The Modern Mainframe Podcast Add
May 9, 2019 Mainframe Agility

Understanding Mainframe Programs and Data Through Visualization

Overview: For the fourth episode of our series “10 Steps to True Mainframe Agility” on The Modern Mainframe podcast, we spoke with Compuware Product Managers Jim Liebert and Irene Ford about the fourth step, Provide Developers with Intuitive, Graphical Visibility into Existing Code and Data Structure. Here are some highlights from the conversation.


As IT systems grow, there’s naturally more to maintain. It’s no wonder 40-year-old mainframe programs are often so large and complex.

“They’ve kind of grown that way organically … It’s just the nature of the beast that there’s complexity involved in both the code and the data,” Compuware Product Manager Jim Liebert said on a recent episode of The Modern Mainframe podcast.

He and Compuware Product Manager Irene Ford joined me to discuss the importance of elucidating this complexity with graphical, intuitive visibility into existing code and data structure.

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Historically, developers formed hypotheses based on their own or another’s institutional knowledge or even based on comments in the code. This was “very soft and might not be accurate,” Jim said. “With visualization we offer a way that they can get some clarity into that complexity.”

Physicians Mutual Manages Program Complexity to Accelerate

This is exactly why Physicians Mutual brought in Compuware Topaz for Program Analysis and Topaz for Enterprise Data. They needed a way to manage the complexity of their mainframe environment to increase developer productivity and improve their ability to capitalize on immediate business opportunities.

As Assistant Vice President of Enterprise Architecture and Development Nathan Coberly said, “Insurance is complex. IT systems are complex. Insurance IT systems are incredibly complex.

Topaz will help us manage this complexity in a way that we can make better decisions and move faster.”

For example, Topaz is enabling Physicians Mutual to:Compuware | Physicians Mutual

  • Carry out faster code analysis for determining changes, impacts and requirements
  • Improve development productivity regardless of developer experience
  • Identify problems earlier in the development lifecycle
  • Visualize relationships of application code, interdependencies and impact analysis
  • Unify data management between mainframe and distributed systems

But it’s not just about enabling efficiency with existing developers by making code and data more discoverable through visualization. It’s also about providing a way to transfer this critical knowledge to people who aren’t familiar with those programs and data.

Program Understanding Helps UK Bank Innovate

“When you think about most application knowledge, it really resided with individuals, and now that they are retiring, it gets even more challenging for people who are new to applications to be able to try and make it through the maze of code that’s been accumulating for those 40 years,” Irene said during our conversation on The Modern Mainframe.

This is what an engineer at another of our customers, a large UK bank, experienced when writing an application that would automate a debit card issuing process. The engineer couldn’t see or understand exactly what the code was doing; nor could anyone else.

“There is only one subject matter expert for this at the bank whom I’m aware of, and they’re at the London site. But we have operations at three main sites in the UK and off shore. There also are no tools that allow the team to delve into this code to visualize and understand what it’s doing,” the engineer said.

With Runtime Visualizer in Topaz for Program Analysis, the engineer was able to literally see into the code and watch the actual execution of the program at different layers, opening his eyes to underlying risks and inefficiencies in the code.

Compuware Topaz for Program Analysis | Runtime Visualizer

Compuware Topaz for Program Analysis | Runtime Visualizer

Leveling the Playing Field

Stories like these are examples of how we’re making the mainframe more understandable and easier to leverage to drive digital innovation.

What we’re trying to do here is level the playing field.

“We’re providing information in a way that can be easily consumed so every programmer, in the privacy of their own desk, can be confident in the work they’re producing based on the input that they have,” Jim said.

Listen to my interview with Jim and Irene for a better understanding of this. To read more about Step Four and the other nine steps to achieving true mainframe agility, download our eBook “10 Steps to True Mainframe Agility.” Otherwise, keep an eye out for future episodes in this series where we’ll explore the other steps with Compuware experts.

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Mike Siemasz

Technology Writer at Compuware
Mike Siemasz formerly served as Content Strategist and Technology Writer, reporting on culture, processes and tools in relation to DevOps and the mainframe.