Micro Focus #DevDay doubles-down in Dallas

The #COBOL community roadshow continued recently as Micro Focus #DevDay landed in Dallas, TX. But this time was special – there were two events instead of one. Derek Britton went along to find out more.

A numbers game

Just as COBOL processes some of the most important numeric transactions globally, we learned of some telling statistics at the most recent #DevDay – held this month in Dallas.

Very interestingly, the show started with an award for Dallas – host of the most frequent #DevDay events. This was Micro Focus’ 4th time in Dallas in as many years hosting a COBOL community meeting. Over 200 delegates have attended our Dallas-hosted events in the last few years. Of course, Dallas is only part of a major global program – Micro Focus has hosted nearly forty #DevDay customer meetings since the program was started a few years ago.

DD1

But these numbers are dwarfed by the next: thousands of customers use Micro Focus’ COBOL technology today. What do they have in common? They are all committed to using the right tools to build the next generation core business applications, to run wherever they need to be run. This community also includes over one thousand Independent Software Vendors who have chosen COBOL as their language platform for the scalability, performance and portability their commercial packages need.

Last year we asked that global community their thoughts of the language. An overwhelming 85% said COBOL remains strategic in their organization. However, two-thirds of the same group said they were looking to improve the efficiency of how they delivered those applications.

We also heard that this global COBOL community is supported by Micro Focus’ $60M investment each year, which it makes across a range of COBOL and related technology products. This week, we also saw where some of that investment is made. One way of explaining how is by product area, where our technology is split across two communities. It was those two communities who held separate #DevDay meetings in the same location.

Micro Focus #DevDay

The Micro Focus #DevDay event is no stranger to our blog site. It is designed with the Micro Focus customer community in mind – showcasing latest products such as Visual COBOL and Enterprise Developer to the traditional Micro Focus user base.

Highlights of the Dallas session included a major focus on key new technical innovations. The first of these explored building REST-based services in a managed-code world using COBOL. Our experts demonstrated the simple steps to build, for example, mobile payment systems, using trusted COBOL routines and a simple RESTful integration layer. They later demonstrated a newly available support for advanced CICS Web Services, connecting trusted mainframe systems with new digital devices with a seamless, modern interface.

DD2

We also heard news of the latest product releases – with versions 2.3.2 of Enterprise Developer and Visual COBOL, which are newly available, including a range of major enhancements plus support for new environments such as Linux on IBM Power Systems and Windows 10. Some delegates got a chance to test drive the new version themselves in the hands-on lab.

The #DevDay event continues to be hugely successful and touches down next in December, in Chicago.

Acu #DevDay

The ACU COBOL technology is an established product line, acquired originally from AcuCorp, which joined the Micro Focus family just a little over a decade ago. The Acu range, known now as extend, boasts thousands of users.

Arguably the highlight of the day was the announcement of the brand-new Acu2Web capability.  Available to participating clients as part of the extend 10.1 product Beta program, Acu2Web demonstrates Micro Focus commitment to a digital future in its Acu COBOL technology, and solves a genuine market need. The challenge was a real one – a community one: access to the same core COBOL application system, from any device, with any interface, on any system, to behave the same way, using the same setup. In yesteryear, a limited albeit complex engineering task, the problem has been exacerbated beyond all recognition by the proliferation of new devices and platforms, all of which need to access trusted back-end systems.

This was the challenge we set ourselves – and that’s what we’ve built into our latest Acu extend technology – a seamless, transparent access mechanism to core Acu-built COBOL apps from any device.  The Acu2Web facility builds the wiring and plumbing for any access point, no matter where, as the access diagram below outlines.

DD0

Acu2Web is one of the new exciting capabilities being made available in extend 10.1. The Beta program is underway to qualifying clients. The roadmap milestones outlined during the event give a 10.1 release date in early 2017.

A global community… supported globally

The focused customer technology event is an important community touch-point for Micro Focus – but it certainly isn’t the only one. The same community thrives online, not least at Community.microfocus.com. Available to all, this forum provides tips and tricks for technology usage including suggestions from technical staff, consultants and customers alike. Importantly, product areas such as Acu have their own dedicated pages (see below).

 

DD4

Through the community, our social media site, and our academic program, Micro Focus continues to fly the flag for COBOL skills. Just shy of 400 higher education establishments are training their students to learn COBOL with Micro Focus COBOL products, building the next generation of COBOL talent.

In Summary

#DevDays are the perfect opportunity to witness the significant new product capabilities now available to our clients. Both product sets have undergone transformational updates to directly address real market demand.

I caught up with the host of the Micro Focus Developer Days, Ed Airey, who summarised Micro Focus’ approach “We are proud to host events that bring our entire COBOL development community together, to exchange ideas, learn new capabilities, and explore how to embrace future needs using modern technology. We remain committed to our community and look forward to more events of this nature in the future”.

Two product lines; one global COBOL community.

Find more about how our products can support you at www.microfocus.com

DevOps Adoption – A Problem SHAREd…

After another hugely positive SHARE event, Derek Britton from Micro Focus reflects on one of the hottest topics in enterprise IT today: DevOps.

Great Minds…

The digital era is forcing organizations to meet customer demand faster than ever. Delivering better IT faster is at the heart of the DevOps promise. At this month’s SHARE event in San Antonio, Texas, the mainframe community took its responsibilities for DevOps very seriously. Technical tracks on DevOps and application development, test and delivery were high in number. Additionally the SHARE EXECUforum breakout featured a panel discussion on DevOps, featuring industry commentators. I was lucky enough to participate on the panel, which also included

  • Jeff Henry, Vice President of Product Management at CA Technologies, responsible for driving cross platform business solutions
  • David Rizzo, Director of Product Development, responsible for leading the development of Compuware products
  • Rosalind Radcliffe, Distinguished Engineer within IBM, and Chief Architect for DevOps for Enterprise Systems
SHARE EXECUforum DevOps panel
SHARE EXECUforum DevOps panel

Official excerpts from the SHARE EXECUform discussion on DevOps are the property of the SHARE organization (and available to their members). What became clear during the discussion is that many of the topics aligned with Micro Focus’ thinking on the topic. Here are my personal takeaways from an illuminating discussion.

Why DevOps and why now?

The panel agreed on why now is the right time for DevOps to prevail. IT in 2016, and the commercial world it serves, has changed almost beyond recognition from even 10 years ago. Through greater consumerization – demand from vocal and fickle customers has increased to become a torrent of requirements. Meanwhile, the method of supply has also proliferated beyond comparison, in a BYO anything, always on, always available market. Almost inevitably, the volume and variety of information available and expected is growing and growing, as the pace of change continues to accelerate.

Supplying those information services faster and faster is a necessary outcome of the evolution of the digital economy. DevOps promises to help deliver IT faster by removing barriers to delivery and collaboration, by being smarter across the delivery cycle.

A Cultural Conundrum

Changing an organization to work in a different way is anything but easy, but that’s what DevOps entails. The cultural ramifications of DevOps adoption was the foundation of the panel discussion. Considerations included –

Business sponsorship: popular though it might be, DevOps is usually an IT initiative. It needs the business to acknowledge and accept the initiative as one that has business merit; which in turn requires the desired outcome to be quantified and approved. As I stated during the panel discussion, “IT is under pressure from the business to explain the value of DevOps”

Proof of value: Businesses are reticent to undergo huge internal change without demonstrable proof. Selecting an appropriate project or activity that illustrates the value of DevOps is worthwhile if not imperative.

Infrastructure: Determining the key areas of change is also fundamental. Job functions, underlying technology usage, workflow and collaboration, even entire departments, are subject to possible major upheaval longer term. Failing to plan those aspects carefully will only impact longer term adoption.

(For more Cultural aspects – read my recent blog)

Technology Questions

Plans for cultural adoption will fall on stony ground, however, without resolution of key important technological considerations, a couple of which were discussed by the panel:

Unifying Development – with different teams working in different ways in different tools, inviting them to work together is futile without unifying how they work.

Streamlining Testing – As IBM’s Rosalind Radcliffe states “It doesn’t help to … improve the productivity of the development team if there isn’t an environment for them to develop and run their … tests”. Resolving testing bottlenecks is a major consideration.

DevOps on show

It wasn’t just conversation on offer to SHARE delegates, however; delegates had a chance to watch demonstrations of powerful IDE and testing technology at the heart of the DevOps proposition. During one of the technical sessions, the IDE Shootout, Micro Focus joined other vendors in showing the power at IT’s fingertips today as they explore ways to leverage DevOps to help eradicate enterprise delivery bottlenecks. Technical expert Bob Schoppert led the charge in showcasing how Micro Focus’ contemporary mainframe modernization technology can make a significant difference in unifying the development process, increasing development efficiency and breaking through problems in testing capacity and bandwidth.

Efficient, unified mainframe application development from Micro Focus
Efficient, unified mainframe application development from Micro Focus

Conclusion

DevOps is going main-stream and smart organizations are looking to adopt it as a modern approach to address the challenges of the digital economy. Using a careful cultural approach and smart, contemporary technology will offer a route towards successful implementation. If you want to join the discussion – learn more about our DevOps perspective, and expect more of the same at the next SHARE event: see you in Atlanta!

Achieve peak performance at #MFSummit2016

The inaugural Micro Focus cross-portfolio summit opens this week. Andy King, General Manager for UK and Ireland offers his insights as to what to expect from the program.

This is a big week for myself and Micro Focus. On Wednesday, I raise the curtain on the future of our new company and our products for the customers who want us to take them into tomorrow.

Since the 2014 merger with the Attachmate Group, we have become one company operating two product portfolios across six solution areas. The single aim is to meet our customers’ mission-critical IT infrastructure needs with enterprise-grade, proprietary or open source solutions.

But what does that mean in reality? We are all about to find out.

#MFSummit2016: Current challenge, future success is our first cross-portfolio conference. The format mixes formal sessions and face-to-face opportunities, informative overviews with deep-dive, issue-specific questioning. It is a first chance to check out the roadmaps, and share experiences with our experts.

The focus is firmly on interaction; product specialists and fellow customers will be there to discuss your business and IT change issues. Set your itinerary to get maximum value from the day. The 12 sessions are split into three broad themes.

SUMMITT

Build. Operate. Secure.

Whether your IT issues span every area of build, operate and secure, or are confined to one or two, Micro Focus has it covered with a diverse range of products and solutions that will help to meet the challenges of change. I’ve selected three sessions to illustrate the point.

Secure

Dave Mount, UK Solutions Consulting Director presents an Introduction to Identity, Access and Security. Dave’s view is that understanding and managing identity enables better control of internal and external threats. He illustrates how our solutions can help our customers better understand and manage these threats. Find out how from 11 to 11.30pm.

Operate

From 1.30 to 2.20 pm David Shepherd, Solutions Consultant, Micro Focus and Stephen Mogg, Solutions Consultant SUSE discuss how Micro Focus and SUSE could help customers meet escalating storage requirements and costs with secure, scalable, highly-available and cost-effective file storage that works with your current infrastructure. If that would help you, then check out The Race for Space: File Storage Challenges and Solutions.

Build

Immediately after that, our COBOL guys, Scot Nielsen, Snr Product Manager and Alwyn Royall, Solutions Consultant, present Innovation and the Next Generation of COBOL Apps. It’s a demo-led look at the future that show the way forward for modernising COBOL application development and deployment in new architectures. So if you are ready for new innovation from older applications, get along to see that between  2.20 to 3.10 pm.

Networking opportunities?

Of course. Whether you are enjoying refreshments, post-event drinks – or your complementary lunch – alongside industry representatives, product experts and customers, visiting the pods for demos or roadmap walkthroughs, then the whole day is a refreshingly informal way to resolve your technical questions or business challenges. Alternatively, ask your question of the expert panel at the Q & A session at 3.45 to 4.15 pm.

PH House

In summary

Our promise to delegates is that after a visit to #MFSummit2016 they will be in a better position to navigate the challenges of business and IT change.

Wherever you are in your IT strategy, Micro Focus solutions enable our customers to innovate faster with less risk and embrace new business models. #MFSummit2016 is our opportunity to show you which solutions will work for you, where – and how.

Sounds attractive? You’ll really like our stylish venue, Prince Philip House. It is handy for Piccadilly, Charing Cross and St James’s Park Tube stations. Attendance is free, but book here first.

I’ll be speaking from 9.30. See you there?

Brand new year – same old problems?

For technology trend-watchers, the New Year has begun in much the same way old one ended.

As the reports of Black Friday and Cyber Monday-prompted site crashes tail off, predictions about upcoming technology trends kick in, and early 2016 looks much like late 2015. So will last year’s failures help us meet new challenges? Let’s take a look…

Peering into my crystal ball, I see virtual reality headsets, Artificial Intelligence, and driverless vehicles leading the charge of new technology into the commercial stream. The headsets are already on Amazon.

Back in the real world, CIOs are pushing ‘must refine digital strategies’ further up the agenda. It’s a long to-do list. Cloud, big data – and the analytics needed to extract anything useful from it – the ‘move to mobile’, online security, virtualisation, hybrid architectures, containers are just seven.

Other organisations will be trying to adapt to new methodologies, such as Agile and DevOps. Meanwhile, everyone wants to be the first to market with their innovations in digital services, even while cutting costs.

Cutting through the hype, three key organisational goals will remain:

  • Maintaining and protecting brand quality
  • Accelerating time to market, either proactively or reactively
  • Improving the user experience – and creating happy customers

Market movers and shakers

Some start-ups will fly – others will stall – while challenger banks continue to invade the finance space. Retailers will focus more on digital channels, next-gen consoles and virtual reality will fuel the gaming explosion. This means five things for CIOs:

  • The nature and ease of access to this technology will take us places we have never been before – and be even more disruptive than ever.
  • Organisations not keeping up with market trends risk being left behind
  • Bringing unreliable products or services to market risks damaging brand reputation
  • Teams must deliver what the business needs, faster than ever
  • Focusing on delivering what the customer demands and not what the IT departments think the customer wants is key

So how can organisations deal with this three-pronged attack? Using better tools to work smarter will certainly help.

Under attack? Get tooled up

Micro Focus solutions can help fix these issues by enabling them to embrace DevOps, boost business agility and reduce time to market. Any one of these elements protects brand reputation. All of them together will certainly enhance it.

Atlas is an Agile requirements solution. It unites technical and operations teams with business analysts on a platform that captures market trends and innovative stakeholder ideas. This joined-up working means organisations can quickly realise the impact of changes on the product in development, enabling Agile teams to get the right product to the business quicker than ever.

Silk is a platform-neutral automated testing suite that tests application functionality, responsiveness, user experience and performance. Whether deploying on multiple mobile devices and browsers, in the Cloud or on desktops, Silk enables test runs to be managed automatically. With full visibility across the testing and development lifecycle, errors are reduced and teams test earlier in the lifecycle and embrace the DevOps ethos.

So, if this is the year that your organisation gets on the front foot and stays ahead of the curve then give your teams the means to be strategic and not reactive. If this is to be the age of AI and next-gen tech, selling products that drives customers to throw themselves in front of the nearest driverless vehicle seems like last year’s thinking.

Whether this is to be a happy New Year or twelve months of challenges is entirely in your hands.

Crawford

Teaching today’s reality to tomorrow’s technologists.

Mark Plant investigates bi-modal IT and what that means for new entrants to the Information Technololgy sector. How do we balance older and newer technology and ensure that students of today are equipped with the right IT skills for tomorrow?

Bi-Modal IT?

I’ve just finished reading a great Forbes Tech article by Kurt MarkoBimodal IT: A New Buzzword For Old Concepts Presents Teachable Moment’  and one word in the title really stood out. Teachable.

The analysts and IT professionals the world over will not be surprised by Gartner’s ability to sum up this age-old issue of balancing ‘keep the lights on activity’ with the constant innovation of our industry into the new bi-modal buzz-word.  The reality of bi-model IT has always been present in the tech industry and teaching what that means, and how organizations can embrace it, will be high on Gartner’s and other Industry analysts agenda.

The two modes:

As the name suggests, bi-modal has to look at the two fundamental states of IT provision. How you might describe that may vary, but in essence it means a combination of apparent opposites – the new and the old; digital and traditional; innovations and incumbent; or more provocatively, bleeding edge and legacy. Of course, you can’t move for academics, training organizations and vendors teaching the new, the latest, the innovative, the cutting edge. But what of the incumbent, traditional, dare I say it “legacy” technology?

Well, at a recent Micro Focus #DevDay in New York City, Lonnie Emard from IT-ology, an IT training and education consortium, stressed the need to equip today’s students and novices with some of the foundational skills of our industry. Reports have emerged of COBOL experts coming back out of retirement of College students who learn COBOL making more money than their non-COBOL counterparts. IT-ology among others have latched on to the continued demand for those skills.

But could teaching this reality to the potential new entrants to the Technology sector could also be a headache for Universities and Tech Institutions when they build their Curricula? How do they balance the demand for bleeding edge IT know-how and equip students with valuable skills that will earn them valuable salaries? The best IT educators will be well aware that Node.js skills alone will not set IT Graduate Resumes apart from their job market competitors. It strikes me that Educators, Students and Employers all have a vested stake in making bi-modal IT education happen.

Learning then Earning

Increasingly it seems that Educational establishments team up with major industry players to arm millennials with these vital skills. IBM’s ‘Master the Mainframe’ 2015 competition is just one example attracting record numbers of students and academic partners. For the first time aspiring Mainframe developers will be able to access to the world’s fastest Linux system via the cloud at no cost after signing up.

Micro Focus too has it’s very own Academic Program that’s aimed at bridging the gap between learning and earning.  If Educators can work with industry partners to ensure such electives are carefully crafted and reflect industry realities then their courses will be perceived with more value and will be oversubscribed. Employers will snap up young talent who are able to apply ‘disruptive’ innovation to established but perfectly functional infrastructures. Its no surprise that at another recent #DevDay event, in DC, Univeristy of Maryland talked about adding COBOL back on to their syllabus and the success of their COBOL-skilled graduates moving into well-paid IT careers as a result.

academic 2

And for the young people we’re hoping to attract? Paying off your student loan faster will admittedly be quite a pull and it’s recognised that today’s IT shops need quality COBOL programmers. But let’s be honest with ourselves: COBOL didn’t ring much of a bell with UCL undergrads when they were asked. But seeing is believing, it’s hard to ignore the commentary of this under-graduate and how they picked up, learnt and recognized the value of COBOL as a contemporary skillset on a train journey in Canada!

Is the clink of cold hard cash enough?

With 64% of Millennials in this study wishing to ‘make the world a better place’ perhaps it’s time to get the word out to the youngsters pursuing a career in Java and .Net technologies? The IDE they’ll be familiar with plugs directly into modern Distributed and Mainframe COBOL which could mean their future apps running seamlessly alongside the ‘so called legacy’ infrastructure they will more than likely find with their first employer.

Take one of our customers, Steria, for example. Faced with a lack of skills in their application service teams, they adopted a new IDE and a cross-training program and using Micro Focus technology have a fully skilled COBOL and Java development workforce with an average age of just 26.  So, instead of just talking to young developers about the extra money, maybe it’s time we started to talk about the extra value and ability to innovate they will be equipped with? Instead of ‘getting a job’ they will truly be able to begin a career with an extremely bright future and add professional value from day one!

Take a look at our skills solution page, and our Academic program site for more and find me on Twitter if you wish to talk more

COBOLTV

2.3: Taste the future Micro Focus Visual COBOL and Enterprise Developer 2.3 Launch!

Micro Focus continues to invest millions of dollars each year in enhancing and expanding its products to meet new technology standards and market demand. The 2.3 release of Visual COBOL and Enterprise Developer in October 2015 is another example of our products’ continuing evolution to support a variety of market challenges. Derek Britton got an early view.

Introduction

As we’ve mentioned before, the Micro Focus DevDay event provides customers with an ideal opportunity to not only ask real questions of the Micro Focus experts, but also see the technology in action in our live demo sessions. Customers attending our New York and Toronto DevDays were treated to an early preview of the latest 2.3 releases of Visual COBOL and Enterprise Developer. I managed to scribble some notes.

First Principles

2.3 will represent another milestone in Micro Focus’ relentless pursuit of product excellence, capability and usability, as shaped by some fundamental principles. In terms of setting themes for each release, Micro Focus continues to follow its core mantra of –

  • COBOL language longevity
  • Best in class development technology
  • Unrivalled platform portability
  • Support for accelerated IT delivery

At the heart of our investment choices for our products, Micro Focus considers customer input, framed in the context of our core principles, to ensure we continue to provide the capabilities our customers and the wider market needs. Here were a just a few of the highlights.

Visual COBOL

Visual COBOL includes a range of new tech innovations, including:

App Performance

We’ve spent plenty of time and effort optimizing the COBOL deployment environment (often called the runtime), to incrementally improve application performance. Our goal was to achieve improved application performance across all deployment platforms. Although individual customer performance mileage will vary, our internal benchmarks with 2.3 have delivered some impressive results:

  • Up to 30% faster app performance using Windows 64bit
  • Up to 40% faster app performance using  HP platforms
  • Major industry performance benchmarks (USSTEEL and CSAMPLE) are performing between 5-12% faster across all platforms

Developer Tools & Platforms

Micro Focus prides itself on providing class-leading development technology. Part of this is to ensure we are integrating with the latest IDE technology. 2.3 supports the latest development tools from Microsoft – Visual Studio 2015 and the latest open computing development environment – Eclipse 4, further enhancing the developer experience (Figure 1).  Micro Focus delivered the FIRST market support for COBOL within Visual Studio 2015 in August this year.  Interestingly, the new VS2015 IDE was also the platform used by a technology intern at Microsoft as they taught themselves COBOL coding in just a couple of hours! Read their fascinating story here.

Of course, platform support is an evolving investment too. 2.3 certifies against new environments including Windows 10, Windows Server 2012 RC2, and recent releases of IBM TX Series 8.2 and the open source Postgres database. For some clients, an important consideration is that XP is still supported.

VisualCOBOLsnip

New Mobile & SOA technology

An exciting addition to our technology integration story is that we have refreshed our web services toolkit to support emerging standards and mobile technology; specifically the Interface Mapping Toolkit (IMTK) facility now includes support for RESTful web services using JSON, making the provision of COBOL-based web services easier than ever.

On the Mainframe Side

In addition to all the updates in Visual COBOL above, which are also available in Enterprise Developer, our flagship mainframe development product has been updated in a variety of ways.

Smarter Mainframe Development

Building mainframe applications faster, either using established approaches or by looking towards DevOps or agile, remains a primary objective for many organizations. Supporting this objective, we’ve implemented some new usability and efficiency improvements in this release:

  • We’ve added a Web portal for easy access to application knowledge for all users , as well as adding a simple Wizard to assist in building the application repository, to accelerate understanding across all developers.
  • The release includes faster and smarter code editing across mainframe COBOL, PL/I and JCL sources, integrating and simplifying the task of maintaining a range of application source types
  • Based on customer feedback, we have implemented a new facility for fast test data record editing. This includes a structure view and search and filter capabilities. Getting up and running on unit testing has never been easier.

Quality Counts

This release also includes significant improvements to assist in building high quality applications. First, Micro Focus has introduced the concept of ‘knowledge at the point of change’ by making code analysis functions (available via Enterprise Analyzer) but now within the developer’s own IDE. This provides key analysis features directly within Enterprise Developer, enabling activities such as standards checking, performance analysis and application knowledge to be immediately available to the developer. (See figure 2).

ED23

Future Proofing

The mainframe environment continues to evolve, and the 2.3 Enterprise product set release reflects our mission to support emerging standards in the host environment. A few additions this time include:

  • Improved mainframe DB2 compatibility
  • Direct access to IMS DB data for batch processes
  • PL/I support extended to include GRAPHIC datatype, more built in functions, etc.
  • Support for FTP commands in Enterprise Server JCL

See for Yourself

Of course, it would be impossible for me to attempt to cover everything that’s been added into a single blog. We’ve barely scratched the surface in fact. However, the products are released alongside datasheets as well as the “what’s new” documentation – download your copy for Visual COBOL and Enterprise today to read more. Additionally, the products are available for evaluation for customers interested in seeing it for themselves.

But as our investment in DevDay testifies, we are more interested in your application development technology needs, and would be happy to discuss your business requirements and how our solutions can assist. This is our Value Profile service. If you would like to discuss further, get in touch.

 

Unified AppDev – DevOps Mainframe Efficiency

While the DevOps methodology appears to promise significant improvements in efficiency, it relies on significant changes to internal practices in environments which are – frankly – quite hard to change. In his third blog in the series Derek Britton explores whether taking a smarter approach to mainframe DevOps might bring the goal of development efficiency within reach

Introduction

‘We’re all about smaller, focused teams, working on manageable sizes of work, with a regular and clean delivery process’. That’s Agile, or Scrum or one of its equivalents, talking. DevOps, to paraphrase, would respond ‘that’s fine, but let’s include the testing  teams as well, so those regular deliveries can stand up to scrutiny over quality, fitness for purpose and  user feedback‘.

Using a focused, multi-skilled team to work together on manageable deliveries and testing the whole delivery as a single unit of work? Well, frankly, it takes courage to argue against it. Anyone doing so would be presumably thinking wistfully of protracted waterfall models with huge projects that never fully sign off the scope and cannot test that volume of changes in the time allotted, where precious skilled resources are pulled from pillar to post to rectify unplanned issues. Leaving that all behind is certainly a good strategy. But how does that stack up for the mainframe environment?

Regular and Clean Delivery Process?

These are where the problems could start.

Of course, the mainframe processes are regimented and rule-based, yes, orchestrated and established, certainly.

But the frequency of delivery is based on the payload, other priorities, resource availability, and often – crucially – mainframe resources too.

And ‘clean’ is slightly subjective perhaps, but there’s nothing simple about the quality of required deliveries. Rudimentary errors such as compile errors aren’t uncovered until the next day. The COBOL team has their part, the Java team another – and what about the middleware? Even straightforward debugging or basic unit testing requires QA to be on stand-by to help set up the environment, as well as sys-admin.

So, clean? A little tainted, maybe. One Micro Focus customer faced an application change reality – not uncommon in the mainframe world – where regular challenges faced the beleaguered development team and application development cycles were slow compared to other language teams [though the mainframe applications were where the business value resided]. The cause was diagnosed as a combination of cumbersome tooling and restrictions in available mainframe processing time.

Delivering applications composed of mainframe COBOL and distributed Java assets was becoming more regular, and therefore more critical, yet the teams involved were split by structure, process and technology usage. Collaboration over bug fixing, unit testing and QA was extremely difficult.

The Solution – AppDev Sans Frontiers

The solution was as dramatic as it was straightforward. A single, unifying toolset, as modern as it needed but mindful of more established technology.

DevOps Blog 3 image 1Figure 1 Smart z/OS development with Enterprise Developer

Micro Focus’ IBM mainframe application delivery suite flagship – Micro Focus Enterprise Developer (figure 1) – enabled the teams to use a common development toolset, independent of scarce mainframe resources. The powerful Eclipse-based IDE provided freedom for mainframe developers to work in isolation when necessary, but also share source code and other application resources as a group, without burdening the busy mainframe.

To summarise the net benefits for this particular customer – and many other current Micro Focus users:

  • Composite core applications can be developed, debugged and unit tested using a single development environment
  • COBOL and Java application developers can collaborate and interact at a development level, using the same environment

All application developers, including mainframe COBOL developers, can achieve improved levels of efficiency, through access to contemporary development tooling. Over 25% efficiency improvements are possible.

DevOps Blog 3 Image 2Figure 2 – Side by side COBOL and Java development, courtesy of Micro Focus

Figure 2 illustrates how Micro Focus technology literally provides side-by-side development for both COBOL and Java application assets from within the same Eclipse IDE.

Additionally, customers looking to unite COBOL and Java, for example, can utilise Enterprise Test Server as a basis for composite application testing, without imposing further on mainframe resources – perfect for integration and functional testing.

A timeless, ageless solution

Furthermore, many customers are also grappling with questions over future resourcing. After all, these COBOL systems have outlasted any reasonable prediction of their life-span, such is the robust and enduring value of both the applications and the underlying technology. Micro Focus’ development tools helps with this – it is a smooth introduction to a more efficient development model for mainframers, but it is also a perfect training ground into the mainframe world (and the COBOL language) for the younger developers with no such background.

In a recent article, a 19-year-old intern at a technology company described a two-hour learning process during which they learnt how to code in COBOL, using a contemporary IDE and had built their first application. In our client scenario, the results were astounding – skills are now no longer a concern, as the average age of the mainframe developer for this client has been reduced to 26.

Unity is Strength

The Micro Focus environment now acts as the basis for all core application development work in that organization; such has been the far-reaching benefits to the technical teams in meeting efficiency targets. So whether the application development requirements are directly connected to the mainframe, fully offloaded, or whether the language requirements are COBOL, Java, PL/I or a mixture, there is a unified development framework for all.

The phrases ‘shorter development cycle’ and ‘increased release velocity’ are often cited as the major outcomes of adopting DevOps. One measurement the client shared was that, thanks to reduced mainframe dependency and improved tooling; a full core system compilation task has been reduced from a full day on the mainframe to 23 minutes under Enterprise Developer.

Find Out More…

Better development efficiency through modern tooling and collaboration is not the only DevOps objective. But this was a major issue with this client. And their goal was improved efficiency to provide better services, faster to their clients.

Micro Focus technology acted as a platform for improvements in working practices to enable a step change in efficiency, based on central DevOps principle of collaborative development. Visit us to learn how Micro Focus can assist your DevOps adoption and resolve your mainframe skills questions.

In our next and final blog of this series I will take a look at the DevOps challenge of testing efficiencies, in the context of mainframe application delivery.

DevOps – a culture of collaboration

DevOps is a software development methodology which promises greater efficiency and throughput of change through transparency, collaboration and flexibility. But it depends on significant changes to internal practices for many. In the second of our Mainframe DevOps series, Derek Britton opens up the discussion on a key DevOps principle: a culture of collaboration.

Introduction

The Agile manifesto suggests good practice for building software is to establish manageable iterations in which smaller chunks of work are taken, worked on and delivered in smaller timeframes by a dedicated team. DevOps seeks to add further discipline and flexibility by driving a more focused and inclusive process across IT.

We need to talk about IT

Fundamentally, DevOps aims to provide a sensible transparent point of intersection between the disciplines of Development, QA/Testing and Operations. This espouses (and largely depends upon) collaboration, flexibility and – ultimately – internal operational efficiency.

But is that really possible in a mainframe environment? Industry evidence talks about two thirds of all development shops being aware of DevOps, but that doesn’t mean they are aligned or structured – or even inclined – to collaborate.

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Teams and Tools

In one particular client situation, a major application set was the centre of a significant industrialised development process to service several lines of business from the same source code. However, both in terms of team structure and tooling (development, testing, configuration management), there were significant restrictions in terms of the level of flexibility and parallel activity, meaning the line of business deliveries needed to be managed in sequence rather than

Failure to collaborate and adopt modern development methods was, in effect, jeopardizing business efficiency. The client needed flexible and more frequent releases to accommodate a range of unrelated application changes, and sought a model for parallel development across features, releases, or teams to achieve this.

A Contemporary Approach

While there was going to be some change in working practices, adopting modern tooling was the nucleus of the solution.

The flagship of our IBM mainframe application delivery suite – Micro Focus Enterprise Developer – enabled the teams to use a common development toolset which was not dependent on scarce mainframe resources. The powerful Eclipse-based IDE provided freedom for mainframe developers to work in isolation when necessary, but also share source code and other application resources as a group, without burdening the busy mainframe.

At the same time the team adopted a distributed SCM tool (in this case Micro Focus AccuRev) in order to provide a secure, multi-user approach to source code management for the earlier phases of the development and testing cycle. Integrating with their mainframe based SCM later in the delivery cycle maintained the integrity of their promotional model while building in greater flexibility at the early development stages.

A New Chapter

The client has embarked on a new chapter where its traditional mainframe development practices have evolved, without undergoing any risky seismic overhaul, to support contemporary practices. They’ve done this simply because that’s what the business needed.

The upshot is that a greater number of IT delivery projects are running concurrently, delivering more functionality to the business in less time. Improved tooling and visibility also means less time spent fixing regressions or backing out changes.

The phrases ‘Shorter development cycle’ and ‘Increased release velocity’ are often cited as the major outcomes of a DevOps model. While by no means a full-blown DevOps shop, it is already benefitting from one DevOps’ fundamental tenets.

Want A World View? – You Need an Atlas

Another potentially vital consideration is the flexibility with which the workload can be prioritize and shaped in the process. We’ve spoken so far about improving the production process of building and delivering in efficient parallel streams. But what about the tasks in the first place. Establishing an equally flexible, transparent method of capturing and managing the tasks. Agile requirements management benefits from a significant recent investment by the Borland team, as covered in the press.

Atlas

Need More?

Improved collaboration and a parallel development model is by no means the full DevOps story. But this was the major issue with this client. And their goal was improved efficiency. Micro Focus technology acted as a platform for improvements in working practices to enable a step change in efficiency, based on central DevOps principle of collaborative development. We’ll look in our next blogs at improving development and testing efficiencies. You might also like to read my introductory DevOps blog post here.

We are asked a lot about how to build greater efficiency into core systems delivery. We spend a lot of time in the #DevDay agenda talking about precisely that. Why not come to an event near you soon where you can see for yourself what’s possible?

What does COBOL sound like?

On the #mainframedebate recently, people began suggesting potential theme songs for the mainframe. Jackie Anglin from Micro Focus investigates some potential theme songs for COBOL.

COBOL theme song

On the #mainframedebate recently, people began suggesting potential theme songs for the mainframe. The suggestions are all on this Spotify playlist which, sadly, doesn’t include one of the most obvious candidates.

This got me thinking that, surely, COBOL deserves a dedicated playlist as well.  After all, like music itself, this language has spanned generations and genres. And not only is it still going, it is highly relevant, in daily use and constantly being reinvented to reflect the world around it.

To extend the metaphor, some bands or artists reinvent themselves and extend their shelf lives by many decades. U2, the Stones, and Tom Jones have all managed to hang around for years and evolve with their audiences. Some bands disappear altogether and re-appear many years later for big-buck reunion gigs – the Eagles and Pink Floyd are great examples of this. Some artists demand a residual affinity that seems timeless – witness Dolly Parton wowing Glastonbury last year.

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Elvis has left the building

But COBOL first entered the public consciousness in 1959. Here are the top 10 US singles for that year.  It’s difficult to find anyone on the list with a pulse, let alone still living in the public consciousness.  Sure, Elvis is immortal – and possibly isn’t dead anyway, depending on who you believe – but Carl Dobkins Jr? Toni Fisher? Wilbert Harrison? I doubt that they are household names in their own homes.

That’s not to dismiss their contribution to popular culture, any more than I would diss Turbo Pascal, Fortran  or even FACT, the precursor to COBOL. Fortran and FACT were big in 1959 too and yet neither have survived and thrived in the way that COBOL has. But then, if the Crests  had invested $50-60m every year just as Micro Focus supports COBOL, perhaps they would still be playing 16 Candles to crammed stadiums every year.

Interstellar Overdrive

We have blogged before about how the careers of COBOL and Pink Floyd have almost run in parallel. But COBOL is even older than Piper at the Gates of Dawn. So, how can we express all the core values of COBOL – longevity, flexibility, future-proofing – as a single song?

We had a quick straw poll at the office while building our #COBOLrocks playlist – yes, it’s A Thing now – and while there were some promising suggestions, we never really nailed it. Stayin’ Alive – sure, but COBOL isn’t just surviving, it’s evolving; see also Alive – surely, Pearl Jam’s finest moment.

It’s Not Unusual, the song keeping Tom Jones’ bank manager happy, works a little better. Because there are around 200bn lines of COBOL in regular use across the globe today in government agencies, finance houses, banking, insurance and other mainframe owners. So that’s a good one.

Under Pressure was another suggestion, but that’s not so good. COBOL is future-proofed and COBOL transactions currently outnumber Google searches by 200 to one. Our business is built on COBOL and that won’t change. So, under pressure? Not from us, or our customers.

Can you do better?

When I work, I like to listen to music, and I know plenty of developers put their beats on to code to the rhythm.  Why not take a minute to download our #COBOLrocks playlist (you’ll have to create a Spotify account if you don’t have one already).What tunes best describe COBOL? Tell us and we’ll add them in.

Sign up for an upcoming Developer Day  and if you hear one of your submissions, there’s a prize with your name on it.

My own favorite? Easy: Don’t Stop Believing. I recently saw Journey in concert, with a new lead singer of course, and probably a different crowd than what they performed to 30 years ago. But their music was still great.  Like Journey, COBOL may look different these days, but there’s no harm in being reliable, dependable and giving the people what they want.  Rock on, COBOL.

cobolrocks

Visual COBOL: Innovative, future-proof – and award winning?

Melissa Burns at the Micro Focus HQ explains why we’ve got the champagne on ice. The Inquirer has shortlisted Visual COBOL for ‘Best Developer Tool’ in their Tech Hero Awards 2015 and SUSE Linux has scooped a prestigious Network Computing Awards award.

Visual COBOL shortlisted for Best Developer Tool 2015

Here at Micro Focus HQ, we’ve got the Champagne on ice because UK technology website The Inquirer has shortlisted Visual COBOL for ‘Best Developer Tool’ in their Tech Hero Awards 2015.

It’s been a good year so far: our #COBOLrocks social media campaign is up  for a Markie and our SUSE colleagues won Enterprise Storage Product of the Year at the Network Computing Awards.

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Happy birthday!

This month, Visual COBOL is five years young and more than 100 customers are already modernizing their COBOL applications with the ‘Best Developer Tool’.  So why do we think it is a worthy winner?

  • Development efficiency gains of up to 30%
  • Cost savings of up to 80%
  • Improved application performance of 75% by uniting development teams
  • Integration with industry-leading IDEs such as Microsoft Visual Studio and Eclipse
  • Short learning curve ensures availability of COBOL skills now and in the future
  • Integration with contemporary business languages such as C# and Java
  • Support for modern tech and disruptive innovations such as Cloud and Mobile
  • Multi-platform support​
  • Nearly $55m investments in continued R&D

Have you met Developer Dave?  He thinks Visual COBOL is the best developer tool too.

Vote for Visual COBOL!

Those already working with Visual COBOL are already enjoying these benefits. If you already know that Visual COBOL really is the best developer tool, then please take the time to vote. You’ll be entered into a prize draw to win an iPad mini. Voting closes on 17 April and winners will be announced on 19 May. We’ll be sure to pass on the details of the winners.

Check it out

If you have yet to experience the best developer tool in town, then why not take a free trial and see for yourself?

Thanks for your support!

Lissa

Micro Focus DevDays: A window into the future of COBOL

Jackie Anglin from Micro Focus invites you to come and see more about what Micro Focus mainframe and COBOL products can do. At a North American #DevDay near you

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So, what could Developer Days do for you?

These sessions  are an opportunity for our North American partners and customers to see for themselves the opportunities that new, enabling technologies could bring to long-established COBOL applications. You’ll have to see it to believe it…

This year our ‘A Team’ of tech guys have a plan (and yes, they do love it when it comes together) to help our customers and partners make more of their mainframes. Because by hitching all that power to Visual COBOL, the rich development environment that delivers true innovation, they can help you make more of your application estate.

With the right approach – and a little insight – your organization’s current mainframe, Windows, Unix and Linux-based COBOL business systems can support tomorrow’s technologies including mobile, cloud, .NET and JVM. And if you want to see innovation in action….

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See for yourself

We’re always pleased and proud to have our partners stand up to explain and demonstrate how Visual COBOL has breathed new life into their COBOL applications and this year will be no different.

In our most recent DevDays we heard from application knowledge experts Transvive, while IBM walked us through the possibilities that the zOS operating system brings to the contemporary mainframe. Sammons Financial and Empire Life insurance have already shown us what their version of the future looks like so want to contribute with a presentation of your own, then let us know.

For the forthcoming shows we can confirm that, among others, technology consultants Select Computing and infotech firm Information Analysis Incorporated will be demonstrating how they have given their COBOL apps a new lease of life, as will Spears Software and marine insurance specialists Boat US.

And this year’s show-and-tell has a main event that proves just how versatile Visual COBOL can be in taking old-school COBOL apps into real world, right-now situations. The demonstration from our partners at Astadia is a walk-through of how insurance claims advisors use Google Glasses connected to COBOL applications when making claim assessment site visits to their clients.

Exciting innovation from trusted applications

So these DevDays are all about taking you into tomorrow with what you have today. About not risking core processes in attempting to create a genuine business advantage through innovation. It’s about supporting good ideas with the COBOL technology that still drives more than 70% of today’s business transaction processing systems.

We created Developer Days to demonstrate how enterprise application developers can quickly and easily modernize their COBOL systems using the very latest in COBOL development technology and with innovations such as the Astadia presentation we have walking, talking proof that it really works.

Book today. Innovate tomorrow

Developer Days are all about seeing the potential. Everyone takes home something different, whether it is a how-to of achieving best practice or the inspiration to try something new. So come along to a Dev Day near you soon (and stay tuned for updates and additions to the schedule available here)

Aside from seeing Micro Focus mainframe development technology at work, you will learn how to:

  • Accelerate time to delivery on mainframes and distributed platforms
  • Enable greater focus on new innovation
  • Leverage modern COBOL development tools to maximize current development resources
  • Attract the next generation of developer talent

While demonstrations and presentations from our tech team will explain the potential, it is the real-world testimonials from Micro Focus’ partner and customer community that bring it to life.

Who else should attend? 

  • Essentially any organization thinking about – or in the process of – modernizing their COBOL applications.
  • Anyone wanting to extend them to the Cloud, mobile and managed code (.NET or JVM) environments
  • Anyone with the inspiration to do more with their application portfolio but without the how-to knowledge.

 

Godfrey