Making the IBM Mainframe Agile and Swift

Do you remember what the mainframe was like when you started on the mainframe career path? Today IBM blurs distinctions between the mainframe and distributed environments through Linux and Java as well as cloud and mobile delivery models.  Heck, you can run Windows natively on x86 cards in a zBX cabinet managed from a console on the z itself. Maybe it’s not the most efficient way to do it and expect better ways coming from IBM, but it is doable now.

seasoft devops imageDevOps in the SDLC, Courtesy Seasoft

More than just interact, the z and distributed environment must productively and seamlessly integrate and interoperate to produce a streamlined development, test, and deployment process. Compounding the challenge: they must do it fast. Organizations can no longer wait for six-month or nine-month release cycles to introduce new capabilities. If capabilities cannot be introduced in just a few weeks max, opportunities and revenue can be lost.  Agile and batch teams have no choice; they must work together.

This calls for data center adoption of DevOps, a combination of development, testing, and operations. Already IBM has instituted DevOps on the z System. The idea of bringing agile and batch together—it almost sounds like an oxymoron or the punchline from a bad computer systems joke—no longer is farfetched. Welcome to the world of hybrid computing where what was once considered disparate and incompatible systems are being brought together, often on the same platform.

The latest generations of the mainframes have been fully hybrid-capable platforms, starting with the z10. They are capable of running mixed workloads concurrently, some of which previously belonged in the distributed platform world only. Today, a mainframe shop with the latest z13 can run traditional z/OS COBOL workloads right alongside Java and Linux workloads. Those with a zBX extension cabinet can even run Windows workloads too under the same unified mainframe management console.

If that sounds a little too kludgy for you, just jump into the cloud. From Bluemix in the cloud you can get to DevOps and find just about everything you need already there, including IBM’s StrongLoop acquisition for API management and microservices.

So now the idea of bringing batch and agile computing together on the mainframe platform doesn’t seem so farfetched.  And it won’t stop there. IBM has been doing its enterprise thing with Apple for about a year. Expect more coming.

That said; an agile mainframe/distributed DevOps environment will become increasingly necessary. How often do you release software? Previously, if an IT organization released new software every year or even every 18 months customers were satisfied. Not anymore.  Today you can’t wait six months before the organization risks falling behind. LOB managers and customers won’t wait. There are too many competitors waiting for any chance to seize an advantage. Slow system refreshes and software updates just play into these competitors’ hands.

DevOps also is essential to the organization’s mobile strategy. Companies in every industry segment are deploying new mobile apps as fast as they can and then almost immediately updating them. For many of these mobile apps the mainframe is the back end, if not the middleware too. Each mobile request for information or to make a purchase or to schedule something triggers numerous back end processes that quickly make their way to the mainframe. It had gotten to the point where IBM had to discount mobile processing on the z or it would hinder mobile growth. DancingDinosaur covered it here.

Helping to drive mobile on the z, of course, is IBM’s relationship with Apple. Over the past year the two companies have been bringing out combined enterprise-mobile applications. Now Apple just announced that it is making its popular programming language, Swift, open source. It shouldn’t take much to get it onto Bluemix. Back in Sept. 2014  IBM announced it already had a preliminary version working through Bluemix.

Although Swift is known mainly for mobile client development, today it is described as combining the performance and efficiency of compiled languages with the simplicity and interactivity of popular scripting languages.  Apple’s Swift strategy seems coming right out of IBM’s recent playbook of embracing open source communities. You can get started at the Swift website, here.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

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