IBM’s mainframe servers are not a new addition to the company’s portfolio—in fact, they’ve been more or less the gold standard for enterprises since the 1960s for fault-tolerant transaction processing and security. Mainframes are large servers that serve the environments that require the highest uptime, security, and the largest and fastest transaction volumes. IBM has been evolving and improving on its mainframe for many years—the latest iteration is the IBM Z15, which launched last fall. I believe IBM took a significant step towards accelerating development for Z, with the launch of IBM Wazi. Built on Red Hat CodeReady Workspaces, the solution seeks to mitigate the onboarding challenges for new IBM Z developers and enable cloud-native containerized development on IBM Z. Let’s take a closer look at the announcement.
A real solution for real problems
Native development for Z mainframes is crucial for IBM right now. Many enterprises are modernizing their datacenters and shifting to Hybrid Cloud environments, a trend that’s only accelerated in the age of coronavirus. Still, new IBM Z developers have historically faced quite the challenge when attempting to learn the Z ecosystem and the mainframe. Oftentimes it necessitates that they learn a new programming language, as well as new ways to interact with a computer. Many must ditch their IDE of choice for Z-specific tooling tailored to their organization. Wazi Workspaces is IBM’s answer to these travails.
Wazi Workspaces leverages Red Hat OpenShift to deliver a personalized, dedicated z/OS sandbox for development and testing. With the new solution, users are able to select from a variety of IDEs, including Red Hat CodeReady Workspaces, an in-browser OpenShift-native developer workspace, a desktop IDE such as Microsoft VS Code, or Eclipser-based IDEs like IBM’s Z Open Development offering. In other words, developers should be able to stick with their preferred IDE when building z/OS applications. This in itself is huge—not having to get familiar with a new IDE removes a significant barrier to entry for would-be Z developers.
Additionally, developers can play around in the z/OS sandbox without ever having to directly access an actual IBM Z system. All on-premise and Cloud-based x86 OpenShift environments are now fair game for z/OS app development. After building an application, it can then be deployed into production on IBM Z hardware running native z/OS. By leveraging popular open-source and third-party tools, in the words of IBM, Wazi Workspaces offers “true platform-agnostic, enterprise-wide standardization.”
How it works
To utilize the solution, get the IBM Wazi Sandbox operator up and running inside the OpenShift UI, then select your IDE of choice. Connect it to your personalized, dedicated Wazi Sandbox, and then you’re good to go—you can edit, debug, build and test your z/OS code, all in an environment that is optimized for Red Hat OpenShift.
Wazi Virtual Test Platform
Additionally, IBM announced the Wazi Virtual Test Platform (VTP), a solution that IBM says will enable developers to shift left testing in the z/OS environment (a new capability not yet offered by anyone else—see Figure 2). When it comes to development, automated testing is crucial for improving quality and speed-of-delivery. In order to do automated testing in the z/OS space, however, the environment must be stable and possess a set of defined data—more often than not, z/OS environments are shared and not compatible with such automation. Wazi VTP is IBM’s effort to address this issue, by enabling developers to perform a full transaction level test without needing to deploy it into middleware. IBM says Wazi VTP features full stubbing capability for middleware, which enables the running of transactions in z/OS as batch processes. In other words, developers can do the first stage of Integration Testing while the app is still in the build process. IBM heralds this as “a huge step in the ability to do automated testing and development” on z/OS.
Wazi VTP is designed to be simple. It does not require any programming skills to create tests, nor any changes to code, nor recompilation, relinking, or rebinding. Additionally, it doesn’t necessitate any addition z/OS or client software. Since VTP tests can be kept in Source Code Management tools, such as Git, they do not require any legacy software configuration management tools. IBM also touts the platform’s ability to deliver seamless integration through a CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous deployment) pipeline.
I applaud IBM for recognizing that DevOps needed a set of standardized tools for z/OS, as well as a containerized z/OS sandbox. If Wazi Workspaces delivers as advertised, it should make it significantly easier for new Z developers to start building and testing cloud-native apps for z/OS. They’ll be able to utilize standardized tools for agnostic cloud native development, such as Git and Jenkins, as well as common artifact repos like Nexus or Artifactory. Developers also get to keep using their preferred IDE, cutting down on the time would need to familiarize themselves with a new one. Meanwhile, IBM Wazi VTP promises to enable shift left transaction level testing for z/OS developers. Given the timing of these announcements, they have the potential to accelerate the development of apps that help organizations update their infrastructure to adjust to the changes brought on by the COVID-19 epidemic. Nice work, IBM.