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.

Data: Challenge & Opportunity

Data Challenges

Researchers claim that the average smartphone user glances at their device roughly every seven seconds. Do you? It’s an impulse that each of us experiences within our daily lives, whether at the airport, the bank or the shopping mail, but also in workplace. Why is this so? Well, mobile technology has unleashed the power and desire for instant information that’s readily available to all using our device of choice. The mobile economy is underpinned by data. This quest for information, engagement or even entertainment requires instant, readily accessible access to this valuable resource and without it that same mobile experience would be well, not nearly that exciting. But the demand for data is not isolated to those searching for the latest sports scores or for that needed holiday recipe.  Business organizations have the same need to unlock the value of their business data and leverage that information to make smarter decisions leading to new market opportunity. But for many businesses, it’s not quite so simple.  There are a number of challenges that must be addressed.

Many core business systems are written in the COBOL language.  In fact, over 70% of business transaction processing is supported by COBOL technology.  It continues to be the lifeblood of core business applications in the airline, insurance, banking, manufacturing and retail industries as well as a prominent piece of public services IT infrastructure. But unlocking COBOL data is not easy.  Traditional COBOL systems utilize COBOL data files for information access and storage. Retrieving data from these systems requires a knowledge of the COBOL language but also an understanding of the application itself. This creates challenge for an organization that desires to gain real time access to data for business intelligence, analytics or reporting needs. COBOL data is not relational which makes the use of modern tools difficult for analysts and developers, alike.  Applications underpinned by COBOL data files also experience application reliability and serviceability issues. COBOL data files can and often do become corrupted which compromises business continuity and reduces application up-time. Also, even during scheduled application maintenance, application recoverability can be slower than desired. So, how can you overcome these challenges and what are the options?

Options

In an effort to gain easier access to COBOL business applications, some will utilize tools to extract, transform and load data into a new repository. Other options include mirroring the data or creating copies for analytics and data warehousing purposes. The challenge with these options is that the data, itself, is not relational nor available in real-time which means the data is immediately out-of-date. Re-writing these COBOL applications is often considered an option too in order to achieve the benefits of SQL and RDBMS.  Doing so, however, can be risky and costly to the business.  Additionally, the size of the average COBOL application codebase is large and is often measured in millions of lines of code (MLOC) which means the prospect of changing or re-writing these systems to accommodate RDBMS or SQL integration is almost unobtainable for many.  So where do we go from here?

A Better Bridge – For the Old and the New

There’s a better path to achieve the benefits of SQL and RDBMS without application code change. For business analysts and end users seeking to gain real-time access to relational data or create custom reports without the assistance of the development team, a new data modernization toolset enables you to utilize modern, off-the-shelf reporting tools such as Excel or Crystal Reports to access existing COBOL application data with ease. And for developers and technical teams seeking to utilize the power of SQL alongside modern RDBMS platforms to improve application uptime or reliability, a supplemental toolset is available to bridge existing COBOL business applications to relational database management platforms, including SQLServer, Oracle IBM DB2 and PostgreSQL.  With these solutions, organizations can unlock the power of business data, enabling all to make smarter decisions that drive opportunity and new digital business.

New Solutions

Today, Micro Focus is delighted to announce a new innovation- a set of data modernization solutions to enable analysts, developers and management teams to better align their core systems of record with modern relational database management technology. With Relativity and Database Connectors, you’ll have the ability to unlock the value of business application data and leverage the power of SQL and RDMBS to gain access to business information, improve application reliability and better manage RDMBS costs while expanding application usage. To learn more about these new and exciting tools and how to get started on your own journey to data modernization, we encourage you schedule a complimentary value profile meeting with us. During this consultation, we’ll examine your business and technical goals and help align your data modernization needs to solutions that meet your objectives. As the demand for data only continues to rise, fueled by digital business and the mobile economy, we must find new and innovative ways to leverage core business systems to unlock both the power of data and the competitive advantage that it delivers.  Click here to learn more and get started with this complimentary service offering.

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.

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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….

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Innovate Faster with Lower Risk at Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016

Mark Levy blogs about the upcoming Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016 with over 60 technical sessions focused on how to design, build, test, and deploy applications faster, with less risk in a repeatable, reliable and secure way. DevOps Interchange will be a great opportunity to network, get solutions for your problems and share your ideas and solutions.

Marketing and Innovation

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” Marketing is required to understand the needs of the customer and innovation is required to build the product or services that fit those customer needs.

Innovation provides competitive differentiation in the markets where you have to be consistently better and smarter at creating customers than your competitors.  Businesses have been using innovation as a competitive weapon for centuries to create value and differentiation, but only recently have businesses been using software to enable and accelerate business innovation.

Building and delivering software has always been a difficult race against time. I was a software developer for well over 10 years and I was always racing to a date. But over the last several years, that race has entered an even more challenging phase. Several market forces are at work, putting the pressure on the business to deliver business value faster, with better quality, and at a lower cost to the customer.

With the explosion of mobile, there is a newly empowered customer who is forcing the business to deliver quickly to prove out business ideas and innovations. If the business is not responsive enough, low switching costs enables the customer to easily migrate to another competitor.  Additionally, digital competition is everywhere. Firms that use software and the cloud to disrupt established markets can move faster than more traditional businesses because software-based services can evolve faster and offer the opportunity to out-innovate market incumbents.  Epic battles are already being waged across many industries between incumbents and software powered companies.

Finally, the impact of software has dramatically increased across all kinds of business. Today, business innovation is often driven by information technology, which itself demands changes to software.  Software development and delivery has to change or the business will be at risk.

business-operations

Innovate Faster with Lower Risk

Today, every enterprise IT organization is under pressure to simultaneously respond more quickly to enable business innovation, and at the same time provide a stable, secure, compliant and predictable IT environment.  IT must maintain and update the “Enterprise Software Engine” that is running the enterprise, i.e., keeping the lights on, while also providing capacity to support business innovation.  These are not mutually exclusive but actually form an integrated value chain that leverages the traditional systems of record with the customer facing systems of innovation.  These pressures have given rise to Enterprise DevOps as all enterprises must enable the business to innovate faster with lower risk.

Enterprise DevOps is all about building and delivering better quality software, faster and more reliably. IT organizations that implement Enterprise DevOps practices achieve higher IT and organizational performance, spanning both development and operations.  Technical practices such as Continuous Delivery lead to lower levels of deployment pain while speeding up application delivery and improving quality, security, and business outcomes.  The DevOps culture promotes a generative, high trust, performance-oriented culture which enables good information flow, cross-functional collaboration and job satisfaction.  This all leads to higher levels of productivity enabling business innovation with lower risk.

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Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016

This very important topic will be the main focus of Micro Focus’s first annual global user conference, DevOps Interchange 2016 , September 18-21, 2016 in Chicago, Ill.  Micro Focus’s own John Delk,  Product Group GM at Micro Focus, will kick off the conference with his “Vision 2020” look at how software development and delivery technology will change and how we must adapt and embrace it. We have also invited Gary Gruver, author of “Leading the transformation – Applying DevOps and Agile principles at scale”, to give a keynote talk about DevOps, where to begin, and how to scale DevOps practices over time in large enterprises.  With over 60 technical sessions, focused on how to design, build, test, and deploy applications faster, with less risk in a repeatable, reliable and secure way, this conference will be a great opportunity to network, get solutions for your problems and share your ideas and solutions.  I hope to see you there!

DevOpsExchange

 

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?

Is Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) Its Own Worst Enemy?

At Micro Focus, our customers are asking for a holistic approach to secure file transfer—one that provides more visibility, flexibility, and control. That’s why we’ve introduced Reflection® for Secure IT Gateway. This new SSH-based solution sits between the user and the SFTP server, and acts as a central point of control. Its job is to track every file going in and out of your enterprise, including who transferred it and what’s in it. David Fletcher investigates further in this blog….

Secure File Transfer Protocol

SFTP has long been a de facto standard for secure file transfer.  Originally designed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), this extension of the Secure Shell protocol (SSH) 2.0 provides secure file transfer capabilities over the SSH network protocol.

In a nutshell, SFTP encrypts your data and moves it through an impenetrable encrypted tunnel that makes interception and decoding virtually impossible. While incredibly useful for business-to-business data sharing, SFTP poses a problem in our security-conscious world. Oddly enough, the problem is that SFTP works too well.

Let me explain. SFTP works so well that no one can see what’s being transferred—not even the people who need to see it for security reasons. Case in point: Edward Snowden. No matter what your thoughts on the subject, the fact is that Snowden used his privileged user status to transfer and steal sensitive files. Why was he able to do this? Because no one could see what he was doing. As a “privileged user” on the network, he had extensive access to sensitive files—files that he was able to transfer about, as he desired, without detection.

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In addition to the threats posed by unscrupulous privileged users, there’s another threat that’s cause for alarm. It’s called Advanced Persistent Threat (APT).  Basically, an APT is a ceaseless, sophisticated attack carried out by an organized group to accomplish a particular result—typically, the acquisition of information. The classic APT mode of operation is to doggedly steal the credentials of privileged users. The purpose, of course, is to gain unfettered access to sensitive or secret data. Once “in,” these APTers can transfer data and steal it without detection.  On a side note, Snowden used some of these APT tactics to steal credentials and validate self-signed certificates to gain access to classified documents.

APTs are often discussed in the context of government, but let me be clear: Companies are also a primary target. Take the recent Wall Street Journal article about a foreign government stealing plans for a new steel technology from US Steel. Such behavior is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how far some entities will go to steal information and technology.

Introducing Micro Focus Reflection for Secure IT Gateway

So given that transferring files is an essential business operation, what can you do to protect your organization from these dangerous threats? At Micro Focus, our customers are asking for a holistic approach to secure file transfer—one that provides more visibility, flexibility, and control. That’s why we’re introducing Reflection® for Secure IT Gateway. This new SSH-based solution sits between the user and the SFTP server, and acts as a central point of control. Its job is to track every file going in and out of your enterprise, including who transferred it and what’s in it.   It also provides the ability to essentially offload files and allow for 3rd party inspection and can then either stop the transfer and notify if something seem amiss or complete the transfer as required.

Reflection for Secure IT Gateway comes with a powerful browser-based interface that you can use to accomplish a number of transfer-related tasks:

  • Expose files for inspection by third-party tools
  • Automate pre- and post-transfer actions
  • Grant and manage SFTP administrator rights
  • Provision users
  • Configure transfers
  • Create jobs for enterprise level automation
  • Delegate tasks

Read more about Reflection for Secure IT Gateway or download our evaluation software and take a test drive. Learn how you can continue to benefit from the ironclad security of SFTP while also gaining greater file transfer visibility, flexibility, and control.

RUMBA9.4.5
Sr. Product Marketing Manager
Host Connectivity
(Orginally Published here)

The true cost of free

There always exists the low-cost vendor who offers something for free to win market share. In enterprise IT, it is worth examining what free really means. Derek Britton goes in search of a genuine bargain

Introduction

IT leaders want to help accelerate business growth by implementing technology to deliver value quickly. They usually stipulate in the same breath the need for value for money. The pursuit of the good value purchase is endless. No wonder then that vendors who offer “use our product for free” often get some attention. This blog looks at the true cost of ‘free’.

Measuring Value

We all use desktop or mobile apps which, if they stopped working – and let’s face it, they do from time to time – wouldn’t really matter to us. We would mutter something, roll our eyes, and re-start the app. That’s not to say that people aren’t annoyed if they’ve not saved some important work when their application stops, but typically the impact is nothing more than a briefly disgruntled user.

But if an application is doing something critical or stategically important for an organization, then it is higher up on value scale. For example, an ATM application, savings account, package or logistics, money transfer, credit check, insurance quote, travel booking, retail transaction.  What if it went wrong? What if you also needed it to run elsewhere? What value would you put on that? Vitally, what would happen to the organization if you couldn’t do those things?

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Get it for free

Application Development tooling and processes tend to incur a charge, as the link between the technology and the valuable application is easily determined. However, there is required additional technology to deploy and run the built applications. Here, the enticement of a “free” product is very tempting at this stage. After all, why should anyone pay to run an application that’s already been built? Many technology markets have commoditised to the point where the relative price has fallen significantly. Inevitably, some vendors are trying the “free” route to win market share.

But for enterprise-class systems, one has to consider the level of service being provided with a “free” product. Here’s what you can expect.

Deployment for free typically offers no responsibility if something goes wrong with that production system. Therefore internal IT teams must be prepared to respond to applications not working, or find an alternative means of insuring against that risk.

A free product means, inevitably, no revenue is generated by the vendor. Which means reinvestment in future innovations or customer requirements is squeezed. As an example, choice of platform may be limited, or some 3rd party software support or certification. Soon enough an enticing free product starts to look unfit for purpose due to missing capability, or missing platform support.

Another typical area of exposure is customer support, which is likely to be thin on the ground because there is insufficient funding for the emergency assistance provided by a customer support team.

In a nutshell, if the business relies on robust, core applications, what would happen if something goes wrong with a free product?

An Open and Shut Case?

Consider Open Source and UNIX. In a time when UNIX was a collection of vendor-specific variants, all tied to machinery (AIX, Solaris, HP/UX, Unixware/SCO), there was no true “open” version for UNIX, there was no standard. The stage was set for someone to break the mould. Linus Torvalds created a new, open source operating system kernel. Free to the world, many different people have contributed to it, technology hobbyists, college students, even major corporations.  Linux today represents a triumph of transparency, and Linux, and Open Source is here to stay.

However, that’s not the whole story. It still needed someone to recognize the market for a commercial service around this new environment. Without the support service offered by SUSE, Red Hat and others, Linux would not be the success it is today.

Today, major global organizations use Linux for core business systems. Linux now outsells other UNIX variants by some distance. Why? Not just because it was free or open source, but because the valuable service it provided organizations with was good value. But people opt to pay for additional support because their organizations must be able to rectify any problems, which is where organizations such as SUSE and Red Hat come in. Linus Torvalds was the father of the idea, but SUSE, Red Hat (and their competitors) made it a viable commercial technology.

Genuine return

Robust, valuable core applications will require certain characteristics to mitigate any risk of failure. Such risks will be unacceptable for higher-value core systems. Of course, many such systems are COBOL-based. Such criteria might include:

  • Access to a dedicated team of experts to resolve and prioritize any issues those systems encounter
  • Choice of platform – to be able to run applications wherever they are needed
  • Support for the IT environment today and in the future – certification against key 3rd party technology
  • A high-performance, robust and scalable deployment product, capable of supporting large-scale enterprise COBOL systems

The Price is Right

Robust and resilient applications are the lifeblood of the organization. With 4 decades of experience and thousands of customers, Micro Focus provides an award-winning 24/7 support service. We invest over $50M each year in our COBOL and related product research and development. You won’t find a more robust deployment environment for COBOL anywhere.

But cheap alternatives exist. The question one must pose, therefore, is what does free really cost? When core applications are meant to work around your business needs – not the other way around, any compromise on capability, functionality or support introduces risk to the business.

Micro Focus’ deployment technology ensures that business critical COBOL applications that must not fail work whenever and wherever needed, and will continue to work in the future;  and that if something ever goes wrong, the industry leader is just a mouse click away.

Anything that is free is certainly enticing, but does zero cost mean good value? As someone once said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”.