Early in January Compuware launched the first of what it promised would be a wave of tools for the mainframe that leverage the distributed graphical style of working with systems. The company hopes the tool, Topaz, will become a platform that hooks people experienced with distributed computing, especially Millennials, on working with the mainframe. The company is aiming not just for IT newbies but experienced distributed IT people who find the mainframe alien.
Compuware is pitching Topaz as a solution for addressing the problem of the wave of retirements of experienced mainframe veterans. The product promises to help developers, data architects, and other IT professionals discover, visualize, and work with both mainframe and non-mainframe data in a familiar, intuitive manner. They can work with it without actually having to directly encounter mainframe applications and databases in their native formats.
Topaz Relationship Visualizer (click to enlarge)
DancingDinosaur has received the full variety of opinions on the retiring mainframe veteran issue, ranging from a serious concern to a bogus issue. Apparently the issue differs with each mainframe shop. In this case, demographics ultimately rule, and people knowledgeable about the mainframe (including DancingDinosaur, sadly) are getting older. Distributed IT folks, however, know how to operate data centers, manage applications, handle data, and run BI and analytics—all the things we want any competent IT shop to do. So, to speed their introduction to the mainframe it makes sense to give them familiar tools that let them work in accustomed ways.
And Topaz definitely has a familiar distributed look-and-feel. Check out a demonstration of it here. What you will see are elements of systems, applications, and data represented graphically. Click an item and the relevant relationships are exposed. Click again to drill down to detail. To move data between hosts just drag and drop the desired files between distributed hosts and the mainframe. You also can use a single distributed-like editor to work with data on Oracle, SQL Server, IMS, DB2 and others across the enterprise. The actions are simple, intuitive, and feel like any GUI tool.
The new tool should seem familiar. Compuware built Topaz using open source Eclipse. It also made use of ISPF, the mainframe toolset. Read about Eclipse here.
With Topaz Compuware is trying to address a problem IBM has been tackling through its System z Academic Initiative—to answer where next generation of mainframers will come from. With its contests and university curriculum IBM is trying to captivate young people early with job possibilities and slick technologies, and catch them as young as high school.
Compuware is aiming for working IT professionals in the distributed environment. They may not be much younger than their mainframe counterparts. but Compuware is giving them a tool that will allow them to immediately start doing meaningful work with both distributed and mainframe systems and do it in a way they immediately grasp.
Topaz treats mainframe and non-mainframe assets in a common manner. As Compuware noted: In an increasingly dynamic big data world it makes less and less sense to treat any platform as an island of information. Topaz takes a huge step in the right direction.
Finally, expect to see Topaz updates and enhancements quarterly. Compuware describes Topaz as an agile development effort, drawing a pointed contrast to the rather languid pace of some mainframe ISVs in getting out updates. If the company is able to achieve its aggressive release cycle goals that alone may help change perceptions of the mainframe as a staid, somewhat dull platform.
With Topaz Compuware is off to a good start, but you can see where and how the toolset can be expanded upon. And Compuware even hinted at opening the Topaz platform to other ISVs. Don’t hold your breath, but at the least it may get other mainframe ISVs to speed their own efforts, making the mainframe overall a more dynamic platform. With the z13 IBM raised the innovation bar (see DancingDinosaur here and here). Now other mainframe ISVs must up their game.