Mainframe Trends to Watch in 2018
December 27, 2017 COBOL, DevOps, Mainframe Agility

Three Mainframe Trends You Should Continue Watching in 2018

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The goal for Inside Tech Talk has long been to indicate where the mainframe is, where it’s going and how Compuware customers can improve their culture, processes and tools to prepare for the future.

Throughout 2017, many of our most experienced product managers, technical consultants, analysts, developers and other employees from across departments shared their knowledge and opinions around mainframe trends on Inside Tech Talk—but there are several we think are worth keeping a close eye on in 2018 and even beyond.

1. COBOL Migration and Modernization

In 2018, no one should bother trying to honestly criticize COBOL for being outdated or cumbersome—really, it’s such a passé stance to take, especially if you were paying attention to the advancements of the language in 2017.

Migrating to COBOL V6.1/6.2

This past year, IBM made several significant updates to COBOL that can be taken advantage of by migrating older applications to the new compilers (either 6.1 or 6.2). We explained the entire process in our COBOL migration blog series, from first steps you should take to how you should approach a roll-out.

New COBOL Optimizations

More optimizations are coming in 2018, and they’re arriving faster and more frequently through Continuous Delivery. We suggest you subscribe to Inside Tech Talk to stay informed of this and other mainframe trends so you don’t miss anything important.

While these frequent optimizations are keeping COBOL Agile and modern enough to help mainframe shops cope with new demands in a digital age, many organizations are still learning the hard way that migrating COBOL programs is the wrong move. Early in 2017, we gave some great reasons for why mainframe application rewrites are a bad idea involving copious time, money and risk.

Keeping Citizens (and COBOL) First

The question of migration is especially relevant right now for the U.S. public sector, where government IT teams are wondering if they should “rip, rewrite and replace” mainframe applications in light of the MGT Act recently signed into law. We’ve taken a strong stance that government IT should stop focusing on a cloud-/technology-first strategy and start putting citizens first—that’s because they can much more economically and efficiently modernize good systems already in place rather than work overtime to get off them.

Educating Government Officials

We’ve also made it a point to get this message across directly to significant government officials—including gubernatorial candidates Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette as well as Congressmen John Moolenaar, Jack Bergman and others—during visits to Washington and while hosting them at our Detroit headquarters.

These men and women have been remarkably receptive and enthusiastic about spreading the truth about the mainframe after learning how modern it truly is. Realizing COBOL and the mainframe are here to stay and worthy of being leveraged is the first step. Following in the modernization path of COBOL and the mainframe platform is next.

2. Doing Mainframe Modernization Right

Once you’ve realized the value of COBOL and the necessity of your mainframe platform, you’ll be ready to focus on fixing the real challenge of modernizing your mainframe environment: transforming the culture, processes and tools surrounding the platform from Waterfall to Agile/DevOps where you can focus on increasing velocity, quality and efficiency.

Modernizing On-platform

We agree with Intellyx President and notable Agile digital transformation analyst Jason Bloomberg that modernization should occur on-platform. A guest post from Jason earlier this year really backed up what we believe is the best option for organizations, counter to the technology-/cloud-first strategy many organizations think they have to adopt: that you should leverage the mainframe in tandem with other modern technology like the cloud in a strategy we call Two-platform IT—watch this video to learn more about it.

Often, companies that attempt to migrate off the mainframe are technology-obsessed and assume ditching their “legacy” systems and going all-in with cloud will solve their problems. This only leads to more problems. When you look into it, it’s easy to get a sense of just how dangerous it is to try and swim against the current of the mainframe rather than with it.

Transforming the Mainframe Environment

But keep in mind on-platform modernization simply isn’t possible if you maintain the same Waterfall culture, processes and tools that have surrounded the mainframe for decades. Yet, a Compuware-commissioned Forrester survey from 2016 found a large portion of mainframe shops still either use dated tools like ISPF that prevent modernization or don’t even have tools that enable them to understand business rules and program logic well enough to modernize.

What this survey found, and what we believe, is that shifting to DevOps—in your culture, processes and tools—can actually help you solve your greatest mainframe-modernization challenges. Hence, throughout 2017, we kept a heavy focus on the state and future of this philosophy in mainframe development, and it’s likely we and others will continue to focus on it in 2018 and beyond as the movement progresses and evolves in the mainframe world.

3. DevOps-enabling the Mainframe

Over the past year, DevOps has become less abstract and much realer for mainframe shops as they begin to believe and observe the compatibility of DevOps and the mainframe. They’re experiencing the real challenges of implementing this development philosophy but also experiencing the rewards of that journey to mainframe-inclusive, cross-platform DevOps.

In the past year, we’ve even watched DevOps evolve in our own organization as we forged new partnerships and integrations and continued to release quarterly DevOps innovations in our products. It has been one of our primary missions to convey our DevOps experience in a manner that helps customers understand how to nail down the development philosophy in their own mainframe shops.

From what DevOps means to the types of mainframe and cross-platform DevOps tools they should be using to the importance of letting their developers choose which DevOps tools they use for development, testing and even communication with chat apps—we’ve covered a lot of ground.

Of course, DevOps, modernization and COBOL aren’t the only mainframe trends we covered extensively in 2017. Cybersecurity, automated batch processing, building a more productive workforce and several other mainframe trends have also been on our radar, and they’ll continue to be throughout 2018.

If you’re looking for good content around mainframe trends to help your team improve in 2018, you’ve found a reliable source here. Keep tuning in, or sign up to receive our latest posts every Friday.


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Mike Siemasz

Technology Writer at Compuware
Mike Siemasz is Compuware's Content Strategist and Technology Writer, reporting on culture, processes and tools in relation to DevOps and the mainframe.
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