mainframe DevOps challenges | Compuware
July 3, 2018 DevOps 0 Comments

Top Five Mainframe DevOps Challenges: What Are Your Anchors?

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In the first post of this series, we talked about the top five mainframe DevOps drivers that organizations consider the wind in their sails when it comes to transformation.

This was based on our recent webcast, “Top Five Mainframe DevOps Drivers, Challenges and Solutions,” where we delved into important feedback that attendees of our IBM zTech University – London DevOps session were kind enough to share with us on this topic. Watch the webcast to learn about the top five mainframe DevOps drivers, challenges and solutions.

In this post we cover the top five mainframe DevOps challenges based on that helpful feedback, so you can use it to prepare for mainframe DevOps challenges in your own projects.

1. A Lack of Understanding of What’s Possible

Without fully understanding what can truly be accomplished on the mainframe with Agile and DevOps, you’re left wanting to make improvements but without a concrete goal for an end state. That’s why envisioning an end state is the critical first step in our eBook “Ten Steps to True Mainframe Agility.”

The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford is another great resource for growing your knowledge around Agile and DevOps. It’s a fictional tale of how a company that’s going under transforms, giving you the basic concepts behind DevOps, including “The Three Ways”:

  1. Make sure progress in the lifecycle is moving forward all the time
  2. Provide feedback as quickly and often as possible by shifting left
  3. Implement a culture of continuous experimentation and learning

2. It’s Been Working for Years, Why Change?

Mainframe culture is built on a mentality of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” It’s human nature to resist change, so DevOps leaders must ensure people recognize that change keeps your organizations ahead of the competition. In fact, you should remind your mainframe development and operations teams that they exist because of change.

You must address resistance head on by socializing the benefits of changing the ways mainframe teams work and communicating why change is necessary, so people see justification for it and the benefits it will bring. The concept of safety should be challenged, and the potential of failure from taking risks must be accepted.

3. A lot of Rhetoric but no Commitment from Leadership

Depending on where you sit in your company, you may see leaders and think they’re doing a lot of talking without making anything happen. That’s why it’s important, when introducing the idea of DevOps to your organization, that you make sure you’re continually educating everyone, including leadership if they aren’t yet driving mainframe DevOps. Persistence is key to change, so don’t give up when people don’t listen to how beneficial DevOps on the mainframe would be.

Consider also that it could be you aren’t sharing the right DevOps thought leadership with people in your organizations. Leaders want to hear about business benefits, not technology. Good leaders are good at listening and understanding, but you must couch your arguments for mainframe DevOps in ways that spike their interest.

So, rather than blaming the people in charge for not driving change on the mainframe, take the time and effort to teach the people above you about the importance of what you’re trying to do with Agile and DevOps. Don’t give up because they say no the first time—it’s part of the process of cultural change.

4. Lack of Automation

Automation is an obvious and significant limitation on the mainframe. The good news is more mainframe DevOps solutions are becoming available to enable automation for things like unit testing and deployment. However, you shouldn’t go into automation of mainframe tasks lightly:

  • Analyze your current workflow from ideation to delivery
  • Bring in an automation expert from outside your organization who hasn’t been brainwashed into believing your current process is the smartest way of doing things
  • Find friction and determine what’s slowing down your delivery cycle
  • Prioritize your findings and think about where you can make improvements along the way

As your mainframe organization matures into building more automated pipelines, those teams will accomplish certain tasks in seconds or minutes instead of hours or days. But you can’t automate everything at once, so don’t rush. Take your time, learn lessons from distributed DevOps teams in your organization and share the lessons you learn with others.

5. Constraints Within Tools

Tools are another major issue on the mainframe. Too many organizations are still providing “green screens” to next-gen developers they hire. Part of enabling mainframe DevOps is providing teams with modern tools that are intuitive and easy to use through point-and-click actions rather than command lines you must memorize. Ultimately, this allows your mainframe organization to utilize more resources throughout IT by empowering any developer to accomplish mainframe tasks.

It’s important to note DevOps is vendor agnostic, meaning you should allow your mainframe DevOps teams to select the best tools for themselves, rather than forcing them to use “good enough” tools based on procurement philosophies around cost or vendor loyalty.

Of course, you need good reasons for replacing tools, but to be truly Agile and follow a mainframe DevOps philosophy, your technology must enable those things. Modern mainframe tools allow you to integrate that platform into your organization’s existing DevOps toolchain, which will likely already include best-of-breed solutions from the distributed side that can be leveraged on the mainframe. In this way, tools can give you the opportunity to bridge the gap between mainframe and distributed teams, which must come together for true DevOps to work.

Next: Mainframe DevOps Solutions

We learned a great deal about what mainframe DevOps challenges organizations face from those who attended our DevOps session at IBM zTech University – London. Ultimately, whatever challenges you face on your DevOps journey can be overcome with the right changes to culture, processes and tools over time. We’ll cover more about some of the solutions the final post of this series.

For a closer look at how you can improve your mainframe DevOps journey, read our eBook, “How to Ditch Waterfall for DevOps on the Mainframe.”

Read the eBook

Check out the other blog posts in this series:

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Atul Bhovan and Alan Johns

Atul Bhovan and Alan Johns are both Compuware solution consultants in the UK.
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