Millennials, mainframes and modernization: SHARE trip report

It was a busy week at SHARE St. Louis with the organizers boasting a record number of new attendees at the event. Many students and young mainframers joined the SHARE mainframe community event at the downtown convention centre to enjoy hundreds of sessions, witness the new skinny z14 mainframe, and hear the ZOWE announcement.

It was an upbeat, positive affirmation of the mainframe as a modern, open, accessible environment. Ready for the digital age. Ready for change. Which of course is what Micro Focus thinks too. The Modernization story from Micro Focus appears to align perfectly with the mainframe’s ongoing evolution so we are only too pleased to SHARE it.

Ready for Change: Modernization

The drive towards digital requires a smarter strategy for transformation.  A strategy that enables the required changes while managing cost and risk.  The Micro Focus approach focuses on three key dimensions of modernization – application, process and infrastructure.  Or said another way….the what, the how and the where of modernization.

– The What – namely the Application itself
– The How – The software delivery process
– The Where – the underlying infrastructure

We were able to dive into the details of this strategic approach during the several sessions we delivered, and at our booth. It’s impossible to cover everything Micro Focus did at SHARE, here’s my high level summary:

Practical Processes

When it comes to process modernization, the customer’s motivation is typically all to do with improving the speed of delivery.  Our story around mainframe DevOps had this covered, Mark Levy led two excellent sessions on DevOps best practices and hosted a discussion on cultural change. Bob Schoppert helped showcase our contemporary mainframe application delivery technology at the IDE Shootout and Micro Focus once again demonstrated the technical prowess that continues to lead the pack.

A terrific session led by Eddie Houghton and Gary Evans covered three real-life DevOps stories of Micro Focus customers. All three have adopted a DevOps approach for their mainframe application delivery teams, and all three are seeing very tangible benefits as a result. In each case, the customers investigated their own internal application deployment pipeline, to understand and start to optimise it. In each case they found they could make changes to eradicate bottlenecks in the following areas:

– Tool and process integration
– Agile development practices
– Continuous integration

Unsurprisingly these results related directly to the challenges they discovered within their own application deployment pipeline, namely:

– Reducing the time it took to provision test regions from weeks to hours
– Being able to double the velocity of change with more frequent releases to production
– Improving quality through improvements in developer efficiency and finding issues sooner

As the benefits to these improvements are all tangible and quantifiable, all three customers were able to demonstrate clear business benefits (and cost savings) to their Management teams ensuring their buy-in for continued investment and helping to drive the required cultural change.

The Changing Face of Application Modernization

The broad topic of application modernization took centre stage at the other Micro Focus sessions.

Russ Shelton and I led a session that introduced our view on Application Modernization, a wide and varied topic.  Conventional thinking is that, when we say “Application” we mean software and the underlying code. Whereby application modernization is, holistically, the process of changing the code to address some kind of new business function, architectural or technical need.  Gartner Group’s research paper called “Choose the Right Approach to Modernize Your Legacy Systems” which focuses on exactly that: the application software. As Russ explained, there is more to the application than the language it is written in. In fact for most users, the application is all about how it operates, how it looks, and where it is accessed from.

While the initial problem that Terminal Emulators solved was one of connecting to the mainframe, the availability of desktop software turned host session access into what we know as ‘workflow automation’ today. In terms of the overall business value of the application, this worklflow automation is just as much of a part as the application code itself.

That means it’s critical to think about the Whole Application when it comes to the modernization of a host based application, and to recognize the fact that Modernization isn’t just about focusing on the source code. Micro Focus is the only vendor to offer a complete application modernization solution, from the application code to the user experience. Whether it is enhancing access points, integrating mainframe and other systems together, streamlining mainframe workflow, or changing code fragments or entire applications, the Micro Focus approach to application modernization is not only scalable but can be implemented in an incremental way.

With the customer-centric Micro Focus modernization strategy, application modernization can be approached “inside out” (capturing the business value and rules embedded within the application, leveraging the investment in the code, enhancing its value), or “outside in” (a no-code approach that unlocks the value of the application, focusing on application experience and API integration. Our breadth and scale offers genuine choice and flexibility to our customers as they explore the right modernization options for their unique IT requirements.

Securing the Change

Finally, a shout out to Barbara Ballard for her insightful and entertaining mainframe security presentation. A packed audience witnessed an illuminating exploration of recent security breaches, the causes, and what can be done in the mainframe world to guard against such violations. Barbara was inundated with questions and compliments after the session, from mainframe users looking to explore the next steps of how to implement her advice at their organizations.

Enterprise IT security and the wider modernization story is captured on our new-look website including the IDC White Paper “Modernization: A Flexible Approach to Digital Transformation.” Feel free to find me on Twitter if you want to talk further.

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