Open Source and Mainframe

Goran Begic
5 min readAug 10, 2019

Take-aways from the SHARE conference in Pittsburgh

SHARE is a conference for mainframers. If you are involved in software that has nothing to do with z/OS the chances are that you have never heard of it. For a long time z/OS has been a closed-loop ecosystem. If you worked on it you would know about SHARE, if you did not, you didn’t have a reason to know.

The event taking place in Pittsburgh is my first visit to SHARE and there are some clear signs of times that z/OS is opening to the rest of the world and most importantly, to the new generation of developers coming on board. Perhaps in the near future, if not already, you may want to know more about the conference and the transformation that the platform is going through,

Disclaimer: I work for Broadcom. I believe in success through innovation and I am involved in open source projects targeting z/OS. This is my personal experience after following the open source thread throughout the conference.

  1. Organizations are beginning to learn how to attract, train and retain new development talent.

In the Tuesday’s keynote “The Evolution of IT, the JP Morgan Chase team — Louis Avila, Kyle Stofka and Kevin Chen introduced their new hire program and Kevin’s and Kyles’s experience of becoming a mainframe developer.

Kyle, one of the relatively new hires (4 years in z/OS development) mentioned something that resonated with me even though there were a few gasps in the audience: “Many of you will retire soon. When you return from this conference, invest some time in sharing your knowledge with the new hires. They will appreciate it.”

Brutally honest and at the same time very constructive. Yes, developers with platform expertise are getting a bit old and knowledge transfer is a concern. It’s time to acknowledge and invest in the new generation of developers and system administrators.

In the same vein, Broadcom introduced the Mainframe Vitality Program. I had a chance to catch up with two recruits who were hired through the program. Yurii told me that the first time he heard back from the recruiter he hung up when he heard that he was offered several weeks of training for free with no strings attached and with the option to be hired either by Broadcom, or one of its customers. It sounded too good to be true. Luckily, he checked the recruiter on LinkedIn and realized that this was the real deal. Job security with free education and options to work for the vendor, or for a client organization in the industry. What’s not to like?

2. Zowe is gaining momentum

The collaboration of three vendors: IBM, Broadcom and Rocket Software keeps gaining mindshare and more importantly — it is getting adopted. Tuesday’s workshop on Zowe was overbooked and there was another one on Friday.

There were several sessions on the topic of Zowe on each day of the conference. Zowe is also the backbone of the newly announced open source sub-project IDE: Eclipse Che4Z.

On Thursday, the IBM Global Services team (Guilherme Cartier, Gustavo de Paiva Almeida, Matheus Milani de Oliveira) showcased their use of Zowe CLI and Zowe API Mediation Layer to automate of interactions with z/OS in the system administration context. They have integrated automation scripts for common tasks on z/OS with ServiceNow so that one can schedule corrective actions directly from the ServiceNow interface. In the demonstration, the confirmation of actions initiated in a pull down menu in ServiceNow arrived back via SMS. All thanks to Zowe.

Guilherme explained his thought process when developing automation scripts. He did not need to write all the code — he used readily available open source frameworks and examples. Among those were samples provided by Dan Kelosky and his work on Metal C and HLASM served as inspiration.

3. Broadcom is leading the way with open source

In the world of general software development, CA Software was not always perceived as an innovator, just like the Mainframe is not perceived as a breeding ground for innovation. If this conference would have been your first experience with CA (now Broadcom) and you followed the sessions with the keyword: “open”, you would never know of these perceptions. Here is a couple of moments from the SHARE conference worth sharing:

  1. Broadcom engineering provides a large pool of contributors to Zowe and a whole Zowe team dedicated to open source.
  2. Broadcom continues to invest in z/OS and in the new generation of developers. It is also on a hiring spree. Greg Lotko, the GM of the Mainframe Division demonstrated it during the Lunch and Learn session by asking all the new hires to stand up. Programs like Vitality help other organizations develop their own hiring and onboarding programs and address the business risk of the aging workforce.
  3. In the IDE shootout on Wednesday: IBM, MicroFocus and Compuware showcased tried and proven desktop IDEs. Brian Jagos from Broadcom on the other end showed a modern web-based IDE utilizing Eclipse Che workspace facility for collaboration, utilizing Language Server Protocol and Debug Adapter Protocol (both open). Venkatauday Balabhadrapatruni shared his vision for the future of IDEs in a separate session. Somebody in the audience noted — “…the path is clear for full open source collaboration on z/OS”.
  4. Brian’s demo also included a bridge between CA Endevor on z/OS and GitHub server. Vaughn Marshall and Dana Boudreau elaborated on Git to Endevor integration in their own session, all with live demos. Brian and Vaughn used Git tools in EclipseChe and in Visual Studio Code to do check COBOL out, check it back in, do git push, compile on Z using Endevor as a build processor and they got back the output of tests as if everything run on a Linux box. Developer experience was the same as any other development platform.
  5. Finally, Broadcom’s commercial offering for Zowe is a subscription in a way you would purchase subscription for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The offering is called Brightside and it provides Enterprise support, access to innovation, enhanced security and ease of use enhancements as well as access to developers who contribute their work to open source.

I expect to see more adoption examples of adoption of innovation in the next event, more open z/OS and more reasons for you to learn about open source projects for developers targeting Z.

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Goran Begic

Offering manager at Broadcom. Interested in innovations that solve real-life problems. Always learning.