Trying to Transform (Part 2): the 420 million mph rate of change

Introduction

Organizations continually have to innovate to match the marketplace-driven rate of change. Readers of the Micro Focus blogsite know that I’m continually banging this drum. The issue seems relentless. Some even refer to tsunamis. But how fast is it?

An article from a recent edition of the UK Guardian newspaper attempted to gauge what the pace of change actually is, using the tried and tested motoring analogy. Here’s a quote.

If a 1971 car had improved at the same rate as computer chips, then 2015 models would have had top speeds of about 420 million mph. Before the end of 2017 models that go twice as fast again will arrive in showrooms.” Still trying to keep up? Good luck with that.

Of course this is taking Moore’s law to a slightly dubious conclusion. However, the point holds that the clamour for change, the need for constant reinvention, innovation and improvement, that’s not letting up any time soon.

The slow need not apply

But how quickly an organisation can achieve the innovation needed to compete in the digitally-enabled marketplace may depend on the IT infrastructure. Clearly, innovation is easier for funky, smaller start-ups with no core systems or customer data to worry about to drag along with them. But the established enterprise needn’t be left in the slow lane. Indeed look at some of the astonishing advances in mainframe performance and any nagging concern that it can’t support today’s business quickly dissipates.

Meanwhile, innovation through smart software can improve speed, efficiency, collaboration, and customer engagement. With the help of the right enabling technology, mainframe and other large organizations can match external digital disruption with their brand of innovation. Because innovation isn’t any one thing, and therefore the solution must be as comprehensive as the challenge. So what’s the secret to getting the enterprise up to speed? The answer for many is digital transformation.

Digital what?

OK, Digital Transformation may be neologism rather than accepted parlance, the term is common enough that Gartner get it and it has its own wiki definition:

“Digital transformation is the change associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society”

Our customers have told us they are trying to transform, and while they have different ideas about what digital transformation means to them, Micro Focus is very clear about what it means to us.

Digital transformation is how we help keep our mainframe and enterprise customers competitive in a digital world. It can either be tangible, like a better mobile app, a better web interface on to a core system, getting into new markets quicker, ensuring a better overall customer experience, or simply doing things better to answer the challenges posed by the digital economy.

For us, the future is a place where to keep up with change, organizations will need to change the way everything happens. And for IT, that’s Building smarter systems even faster, continuing to Operate them carefully and efficiently, while keeping the organization’s systems and data, especially the critical mainframe-based information, Secure, these are the things that matter to the CIO, not to mention the rest of the executive team.

This is the practical, business incarnation of innovation, but to us the solution is as smart as it is efficient: realizing new value from old. Squeezing extra organizational benefit through increased efficiency, agility and cost savings from the data and business logic you already own. The pace of change is accelerating, so why opt for a standing start? We suggest you use what is, quite literally, already running.

Talking Transformation

Your digital story is your own journey, but the conversation is hotting up. Hear more by joining us at an upcoming event. Taste the Micro Focus flavor of innovation at the upcoming SHARE event. Or join us at the forthcoming Micro Focus #Summit2017.

Trying to Transform

Here’s an interesting statistic. According to a report, only 61 of the Fortune 500 top global companies have remained on that illustrious list since 1955. That’s only 12%. It’s not unreasonable to extrapolate that 88% of the Fortune 500 of 2075 will be different again. That’s over 400 organizations that won’t stand the test of time.

What do such sobering prospects mean for the CEO of most major corporations? Simple – innovation. Innovation and transformation are the relentless treadmill of change and the continuous quest for differentiation. These are what an organization will need for a competitive edge in the future.

But in this digital economy, what does transformation look like?

Time for Change

Key findings from a recent report (the 2016 State of Digital Transformation, by research and consulting firm Altimeter) shared the following trends affecting organizational digital transformation:

  • Customer experience is the top driver for change
  • A majority of respondents see the catalyst for change as evolving customer behaviour and preference. A great number still see that as a significant challenge
  • Nearly half saw a positive result on business as a result of digital transformation
  • Four out of five saw innovation as top of the digital transformation initiatives

Much of this is echoed by a study The Future of Work commissioned by Google.

The three most prevalent outcomes of adopting “digital technologies” were cited as

  • Improving customer experience
  • Improving internal communication
  • Enhancing internal productivity

More specifically, the benefits experienced of adopting digital technology were mentioned as

  • Responding faster to changing needs
  • Optimizing business processes
  • Increasing revenue and profits

Meanwhile, the report states that the digital technologies that are perceived as having the most future impact were a top five of Cloud, Tablets, Smartphones, Social Media and Mobile Apps.

So, leveraging new technology, putting the customer first, and driving innovation seem all to connect together to yield tangible benefits for organizations that are seeking to transform themselves. Great.

But it’s not without its downside. None of this, alas, is easy. Let’s look at some of the challenges cited the same study, and reflect on how they could be mitigated.

More Than Meets The Eye?

Seamlessly changing to support a new business model or customer experience is easy to conceive. We’ve all seen the film Transformers, right? But in practical, here-and-now IT terms, this is not quite so simple. What are the challenges?

The studies cited a few challenges: let’s look at some of them.

Challenge: What exactly is the customer journey?

In the studies, while a refined customer experience was seen as key, 71% saw understanding that behaviour as a major challenge. Unsurprisingly, only half had mapped out the customer journey. More worrying is that a poor digital customer experience means, over 90% of the time, unhappy customers won’t complain – but they will not return. (Source: www.returnonbehaviour.com ).

Our View: The new expectation of the digitally-savvy customer is all important in both B2C and B2B. Failure to assess, determine, plan, build and execute a renewed experience that maps to the new customer requirement is highly risky. That’s why Micro Focus’ Build story incorporates facilities to map, define, implement and test against all aspects of the customer experience, to maximize the success rates of newly-available apps or business services.

Challenge: Who’s doing this?

The studies also showed an ownership disparity. Some of the digital innovation is driven from the CIO’s organization (19%), some from the CMO (34%), and the newly-emerging Chief Digital office (15%) is also getting some of the funding and remit. So who’s in charge and where’s the budget, and is the solution comprehensive? These are all outstanding questions in an increasingly siloed digital workplace.

Our View: While organizationally there may be barriers, the culture of collaboration and inclusiveness can be reinforced by appropriate technology. Technology provides both visibility and insight into objectives, tasks, issues, releases and test cases, not to mention the applications themselves. This garners a stronger tie between all stakeholder groups, across a range of technology platforms, as organizations seek to deliver faster.

Challenge: Are we nimble enough?

Rapid response to new requirements hinges on how fast, and frequently, an organization can deliver new services. Fundamentally, it requires an agile approach – yet 63% saw a challenge in their organization being agile enough. Furthermore, the new DevOps paradigm is not yet the de-facto norm, much as many would want it to be.

Our View: Some of the barriers to success with Agile and DevOps boil down to inadequate technology provision, which is easily resolved – Micro Focus’ breadth of capability up and down the DevOps tool-chain directly tackles many of the most recognized bottlenecks to adoption, from core systems appdev to agile requirements management. Meanwhile, the culture changes of improved teamwork, visibility and collaboration are further supported by open, flexible technology that ensures everyone is fully immersed in and aware of the new model.

Challenge: Who’s paying?

With over 40% reporting strong ROI results, cost effectiveness of any transformation project remains imperative. A lot of CapEx is earmarked and there needs to be an ROI. With significant bottom line savings seen by a variety of clients using its technology, Micro Focus’ approach is always to plan how such innovation will pay for itself in the shortest possible timeframe.

Bridge Old and New

IT infrastructure and how it supports an organization’s business model is no longer the glacial, lumbering machine it once could be. Business demands rapid response to change. Whether its building new customer experiences, establishing and operating new systems and devices, or ensuring clients and the corporation protect key data and access points, Micro Focus continues to invest to support today’s digital agenda.

Of course, innovation or any other form of business transformation will take on different forms depending on the organization, geography, industry and customer base, and looks different to everyone we listen to. What remains true for all is that the business innovation we offer our customers enables them to be more efficient, to deliver new products and services, to operate in new markets, and to deepen their engagement with their customers.

Transforming? You better be. If so, talk to us, or join us at one of our events soon.

We Built This City on…DevOps

With a history that is more industrial than inspirational, a few eyebrows were raised when Hull won the bid to become the UK’s city of culture for 2017. While unlikely, it is now true, and the jewel of East Riding is boasting further transformation as it settles in to its new role as the cultural pioneer for the continent.  Why not? After all, cultures change, attitudes change. People’s behaviour, no matter what you tell them to do, will ultimately decide outcomes. Or, as Peter Drucker put it, Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.

As we look ahead to other cultural changes in 2017, the seemingly ubiquitous DevOps approach looks like a change that has already made it to the mainstream.

But there remains an open question about whether implementing DevOps is really a culture shift in IT, or whether it’s more of a strategic direction. Or, indeed, whether it’s a bit of both. I took a look at some recent industry commentary to try to unravel whether a pot of DevOps culture would indeed munch away on a strategic breakfast.

A mainstream culture?

Recently, I reported that Gartner predicted about 45% of the enterprise IT world were on a DevOps trajectory. 2017 could be, statistically at least, the year when DevOps goes mainstream. That’s upheaval for a lot of organizations.

We’ve spoken before about the cultural aspects of DevOps transformation: in a recent blog I outlined three fundamental tenets of embracing the necessary cultural tectonic shift required for larger IT organizations to embrace DevOps:

  • Stakeholder Management

Agree the “end game” of superior new services and customer satisfaction with key sponsors, and outline that DevOps is a vehicle to achieve that. Articulated  in today’s digital age it is imperative that the IT team (the supplier) seeks to engage more frequently with their users.

  • Working around Internal Barriers

Hierarchies are hard to break down, and a more nimble approach is often to establish cross-functional teams to take on specific projects that are valuable to the business, but relatively finite in scope, such that the benefits of working in a team-oriented approach become self-evident quickly. Add to this the use of internal DevOps champions to espouse and explain the overall approach.

  • Being Smart with Technology

There are a variety of technical solutions available to improving development, testing and efficiency of collaboration for mainframe teams. Hitherto deal-breaking delays and bottlenecks caused by older procedures and even older tooling can be removed simply by being smart about what goes into the DevOps tool-chain. Take a look at David Lawrence’s excellent review of the new Micro Focus technology to support better configuration and delivery management of mainframe applications.

In a recent blog, John Gentry talked about the “Culture Shift” foundational to a successful DevOps adoption. The SHARE EXECUForum 2016 show held a round-table discussion specifically about the cultural changes required for DevOps. Culture clearly matters. However, these and Drucker’s pronouncements notwithstanding, culture is only half the story.

Strategic Value?

The strategic benefit of DevOps is critical. CIO.com recently talked about how DevOps can help “redefine IT strategy”. After all, why spend all that time on cultural upheaval without a clear view of the resultant value?

In another recent article, the key benefits of DevOps adoption were outlined as

  • Fostering Genuine Collaboration inside and outside IT
  • Establishing End-to-End automation
  • Delivering Faster
  • Establishing closer ties with the user

Elsewhere, an overtly positive piece by Automic gave no fewer than 10 good reasons to embrace DevOps, including fostering agility, saving costs, turning failure into continuous improvement, removing silos, find issues more quickly and building a more collaborative environment.

How such goals become measurable metrics isn’t made clear by the authors, but the fact remains that most commentators see significant strategic value in DevOps. Little wonder that this year’s session agenda at SHARE includes a track called DevOps in the Enterprise, while the events calendar for 2017 looks just as busy again with DevOps shows.

Make It Real

So far that’s a lot of talk and not a lot of specific detail. Changing organizational culture is so nebulous as to be almost indefinable – shifting IT culture toward a DevOps oriented approach covers a multitude of factors in terms of behaviour, structure, teamwork, communication and technology it’s worthy of studies in its own right.  Strategically, transforming IT to be a DevOps shop requires significant changes in flexibility, efficiency and collaboration between teams, as well as an inevitable refresh in the underlying tool chain, as it is often referred.

To truly succeed at DevOps, one has to look and the specific requirements and desired outcomes:  being able to work out specifically, tangibly and measurably what is needed, and how it can be achieved, is critical. Without this you have a lot of change and little clarity on whether it does any good.

Micro Focus’ recent white paper “From Theory to Reality” (download here) discusses the joint issues of cultural and operational change as enterprise-scale IT shops look to gain benefits from adopting a DevOps model. It cites three real customer situations where each has tackled a specific situation in its own way, and the results of doing so.

Learn More

Each organization’s DevOps journey will be different, and must meet specific internal needs. Why not join Micro Focus at the upcoming SHARE, DevDay or #MFSummit2017 shows to hear for how major IT organizations are transforming how they deliver value through DevOps, with the help of Micro Focus technology.

If you want to build an IT service citadel of the future, it had better be on something concrete. Talk to Micro Focus to find out how.

Building a Stronger Mainframe Community

Community brings individuals and groups together – united in a common practice, belief or behavior. We see positive examples of community in many aspects of our daily lives whether it is our local neighborhood, family settings or common interest groups. Good examples are also found in the software industry. Following on from a recent Mainframe Virtual User Group event, Ed Airey explores the importance of community and how this proven principle can yield lasting value for new and existing members.

What is the Mainframe Virtual User Group?

On November 17th, Micro Focus held the November edition of its Mainframe Virtual User Group (VUG). This fall meeting saw Micro Focus Enterprise users and Mainframe enthusiasts across the former Serena business, come together –united under one flag and one common theme – the future and growing importance of the Mainframe. The Mainframe VUG serves as a quarterly update offering company news, product roadmap updates, recent event highlights as well as a spotlight technology and educational demonstration.  November’s theme focused on the importance of DevOps and the increasing role that the Mainframe plays in enabling that practice across the enterprise.

Highlights from the September iChange event in Chicago were also covered in this briefing as well as a reference to valued technical resources* for community members. Al Slovacek, Product Manager for the ChangeMan ZMF solution provided several product roadmap updates including a review of ChangeMan 8.1.2 and 8.1.3 and a forward view into version 8.2.  Eddie Houghton, Enterprise product director, provided a similar technology overview and roadmap update for the Micro Focus Enterprise solution set, including the most recent version-Enterprise 2.3.2.

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DevOps takes center stage…

Perhaps the highlight of the November Mainframe VUG, however, was a live End-to-End Mainframe DevOps demonstration performed by Gary Evans, Technical Services Director at Micro Focus.  Gary showcased the development efficiency and test automation capabilities available within this continuous integration toolset designed for the Mainframe—a powerful solution to accelerate and streamline application delivery. Gary explained how organizations can get started quickly on their incremental path to DevOps and his demo was a great technology overview for DevOps newbies and seasoned practicioners alike.

These are exactly the reasons community matters. Sharing best practices, product knowledge and building a sense of shared engagement. Underpinned by a commitment to education, the Mainframe VUG seeks to share subject matter expertise across the Mainframe community.  Why not come along to the next community event and see for yourself?  Join us on Thursday, February 9, 2017 for our winter edition of the Mainframe VUG.  Watch the Micro Focus website for more information – registration begins in January.

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#DevDay is coming too

And for those local to the Chicago area this week, why not stop by another great community event-a Micro Focus #DevDay?  It’s your opportunity to see our technology in action, get your questions answered and connect with subject matter experts and industry peers.  You’ll even get a chance to try the tech yourself and it doesn’t cost a penny.

To learn more and register for #DevDay events, visit www.microfocus.com/devday  I look forward to seeing your there and at the next Mainframe VUG event in February!

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2016: Leading Change

Mark Levy reports back from #DOES16 in San Francisco – is this is the year that DevOps crosses the chasm? What did he find out from the experts like Gene Kim? Read on to find out the answers and more in this fascinating blog….

Last week I attended the DevOps Enterprise Summit (#DOES16) in San Francisco which brought together over 1300 IT professionals to learn and discuss with their peers the practices and patterns of high performance IT for large complex environments. One of the first things I noticed was that the overall structure of the event was different from your standard IT event.  All the sessions over the three-day event followed an “Experience Report” format. Each session was only 30 minutes in length and each speaker followed the same specific pattern, which enabled current DevOps practitioners to share what they did, what happened, and what they learned. The event also had workshops leveraging the “Lean Coffee” format where participants gathered, built an agenda, and began discussing DevOps topics that were pertinent to their particular environment.  In my opinion, these session formats made the overall conference exciting and fast paced.

Enterprise DevOps Crosses the Chasm

One question remained a focus throughout the event: “Is this the year that Enterprise DevOps crosses the chasm?” #DOES16 seems to believe so. The main theme for this year’s event was “Leading Change”. Gene Kim opened the event by highlighting results of the latest DevOps survey which found IT organizations that leveraged DevOps practices were able to deliver business value faster, with better quality, more securely, and they had more fun doing it!  With over four years of survey data, we now know that these high performers are massively out performing their peers. The focus of #DOES16 was to provide a forum where current DevOps practitioners from large IT organizations were able to share their experience with others who are just starting their journey. DevOps transformation stories from large enterprise companies such as Allstate, American Airlines, Capital One, Target, Walmart, and Nationwide proved that DevOps is not just reserved for the start-ups in Silicon Valley.

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There were also several new books focused on DevOps practices launched at #DOES16.  Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Dubois, and John Willis collaborated to create the “DevOps Handbook”, and renowned DevOps thought leader and author Gary Gruver released his new book “Starting and Scaling DevOps in the Enterprise”. Both books focus on how large enterprises can gain better business outcomes by implementing DevOps practices at scale and in my opinion are must reads for DevOps practitioners as well as senior management.

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It’s a Journey from “Aha to Ka-Ching”

DevOps is not “something you do” but a state you continuously move towards by doing other things. it’s a journey of continuous improvement. During the event, several companies highlighted that it’s a journey of experimentation, accepting failure along the way, while also incrementally improving the way they build and deliver software. There were some excellent case study presentations. For example, Heather Mickman, Sr. Director of Technology Services at Target, has presented three years in a row and showed how a grassroots, bottoms up DevOps transformation at Target has enabled the company to enlist the support of executive management. Target was able to scale software deployments from 2-3 per day in 2015 to 90 per day twelve months later.  The Target team achieved this by aligning product teams with business capabilities, removing friction points, and making everything self-service. What’s next for Target?  Take everything to the cloud.  The journey continues.

If you want to go far, go together

Leading change was the main theme of the event and was highlighted in many different ways. For example, Microsoft discussed their new vision of enabling any engineer to contribute to any product or service at Microsoft, thus leading the change to a single engineering system. Engineers follow an “engineering north star” with the objective that dev can move to another team and already know how to work. Leading change does not just focus on new innovation. DevOps is also about innovating with your “Core”.  Walmart’s mainframe team took the lead and created a Web caching service at scale that distributed teams could leverage. While both examples show how technology is being used to move forward together, there has to be a culture that supports this type of high performance. Many sessions focused on how to build a generative culture and the leadership that is required to change people and processes.

DevOpsDriveIn

Creating a culture that supports a successful DevOps transformation is such an important topic, that I have invited Gene Kim to come on our next Micro Focus DevOps Drive-in, December 1, 2016 at  9am PST to discuss the research he conducted while developing his latest book, “The DevOps Handbook”, and techniques to build a culture of continuous experimentation and learning. Hope to see you there!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

 

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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

Latest updates to Micro Focus COBOL Development and Mainframe Solutions now available

Building a stronger sense of community–It’s a topic often discussed across many industries and technical professions and coincidentally, also a favorite topic at Micro Focus #DevDay events. Amie Johnson, Solutions Marketing strategist at Micro Focus digs deeper into this topic and uncovers some core reasons why community matters while also sharing some exciting product news for COBOL and Mainframe enthusiasts.

If you haven’t attended a Micro Focus #DevDay event in the past few months, let me recap that typical attendee experience for you.  It’s a day jam-packed will technology demonstrations, interactive Q&A sessions, hands on labs and much more.  Its eight hours of technology focused discussions designed for the COBOL and Mainframe developer. If you look closely though, you’ll also see something else, beyond the tech – community development.  I’m always pleased to see attending delegates in engaging conversation with other peers often sharing their ‘COBOL’ stories.  This sense of community both educates, and builds best practices while establishing long term relationships for all involved.  It also removes any perceived isolation that could occur if such conversations did not occur.  You’ll also see many of these experienced professionals talk shop, exchange stories from the past and seek answers to needed problems and questions. In many ways, #DevDay is the place where enterprise developers belong and where everyone knows your name.

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This week’s events in Dallas didn’t disappoint with a strong focus on COBOL application modernization, and performance, along with a desire to ‘sell that strategy’ upwards in the organization.  With thousands upon thousands of COBOL applications supporting everyday activities including banking, insurance, air travel, equities trading, government services and more; it’s no surprise that (for many attending) COBOL remains a solid choice for core business. Most acknowledge though that there are external pressures, though, to consider new solutions, perhaps even re-write or re-place those applications with new technologies. Underlying complexity and cost, however, often sideline those projects in favor of less risky approaches to modernization.  After all, these (COBOL) applications are essential to business success and the tolerance for business is often very low.  But there’s pressure to modernize with an eye to embracing new models, new tech and the future.

Micro Focus Continued Investment in COBOL and Mainframe Technologies

The goal of course, through event discussions is to ensure that all guest leave the event feeling it was valuable and delivered some practical skills which they could use when back at the office.  Yes, many attending are interested in the Micro Focus investment strategy for COBOL and Mainframe tech.  We cover that with ample detail and discussion ensuring all understand that COBOL is just as modern as the thousands of new programming languages available today—and they see it too through many demo examples.

This future proof strategy for COBOL ensures that applications, many of which support global enterprise, continue to function and support the business. Supporting this strategy are the following key data-points discussed while in Dallas:

  • 85% of surveyed customers believe their COBOL applications are strategic to the business
  • 2/3 of the survey respondents that maintain these COBOL applications are seeking new ways to improve efficiency and the software delivery process  while modernizing their applications to work with next gen technology including relational database management systems, Web services, APIs and integrate with Java and .Net code environments

These drivers underpin the continued Micro Focus commitment to support the widest variety of enterprise platforms.  Today, over 50+ application platforms are supported providing maximum choice, freedom and flexibility for anyone using COBOL. This capability coupled with a continued annual R&D investment of $60M reaffirms that COBOL is ready for innovation whether it be .NET, Java, mobile, cloud, or the Internet of Things. And this week brings even more exciting news as we released the latest updates to our COBOL Development and Mainframe technologies.

Mainframe Development Solution Updates

Versions 2.3.2 of Enterprise Developer, Enterprise Test Server, Enterprise Server, and Enterprise Server for .NET are now available.  The Micro Focus Enterprise product suite helps organizations build, test, and deploy business critical mainframe workloads with an eye toward future innovation and market change.

Highlights in this latest update include:

  • Latest platform support – including Linux on IBM Power Systems and Windows 10 – future-proofs applications.
  • Ability to extract COBOL and PL/I business rules to copybooks makes code re-use easier so developers can work smarter and faster.
  • Enhanced CICS Web Services support helps customers more easily meet the demand for web and mobile application interoperability.
  • Improved mainframe compatibility simplifies re-hosting and extends modernization options for customers deploying to .NET and Azure.

Examples of customers using these solutions include, B+S Banksysteme, City of Fort Worth, and City of Inglewood.

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COBOL Development Solution Updates

In COBOL development, the latest version of Visual COBOL 2.3 Update 2 includes the latest updates that helps you organize and manage core IT systems developed in COBOL, providing a pathway to new IT architecture and access to modern tools for enterprise application development.  This release includes over 100 customer requested enhancements and support for the latest enterprise platform updates and 3rd party software.

Highlights in this latest update include:

  • New support for the JBoss EAP platform
  • Updates for the latest releases of supported operating systems
  • Over 100 customer requested fixes and enhancements

Examples of customers using these solutions include Dexia Crediop, Heinsohn Business Technology, and The County of San Luis Obispo..

For Micro Focus customers on maintenance the latest updates can be downloaded via the Supportline portal

So check out these latest COBOL and Mainframe solutions.  Read how these customers are embracing next gen technology alongside their existing core business systems.  And for those interested in joining the COBOL community at the next Micro Focus #DevDay, check out our events calendar here.  Save your seat and join the conversation.

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We’re heading to Oracle Open World

This Ed Airey blog explains how the modern enterprise can harness technology and technique to outpace and counter the changing face of completion and achieve sustainable business agility. Ed will be at Oracle Open World discussing this further at his session: Destination Java: Take enterprise apps to JVM and the Cloud so if you’re attending don’t hesitate to find him and chat more…

Into the Future: new tools for the agile enterprise

What is the agile enterprise? Is it an organization ready to respond to new demands or business opportunity, rapid changes in the market or changes in consumer demand?  To survive-it must achieve all these goals and more. This is the new norm for 21st century business – ever increasing flexibility. But how does business obtain and keep that nimble responsiveness to change? Is there a secret ingredient to the recipe of organizations that have done so already?  To be agile is to be adaptable—to flex and shift to meet the challenges of one’s environment. Just as the chameleon adapts to his surroundings shielding itself from predators a business organization must adjust its strategy and approach to counter its competition.  For most enterprise shops this is not an easy feat. Mired in technical debt, most IT leaders struggle to manage their IT backlog alongside new business initiatives.  Addressing both requires new thinking, new tech and a new approach to enterprise modernization.

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The Case for Modernization

For organizations struggling to cope with increasing IT debt and an older enterprise application portfolio, consider the innovative path taken by a very well-known European auto-manufacturer.  For years, this organization maintained a sterling reputation for quality, performance and service.  Its aging IT infrastructure, however, now plagued with stability problems threatened its ability to both service its customers and maintain its industry prestige.

The manufacturer considered a complete replacement of its core application infrastructure but quickly realized this would be both costly and risky to business operations.  In a fiercely competitive auto market, competitive advantage was paramount and this organization couldn’t afford to lose a step to the competition by disregarding its precious intellectual property.

Modern tools and new technology was employed to modernize its core enterprise applications. Using the power of Eclipse, new and existing IT teams could quickly integrate existing enterprise applications with Java, web services and other solutions. Enterprise application deployment to the Java virtual machine (JVM) enabled future flexibility and scale to meet new business requirements and opportunity. Modern tools and a new mindset delivered fast results—all without rewriting valued application code.

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Oracle Open World #OOW16

The key to this strategy—unlock the value of IT investments. This year in San Francisco at the Oracle Open World event come and see the future of enterprise application modernization for yourself.  Explore how to easily take existing enterprise systems to new platforms including Java, the JVM, and Linux.  We’ll examine how this European car manufacturer and other businesses took their enterprise applications to modern environments using new tools, new thinking and Micro Focus’ game changing solution Visual COBOL

If you’re attending please don’t hestitate to come and visit us at our booth at the Networking Station @ Oracle Linux, Virtualization and OpenStack Showcase and please attend my sessionTake Enterprise Apps to Java Virtual Machine and the Cloud’ on Tuesday, Sep 20 at 16:00 -16:20 in the Moscone South Exhibition Hall to discuss modernization options further….

Ed

Great technology never gets old – Linux celebrates 25 years!

As Linux celebrates its 25th birthday, there’s plenty of good cheer going round. Derek Britton grabs a slice of cake and looks into a few of the reasons to celebrate.

Happy 25th Birthday Linux

It’s quite hard to imagine a world without Linux in it, but in reality one of the industry de-facto standard operating environments has just reached its quarter century anniversary. This blog looks at the story of how we got here.

In the IT world of 1991, the desktop market was just blossoming, the personal computer was becoming more powerful, intel were breaking Moore’s law with reckless abandon, and Microsoft were starting to get their act together with a brand new exciting development that was to hit the streets a year later, called Windows. The server market was also expanding. An interminable list of organizations including IBM, HP, Sun, TI, Siemens, ICL, Sequent, DEC, SCO, SGI, Olivetti were building proprietary chips, machines and UNIX variants. UNIX had already by that stage enjoyed significant success since making the leap from academia to commerce, and everyone was trying to get a share of the spoils.

Faced with such a crowded market, how did Linux take off?

The phenomenon that was the Linux revolution has been ascribed to a number of factors, including the market desire for choice, technical freedom, and value for money.

The products on the market at the time were entirely proprietary and cost a lot of money. A vendor lock-in and an expensive contract was not all that appealing to CIOs looking to derive value from their investments in what were ironically referred to as  “open systems” (given the proprietary nature of the systems in question).

Linux plugged the gap in the market of true openness. Because the ownership was in the hands of the community, there were no proprietary elements. And the open source nature of the kernel meant that provided you had a piece of suitable hardware, Linux was basically free to use.

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Technical Altruism

The devisor of Linux, Linux Torvalds, set about improving on other UNIX kernels available at the time, but took the stance that the project should be entirely open. While the idea was his, he merely wanted to invite others to help the idea take root. Indeed Torvalds’ own view of the name was that it sounded too egotistical, and for the first 6 months of the project, the acronym FREAX (an amalgam of “free”, “freak” and “x”) was used as the working title. Only later did he accept that Linux might work better.

Whether such altruism would yield any fruit is easy enough to quantify. Recently, the Linux Foundation released the Linux Kernel Development report stats showing that more than 13,500 developers from 1,300 companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since 2005. Moreover, it isn’t just hobbyist techies in academic labs. The same report indicates that among the top organizations sponsoring Linux kernel development since the last report (which was published in March 2015) included industry giants such as Intel, Red Hat, Samsung, SUSE, IBM, Google, AMD and ARM.

Linux – A Global Player

So much for contributions to the kernel itself, but what about the whole environment, and what about deployments in industry? Did Linux make any headway in the commercial world? Of course the answer is resoundingly affirmative.

Consider just a few of the Linux implementations:

  •  Thousands of major commercial, academic and governmental organizations are now Linux devotees
  • The number of users of Linux is estimated at 86 million, according to SUSE.com
  • Android, the de-facto mobile device environment, is Linux-based
  • The world’s most powerful supercomputers are Linux-based
  • Some of the world’s largest companies, including Amazon and Google, rely heavily on Linux-based servers

Little wonder then that in 2013, Linux overtook the market share of all other proprietary UNIX systems.

But if its open source, who will pay for its future?

A question mark about whether an open source (read: free) environment could be commercial sustainable must also be answered. Arguably the best way to do this might be to look at the health of the organizations who seek to make Linux a commercially viable product. These are the vendors of the various Linux distributions, such as SUSE, Red Hat and Oracle.

Looking at the health of the Linux line of business in each case, we see highly profitable organizations with trend-beating revenue growth in a tough market sector.

Consider all the other players in the sector with their commitment to Linux. IBM has invested millions of dollars in Linux, introducing a new range of Linux-only mainframes branded as LinuxOne. Meanwhile in what might have been seen as unthinkable a few years ago, Windows vendor Microsoft has launched partnerships with Linux vendors including SUSE and Red Hat to provide a collaborative cloud hosting solution.

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Now it’s old, we need to get rid of it, right?

Well we’ve heard it all before, haven’t we? It’s getting on a bit so we need to replace it. Like mainframes, like COBOL, like CICS, like Java. These technologies have enjoyed significant anniversaries recently. And in not one single case can you justifiably argue that the age of the technology means it warrants discontinuing. Indeed, most of the ideas might have been formed some time ago, but not unlike Linux, in each case the community and vendors responsible have continued to enhance, improve and augment the technology to keep it relevant, up to date, and viable for the modern era.

In technology, the myth that age implies a lack of value is diametrically incorrect. In IT, age demonstrates value.

No surprises.

At Micro Focus, we love Linux, and we’re not surprised by its success. We’ve long since advocated the use of innovative technology to help support existing value IT investments. Systems and applications that run businesses should be supported, enhanced, innovated, and modernized. At a low cost, without any risk. That’s what Micro Focus has done. Whether it’s with the applications themselves or with the underlying operating environment, building and operating today’s and tomorrow’s digital infrastructure is what we do best.

Indeed, speaking of birthdays, Micro Focus is 40 this year. Enduring value is no stranger to us. Now, who brought the candles?

DevOps – pressing ahead

In an IT world that seems to be accelerating all the time, the clamour for faster delivery practices continues. Derek Britton takes a quick look at recent press and industry reports.

Introduction

In many customer meetings I tend to notice the wry smiles when the discussion turns to the topic of IT delivery frequency. The truth is, I don’t recall any conversation where the client has been asked to deliver less to the business than last year. No-one told me, “we’re going fast, and it’s fast enough, thanks”.

The ever-changing needs of an increasingly-vocal user community guarantees that IT’s workload continues to be a challenge. And this prevails across new systems of engagement (mobile and web interfaces, new user devices etc.) as well as systems of record (the back-office, data management, number crunching business logic upon which those systems of engagement depend for their core information).

Moving at pace, however, needs to be carefully managed. Less haste, more speed, in fact. Gartner says a quarter of the Global2000 top companies will be using DevOps this year. Let’s look to another deadline-driven entity, the press, for a current view.

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Banking on DevOps

Speaking to a conference of over 400 at a DevOps conference in London, ING Bank global CIO Ron van Kemenade says investment in new skills and a transition to DevOps is critical as the bank adjusts to a mobile and online future through its “Think Forward” digital strategy.

“We wanted to establish a culture and environment where building, testing and releasing software can happen rapidly, frequently and more reliably. When beginning this journey we started with what matters most: people,” van Kemenade says.

Putting the focus on engineering talent and creating multi-disciplinary teams where software developers partner with operations and business staff has led to more automated processes, a sharp reduction of handovers and a “collaborative performance culture”, he adds.

Speaking at the same event, Jonathan Smart, head of development services at Barclays, talked up an eighteen-month push by the bank to incorporate agile processes across the enterprise

Over the past year-and-a-half, the amount of “strategic spend” going into agile practices and processes has risen from four percent to more than 50%, says Smart, and the company now has over 800 teams involved

To accelerate its own transformation, BBVA has adopting a new corporate culture based on agile methodologies. “The Group needs a cultural change in order to accelerate the implementation of transformation projects. It means moving away from rigid organizational structures toward a more collaborative way of working”, explains Antonio Bravo, BBVA’s Head of Strategy & Planning. “The main goal is to increase the speed and quality of execution.”

Worth SHARing

Little wonder that the IBM mainframe community organization, SHARE, is continuing a significant focus on DevOps at the forthcoming August 2016 show in Atlanta. Tuesday’s keynote speech is called z/OS and DevOps: Communication, Culture and Cloud”, given by members of the Walmart mainframe DevOps team.

Meanwhile, an article featured in Datamation, and tweeted by SHARE, provides further evidence and arguments in favour of adopting the practice. It cites a report from “2016 State of DevOps Report” which says, “[Developers using DevOps] spend 22 percent less time on unplanned work and rework, and are able to spend 29 percent more time on new work”

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Time to Focus

Of course, Micro Focus are neither strangers to SHARE nor to DevOps. At a recent SHARE event, we attended the DevOps discussion panel, discussing technical, operational and cultural aspects.

More recently, Micro Focus’s Solution Director Ed Airey penned an informative article published in SDTimes, outlining a smart approach to mainframe DevOps. The rationale, he says, is simple – competitive pressure to do more.

“Competitive differentiation depends on [organizations’] ability to get software capabilities to market quickly, get feedback, and do it again”

Addressing major challenges to make DevOps a reality, in both mainframe and distributed environments, Airey talks about how major question marks facing DevOps teams can be tackled with smart technology, and refined process; questions such as collaboration, development process, culture, skills, internal justification. He concludes with encouraging projected results, “Standardizing on common tooling also enables productivity improvements, sometimes as high as 40%.”

Of course – not everyone is convinced

Modern delivery practices aren’t for everyone. And indeed some issues sound quite daunting. Take Cloud deployment for example.

Sounds daunting? A recent Tech Crunch article certainly thought so.

We are treated to a variety of clichés about the topic such as “ancient realm” and “the archaic programs”. However, the publication failed to notice some important things about the topic.

Central to the piece is whether COBOL based existing systems could be “moved” to another platform. The inference was that this was an unprecedented, risky exercise. What’s perhaps surprising, to the author at least, is that platform change is no stranger to COBOL. Micro Focus’ support of over 500 platforms since its inception 40 years ago is supplemented by the fact that the COBOL language, thanks to our investment, is highly portable and – perhaps most importantly in this case – platforms such as the Cloud or more specifically Red Hat (alongside SUSE, Oracle and many other brands of UNIX too) are fully supported with our Micro Focus range. That is to say, there was never any issue moving COBOL to these new platforms: you just need to know who to ask.

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Moving Ahead

Anyway, I can’t stop for long, we’re moving fast ourselves, continuing the DevOps discussion. Upcoming deadlines? Find us at SHARE in Atlanta in August, or visit us at a DevDay in the near future, or catch up with us on our website where we’ll be talking more about DevOps and smarter mainframe delivery soon.

#DevDay Report – so what does COBOL look like now?

David Lawrence reports back from the latest Micro Focus #DevDays and what COBOL looks like these days. With Partners like Astadia it seems like anything’s possible…..including Mobile Augmented Reality! Read on.

To most people, COBOL applications probably look like this:

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and are thought to do nothing more than this:

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These applications are likely to be COBOL-based. After all, COBOL is the application language for business. With over 240 billion (with a b) lines of code still in production, the fact is that COBOL is used in thousands, if not millions, of applications that have nothing to do with finance.

It’s called the COmmon Business Oriented Language for a reason. The reason is that it was designed to automate the processing of any business transaction, regardless of the nature of the business.

Did you realize that COBOL is also widely used by municipalities, utilities and transportation companies?

At our Nashville Micro Focus DevDay event on June 21, the audience was treated to a very interesting presentation by a major American railroad organization, where they showed us how their COBOL application inventory runs their daily operations (scheduling, rolling stock management, crews, train make up and dispatch).

Earlier in the month we heard from a client who was using COBOL applications to capture, monitor and analyze game and player statistics in the world of major league baseball.

Many attendees of our COBOL and mainframe app dev community events, DevDay, are managing crucial COBOL applications as the lifeblood of their business. From managing retailers’ stock control systems, to haulage and logistics organziations’ shipments and deliveries, from healthcare, pharma and food production organizations, to major financial service, insurance and wealth management systems.

Those applications contain decades of valuable business rules and logic. Imagine if there was a way to make use of all that knowledge, by say using it to more accurately render a street diagram.

You say “Yes, that’s nice, but I already have Google Maps.” All very well and good. But what if you are a utility company trying to locate a troublesome underground asset, such as a leaking valve or short circuited, overheating power cable?

Astadia has come up with a very interesting solution that combines wealth of intelligence built into the COBOL applications that are invariably the heart and brains of most large utilities or municipalities with modern GPS-enabled devices

DevDay Boston

I had a chance to see this first hand at DevDay Boston. DevDay is a traveling exposition that features the newest offerings from Micro Focus combined with real life experiences from customers.

Astadia, a Micro Focus partner and application modernization consultancy, visted our Boston DevDays and showed us their mobile augmented reality application which enhances street view data with additional information needed by field crews.

Steve Steuart, one of Astadia’s Senior Directors, visted our Boston DevDays, and introduced the attendees to ARGIS, their augmented reality solution that helps field engineers locate underground or otherwise hidden physical infrastructure asset such as power and water distribution equipment.

I watched as Steve explained and demonstrated ARGIS overlaying, in real time, the locations of manhole covers and drains in the vicinity of the Marriott onto a Google Maps image of the area surrounding the Marriott Hotel . .. Steve explained that ARGIS was using the GPS in the tablet and mining the intelligence from the COBOL application used by the Boston Department of Public works department to track the locations in real time, superimposed over the street view, the precise location of the network of pipes and valves supplying water to the area

Here’s a picture .. certainly worth a thousand words, wouldn’t you say?

Below you see how the Astadia‘s ARGIS Augmented Reality system sources the data of the local utility company’s COBOL application inventory to give clear visual indications of the locations of key field infrastructure components (e.g. pipes, valves, transformers) over a view of what the field engineer is actually seeing. Nice to have when you’re trying to work out where to dig, isn’t it?

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Very imaginative indeed, but at the heart of this new innovation, the important data and logic comes from, guess where? . . yes, it comes from a COBOL application. Micro Focus solutions help mine and reuse those crucial business rules locked up in our customers’ portfolio of proven, reliable COBOL applications. This will prolong their longevity and flow of value to the business. Why take all that risk and spend millions to replicate intelligence that already exists, but which has been hard to utilize effectively?

Afterwards, I spoke with Steve – Astadia’s senior director who remarked: “As long as Micro Focus continues to invest in COBOL, COBOL will continue to be relevant.”

Speaking afterwards with Micro Focus’ Director of COBOL Solutions, Ed Airey, he commented

“We are always thrilled to see how our partners and customers are taking advantage of the innovation possible in our COBOL technology to build applications that meet their needs in the digital age. Astadia’s ARGIS product is great. I’m not surprised to see how far they’ve been able to extend their application set in this way – Visual COBOL was designed with exactly that sort of innovation in mind. The only constant in IT is change, and with Micro Focus COBOL in their corner our customers are able to modernize much faster and more effectively than they realize”.

See real world applications and how they can be modernized at a Micro Focus DevDay near you. For more information on our COBOL Delivery and Mainframe Solutions, go here.

David Lawrence

Global Sales Enablement Specialist

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