Millennialize the Mainframe: Innovation with Java and Eclipse
Intrigued by Compuware’s trajectory as an Agile mainframe software company seeking Millennial talent, Harry Sellars graduated with a Computer Science degree from Central Michigan University and joined Compuware’s growing team of innovative Java software developers bringing mainframe development into the Eclipse world.
“It ended up being a really good fit for me because in my studies at Central we actually used Eclipse as a development tool and worked almost exclusively in Java,” Sellars said.
Sellars now works on Compuware’s Topaz Workbench, a modern Eclipse-based IDE that streamlines mainframe development. At first, the juxtaposition of mainframe with Java and Eclipse seems counterintuitive—different syntaxes, different cultures, different generations. But the introduction of Java to the mainframe is blurring the line between developers who represent these differences.
“What we’re doing with Java and Eclipse is making it more convenient for the user to interact with the mainframe,” Sellars said. “Traditionally, it has been all through the green screen, not the most ideal thing to work with. Especially when you’ve got a lot of new, young developers like myself.”
Most Millennial developers are used to an Eclipse-like environment. That explains why Eclipse-based products like Topaz Workbench enable Millennials to do with the same amount of efficiency what senior mainframe developers do with the green screen.
“Topaz Workbench is more of an all-in-one interface to manipulate your code on the mainframe, as opposed to being lost in the green screen,” Sellars said. “From that point of view there’s the benefit of using it because so many more developers are familiar with that code.”
Java and Eclipse are providing an inlet for Millennial developers who are unfamiliar with the esoteric nature of the mainframe, helping to end the mainframe skills shortage. The language inevitably will continue to grow into a more mature role in mainframe development, and it’s already happening at Compuware.
“I think Compuware is enthusiastic about Java because we’re using it to develop tools that make the mainframe geared towards younger, newer developers,” Sellars said. “We’re really trying to push that here, within our own teams, because we want to use our own tools to serve as a good example for everyone else.
How Mainframe Shops Innovate with Java and Eclipse
In essence, Compuware practices what it preaches—developing, maintaining and updating software using the same tools it produces for customers.
“I was just talking to a young guy like myself who works on the mainframe side of things,” Sellars said. “He uses Topaz Workbench because it’s more familiar to him than the green screen. It’s a good merger of the mainframe and distributed worlds.”
Compuware considers the blended, or merged, ecosystem of mainframe development and open systems development to be the new standard. The company passionately decries the illusory benefits of a misleading idea called “Bimodal IT,” which calls for knowledge and operation of the mainframe to be stored like grain in a silo apart from the rest of IT.
With the integration of Java and Eclipse into Compuware’s mainframe tools, the company has seen how feasible it is to mainstream the mainframe by including it in Agile and DevOps processes, bringing together mainframe development and open systems development as one.
“You need to be able to understand the mainframe side of things as well as yours,” Sellars said, “and there seems to be a good understanding at Compuware, a good chemistry.”
The concoction of energy brewing between mainframe development and open systems development at Compuware is bubbling over, and others are noticing. At a presentation on Compuware’s ISPW at a recent London customer event, the audience asked Sellars, and two other Compuware employees also speaking, to stop at a slide touting ISPW’s capabilities as a Source Code Management and Release Automation solution for cross-platform development. Enthralled by the list of capabilities, the audience spent 45 minutes inquiring about ISPW, even though it wasn’t the focus of the presentation.
“It’s really great to see that passion from a customer,” Sellars said. “It’s increasing dramatically, and I would say Java developers have a huge impact on that.”
The excitement from customers over ISPW at the London customer event illuminates what results can be achieved through teamwork between mainframe development and open systems development. As Sellars said, “We know we’re doing something right at Compuware.”
Photo by Liv Martin and Chad Morgan