Diving into DevOps

Compuware's 'Mainframe Renaissance' Continues with Topaz Release and MVS Acquisition

Firm steps up its DevOps-on-the-mainframe campaign with new COBOL testing tool and batch automation acquisition.

Compuware stepped up its DevOps-on-the-mainframe campaign this week with the release of Topaz for Total Test, which brings Java-like unit testing to COBOL applications, and news that it has acquired MVS Solutions, which makes the ThruPut Manager mainframe batch automation technology.

Compuware began defining what it is calling the "mainframe renaissance" last year with the acquisitions of the Itegration Mainframe SCM Practice, ISPW BenchMark Technologies mainframe source-code and release-automation solution, and Standardware COPE IMS virtualization technology, as well as a new partnership with Software Engineering of America.

"We are on a quest to remake the mainframe into a first-class citizen in an increasingly Agile and DevOps world," Compuware CEO Chris O'Malley told me. "And for nine quarters in a row we've delivered new capabilities and enhancements to our classic offerings through innovations, integrations and acquisitions. We're taking the company out of the mainframe dark ages. Without a mainframe renaissance, large global enterprises above a certain vintage will simply not be able to compete in fast-moving digital markets where disruption is the norm."

The company's newest product, Topaz for Total Test, brings much needed unit testing to the mainframe, O'Malley explained, enabling even novice developers to validate and troubleshoot any changes they make to existing COBOL applications.

"Programmers scream 'legacy code' like my kids scream 'spider,'" he said. "There's this sense of fear about it, which is understandable, especially on the mainframe. When these large systems break, it's not a matter of inconvenience, but of business disruption. If we're going to drive the idea of Agile development into this environment, where you're creating literals in two weeks and making progress day-to-day, unit testing has to be made available on the mainframe. It's the last big piece of the puzzle to allow our customers on the mainframe to be mainstream."

Topaz for Total Test automatically creates tests for logical units of code, which makes it possible for developers at all skill levels to perform unit testing on COBOL code just as they do on Java, PHP and other programming languages. The company claims that Topaz is more advanced than typical Java tools, because it requires no coding and automatically generates default unit test result assertions for developers.

While Topaz for Total Test addresses issues on the Dev side of DevOps, MVS ThruPut addresses the Ops side. That acquisition is part of an effort to bring Agile, DevOps and "millennial-friendly management" to the IBM z platform, O'Malley said.

The problem, he explained, is that batch processing accounts for the majority of peak mainframe workloads at large enterprises, but responsibility for batch management is rapidly being shifted from platform veterans with decades of experience in mainframe operations to younger Ops staffers who are unfamiliar with batch management -- and who find native IBM z Systems management tools arcane and impractical.

"Don't get me wrong," he said. "The computer science skills of the millennials we're hiring are vastly better than the skills of people we hired a couple of decades ago -- myself included. These kids are wicked smart, but they don't know the code base or understand the esoteric differences in the platform. Making their skills applicable to the mainframe so they can have real dominion over it is massively important."

Compuware's latest acquisition is an attempt to "millenialize mainframe DevOps," the company said in a press release. The MVS ThruPut Manager automatically optimizes the processing of batch jobs. It provides immediate insight into batch processing that inexperienced operators can understand; makes it easy to prioritize batch processing based on business-based policies and goals; ensures proper batch execution by verifying that jobs have all the resources they need and proactively managing resource contention among jobs; and reduces customers' IBM Monthly Licensing Charges (MLC) by minimizing rolling four average (R4HA) processing peaks without counter-productive "soft capping."

"A lot of what we've done to date has emphasized the Dev side of DevOps," O'Malley said. "But the Ops side is [just] as important. Just as development skills around legacy code are fading, so are the skills related to managing the workloads in the mainframe environment. These workloads are mission-critical, and they behave differently on different days of the week, the month, the quarter and the fiscal year. There's an element of artistry in keeping these things going, and making sure service levels are met, and not met because of cost. The trick is to de-mystify all this for the next generation and give them tools they can use with their existing skill sets."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of Converge360.com sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].