The Frog in the Mainframe
There’s a frog slowly boiling inside the mainframe. This boiling frog adversely impacts every important IT metric—including time to market, quality of customer experience and operational efficiency. And it’s a problem that too many CIOs are either unaware of or choosing to ignore.
Fortunately, it’s also a problem you can readily solve once you identify it and take appropriate action.
A Slow-cooking Crisis
The boiling frog metaphor, of course, refers to the fact that if you drop a frog directly into boiling water, he will jump right out—but if you place him in warm water and slowly turn up the heat, he will just sit there and cook.
In other words, not every crisis occurs suddenly. Boiling-frog crises build up slowly over time.
Let’s be clear. The mainframe itself is not in a crisis. In fact, the mainframe remains the most powerful, scalable, reliable, efficient and secure platform on the planet. That’s why it remains the beating digital heart of the world’s largest enterprises—despite constant bombast from shameless mainframe naysayers.
The boiling-frog crisis now upon us is the enterprise’s loss of vital mainframe development and operations skills. This brain-drain has been slow and gradual. So, CIOs never faced any single, precipitous event that would trigger immediate, decisive remedial action.
This crisis didn’t come upon us without warning. One study in 2012 showed that 71 percent of CIOs were already aware of the looming experience shortage. The study also revealed that less than half of CIOs were taking positive action to address the problem.
So, enterprises have muddled along as well as they can with a shrinking number of mainframe veterans. Some have tried to transfer certain mainframe responsibilities to IT staff with good non-mainframe skills, but that has proven difficult because the mainframe tools still in use at most enterprises are outdated, inadequate and arcane.
The result: There is too much mainframe code that is poorly maintained and manually tested—even though the demands on that code keep intensifying.
Creeping Bad Outcomes
Poor mainframe maintenance and quality control has serious consequences. For one thing, we’re seeing enormous growth in mainframe abends. This growth is often 10x above previous levels just a year ago. The resulting hits to customer experience and staff productivity are increasingly problematic and frustrating.
For another, enterprises now find themselves unable to evolve their COBOL-coded business logic at anything approaching the pace necessary to compete in today’s fast-moving markets.
And the frog just keeps simmering away. Abends increase. Agility decreases. The enterprise cedes more and more competitive advantage to smaller, more digitally nimble market entrants.
For the past three years, Compuware has been offering an effective, straightforward strategy for overcoming—and actually reversing—the erosion of mainframe experience: Deploy tools that empower IT staff with mainstream skills to perform mainframe DevOps tasks just like they do on other platforms.
Today, for example, we released an integration with SonarSource SonarQube that lets enterprise DevOps teams track and validate code coverage of COBOL application testing in the same way as they do testing of Java and other mainstream code.
We’ve certainly been busy mainstreaming the mainframe. Over the past few years, we’ve made it easier for developers to make sense of poorly documented COBOL applications. We’ve introduced a new means to concurrent development in support of Agile methods, enabling developers to quickly and safely build and deploy mainframe code. We’ve made it possible for them to perform unit testing with COBOL just as they do with Java. And we’re enabling mainstream IT staff to use their other DevOps/continuous tools-of-choice—including those from Jenkins, XebiaLabs and Atlassian—so that the mainframe can be “just another platform” in the multi-platform enterprise.
If you’d like to join the many future-ready enterprises that are optimizing digital agility across all their enterprise platforms—including the mainframe—we invite you to check out what we have to offer.
And if you don’t…your dinner is served!
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.