Open Source for Mainframe

July 10, 2020

Irina Kiptikova
Corporate Communications Director
IBA Group

In our earlier video blogs on mainframe systems, we discussed why the mainframe topic is again so hot, how we can automate support of mainframe business applications, and how we apply DevOps to mainframes.

This time, I invited Sergey Beganski, head of our mainframe department that deals with new technologies, to tell us how open source technologies modernize the mainframe.

Mark Hillary, a writer and analyst focused on technology, helps Sergey share his ideas.

Mark Hillary: “When I headed a large software development team inside a bank, we transitioned all our servers over to Linux – an open source operating system. I remember finding it very hard to convince my boss that open source servers would be secure for a major international bank.”

I remember that when I headed a large software development team inside a bank we transitioned all our servers over to Linux – an open source operating system.

At the time it felt quite unusual because Linux was less than a decade old and it felt strange to be porting the bank’s trading system over to servers running on a free operating system. Now, as we all know, open source is mainstream and used across the world, but have mainframes also adjusted to an open source world?

Let’s talk now to Sergey Beganski, the head of the mainframe department that deals with new technologies at IBA Group. Sergey, it’s great to speak with you and have this opportunity to learn some more about the mainframe use of open source.

Sergey Beganski: “Projects like ZOWE attract younger generation to the mainframe platform and make it more understandable for developers. Our teams develop custom software for our clients using the ZOWE framework.”

  • Why people are interested in open source and what are the advantages?

People are interested in open source because it gives them value.  Some say it is free. I would say it is cost-effective.

If you or your company are active in the open source community, you earn good reputation. 

It is easy to adjust open source software to your needs because any developer can make changes in the code and add the required functionality.

  • I remember finding it very hard to convince my boss that open source servers would be secure for a major international bank. How reliable are the open source mainframe systems and how do you manage security?

The open source code can be even of higher quality than the traditional code because it is not a team of a few developers who work on it but thousands of developers from around the world. All of them have unique experience in different technologies, industries, and projects. As many developers check the code, they find and fix the bugs very quickly.

Open source software has strong protection. The open source community finds security holes quickly. They notify the code owner about bugs, and the owner fixes them immediately.

  • Are there any particular companies or organizations leading the push to get more open source systems on mainframes? It seems like a fairly recent trend?

Open source for mainframes has not been widely spread, but recently such mainframe players as IBM, Broadcom, and Rocket made a decision to use this approach to software development. They launched the Open Mainframe Project within the Linux Foundation to implement open source projects for the mainframe.

Currently, the biggest project of the Linux Foundation is ZOWE.

This new open source software platform enables developers to use modern tools and technologies for mainframe systems on z / OS.

  • Does the open source environment on mainframes make it easier to find skilled resource – something that is often a problem when managing mainframes?

It is no secret that one of the key problems with mainframes is that the cohort of the programmers, who can support them has been shrinking.

Projects like ZOWE attract younger generation to the mainframe platform and make it more popular and understandable for developers.

  • Have you been delivering any pilot projects for your clients or is this all just theory at present?

We at IBA are really interested in the development of open source for the mainframe. Our teams develop custom software for our clients using the ZOWE framework. Our experts study this framework and use it for some of our pilot projects.

For example, we develop a plugin for the Visual Studio Code using the ZOWE Framework to convert Assembler to C. And one of our custom projects involves development of a web interface using the ZOWE Framework    

This blog post is a part of a series of video discussions on mainframe systems. Please share your thoughts about the discussion and offer your topics for future videos by leaving your comments or suggestions here.

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