it has become an obstacle. Compuware is determined to overcome that obstacle and end the culture war between DevOps practitioners and the users of mainframe systems.

If your organization is committed to mainframes because you can't beat the cost of ownership, reliability or for some other reason, you need to know about Compuware.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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