State of the Open Mainframe 2021

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By John Mertic and Maemalynn Meanor

The mainframe is a foundational know-how that has powered industries for many years, together with authorities, monetary, healthcare, and transportation. With the assistance of surrounding communities, the applied sciences constructed round this platform have paved the way in which for the emergence of a brand new set of applied sciences we see deployed right this moment. Notably, a big variety of mainframe applied sciences are profoundly embracing open supply.

The mainframe has a practice of getting an open person group going again to SHARE within the Nineteen Fifties. A bunch of mainframe technologists got here collectively in Los Angeles, California, to share ideas, insights, and, sure, code for the newly launched IBM 701 laptop system. SHARE was very seemingly the primary open supply software program group.

Over time, this person group met recurrently to share and collaborate on utilizing the IBM 701 and subsequent methods. The “code” that got here collectively was freely shared between mainframe operators and builders. Because the years handed, it was rapidly realized that there was a have to curate this code right into a repository that others within the business might use. 

Arnie Casinghino, Circa 2011

Arnold “Arnie” Casinghino was one of many first to acknowledge the necessity to collaborate. In 1975, he started to curate scripts and instruments into the CBT Tape venture (CBT standing for the title of Arnie’s then-employer, the now-defunct Connecticut Financial institution and Belief Firm). customers at the moment would ship Arnie a letter with a number of {dollars} to request a tape, a way of distribution that carries on to right this moment regardless that most customers obtain the newest launch from their web site.

Casinghino’s imaginative and prescient culminated right into a venture that continues right this moment and is now hosted on the Open Mainframe Undertaking underneath the management of Sam Golab.

As Linux started to take the world by storm within the Nineteen Nineties, a small group of mainframe lovers began experimenting with Linux on IBM System 390 (a beforehand present era of mainframe {hardware}). During the last 20 years, others like Hitachi and Fujitsu additionally invested in enabling open supply and Linux on their mainframe platforms. Linux on mainframe marked its official begin on December 18, 1999, with IBM publishing a group of patches and additions to the Linux 2.2.13 kernel. 

The 12 months 2000 introduced momentum to Linux on the mainframe. The primary true “Linux distribution” for these methods got here in early 2000 as a collaboration between Marist Faculty in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Assume Blue Linux by Millenux in Germany. By October of that 12 months, SUSE turned the primary vendor-supported Linux Distribution, within the first launch of what’s now often known as SUSE Enterprise Linux. SUSE’s first s390x distro represented an early instance of mainframe main the way in which within the evolution of computing know-how.

At present, 9 identified Linux distributions at present present an s390x structure variant.


The growth of the mainframe as a platform for Linux continues to be nurtured within the Open Mainframe Undertaking, with key tasks outlined under serving to Linux on the mainframe proceed to be a platform utilized by Fortune 100 corporations worldwide.

Feilong, which supplies an interface between z/VM (the first hypervisor for mainframe, is straight based mostly on know-how and ideas courting again to the Nineteen Sixties) and fashionable cloud stack methods reminiscent of OpenStack, is collectively developed by IBM, SUSE, and others.
Tessia is a software that automates and simplifies the set up, configuration, and testing of Linux methods working on the Z platform.

COBOL, which stands for “Frequent Enterprise-Oriented Language,” is a compiled, English-like laptop programming language developed to be used as a enterprise purposes language. Its roots return to the Nineteen Fifties, and COBOL remains to be incessantly utilized in many industries for key purposes.

The COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020 put excessive ranges of stress on numerous authorities companies because of the unprecedented variety of unemployment purposes and different related wants. This put the highlight on COBOL, because it was then the predominant know-how used for these methods. This additionally highlighted the perceived lack of expertise to help these methods, which have code going again to the Nineteen Sixties. 

The huge COBOL and mainframe communities rapidly addressed this want and made a number of efforts to supply a sustainable house for COBOL.

Calling all COBOL Programmers Discussion board – an Open Mainframe Undertaking discussion board the place builders and programmers who wish to volunteer can put up their profiles or can be found for rent. Whether or not they’re actively searching for employment, retired expert veterans seeking to keep concerned, college students who’ve accomplished COBOL programs, or are professionals eager to volunteer, the discussion board provides the chance for job seekers to specify their degree of experience and availability to help. Employers can then join with these people as wanted. 

COBOL Technical Discussion board – a brand new discussion board created particularly to deal with COBOL technical questions by which skilled COBOL programmers monitor exercise. The discussion board permits all programmers to rapidly study new strategies and draw from a broad vary of group experience to deal with widespread questions and challenges exacerbated throughout this unprecedented time. 
Open Supply COBOL Coaching – the Open Mainframe Undertaking Technical Advisory Council has authorised internet hosting a brand new open supply venture that may lead collaborative efforts to create coaching supplies on COBOL. The courseware was contributed by IBM based mostly on its work with shoppers and establishments for larger schooling and is offered underneath an open supply license. 

These initiatives have been adopted by a proper COBOL Working Group established later in 2020 to deal with the long-term challenges in constructing a sustainable COBOL ecosystem. 

In early 2021, consideration turned to the tooling ecosystem for COBOL builders with the launch of the COBOL Examine venture. This initiative permits test-driven improvement (TDD) practices for COBOL by offering a unit testing framework.

Historically, organizations have been challenged by integrating mainframe purposes and knowledge with the opposite methods that energy their enterprise. This integration job additional created a expertise improvement problem, because the paradigms between mainframe and different enterprise computing methods differed sufficient to make expertise not simply transferable.

Broadcom, IBM, and Rocket Software program noticed this problem and independently developed numerous frameworks to shut this hole with the mainframe improvement expertise. These embody:

An API Mediation Layer for standardizing the API expertise for mainframe purposes and companies
A CLI software that could possibly be run on a developer’s laptop computer or different non-mainframe methods and used for DevOps tooling integration.
A Internet Desktop interface to make it simpler to develop web-based purposes that leverage mainframe companies and knowledge utilizing widespread improvement toolkits.

These elements got here collectively in August 2018 in Zowe, which was the primary open supply venture launched that focused the z/OS working system (the predominant working system on mainframe methods). The intention of bringing this venture into the vendor-neutral Open Mainframe Undertaking was to ascertain Zowe because the dominant improvement and integration software for mainframe methods, aligning the mainframe group round Zowe.

After Zowe 1.0 was launched in February 2019, the venture rapidly turned to allow a downstream ecosystem of vendor choices to flourish by establishing the Zowe Conformance Program in August 2019. So far, there are greater than 50 Zowe Conformant choices from 6 completely different distributors within the mainframe business.

As well as, Zowe has introduced new tasks into its scope, with the next incubator tasks as of August 2021:

ZEBRA, which supplies re-usable and business compliant JSON formatted RMF/SMF knowledge information in order that many different ISV SW and customers can exploit them utilizing open-source SW in some ways (contributed by Vicom Infinity).
Workflow WiZard helps builders and methods programmers simplify the era and administration of z/OSMF workflows (contributed by BMC).

Zowe boasts greater than 300 contributors with greater than 34,000 contributions as of August 2021.

One of many preliminary initiatives of the Open Mainframe Undertaking was to ascertain a path to onboard college students into the mainframe group, aligning with the present curiosity in open supply improvement. Moreover, with the expansion of open supply on the platform, there was a necessity for maintainers for these tasks with mainframe expertise.

The Open Mainframe Undertaking launched its first mentorship program in 2016, with seven college students making contributions to the open supply ecosystem on the mainframe. So far, greater than 50 mentees have participated on this program, making vital contributions to tasks reminiscent of:

This summer time, the Open Mainframe Undertaking welcomed a file 14 mentees throughout the globe that had mentors in a number of tasks together with a number of new ones reminiscent of ATOM, COBOL Programming Course, COBOL Working Group, Mainframe Open Training, Polycephaly, Software program Discovery Device, and Zowe. 

The mentorship program has enabled these college students to change into a part of the long run mainframe expertise, with mentorship graduates now in developer roles at ADP, IBM, SUSE, and others. 

The mainframe has seen a resurgence prior to now 5 years, with the launch of the Open Mainframe Undertaking and the business coming collectively in key open supply tasks within the COBOL, Linux on System Z, and z/OS ecosystems. The Open Mainframe Undertaking hosts greater than 20 tasks and dealing teams supported by over 45 organizations as of August 2021, with no indicators of slowing anytime quickly.

Learn extra in regards to the Open Mainframe Undertaking within the 2020 annual report, and be a part of us at Open Mainframe Summit on September 22-23, 2021.

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