Partner Forum: DevOps and the Mainframe — Now Is the Time

By Aline Gerew

There is no better time than now to talk about DevOps and the mainframe. While we’ve historically thought of DevOps as something outside our domain, the reality is it’s really not.

Icebreakers: Two Truths and a Lie

Let me start with two truths and a lie, a popular icebreaker game.

  • Truth: Mainframes are the core processing engines for many industries — banking, telecommunications, travel, retail, health care and government.
  • Truth: Companies must adapt and be agile to grow. In a recent survey conducted by Freeform Dynamics on behalf of CA Technologies, digital disrupters were found to have two times higher revenue growth and 2.5 times higher profit growth.
  • Lie: Bimodal IT necessitates that mainframe shops focus on Mode 1, whilst new application development teams use Mode 2.

Mainframe shops can and should adopt Mode 2 practices.

Now Is the Time for DevOps in Mainframe

While it’s true that mainframe shops have often maintained status quo, it’s also true that time is not standing still and pressures on mainframe shops are increasing just as they are in other parts of IT.

In a recent survey conducted of CA Technologies’ customers, evidence showed that mainframes are facing more pressure to deliver faster and at a higher quality than in the past  two of the core outcomes that DevOps organizations can achieve.

For example, 62 percent of those surveyed stated frequency of software releases has significantly or somewhat increased in the past five years. Sixty-five percent noted that quality expectations have significantly or somewhat increased in the past five years.

Taking the First Steps: Five Things You Can Do

I want to focus your attention on the five things you can do to immediately respond to these new pressures:

  1. Focus on Customers: Start out by taking small steps toward creating a customer-focused culture. Do you know what your internal and external customers want? Are releases made up of what they want  have you verified this? A customer-focused culture is the foundation for everything else. As a first step, hold regular app performance reviews by using reports from your performance management and tuning software to improve performance and SLA delivery and even reduce MIPS costs.
  2. Collaborate with Peers: The second thing you need to create is better collaboration between yourself and your distributed peers. Mainframe shops will have less trouble with the first part of the teaming up  collaborating across development and operations  simply because mainframe teams are smaller and less siloed than their distributed counterparts. Still, mainframe shops must continue to improve collaboration with peers both in mainframe and on the distributed side. Mainframe shops can first start by standardizing on tooling as a way to enable collaboration among teams who can share common techniques and best practices.
  3. Get a Common View: The third thing you can do is identify one view of what’s going on in your development lifecycle  it’s hard to improve what you don’t know is happening. Application lifecycle management is not a new discipline, but its importance in providing the artifact tracking, traceability, governance and audit trail to support collaboration is integral to enacting change. With tools such as CA Application Lifecycle Conductor, organizations who are specifically in a bimodal IT setup, running both agile and waterfall development methodologies as well as open source and packaged software, can get this visibility. 
  4. Automate: The fourth thing you should do is to automate, and, in mainframe shops, there are likely many opportunities to do so. After all, years of stable Mode 1 operations means that existing processes have repeatable patterns that can be automated. By automating standard release management tasks with workload automation, you can deliver code drops faster, which leads to a continuous delivery approach that deploys code faster with fewer mistakes and with fewer resources, which addresses skills gaps as well. By automating test data creation, testing can get done faster and code has higher quality. As a first step, talk to your vendors and see where the opportunities exist.
  5. Modernize: The fifth thing is to modernize code  reusing and refactoring. Refactoring is gaining traction as a result of emerging microservices architectures. But before you go there, first create API’s that can access common mainframe services, so that your organization can leverage all that mainframe data in its applications.

There is no silver bullet for becoming better at delivering high quality faster. But, because mainframes are so locked down and stable, opportunities to improve abound  if you are willing to take the first steps. I encourage you to reach out to me to discuss more about CA Technologies’ own agile transformation over the past few years or come check out our panel at SHARE in San Antonio on March 2  "Apps and Ops: Keys to a Superior Mobile to Mainframe Customer Experience."

Aline Gerew is a senior vice president of Software Engineering at CA Technologies, responsible for driving the overall vision and execution for CA’s Mainframe Application Development products. In addition to her work responsibilities, Aline has a passion for developing the next generation of technical innovators and leaders and has been actively engaged with CA’s Associate Software Engineering program that introduces college graduates to enterprise software development. An advocate for increasing the representation and impact of women in technology, she has organized and participated in events including the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference.

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