Rapid, Reliable: How System z can be the best of both

Background – BiModal Woes

I’ve spent a good deal of time speaking with IT leaders in mainframe shops around the world. A theme I keep hearing again and again is “We need to speed up our release cycles”.

It often emerges that one of the obstacles to accelerating the release process is the differences in release tools and practices between the mainframe and distributed application development teams. Over time many mainframe shops converged on a linear, hierarchical release and deployment model (often referred to as the Waterfall model). Software modifications are performed in a shared development environment, and promoted (copied) through progressively restrictive test environments before being moved into production (deployment). Products such as Micro Focus Serena Changeman zMF and CA Endevor® automate part of this approach. While seemingly cumbersome in today’s environment, this approach evolved because it has shown, over the decades, to provide the required degree of security and reliability for sensitive data and business rules that the business demands.

But, the software development landscape continues to evolve. As an example, a large Financial Services customer came to us recently and told us of the difficulty they are starting to have with coordinating releases of their mainframe and distributed portfolios using a leading mainframe solution: CA Endevor®. They told us: “it’s a top down hierarchical model with code merging at the end – our inefficient tooling and processes do not allow us to support the volume of parallel development we need”.

What is happening is that in distributed shops, newer, less expensive technologies have emerged that can support parallel development and other newer, agile practices. These new capabilities enable organizations to build more flexible business solutions, and new means of engaging with customers, vendors and other third parties. These solutions have grown up mostly outside of the mainframe environment, but they place new demands for speed, flexibility, and access to the mainframe assets that continue to run the business.

Proven Assets, New Business Opportunities

The increasing speed and volume of these changes to the application portfolio mean that the practice of 3, 6 or 12 month release cycles is giving way to demands for daily or hourly releases. It is not uncommon for work to take place on multiple updates to an application simultaneously. This is a cultural change that is taking place across the industry. “DevOps” applies to practices that enable an organization to use agile development and continuous release techniques, where development and operations operate in near synchrony.

This is where a bottleneck has started to appear for some mainframe shops. The traditional serial, hierarchical release processes and tools don’t easily accommodate newer practices like parallel development and continuous test and release.

As we know, most organizations with mainframes also use them to safeguard source code and build scripts along with the binaries. This is considered good practice, and is usually followed for compliance, regulatory or due diligence reasons. So the mainframe acts as not only the production environment, but also as the formal source code repository for the assets in production.

The distributed landscape has long had solutions that support agile development. So as the demand to incorporate Agile practices the logical next step would be to adopt these solutions for the mainframe portfolio. IBM Rational Team Concert and Compuware’s ISPW take this approach. The problem with these approaches is that adopting these solutions implies that mainframe developers must adopt practices they are relatively unfamiliar with, incur the expense of migrating from existing tried and trusted mainframe SCM processes to unknown and untested solutions, and disrupt familiar and effective practices.

Why Not Have it Both Ways?

So, the question is, how can mainframe shops add modern practices to their mainframe application delivery workflow, without sacrificing the substantial investment and familiarity of the established mainframe environment?

Micro Focus has the answer. As part of the broader Micro Focus Enterprise solution, we’ve recently introduced the Enterprise Sync product. Enterprise Sync allows developers to seamlessly extend the newer practices of distributed tools – parallel development, automatic merges, visual version trees, and so forth, and to the mainframe while preserving the established means for release and promotion.

Enterprise Sync establishes an automatic and continuous two-way synchronization between your mainframe CA Endevor® libraries and your distributed SCM repositories. Changes made in one environment instantly appear in the other, and in the right place in the workflow. This synchronization approach allows the organization to adopt stream-based parallel development and preserve the existing CA Endevor® model that has worked well over the decades, in the same way that the rest of the Micro Focus’ development and mainframe solutions help organizations preserve and extend the value of their mainframe assets.

With Enterprise Sync, multiple developers work simultaneously on the same file, whether stored in a controlled mainframe environment or in the distributed repository. Regardless, Enterprise Sync automates the work of merging, reconciling and annotating any conflicting changes it detects.

This screenshot from a live production environment show a typical mainframe production hierarchy represented as streams in the distributed SCM. Work took place in parallel on two separate versions of the same asset. The versions were automatically reconciled, merged and promoted to the TEST environment by Enterprise Sync. This hierarchical representation of the existing environment structure should look and feel familiar to the mainframe developers, which should make Enterprise Sync relatively simple to adopt

It is the automatic, real time synchronization between the mainframe and distributed environments without significant modification to either that makes Enterprise Sync a uniquely effective solution to the increasing problem of coordinating releases of mainframe and distributed assets.

By making Enterprise Sync part of a DevOps solution, customers can get the best of both worlds: layering on modern practices to the proven, reliable mainframe SCM solution, and implementing an environment that supports parallel synchronized deployment, with no disruption to the mainframe workflow. Learn more here or download our datasheet.

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