Extend mainframe investments with modern software development and DevOps solutions
Article by Nima Badiey, Global VP Alliances at GitLab
With the growing popularity of modern application design patterns and cloud-native services on hyperscalers like AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, it might seem like mainframes are no longer relevant for modern application development. However, mainframes are still used by 71% of Fortune 500 companies, handle 90% of credit card transactions, run 68% of production workloads, and continue to support 44 of the top 50 banks and top 10 insurance companies. As such, enterprise web and mobile applications rely heavily on back-end mainframe systems. But if mainframes continue to support business growth, why are mainframe skills so scarce in a global IT market?
The global IT skills shortage
IT professionals with deep mainframe knowledge and experience tend to have different skill sets. Their contemporaries, on the other hand, are new “cloud-born” developers who have been trained in new programming languages, tools, and skill sets. The skills gaps causing the shortage are further exacerbated by the custom, expensive and often inaccessible training and tools needed to master Mainframe architectures.
This creates a conundrum for organizations that still depend on mainframe technology that run mission-critical applications. As enterprises seek to modernize their infrastructure and application fleets, modernization assessments such as the 5 Rs (Refactor, Replatform, Rehost, Retain, Retire) frequently opt to “retire” traditional mainframe applications because organizations no longer have the skills and modern tools to support mainframe development.
The era of specialized development tools is over
Legacy mainframe systems often required highly specialized development tools tied to legacy application and operations models. But new developers entering the job market are learning and honing their skills on modern git-based systems, new open source runtimes, and modern DevOps practices. Highly specialized mainframe tools are often not taught or inaccessible to young developers. Additionally, developers are learning to build increasingly complex and interconnected systems that cross the boundaries between web, mobile, IoT, and edge clouds.
So how do you modernize your approach to software development and also utilize the next generation of talent in an organization dependent on mainframes and still investing in them? A hybrid approach that enables these organizations to recruit new developers and leverage contemporary, agile software development practices such as DevOps is the answer.
The advantages of a hybrid model
Cloud computing and its elasticity provide benefits for certain applications and use cases, while centralized systems like IBM Z provide benefits for high-transaction applications and use cases. A hybrid model offers developers the flexibility to compose their DevOps solution, write in the language of their choice, and deploy it in any hybrid cloud environment of their choice, increasing automation and Agile practices in their organization, while retaining their strategic mainframe. relevant system for today and tomorrow. Companies offer a complete “out-of-the-box” DevOps solution that lowers the learning curve for developers, reduces toolchain waste and tax, and offers seamless integrations.
Common Workflows Essential for Hybrid Environments
The problem some organizations face today with hybrid environments stems from a lack of standardization. Business innovation depends on the ability to quickly develop and deliver reliable software, but organizations are asking software development teams to build new applications, modernize hybrid cloud platforms, and maintain integrations with their mainframe environment. This often involves multiple teams, processes, and tools, making enterprise-wide DevOps standardization especially challenging.
As organizations adopt a hybrid infrastructure to meet their needs, it becomes extremely important to have a common workflow (and tools) for ongoing software development. The development workflow should be the same whether you’re building a cloud-native container app or refactoring an older one. In both scenarios, the same source code management, as well as Git commit and merge request workflows, should be used, regardless of the type of application code or where it is deployed. The benefit of using the same software development lifecycle methodology and tools allows an organization to drive an enterprise-wide DevOps strategy, despite skill variation.
Easing the Talent Burden
A hybrid approach can also help organizations attract, develop, and retain mainframe developers, allowing them to transition from mainframe application development projects to cloud projects and gradually learn new skills while improving employee job satisfaction. developers and ensuring that the organization is not exclusively dependent on young or more experienced developers. This has great benefits for an organization’s hiring capabilities as well as its culture. Merging disparate groups, systems, and tools into a more cohesive model can incubate innovation and foster diversity of thought; by freeing developers from legacy systems that limited their potential, they can react more quickly to new ideas.
With organizations under pressure to modernize while carefully managing costs and recruiting challenges, there’s no better time to rethink how mission-critical workloads operate and adopt a hybrid approach for mainframe systems.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Tech Wire Asia.