Blog > June 2020 > Why are Mainframe Environments Hesitating on DevOps?

Why are Mainframe Environments Hesitating on DevOps?

Recently, I spoke in a joint ASG Technologies and Compuware webinar discussing how to Eliminate Coding Blunders with Topaz and ASG-PRO/JCL. There was a lively Q&A session with clear interest in what our joint offering could do to increase development efficiency. The energy was great, and I was looking forward to the post-webinar survey to see what else we could learn from the attendees’ survey responses. While there was plenty of positive feedback and information, I was surprised by the responses to one key question.

“What are your biggest concerns with your mainframe development?”

A full 40% of responses had to do with a cultural struggle within mainframe organizations that are still hesitating to adopt DevOps practices. One of these answers epitomized the issue,

“Our Enterprise Architecture group doesn't think that mainframe development can do DevOps.”

Wow. Honestly, this caught me off guard, as I have worked with teams to transform not only my thinking, but the team’s thinking. I have seen Agile methodologies and DevOps processes change the lives of development teams – for the better. Increased communication and shorter feedback cycles lead to higher quality software, higher morale in the team and happier customers. Organizations benefit from this change too because happier customers usually result in loyalty and more revenue.

What is DevOps?

DevOps is an operational philosophy that focuses on communication and coordination across teams with the goal of providing better products which provide solutions to customers as efficiently as possible.

That doesn’t sound like something most anyone would resist. So why wouldn’t mainframe environments be able to adopt that philosophy? The hesitation is different for each organization, but I think it has a lot to do with how DevOps came to be.

DevOps evolved from the Agile revolution in software development and that started with mostly non-mainframe development teams. Web applications and the proliferation of Software as a Service (SaaS) demanded a new approach to development. The Agile approach focuses on rapid delivery of incremental functionality at short intervals. This requires a regular rhythm of deployments to Production. Mainframe environments are built to provide continuous availability of high-volume data transactions. Many companies view each software deployment as a risk to that capability.

Much of the time, development shops are told that DevOps is great, and they should just do it. This Calvin and Hobbs meme sums it up!

Seasoned programmers know there is no silver bullet, and they also know that no tool or new process alone will solve problems. It comes down to the people who are working together to change their culture and improve. Many mainframe developers have been working the same way long enough to develop their own tools and patterns to reduce deployment risks. Longer deployment intervals also give them time to analyze and plan upgrades. Other developers are very new to the scene, entering the mainframe programmer ranks from Generation Z.

While many Gen Z programmers are open to DevOps, they have much to learn about the mainframe and that knowledge gap will take time to fill. You can read about the perspective of one of these programmers in The World of IBM z According to a Gen Z Programmer.

Making the Case for Mainframe DevOps

My view is that we need to start at the beginning with our mainframe teams.  Ask these programmers what problems they see in the delivery of software changes to operations. Listen carefully to what they say and probe further to identify problems you can agree on. Find ways to implement even a few improvements that will help the mainframe developer transition to DevOps.

Also, make sure to share the big picture! For so long, development teams have been relegated to developing software according to some detailed specification. “Write this code to meet the requirement. No more, no less.” Every person wants to know their work makes a difference. Share with programmers the reason changes are required, and what difference they will make for customers.

Programmers are artists of a type, and they want their creations to be appreciated by customers. When all these pieces come together, mainframe teams can begin to understand how DevOps is a philosophy that helps programmers deliver their creations more efficiently and receive the well-deserved appreciation of happy customers.


DevOps is an operational philosophy that focuses on communication and coordination across teams with the goal of providing better products which provide solutions to customers as efficiently as possible.
Posted: 6/24/2020 8:30:00 AM by Anna Murray - Senior Product Manager
Filed under :Agile, DevOps, Mainframe, Pro/JCL