IBM DevOps for the Mainframe

DevOps is not just for distributed platforms. IBM has a DevOps strategy for large enterprises (usually mainframe shops) too. Nationwide, a longtime mainframe shop, is an early adopter of DevOps and already is reporting significant gains: reduction in critical software defects by 80% and a 20% efficiency gain in its maintenance and support operations in just 18 months.

DevOps, an agile methodology, establishes a continuous feedback loop between software development and deployment/operations that speeds development and deployment while ensuring quality. This is a far cry from the waterfall development methodologies of the mainframe past.

 desz DevOps adoption model

Courtesy of IBM (click to enlarge)

The IBM DevOps initiative, announced last November (link above), taps into the collaborative capabilities of IBM’s Cloud portfolio to speed the delivery of software that drives new models of engagement and business. Software has become the rock star of IT with software-driven innovation becoming a primary strategy for creating and delivering new value to customers. A survey of 400 business and IT executives by the IBM Institute for Business Value showed businesses that are more effective at software delivery are also more profitable than their peers nearly 70% of the time. As such, IBM notes, DevOps provides a way for businesses to remain competitive, applying lean and agile principles to software development to speed the delivery of software that meets new market requirements.

Some mainframe shops, however, continue to operate from a software standpoint as if client/server computing and PCs were still the new game in town. Meanwhile the business units keep complaining about how long it takes to make software changes while long backlogs drag on the IT budget.

DevOps is about continuous software development and deployment. That means continuous business planning, continuous collaborative dev, continuous testing, continuous release and deployment, continuous monitoring, and continuous feedback and optimization in a never ending cycle. Basically, continuous everything.  And it really works, as Nationwide can attest.

But DevOps makes traditional mainframe shops nervous. Mainframe applications are rock solid and crashes and failures almost unheard of. How can they switch to DevOps without risking everything the mainframe stands for, zero failure?

The answer: mainframe DevOps that leads straight into continuous testing, not deployment. The testing can and should be as rigorous and extensive as is necessary to reassure that everything works as it should and anything that will fail has failed. Only then does it go into production.

It would be comforting to the data centers to say that DevOps only addresses systems of engagement; those pesky mobile, collaborative, and social systems that suddenly are making demands on the core mainframe production applications. But that is not correct. DevOps is about integrating systems of engagement with systems of record, the enterprise’s mainframe crown jewels. The trick is to bring together the culture, processes, and tools across the entire software delivery lifecycle, as IBM says, to span it all—mobile to mainframe, slowing down only to conduct as exhaustive testing as the enterprise requires.

Mainframe tools from the era of waterfall methodologies won’t cut it. Rational offers a set of tools starting with Blue Agility. IBM also offers an expanded set of tools acquired through acquisitions such as UrbanCode (release automation) and GreenHat (software quality and testing solutions for the cloud and more) that offer an integrated developer experience on open cloud platforms such as Bluemix to expedite DevOps collaboration, according to IBM.

Expect push back from any attempt to introduce DevOps into a traditional mainframe development culture. Some shops have been developing systems the same way for 30 years or more. Resistance to change is normal. Plan to start gradually, implementing DevOps incrementally.

Some shops, however, may surprise you. Here the mainframe team senses they are falling behind. IBM, of course, has tools to help (see above). Some experts recommend focusing on automated testing early on; when testing is automated DevOps adoption gets easier, they say, and old school developers feel more reassured.

At IBM Edge2015, there are at least 2 sessions on DevOps: Light Up Performance of Your LAMP Apps and DevOps with a Power Optimized Stack; and CICS Cloud DevOps = Agility2. BTW, it is a good time to register for IBM Edge2015 right away, when you can still get a discount. IBM Edge2015, being billed as the Infrastructure Innovation Conference, takes place May 11 – 15 at The Venetian in Las Vegas. DancingDinsosaur will be there. Have just started pouring over the list of sessions on hundreds of topics for every IBM platform and infrastructure subject. IBM Edge2015 combines what previously had been multiple conferences into one.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing on and here. And join DancingDinsosaur at IBM Edge2015.

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One Response to “IBM DevOps for the Mainframe”

  1. IBM z Systems at Edge2015 | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] changing the way enterprises go to market. DancingDinosaur interviewed Radcliffe for a posting on DevOps for the mainframe in March. DevOps is about bringing the entire organization together, including development and […]

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