Smart Modern Mainframe Development

How can your organization find the resources or capacity, let alone the budget, to innovate as well as keep the lights well and truly switched on? Even with recent investments in zEnterprise and Eclipse, are you getting enough done? The first in a series of five, this blog explores the ways of tackling the mainframe modernization challenges to lead your organization in the smartest direction towards development efficiency and innovation.

zInnovation is the name of the game

The challenge for IT teams is becoming more and more about keeping the business functioning, while catering for future needs: core business functions must be kept up-to-date and innovative technology needs to be woven into the current system. But there are many obstacles on the path to efficiency, and tackling them is no easy task.

Smarter thinking

Picking off the challenges one by one allows you to reach the detail you need and exploit smart technology to address concerns head-on. Let’s focus on the points which have the most impact and how they can be tackled.

Maximize programmer productivity

Traditional mainframe development environments might be widely used, but they are often inadequate in delivering applications faster. Even more recent technology provides some benefits, but the way it eats-up resources and relies on scarce mainframe time seems almost unavoidable.

A smarter approach to bringing development tools together under a single integrated environment is widely known to improve productivity. Instantly detecting and fixing syntax errors, and offering a full function unit test environment with no wait time, ensures that a 40 percent improvement in efficiency can be delivered.

Merging modern methods with trusted processes

While older mainframe tooling might be cumbersome in many cases, they support tried and tested processes including the right levels of third party support and integration, built up over decades. Integrating these existing, mainframe-based non-standard tools and processes into a chosen IDE framework can be tricky and time-consuming. As well as a new set of development skills, a full time resource to maintain and manage the resulting ad hoc infrastructure is often needed.

Enabling familiar, vital processes and tools to be integrated under a single environment allows the very best of the new environment to be married with the robustness and reliability of the existing mainframe delivery environment.

Maintain and grow application quality

Mainframe applications typically provide vital business services and any outages are considered as catastrophic – so maintaining quality is an absolute must.

Identifying and fixing bugs during the unit testing stage is less expensive than leaving it to a later stage in the development cycle. The length of time the test cycle takes can then be reduced. Providing developers with access to advanced testing tools, which can be used without having to rely on mainframe resources, presents a great opportunity to improve quality in the most efficient way. Instantly available unit test environments, a rapid edit/debug cycle, code coverage analysis, and problem diagnostics can all help developers identify and iron out issues long before the quality assurance or acceptance test phases.

Addressing the skills gap

Lack of integration of teams across various languages and platforms is a concern which resonates around the IT development world. Instead of a pool of development staff, IT directors oversee a number of specialised teams with no shared talent. A common example is where mainframe-centric COBOL and web-centric Java teams barely use the same vocabulary, let alone the same tools or processes. By deploying industry-standard integrated environments which the whole development team can use, knowledge and languages will be unified, creating a streamlined environment.

Enterprise Developer: A modern IDE for IBM mainframe applications.

Today, Micro Focus launches Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise.

With the launch of Micro Focus Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise, faster delivery of new zEnterprise business functions can enable customers to build truly fit-for-purpose core applications. Directly tackling known barriers to efficiency, this ground-breaking technology can boost mainframe application delivery while simultaneously lowering costs, abolishing bottlenecks and accelerating innovation.

Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise addresses the permanent element of change which exists in the IT industry: modernization is at the heart of meeting evolving business objectives. A refreshed development process must provide core business functions at the lowest operational cost without associated risk. This includes key aspects such as improved code quality, greater flexibility in the mainframe development process, and better cross-group integration across development – showing clear increases in development productivity and efficiency.

It doesn’t stop there

In the ever-changing world of IT, Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise provides an open environment which is more “accessible” to new talent and is capable of unifying enterprise development across the COBOL, Java and .NET communities. Organizations can exchange inefficiency for innovation as this technology provides a sturdy platform for mobile and cloud-based enterprise initiatives.

Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise offers your organization the opportunity to wholeheartedly embrace innovation in the smartest way possible. Your journey to unprecedented levels of productivity and efficiency through mainframe modernization unfolds here.


Achieving Top Marks in Mainframe Development Efficiency

Application development plays a complex, vital role in mainframe IT organizations and an efficient development process is key in delivering improvements to the business. Here we examine the issues organizations face and how a contemporary approach can improve efficiency and productivity, unite development teams and put YOU in control.

The need for mainframe productivity

Application development isn’t just about edit, compile, debug and test. It’s a lot more complex, and involves a range of tools such as configuration management and databases. For programmers to work efficiently and productively, this workflow must be modeled and integrated into a single development experience. If developers have to return to the mainframe, productivity may be compromised.

There are a number of efficiency related issues that mainframe development teams face in the development cycle. These can be tackled effectively with the right technology:

  1. Use of different programming languages and tools across the development organization
  2. Late identification of bugs extending the testing cycle and consuming key mainframe resources
  3. Limited choice of operating systems and a development environment which is reliant on the mainframe
  4. The harder an environment is to learn, the harder it is for new users to adopt
  5. Complexity of integrating tools and processes into the existing development environment.

Stepping up: meeting mainframe development challenges head-on

Micro Focus can address these issues with its innovative technology, Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise, helping organizations to achieve top marks in development efficiency and productivity. Let’s look at each in turn.

  1. Developer collaboration through common tooling
    The lack of collaboration between an organization’s new and experienced developers is an increasing hindrance. But it’s not just about trying to merge new skills with old. It’s also about enabling them all to use what they are familiar with so they can share the same processes too.Java users for instance may know Eclipse inside out, but they have never seen COBOL.  Bringing COBOL under the Eclipse IDE demystifies mainframe development, as it provides a familiar environment for cross training in COBOL. This encourages a strong focus on syntax rather than tools. COBOL developers however, know the language just fine, but come from an older-style interface and have little appreciation of the new Eclipse IDE.By ensuring the same application compilation and execution within Eclipse, and by making the development environment more productive and powerful, the change for the COBOL developer is both simple and rewarding. Unifying development across teams this way creates a larger more flexible resource pool and – at the same time – more productive, collaborative developers.   IBM SCLM integration into the IDE
  2. Enabling application quality early on
    Mainframe application quality cannot be compromised. Bugs must be identified and fixed during the unit test stage to shorten the development cycle. Access is available to advanced testing tools including full control of a GUI debugger, just in time and core dump debugging and a full unit test environment running under Windows. These help developers reduce the overwhelming backlog of work – and the reliance on precious mainframe resources.
  3. Flexibility makes life easier
    Developers can now maximize the productivity gains of an Eclipse-based development environment by having the choice of development either directly on the mainframe or on Windows with no reliance on the mainframe, all from a single IDE. Supporting a choice of operating systems offers a level of flexibility which is increasingly important to many organizations.
  4. Technology meets efficiency
    Easy customization of the Eclipse-based user interface allows familiar development workflows, tools and mainframe configuration management to be rapidly woven into the Eclipse-based development process. This, alongside an intuitive graphical interface, means existing mainframe developers – and even newly-qualified programmers – can efficiently adopt new tools and an organization’s development process.
  5. The right tool for the job: Eclipse
    With graphical tools and tightly-integrated mainframe configuration management, developers can work on or off the mainframe with full access to tools and projects – all from the same environment.

Customizing the IDE to develop on and off the mainframe

Better, faster, easier

The recent launch of Micro Focus Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise has enabled faster delivery of new zEnterprise business functions. Now, customers can build their own fit-for-purpose core applications. Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is part of the wider Enterprise product set, which addresses the IT strategy and application modernization needs of IBM mainframe shops. Now, so-called legacy systems are reinvigorated and fully integrated into the modern IT landscape.

This ground-breaking technology meets known obstacles to efficiency head-on and boosts mainframe application delivery. It lowers costs, removes bottlenecks and accelerates innovation.

That’s not all: one eye on the future

Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is a landmark product in a constantly evolving IT landscape. It  provides an open environment which is more accessible to new talent. It unifies enterprise development across the COBOL, Java and .NET development communities. Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is a launchpad for new mobile or cloud-based enterprise initiatives. It’s where your organization ’smartens up’ and looks towards long term innovation and development efficiency.

Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is available now. It’s battle-ready to unite disparate developer skills through the customization of the development environment. Quite simply, this technology puts YOU in control.


Mind the Knowledge Gap

Do you – or your organization – have the Knowledge? The Knowledge to help your organization avoid taking a strategic wrong turn while making all the right ones. Because in this context, the Knowledge is about making the right IT changes, just when they’re needed.

Learn how organizations can ‘get the Knowledge’ by better understanding their most cherished assets: their core applications.

Step by step

Effectively maintaining critical applications isn’t easy. You need to know what you’re doing. As with anything, knowledge and experience can make the difference between getting straight to your destination – or stumbling in the dark…

If 70% of IT spend is on ‘lights on’ activity, most development time is typically spent on maintenance. So you need to know which applications need maintenance. Gaps in your Knowledge of core applications slow down delivery cycles and contribute to the rise in IT debt – the backlog of work IT has been requested to undertake by the business, which has yet to be actioned.

The rise in what?

IT debt is a growing problem. Many software applications haven’t been properly looked after for years, and the lack of investment and focus has resulted in a major backlog as these applications, which hold core value to the business, have become harder and harder to maintain. IT debt can only be cleared with the appropriate skills, resources – and the right decisions about delivering them.

Managing IT estate insight and knowledge is often called Application Portfolio Management (APM).  As we’ve said, this management is no mean feat. Owners need to achieve a clear understanding of their applications. They must consider the size, complexity and number of interfaces.  Whether this maintenance effort is undertaken internally, or outsourced, the activities remain the same. And every journey starts with a first step…

Getting to the root of the problem

If you had a single, go-to person who knew all the applications and code and was there to help plan changes, check dependencies and validate strategy, then there wouldn’t be a problem. But the chances are that you don’t. Few organizations do. But without a single source of knowledge, development teams can suffer from an application maintenance knowledge gap.

Rebuilding that Knowledge is vital as you seek to reduce the backlog and provide better core systems maintenance.  But how?

Bridge that gap

Fear not. With a scientific, seven step approach, owners can analyse their core applications and bridge their maintenance knowledge gap:

1. Take stock
Your starting point is to create a single, unifying list of everything that needs sorting out by building a repository of existing applications and performing preliminary analysis on them, which will help you decide what to modernize.

2. Select modernization/maintenance targets
Review your application portfolio. Once you’ve determined how to prioritize them, address the highest priority candidates for modernization/overhaul, or replacement, first.

3. Application decomposition – segmentation and tagging
Categorize your candidates by dividing the parsed applications into groups. The highest priority applications – perhaps the ones you want to modernize – must be analysed to be fully understood. Categorize and tag each application according to your key criteria.

4. Application Analysis
You need a firm grasp of your sub-systems of interest, their content and inter-relationships. Visually reviewing application programs, screens, files, transactions, and their inter-relationships makes this easier.

5. Program analysis
A detailed understanding of the programs is important to developers, because nobody wants to make changes in isolation. Being able to locate a point of interest in a program – and understand the various ways it may have been possible to reach it – is key.

6. Object location and listing
In this step, owners must estimate the scope of changes required for each piece of code that needs changing.

7. Field change analysis
Planning for code change requires impact analysis to identify all the potentially dependent fields. Locate the related variables and records – the synonyms – and add them to the list of maintenance items.

Need help?

That’s at least seven steps too many for some organizations. They lack the enabling technology to undertake this level of analysis – and it’s not a job that can be done without some help. Imagine trying to understand all the application information using manual searches? Can you imagine how long it would take and how error-prone the results could be?

Introducing Enterprise Analyzer

Designed with these steps in mind, Micro Focus Enterprise Analyzer, of the Micro Focus Enterprise product set, accelerates and simplifies portfolio management and analysis. Enterprise Analyzer delivers the detailed information developers need to address their daily tasks and help you achieve enterprise application management success: they can be 40% more productive. Turn seven steps – and many hours’ work – into a single click.

Micro Focus Enterprise Analyzer provides a visual, automated and highly productive foundation for application understanding

IT debt is a growing problem in many organizations today. Many software applications remain untouched since they were first installed years ago, without being modernized or replaced. The backlog of work continues to grow as – with each passing year – the understanding needed to make key changes declines further.

With the appropriate approach, supported by game-changing technology, your maintenance backlog can be confronted head-on and you can bridge the knowledge gap.


Make a Smart Move to Mainframe

As IT organizations seek to tackle the backlog of existing “lights-on” work and the drive towards innovation, the modernization of existing processes, workflow and technology is a certain consideration. The relentless push to compete strongly and keep up with customer expectation is forcing IT leaders to think twice about how technology can be used to meet new demand.  Change is constant.

Learn how organizations using the Micro Focus Mainframe Express (MFE) product range – or older PC based mainframe development technology – can resolve existing challenges in their mainframe development environment, and how upgrading to Micro Focus’ latest zEnterprise development technology can enable even greater efficiency in the pursuit of ever-changing business objectives.

Let’s look at three crucial requirements of an effective mainframe application development environment, to see why moving from MFE to Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise could be a valuable step to take towards greater efficiency and innovation:

1. Use the right interface

Under MFE, development teams are working with efficient tools in a graphical environment. It is an intuitive, productive mainframe development system. However, this interface is still proprietary, and developers must learn it whether they are familiar with the mainframe or not. That learning cycle makes it hard to attract and train new staff – especially now, when finding the resources for mainframe COBOL programming is becoming even tougher.

A good blend

The Micro Focus Enterprise Developer product line uses industry standard development frameworks – Eclipse and Visual Studio – as the IDEs for the mainframe programmer. These new interfaces look better. They are a massive leap forward from alternative interfaces, especially traditional mainframe 3270 green screens, and represent the very latest in mainframe developer productivity. Providing an environment where inexperienced or non-COBOL developers can easily adapt to the COBOL language without learning proprietary mainframe development tools, will deliver a quicker return on investment.

2. Ensure integrated mainframe connectivity

Even if developers are working as efficiency and productivity as possible with the graphical tools in MFE, there are still development activities that must be done on the mainframe. This can inhibit efficiency in the development process and ultimately result in developers drifting back to the mainframe for all other development tasks, as they gravitate towards a single interface.

Direct access to the mainframe

Enterprise Developer integrates the mainframe environment directly into the Eclipse IDE. This means developers can connect to the mainframe to perform tasks such as browsing or editing their data sets and submitting jobs. Edited code can reside either directly on mainframe or on the full mainframe development environment under Windows, or a mixture of the two, without leaving the IDE or learning new tools.

In a typical scenario, a developer can instantly access sources from the configuration management environments on the mainframe, within Enterprise Developer. They have the option to edit and submit these for compilation directly on the host, integrating any errors directly into the Eclipse editor. This is perfect for hot fixes or quick changes.

Alternatively, they can check out the source to their local Windows based environment for more extensive changes, or if they require local debugging and unit testing. The important point is that they remain within a single development environment and use the same tooling throughout.

3. Enable collaboration across applications

A typical mainframe development shop often consists of two distinct skill groups: the first group are familiar with traditional mainframe tooling and processes, and the other group know all the latest Java and Eclipse tooling and processes. These two separate groups rarely cross paths as their skills and processes are worlds apart. This lack of communication and collaboration is a hindrance to productivity and efficiency, as there are no savings in terms of scale, and having an integrated method of creating applications across the two different groups is difficult.

Difficult, but not impossible…

Bring COBOL and Java together

By leveraging the collaborative benefits of the industry-standard Eclipse IDE, Enterprise Developer enables COBOL and Java teams to work more closely than ever. Developers can use the same environment to build all elements of composite applications. Teams can inter-operate more closely, and there is no time wasted switching or learning new environments.

Further support for team collaboration in Enterprise Developer is the new Workflow Manager. This graphical modeling tool enables users to quickly customize the Eclipse-based user interface and directly integrate tools either on the mainframe or workstation.

Customizing the development environment ensures that familiar development workflows are integrated quickly. COBOL developers, being used to an older-style interface, may not be accustomed to the modern Eclipse interface. Java developers on the other hand will not be familiar with COBOL. Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise combines the two through familiar processes, so COBOL developers have the same application compilation and execution within Eclipse, and Java developers have a known environment through which COBOL can be demystified.

Revolutionizing zEnterprise development

Besides a fresh new modern interface with a choice of IDEs, mainframe connectivity, and developer collaboration, Enterprise Developer offers a good many other benefits which will set your organization on a revolutionary path towards mainframe innovation.

As well as all the features found in MFE – including local mainframe development on Windows, Enterprise Developer offers the latest in mainframe compatibility and a full function unit test environment. It provides core dump debugging for tracking down stubborn run time issues and seamless integration into Micro focus Enterprise Test Server. It has all the development tools you need to create enterprise applications, or move to a variety of UNIX and Linux platforms, on or off the zEnterprise environment. This enables customers to optimize every aspect of mainframe application delivery, while driving down costs and enhancing the development experience.

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” – Benjamin Franklin

In the IT industry, ’change’ is a constant, abiding principle. Modernization is where IT meets continually evolving business needs. Revitalizing the development process delivers core business functions at the lowest operational cost while reducing associated risk, and vastly improving development productivity and efficiency.

By making sure the technology that keeps your organization in supreme working order is robust and future-proof, you’ll have the best chance of “keeping the lights on” and innovating. Enterprise Developer is at the heart of the Enterprise product set, a unique, comprehensive technology stack that modernizes z/OS application service delivery. Innovative technology enables customers to optimize all aspects of mainframe application delivery, driving down costs, removing bottlenecks and accelerating innovation.


Making Your Mainframe Applications Fit for Purpose

In an increasingly complex IT world, one size rarely fits all so a single supplier, technology or platform may not deliver all the capabilities and services an organization needs. Genuine alternative options are needed to enable a fit-for-purpose response to evolving business requirements.

The final blog in this series looks at the alternative approaches to IT leaders as they modernize their systems to tackle backlogs, launch new innovation and deal with capacity concerns.

Speaking your language

The time-proven mainframe languages, COBOL and PL/I, remain important to many organizations, and the mainframe as a platform still works well in supporting many of the world’s most successful organizations. But many IT leaders are concerned that combining the two – using so-called legacy languages in a mainframe environment – may compromise their capacity to develop, test and deploy their applications as efficiently as possible.

The languages work just fine but concerns over skills shortages, future technical direction and on-going maintenance costs still impact the planning of future business tactics. As mainframe developers retire, they are replaced by new developers without the skills and knowledge to continue their work. Consequently, core business systems miss out on maintenance and costs continue to rise.

There is a demonstrable knock-on effect: the IT backlog builds, inefficient processes drive costs and risk skywards and mainframe capacity dwindles as core applications relentlessly expand their mainframe footprint. It’s a grim picture.

Just Take Five

Faced with this daunting prospect, IT leaders are – unsurprisingly – looking at alternatives. We’ve assessed five approaches to modernizing the mainframe application portfolio:

Retire

Redundant mainframe programs or applications are consuming valuable mainframe space. Removing them, using a software tools-based approach, will reduce unnecessary costs, help ”keep the lights on” and, if handled correctly, clear a space for innovation. Detailed analysis will identify unused programs and applications, avoiding the risk of paralyzing a key business function.

Retain

Regularly maintained applications will continue to ‘tick over’ as they always have done using z/OS mainframe resources. This is the simplest approach, and carries the lowest risk. With smarter, contemporary tooling, improvements in development efficiency, higher application quality and faster delivery throughput can be drip-fed into an ongoing improvement process.

Rewrite/re-engineer

Looking forwards, an IT manager may decide to rewrite the current application technology platform into a more contemporary language. This requires application owners to have a firm grasp of the application composition and both the current language and the one it will be changed to. This complex task is high in risk, failure rate and can consume large quantities of budget and time.

Replace

The transition process, as an older IT system is replaced with an off-the-shelf, ‘vanilla’ package risks the intellectual property that has, over time, been built in to the outgoing system – and the company’s competitive advantage could go with it. Perhaps that’s why almost half of package replacement projects fail…

Rebalance/redistribute

Alternatively, running things where they make the most business sense – without compromising the underlying application – is a viable and arguably lower-risk option. By revamping the current platform and infrastructure without risking the core system, workload can be replicated and rebalanced according to today’s operational imperatives. Placing some non-critical elements on, say, alternative zEnterprise partitions or other robust servers could be the inexpensive, low-risk solution to a variety of business drivers.

Reusing, in preference to replacing or rewriting code, improves workload flexibility, time to market and usually reduces costs. As before, freeing space elsewhere creates capacity for innovation.

zEnterprise is the latest IBM mainframe release, providing more platform flexibility than ever.

Using Micro Focus Enterprise Server for genuine modernization choice

Genuine flexibility can help tackle cumbersome IT backlogs, unnecessary risk and escalating costs. With the zEnterprise platform and Enterprise Server deployment technology, organizations can establish new levels of freedom, flexibility and innovation. Costs and risk can be contained or reduced while quality and time-to-market can be improved by up to 50%.

Getting Smarter

So, as our zEnterprise technology blog series concludes, it’s good to reflect on what we’ve learned. Essentially, that your modernization journey can start from any number of places, which will be shaped by the specific challenges you face. So, whether the issues centre on a lack of understanding or knowledge, inefficient development or testing processes, or concerns over the provision of production workload, innovative modernization approaches are available to dramatically improve IT performance.

Building on the power and flexibility of the new zEnterprise platform, Micro Focus’ Enterprise product set provides smart answers to pressing mainframe IT challenges, and enables organizations to meet innovation and efficiency challenges simultaneously.

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