Blog > June 2021 > Mainframe Modernization: From Millennialization, to DevOps, to Value Stream Management 

Mainframe Modernization: From Millennialization, to DevOps, to Value Stream Management 

For many companies, the mainframe is and will remain a critical component of the IT infrastructure – from  running business processes efficiently to processing billions of critical transactions. However, the mainframe is currently undergoing a generational change. Experienced professionals are gradually retiring while Millennials are moving up as the future "mainframe experts." During this “passing of the baton,” there is a need for changes to tools, utilities and applications to run mainframes, now and in the future.

In April and May, ASG hosted a webinar series, Millennialization of the Mainframe and Beyond,  which discussed how the generational shift in the workforce will impact the user experience administering the mainframe. I spoke in depth with mainframe guru and CTO of the European Mainframe Academy, Wolfram Greis, and ASG Technologies’ Enterprise Solution Engineer, Boris Kraaz, to hear how and why these generational changes are inevitable, what they mean for mainframe administration and how these requirements need to be addressed. Check out our conversation below.  

Q: How do we master the generational change of mainframe modernization? 

WG: The mainframe is still a very critical part of the infrastructure of many companies and will remain so in the future. However, for the last 10-15 years, we have seen a radical change. Many people around the age of 60, with more than 40 years of IT experience, have already retired or will retire in the next two to five years. This means that a lot of mainframe knowledge will be lost. Conferences like SHARE Virtual Summit in the U.S., or Guide Share Europe, are clearly indicating that the younger generation is growing into the mainframe world. They are beneficial events to ensuring the mainframe is modernized and well understood. To join forces and to get in contact with new potentials, we established in 2017 the non-profit Academic Mainframe Consortium as an alliance of people and organisations who are interested in foster mainframe education at universities and other academic institutions.   

Q: How do you keep the mainframe, the central IT infrastructure, running? 

WG: Our first priority is to keep the lights on. Through the massive use of automation and monitoring, you can ensure that production runs and that the human factor or influence is reduced to a minimum. However, this presupposes that automation and monitoring are implemented, that the integration in DevOps is complete and that the business can react quickly to new market situations. Such an environment can only be guaranteed in the long term with the right trained Millennials. 

The value creation of a company inevitably requires contributions from all technology silos (technology stacks) in the company. This means that the value stream, the end-to-end process that generates value for the customer, must be supported by many, or all, of the technology stacks in the company. Coordinating value creation across all technology silos or stacks is a big challenge, and our “silo thinking” has prevented efficient implementation and coordination of cross-stack value creation. Today, it is important to no longer think in silos but to act in a business-oriented way. This is especially important for the new professionals to develop skills around client/server, DevOps, automation and much more. We need to be able to connect all the different technology silos and data silos we have to achieve our end-to-end value streams. 

Q: What role does DevOps play in this entire process? 

BK: So far, every organization we have spoken to is involved with DevOps in some way. They believe it is an effective way to get to market faster with new products. DevOps as a concept was coined around 2009. From around 2015, you could see that interest in DevOps virtually exploded. In a nutshell, DevOps makes the organization more flexible, dynamic and ultimately more effective. This streamlining became necessary because the previous way of developing applications took up too many resources and limited the flexibility of the development team. Introducing a DevOps culture enables changes to be implemented effectively and on time. The result is an overall better product that gets to market sooner.  

Q: Can you elaborate on a what a value stream is? 

BK: A value stream includes all the activities required to turn a customer request into a product or service. You don't just look at the technology and techniques for a particular platform, but the whole end-to-end dependencies for the value stream, which is how the business is run.  

To provide an answer to such questions, ASG-Enterprise Orchestrator (AEO) can be integrated into the entire DevOps lifecycle, as well as into the orchestration of value streams. From code development, to the version control system, to code analysis, to security configurations and stress testing, everything is monitored and orchestrated by AEO. To make new mainframe professionals successful, the mainframe needs to present itself like another component, or service, in the toolkit to new staff.  

Q: What are the five most important points to ensure that new employees or Millennials have the ideal conditions to be successful on the mainframe? 

BK:  

  1. Try to eliminate any silo thinking. Processes and value streams are cross-application activities—there will be no platform, application or location restrictions in the future. The mainframe is a service, and an important link in your IT chain. 

  1. Introduce value stream automation and orchestration where the business demands it. It is not IT that determines what is automated, it is the business.  

  1. Integrate the mainframe into your DevOps environment. This is the only way to ensure that the development of new applications uses and supports the mainframe properly. 

  1. Automate what makes sense, eliminate manual, repetitive work through Robotic Process Automation and AI, and integrate DevOps and value streams into the automation. 

  1. The mainframe will not disappear in the next few years. On the contrary, use the power, the data and the knowledge that is on the mainframe. Treat the mainframe like any other platform; the current technical state of the mainframe makes it an equal member of your IT landscape. 

To successfully empower Millennial professionals, organizations need to have tools with integrated and graphical capabilities to interact with the mainframe. It is important to be able to work constantly in the same environment without having to switch from one application to another.  

We at ASG have worked hard to deliver these resources with the release of ASG-Enterprise Orchestrator. Spanning capabilities from mainframe to cloud, ASG-Enterprise Orchestrator offers workload automation, value stream visibility and DevOps toolchain coordination required to optimize value streams. To learn more, please visit the ASG-Enterprise Orchestrator webpage

Many thanks to Boris and Wolfram. If you haven’t already, please tune into our Millennialization of the Mainframe and Beyond webinar, now on-demand, to learn more.