More people are talking about the necessity of mainframe-inclusive DevOps. Understandably, envisioning how the collaboration between mainframe and non-mainframe teams should work has been difficult for some organizations to realize in recent years. However, today, more are grasping the reality of mainframe-inclusive DevOps and reaping the benefits.
For a good example of the real benefits that can be derived from bringing people from disparate IT groups together, consider the cross-platform partnership between Wipro Senior Architect and Transformation Consultant Balaji SR—an open-systems DevOps artisan—and Mainframe DevOps Consultant and Solution Architect Elango Balkrishnan—a through-and-through mainframe IT expert.
Despite their contrasting backgrounds, Balaji and Elango, with the support of Wipro best practices and Compuware’s modern mainframe DevOps tools, helped a major UK bank and mutual customer of Wipro and Compuware move from Waterfall to Agile, with objectives to implement automated Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery pipelines while targeting key performance indicators (KPIs) that are core to the bank’s transformation, including:
- A modern development environment, enabling any developer, including next-gen developers without mainframe experience, to quickly be productive on the mainframe.
- Automated testing and automation of redundant manual processes to improve overall productivity and quality across the development lifecycle.
- Automated deployment to accelerate mainframe deployments and match the frequency of distributed delivery into live systems.
- Frequent code commits and merges through concurrent development on the same program modules and to facilitate frequent sharing of program code for joint testing, all in support of increased productivity.
- An on-demand scriptable environment to execute automated tests, ensuring process quality and velocity by eliminating the need to manually manage scripts in pipelines.
- Reduced time-to-market for the overall delivery process, improving the bank’s ability to compete and better ensure customer satisfaction.
- Visibility of team performance and metrics to ensure optimal use of mainframe tools and processes as well as use the measurements to sustain the value of their transformation.
- Introducing Agile through culture change, education and thought leadership, helping everyone become committed and take ownership for achieving success.
But before Balaji and Elango began empowering the bank to make improvements against these KPIs with Compuware tools, they had to overcome preconceptions they held about the systems and processes each knew best.
Overcoming Preconceptions: Mainframe vs. Open-systems DevOps
Balaji had broad experience with “moving enterprises from monoliths to microservices, delivering an Agile-DevOps ecosystem for various technology stacks to enable faster time-to-market, agility and stability to the IT landscape,” he said. However, he didn’t have the extensive mainframe knowledge the UK bank’s DevOps transformation project required.
In Elango’s exploration for a new and challenging assignment, he became that expert Balaji sought, bringing 20 years of deep experience with mainframe technology that would help make the UK bank’s DevOps transformation project a success. But first, the two experts had a lot to learn from each other.
“I suppose my mainframe mindset had restricted my thinking,” Elango said. “I had a lot of preconceptions about DevOps and Agile, that tools can solve everything, DevOps can change everything and Agile, DevOps and CI/CD are impossible on the mainframe, where a simple code change would usually take six weeks minimum.”
Meanwhile, for Balaji, “The mainframe was an unknown ocean, with no idea of core concepts like LPAR, RACF, SysPlex, Datasets, MIPS, where code compiles occur, how code packages are deployed, how environments are provisioned, how user security is managed and more,” he said.
But long discussions, productive debates and reciprocal education ultimately led to a rich, cross-platform collaboration between the two experts as well as a shared responsibility that was core to helping the bank drive mainframe-inclusive DevOps.
“I think challenging each other’s thinking from our own areas of expertise helped us build and deliver a robust CI/CD pipeline. This brought a lot of confidence to the bank on the solutions we proposed. Our collaboration helped significantly aid the overall success of the project,” Balaji said.
There are some fundamental differences between the open-systems and mainframe platforms. Without our joined thinking, we would not have been able to make such great progress.”
Leveraging DevOps-supporting Technologies
It’s not just “joined thinking” that helped Balaji and Elango drive a mainframe-inclusive DevOps transformation at the bank. The line between mainframe and open-systems technology has blurred for the two experts, who now work together using open-systems DevOps technologies like Jenkins, Ansible, Docker and Kubernetes as well as Compuware’s modern mainframe DevOps tools.
“Compuware’s DevOps-supporting Topaz suite of products cover a large set of requirements for our mainframe systems. The fact that they are logically extended from the traditional Compuware tools like Xpediter, File-AID, Abend-AID and Strobe makes the adoption of the tools really easy,” Elango said.
“Equally important is the fact that Compuware technical support is easily accessible and making sure that the product-specific information and bottlenecks are resolved quickly.”
Balaji agreed: “This support from Compuware also included idea sharing, necessary training and demos. In fact, during the critical times, the Compuware team was always with us onsite along with their product development team in conference calls. They conducted a full length customized training on their products for our development team of 100-plus people across the globe.
Undoubtedly, Compuware is a true partner and helped us deliver on our commitment to the client around DevOps on the mainframe.”
Beyond technology, Balaji helped Elango understand the value of community in DevOps, introducing him to various forums and developer communities Elango says helped him explore and understand the philosophy deeper as his skills improved.
“Culture and mindset are far more important to the transformation than I had expected. Even though I have been focused on tools implementation and pipeline delivery, I know that without people’s buy-in, success is not possible,” he said.
Advice to Mainframe-DevOps Newcomers
Implementing DevOps pipelines for mainframe applications is no easy task, but the collaboration between Balaji and Elango provides proof of how successful a mainframe DevOps journey can be, not to mention proof of the otherwise unachievable benefits of having DevOps teams that consist of mainframe and distributed experts.
Here are the top recommendations and critical success factors Balaji and Elango believe organizations preparing for mainframe-inclusive DevOps journeys should consider:
- Analyze your pipeline to identify constraints and potential improvement opportunities, such as automating unit tests and deployments.
- Build the right DevOps toolchain for your environment as a reflection of your organization’s unique priorities for improvements, collaborating closely with your software providers to leverage the full capabilities of their tools.
- Construct cross-functional teams with the right combination of positive, motivated people equipped with complementary skills that generate fast results. Whether co-located or remote, cross-functional teams bring together Dev and Ops people to share common goals.
- Get support and motivation from stakeholders to remove constraints so DevOps teams can thrive.
- Don’t try to boil the ocean, take small steps towards the final goal.
- Loop in mainframe sysadmins and application teams and build their confidence about the journey. Give them an opportunity to have their say, because no one person is as smart as the whole team.
- Prove the solution works. Many solutions look good on paper, but you need to bring it to life on your own platforms to really see how it performs.
- Regularly present progress to stakeholders and application teams through community sessions to support and propagate change across the business. Stakeholders need to see that their support and investment is bringing positive rewards to the business and building confidence.
“The key demands of today’s clients are faster time-to-market and reduction in total cost of ownership. We also know that a lot of enterprises run their core business applications on mainframes,” Balaji said. “It is clear that work on ‘legacy’ applications on the mainframe must become faster. This is not possible with the traditional Waterfall way of working.
DevOps is the key! Mainframes cannot be ignored.”
Balaji and Elango’s belief in the necessity of implementing modern development practices on the mainframe has been essential to the successful DevOps journey of the UK bank—as has been the support of Wipro and Compuware, who have partnered to launch a Mainframe Center of Excellence focused on mainframe-DevOps enablement, automation and systems delivery modernization to help transformation experts like Balaji and Elango succeed.
Learn more about the how the Compuware-Wipro Mainframe CoE is helping mainframe and open-systems experts guide organizations on their mainframe-inclusive DevOps transformation journeys.
These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.
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