Mission Critical
Mainframe

Moving mission-critical mainframe workloads to the cloud

I know that there are some sites where the cost and the virus have pretty much stopped any kind of development. Also, too many execs view the mainframe as amazingly expensive and they are reluctant to agree to give any more money towards it. Plus, their mindsets still see the mainframe as an isolated island of technology that has little to do with the modern world of computing. Of course, we all laugh at that view and know that mainframes were doing cloud computing before there was such a thing as cloud computing. And we know that open source tools are now available to make the mainframe as easy to use as any other platform for people trained on other platforms.

So, if your site were talking about integrating z/OS into a hybrid multi-cloud architecture and wanted to use only market-leading development and management solutions, what would you be thinking about? In a recent presentation to the Virtual IMS user group (itech-ed.com/virtualims), Haley Fung, IBM Offering Manager for IMS talked about IBM Wazi for Red Hat CodeReady Workspaces, saying that it reduced the need for specialized skills and improved productivity with cloud native tools. It reduced costs with an enterprise-wide standard toolchain. And that it increased speed and agility with a containerized development and test environment.

So, if you want your mainframe to play a part in a hybrid and multi-cloud environment, one where time is of the essence when it comes to updating processes and tooling to address new business needs, then you are probably hoping for some way to achieve cross-platform consistency in tooling for your application programmers. And that’s what IBM Wazi for Red Hat CodeReady Workspaces can offer.

IBM has positioned IBM Wazi for Red Hat CodeReady Workspaces as an add-on to its CloudPak for Applications, which, IBM suggests, “provides a complete and consistent experience to speed cloud native applications development that are built for Kubernetes, using agile DevOps processes. You can easily modernize your existing applications with IBM’s integrated tools and develop new cloud-native applications faster for deployment on any cloud.” Wazi (which in Kiswahili means open or unlock) provides mainframe developers with a choice of integrated development environments (IDEs) including Eclipse and Visual Studio Code (Microsoft’s free source-code editor for Windows, Linux, and macOS). Wazi users can deploy applications in a containerized z/OS sandbox that takes full advantage of Red Hat’s OpenShift. OpenShift is an open source container application platform based on the Kubernetes container orchestrator for enterprise app development. OpenShift runs on x86 hardware.

Using Wazi gives organizations the opportunity to move their mission-critical workloads to the cloud. Users can build apps in a hybrid, multi-cloud environment and have a common developer experience.

Wazi is meant to seamlessly integrate into a standard, Git-based open tool chain to enable continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) as part of a fully hybrid DevOps process encompassing mainframes and distributed systems. Wazi also works with open source tools, including Microsoft’s Azure DevOps for orchestration and Jenkins for continuous integration on premises and in the IBM cloud.Other z/OS capabilities include support for COBOL, PL/I, and HLSAM editing, along with a tool that identifies, manages, and helps optimize builds.

This all fits in nicely with IBM’s thinking to rejuvenate the mainframe by making it accessible by people who have lots of open source knowledge, but not so much (or none at all) mainframe knowledge. The mainframe simply becomes part of a hybrid environment. It becomes accessible and developers can use whatever tools they are familiar with.

As well as helping to solve the problem of mainframe staffing and skill shortages, Wazi can help sites to adopt agile and DevOps practices – resulting in the speedier development of mainframe applications. In addition, the same toolset can be used to develop cloud native applications.

IBM has also announced Wazi Virtual Test Platform (VTP), which lets developers perform full transaction-level testing without deploying code into middleware. IBM suggests that the product can provide the first stage of integration testing while developers are still in the build process. And this is important because it boosts developers’ ability to do automated testing and development for z/OS in general. Developers can create and test z/OS application components in a containerized, virtual environment on OpenShift running on x86-based hardware using Microsoft Visual Studio Code or Eclipse.

It also provides a way for non-mainframe developers to develop and test new mainframe applications before they go into production using tools that they are familiar with. Again, as mentioned above, this helps solve the problem facing many organizations of experienced mainframe staff retiring and there being a shortage of qualified people. And this maintains the longevity of the mainframe.

It’s worth noting that IBM has z/OS Cloud Broker, which is an offering that gives users the ability to access and deploy z/OS resources and services on Red Hat OpenShift for a seamless and universal cloud development experience.

In addition, there is the Red Hat Ansible Certified Content for IBM Z, which helps users to connect IBM Z to their wider enterprise automation strategy through the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform ecosystem. It provides a set of collections that accelerate the use of Ansible with IBM Z. The initial collection focuses on the basic building blocks of interacting with the z/OS system. Collections are being added regularly covering additional use cases (eg configuration, provisioning, application deployment) for z/OS and the broader IBM Z community. It’s available on the Ansible Automation Hub and Galaxy!

The Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform is the enterprise framework for Ansible that enables a common approach to hybrid applications and infrastructure management. It allows users to automate z/OS applications and IT infrastructure as part of their enterprise automation strategy.

So, what you’ve got now is an easy way for applications to be developed off the mainframe by developers with little or no mainframe expertise. They can work on Windows or Linux, whichever is their preferred environment. And their work is sandboxed, so it won’t interfere with any other work. Applications can be quickly produced that will run on the mainframe or in a hybrid cloud environment – allowing the mainframe to be simply part of that environment and not a special part that requires everything to be done differently on it. And with Ansible, the DevOps development will soon be automated as far as possible.

It all makes it very easy to move mission-critical applications to the cloud.

Trevor Eddolls
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