Sunday, 10 October 2021

Mainframes and Open Source – an update

I mentioned the Open Mainframe Summit in an article a few weeks ago. I thought it was worth taking a look at what was reported at the summit on 22 and 23 September. Not surprisingly, the Summit was online again this year – it’s second annual get-together.

John Mertic, Director of Program Management at the Linux Foundation, said: “Open Mainframe will continue to be the home of projects that help advance training, enterprise, DevOps, and z/OS on a global scale and working closely with those thought leaders in technology adjacent to mainframes.”

Interestingly, there is a COBOL working group, which came about following various news stories last year about COBOL. The group’s aim is to promote and support the continued use of the COBOL language globally. Like all good science projects, they wanted to know what the COBOL marketplace is currently like, see what challenges and concerns people have about it, and, finally, find out how companies are addressing these issues. To this end, they carried out a survey. Not surprisingly, the first thing they found was that there are hundreds of billions of lines of COBOL in production code in use.

Zowe, which we’ve mentioned before a few times, continues to be the most popular of the Open Mainframe projects. Zowe uses open-source applications to allow users to securely manage, control, script, and develop on the mainframe.

For example, Workflow WiZard simplifies the generation and management of z/OSMF workflows. The tool, which was contributed by BMC, assembles a workflow by reading a library of workflow steps and a properties file. It identifies the steps needed using rules in these templates, orders them based on step prerequisites, and writes out an XML file of the complete workflow.

ZEBRA was contributed by Vicom Infinity. It provides re-usable and industry-compliant JSON formatted RMF/SMF data records, which can then be utilized by open-source software.

The Open Mainframe Project is intended to serve as a focal point for deployment and use of Linux and Open Source in a mainframe computing environment. With a vision of Open Source on the Mainframe as the standard for enterprise class systems and applications, the project's mission is to build community and adoption of Open Source on the mainframe by eliminating barriers to its adoption on the mainframe, demonstrating value of the mainframe on technical and business levels, and strengthening collaboration points and resources for the community to thrive. There are, currently, over 30 organizations supporting the Open Mainframe Project. And, the Open Mainframe Project is home to more than 20 project working groups including ADE, Ambitus, ATOM, CBT Tape, COBOL Check, COBOL Programming Course, COBOL Working Group, ConsoleZ, Feilong, GenevaERS, Mainframe Open Education, Mentorship, Polycephaly, Software Discovery Tool, TerseDecompress, Tessia, Zowe, and Zorow. Learn more at

Let’s take a look at some of those organizations. ConsoleZ is an open-source package that gives browser access to z/VM consoles and CP commands, while also being able to limit access by groups. Hosted by the Open Mainframe Project, it can save time when teams need access to multiple z/VM LPARs.

z/OS Open Repository of Workflows (zorow), is a new open-source community dedicated to contributing and collaborating on z/OSMF workflows. There’s also Tessia, which is a tool that automates and simplifies the installation, configuration, and testing of Linux systems running on the Z platform.

New working groups have been launched. For example, the Debian s390x Working Group aims to oversee the maintenance of the s390x port to ensure it remains an official architecture for Debian. The Open z/OS Enablement Working Group is attempting to lower barriers to access z/OS. Unlike highly-partitioned cloud environments with no shared resources and thus low security risks, highly secured shared resources are the power behind z/OS.

The Open Mainframe Project already has more than 45 business and academic leaders from the mainframe community that collaborate to develop shared tool sets and resources. It also now includes EPAM Systems, a global provider of digital platform engineering and development services, and IN-COM, a leader in powerful application understanding tools.

It all goes to show that mainframes are not the locked-away out-of-date servers that many people seem to think they are. As we know only too well, mainframes are not only embracing the future, but in many ways leading us towards it. IBM has recognized the value of the cloud and how edge devices can be integrated with mainframes. And the Open Mainframe Project, which it is a part, is making mainframes accessible by people with IT skills, just not necessarily having previous mainframe experience.

Roll on the third Open Mainframe Summit next year and let’s see what other developments have occurred during the intervening year.

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