The Essential New Mainframe Mindset
The mainframe’s unmatched performance and reliability at scale make it the fully preferred platform for enterprise systems-of-record. And demand for those systems-of-record on the back-end is being driven by ever-intensifying application and analytic workloads on the front end. That’s why IBM reported a 200% year-over-year increase in mainframe MIPS sold last quarter and the strongest four-quarter release cycle performance in over a decade from the z14. And, to the absolute chagrin of shameless, self-interested mainframe naysayers, there are more mainframe MIPS running today than at any point in human history.
And, there’s even more good news for the mainframe. Innovative new mainframe tools now allow enterprises to adopt Agile and DevOps best practices—including automated unit testing—across COBOL, CICS, PL/I, Assembler code, DB2, IMS and VSAM. So instead of being fatally constrained by slow, archaic manual methods, enterprises can adapt their core applications quickly and frequently in response to ever-changing business imperatives—without compromising quality.
Just as important, these new tools enable enterprises to shift day-to-day coding and testing tasks to a new generation of highly skilled digital artisans as senior mainframe programmers inexorably exit the workforce.
In fact, the only obstacle still preventing enterprises from transforming their mainframes into uniquely powerful resources for market success via digital transformation isn’t technical at all. It’s attitudinal.
That’s why a new mainframe mindset is essential.
Wrong Thinking, Wrong Outcomes
Bad mainframe attitudes among IT leaders are characterized by some combination of the following:
- “Our millions of lines of COBOL code are an albatross around our necks.” No, they’re not. They are extremely valuable digital IP that has been honed over many years to precisely express and execute your organization’s core business logic with unmatched reliability, performance-at-scale and transactional efficiency. And, the potential for that unmatched reliability, performance-at-scale and transactional efficiency just keeps getting better. IBM is continuously delivering improvement to the COBOL compiler’s ability to fully exploit of the state-of-the-art engineering marvel that is the modern mainframe. Thus, this COBOL code is a tremendous asset that you’re seriously failing to fully leverage.
- “The mainframe already eats up too much of our budget.” This thinking is misguided on several fronts. First of all, empirical studies make it clear that mainframe TCO is less than other platforms for the systems-of-record work it performs. Yes, MSU-related costs can be high and they can and should be better controlled. But when you factor in all the hidden costs of managing, securing, and constantly refreshing distributed platforms, the hard numbers strongly favor the mainframe. Even more to the point, cost is an irrational excuse for disinvestment. Imagine telling your people, “Your labor is my biggest cost, so I’m not going to invest in you anymore.” That makes no sense. It is precisely because people cost us so much that we properly equip them and seek to inspire them to do their very best work. The same logic applies to the mainframe. Disinvestment only undermines a critical enterprise asset. Smart money aggressively re-invests in improving mainframe development velocity, quality and efficiency for competitive advantage.
- “It’s impossible to substantially increase mainframe velocity and efficiency without sacrificing quality.” This is demonstrably false. It’s true that incumbent mainframe pretenders have failed to deliver transformative solutions for mainframe DevOps. But Compuware customers are achieving remarkable results by leveraging our innovative solutions in the context of process and culture change. And those results are having a significant positive impact on their business.
- “We just have to work faster and harder with the outdated tools we have.” Some executives mistakenly think “agile” is just an adjective—and that they can improve productivity by demanding, “be flexible and work harder and faster,” while their developers remain handcuffed to outdated methods and antiquated tools. But Agile and DevOps are proven means of continuously turning ideas that matter into digital deliverables that make a difference to the business and its customers. You can’t get there without the culture, the methods, and—quite critically—the preferred, state-of-the-art tools necessary to empower gifted DevOps artisans to do their best, inspired work.
The How and Who of Mainframe Leadership
The bottom line is this: Take a good, hard look at who “owns” mainframe change at your organization and what their attitude is. If they’re constitutionally dismissive of the mainframe and its potential, they’re not going to be the right person for the job. If they are disinclined or not empowered to secure the budget necessary for mainframe re-investment, they are also likely to fail in service to to your customers and your business.
If, on the other hand, they grasp the importance of embracing DevOps agility across all your platforms—from cloud-hosted front-end apps through back-end systems-of-record—then you have an awesome opportunity.
You’re especially likely to get better results sooner if you have leaders who have already been intimately involved with successful Agile and DevOps initiatives on non-mainframe platforms. These leaders are well-positioned to take their hands-on experience of the “desired state” and simply apply them to your systems-of-record. Code is code, after all—so, with the right tools, a true DevOps guru can make the mainframe as exciting and rewarding a platform for next-gen developers as any other.
And if you’re looking for concrete proof that the right leader with the right mindset and the right technology can make this happen, just reach out to me at [email protected].
The mainframe is here to stay. Agile and DevOps on the mainframe are for real. The inevitable decision to mainstream the mainframe should already have been made. But without the right leadership mindset, neglect of the mainframe will ultimately and fatally sabotage the enterprise’s efforts at digital transformation.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.