When this blog was named people still scoffed at the notion of an agile mainframe. Many thought the mainframe, at best, a dancing dinosaur. This skepticism persisted despite growing adoption of Linux on z and mainframe-centered SOA. Even now, the advent of the zEnterprise and hybrid computing, including the ability to run virtualized Windows on x86 blades running in the zBX, has not completely silenced the skeptics.
The zEnterprise today is as agile as any system Kent Beck, one of the pioneers of extreme programming and agile development and co-author of the Agile Manifesto could have imagined. To underscore the point ISPW, a software tool provider, offers what it calls an agile IDE for the System z. A combination of agile IDE and configuration management on steroids ISPW’s toolset enables mainframe development spanning multiple platforms, operating systems, and software development environments ranging from COBOL and Java to REST. ISPW’s agile IDE handles everything from traditional mainframe procedural code to cross-platform, event-driven code and Web services.
The problem the agile IDE addresses is application bloat, a problem Gartner has been citing for years, and one that is particularly prevalent in the mainframe world with its decades of legacy code. For Gartner the bloated application portfolio is the 1000-pound gorilla in the room, one that piles on unnecessary maintenance and support costs. In 2010 Gartner estimated application portfolios were growing at 4-7% annually, which puts a huge strain on budgets anyway.
Until you gain clear visibility into the application environment cannot you effectively manage the increasingly bloated application portfolio. It is this lack of visibility along with control over the application portfolio that hinders organizations, noted Gartner.
But even this application bloat is misunderstood. The bloat is not the huge amount of legacy spaghetti code that results from continuously modifying applications without removing obsolete code for fear of breaking something. Today’s ultra fast, multi-core processors can race through that bloated code.
The real bloat comes from redundancy in the development process. Typically organizations deploy numerous tools to handle the different components and the various aspects of the software lifecycle for each platform and operating system. This results in multiple tools doing essentially the same thing. In a bloated application environment just about everything having to do with application development and deployment ends up being repeated multiple times. This slows down the organization and constrains it from doing new things to improve the business as well as unnecessarily increasing the cost of the software portfolio.
The agile mainframe IDE, as ISPW sees it, blurs the distinction between coding and other phases of the software development lifecycle. It may include version control, GUI tools, and support for multiple development languages. With an agile mainframe IDE, developers work within a single tool to address all aspects of the lifecycle, including testing, promotion, deployment, change management, and support. ISPW’s agile IDE also functions across mainframe and distributed systems with ease, moving and modifying code between environments as needed.
Application bloat is costly. An early user of the ISPW tool, an energy company, initiated a program to reduce costs in their existing System z software portfolio. The effort enabled the company to eliminate 23 software products and saved $13.2 million in future budget requests projected over the subsequent five years.
When the IT systems at an insurance company failed an external audit the company quickly adopted and deployed the ISPW agile IDE across 400 developers, 60 applications and 175,000 components. Since then they have not received a single auditor complaint.
As mainframe shops find themselves involved in multi-platform, hybrid computing increasingly they will need tools like ISPW’s agile IDE for the efficiency it brings to the application portfolio. An agile IDE is exactly what is needed for the hybrid zEnterprise world going forward.