Dan's Take

Moving DevOps to the Mainframe

Compuware dishes on Topaz.

I had a recent conversation with Compuware CEO Christopher O'Malley and VP of Product Management Sam Knutson about Topaz on Amazon Web Services (AWS). I was told that the company's focus is to "mainstream the mainframe" by allowing developers to use familiar tools and processes without having to think about whether the workload is going to eventually reside on a mainframe or an industry-standard x86 system.

What is Topaz?
Topaz is suite of development and testing tools for mainframe applications. It includes a number of tools designed to help developers to work with any mainframe program, allowing enterprises to both maintain and enhance current mainframe workloads. Some elements of the Topaz suite, according to Compuware:

  • Topaz Workbench. An Eclipse-based IDE that provides the essentials of mainframe application development, testing and maintenance and a single, modern interface providing access to Compuware's developer productivity tools.
  • Topaz for Program Analysis. Provides an instant static visual summary of what a developer needs to know about a program or a dynamic visualization via Runtime Visualizer for a clear and accurate "snapshot" of a program's real behavior, in either production or test environments under runtime conditions.
  • Topaz for Enterprise Data. A single interface to visualize both mainframe and non-mainframe data in a common, intuitive manner, helping developers and data architects better manage both test and production data and meet the demands of digital business.

This development and test environment is now being made available on Amazon's AWS.

Dan's Take: Making the case that developers shouldn't need to care about the underlying host
O'Malley and Knutson made the point that mainframes and the cloud shouldn't be in conflict with one another, any more than DevOps and mainframe development.

Both approaches, they point out, offer benefits and have limitations. Enterprises should use each where they make sense. Compuware claims to provide a development and test environment that developers find familiar and comfortable, making it possible for DevOps to encompass development for all platforms.

Compuware points out that cloud-based computing can allow enterprises to "downsize"the contents of the data center and simplify facilities and staffing challenges. Why, they ask, should enterprises have to take on the burden of purchasing and maintaining racks and racks of systems, networking and storage equipment unless there's a strong need?

Today's mainframes offer performance and cost-of-ownership that's hard to match with clusters of industry standard systems. To that end, Compuware is making its development and testing environment available via a cloud computing service so that enterprises can provide access to their internal systems via a safe, manageble process worldwide. Any endpoint system supporting a browser can support a developer, regardless of location.

It's clear that enterprise decision makers have to consider whether or not expanding use of their mainframe systems really offers more reliability, better performance and lower overall costs. Many cost-of-ownership and return-on-investment studies have shown that centralized computing is less expensive than distributed models. They've also shown that unified management environments are typically better than patchwork quilts of independent tools. In the end, however, do those studies really convince decision makers when they hear so many industry voices trying to convince them to get rid of the mainframe?

Other suppliers, such as COBOL-IT, LzLabs, and Heirloom Computing don't agree with Compuware. They offer tools and services allowing some specific mainframe workloads to be transformed or converted, then migrated to industry-standard systems or the cloud. A closer look, however, shows that they really can't move the entire mainframe computing environment; only pick at it little-by-little.

Compuware would reply that the mainframe isn't the problem and really has never been the problem. It does what it does better than the alternatives do. They say that the big challenge has been to transform development and operations in the mainframe world, allowing DevOps methodologies to exist happily on mainframes.

Compuware obviously hopes to spread the DevOps religion to the mainframe community. The question is how quickly it can gain converts.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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