Guest blog from Daniel Jast – IBM Z Systems Technical Specialist
The Poughkeepsie Client Experience Center recently hosted the annual IBM Z Summit Program Technical training event titled, zModernization Summit Event. At the training event, we provided 20 of the new IBM Technical Sellers in Z with hands on training in some of the “modernizing” applications on Z. These technologies included CICS, DB2, z/OS Connect, z/OSMF Zowe, Spark, ICP, Docker and more. The week let participants take a cobol application running on z/OS, expose the applications services into APIs, and then create a containerized application with those APIs which was then deployed out to the IBM Cloud. The application that was being run was a stock trading application which allowed users to create an investment portfolio, add stocks to the portfolio, and so on. We then let users get a hands-on experience on the Zowe Desktop and CLI, seeing how easy and simple completing complex z/OS tasks can be for new users by utilizing Zowe.
On the Zowe Desktop, we had created an IFrame application that had the Jupyter Notebooks running right on the Zowe Desktop. Jupyter Notebooks are used to exploit Spark to analyze data sources of your choosing. We had the Jupyter Notebooks analyzing Investment portfolio data which the users had created unknowingly as they worked through the technical labs throughout the week of training.
Training participants thoroughly enjoyed the Zowe and Jupyter Notebook piece. After getting previous training on “green screen” interfaces to z/OS, the Zowe Desktop and Zowe CLI were very well received. The audience was majority straight out of college, matching the target audience for the Zowe platform. When participants were asked what their highlights and key takeaways from the week of training were, some mentioned Zowe explicitly:
“Being able to learn more about Zowe and more innovative technologies integrated with Z.”
“Highlight: Zowe presentation!”
“My favorite (presentation) was the Zowe presentation”
“I think I really enjoyed learning about Zowe, and the hands on lab are super helpful in understanding!”
We are excited to introduce the 2019 Open Mainframe Project interns! This year, we welcome 9 global students – each paired with mentors from OMP member organizations such as Red Hat, IBM, Sine Nomine Associates and SUSE who designed a project to address a specific mainframe development or research challenge.
Welcome interns and we can’t wait to see what you do this year! Here’s a look at this year’s students:
Name: Priyanka Advani
Project: The Compliance Project
Priyanka is pursuing Master’s in Computer Science from Santa Clara University and has 7 years of experience working in mainframe industry. During her industry experience, worked on Insurance and Banking Industry in Test Data Management, ETL Process, Database Refreshes, Data Obfuscation, and many Z-series Automation and Development projects. Prior to that, she received her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from India. She is a core technical person by heart and always excited to learn new things.
Name: Kautilya Tripathi
Project: The DockerHub Development Stack
Kutilya Tripathi is a Backend developer who is also known as knrt10 in the open source community. He has learned most of his developer skills while working on personal open source projects or contributing to open source organizations on GitHub. He values open source because for him it’s a way to give something back to the community. He has a wide online presence and an active contributor to open source organizations. You can follow him on Github(knrt10) to learn more about his ongoing open source projects.
Name: Naveen Naidu
Project: Boost Context Module Implementation for s390x
Naveen is a third year Computer Science Undergraduate from Bangalore, India. He goes by the name @Naveenaidu on the internet. He’s inquisitive by nature and has a burning desire to explore various fields to help people benefit from technology. He is an open source aficionado and is the core-developers team of coala(an open source static analytic tool). He also was the 2018’s Google Code In mentor for coala.
When Naveen is AFK (Away from keyboard), he spends his time giving talks and conducting workshops promoting the Open Source Community and it’s advantages. He loves watching animated movies and reading Fantasy Fiction( Lord of Rings being his favorite).
Name: Vedarth Sharma
Project: The DockerHub Development Stack
Vedarth is a very enthusiastic person. Whenever he sees something new he tries to learn more about it. He has been contributing to open source for last two years. He got to learn so much from different projects that he has contributed to and is still finding it interesting to explore new projects. He loves programming and keeping up with new technologies is his hobby.
Name: Yash Jain
Project: Zowe Features Addition
Yash Jain is an software engineering intern with the Open Mainframe Project working on Zowe Feature Addition. He has contributed to Kata containers and has worked on VesitLang, a teaching aid which provides visualization for common graph algorithms. He is a computer engineering student at the University of Mumbai, India. Apart from programming, he loves to play chess and has also participated at the Commonwealth Chess Games.
Name: Usman Haider
Project: Zowe Features Addition
Usman Haider is a graduate student and has experience in programming languages including Python, C, C++, Qt, Typescript, HTML and shell scripting. He is a user and programmer of FOSS for more than 5 years. He loves to contribute in open source projects. He participated in Google Summer of Code and contributed his work to GNSS-SDR project. Usman is a past intern of Open Mainframe project. He is a member of Linux Academy. Usman has just started his journey in mainframe and is interested in Zowe development. Among his interests are Linux development, embedded Linux development, open source software development and packaging, machine learning, and cloud technologies.
Name: Shivam Singhal
Project: The Compliance Project
Shivam is an avid open source contributor. He is 3rd year CSE bachelor student.He is bug squasher @ Mozilla Addons Ecosystem, Mozilla Reps and part of the Featured Add-ons Advisory Board. He loves to hack Firefox Rendering Engine. He lives on internet by the name `championshuttler`. He loves to meet new people, connect, discuss, network and grow, mostly at conferences and tech meet-ups. Most of his weekends spend in Hackathons.
Name: Sladyn Nunes
Project: Big-Endian Support for BoringSSL
Sladyn Nunes is a third year CSE Undergrad from Mumbai University. He enjoys contributing to open source projects and has contributed to coala and honeynet as well as famous repos like git-bug. He has an affinity for competitive programming and the adrenaline rush it brings. He goes by the name sladyn98 on the internet.
Name: Dan Pavel Sinkovicz
Project: Cloud Foundry Operator for Kubernates on Z
Dan Pavel Sinkovicz is a Computer Software Engineering student at the University of Northampton.
Learn more about the mentors and the project here.
Guest blog from Kun LU, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Director of Innovation Practice Center, School of Software Technology – Dalian University of Technology – China
When it comes to the Best DevOps Open Source Project, do you think it has anything to do with the IBM mainframe? Well, it does. Open Mainframe Project’s Zowe, the first open source project based on z/OS, was named as a one of the finalists for the “Best DevOps Open Source Project” category by Devops.com. Zowe is an open source software framework that provides solutions that allow development and operations teams to securely, manage, control, script and develop on the Mainframe like any other cloud platform. Leveraging the Zowe framework, we (DLUT) plan to develop and contribute a few tools to Zowe to help developers be more efficient, productive and agile in their daily work on z/OS.
We will work closely with IBM CSL CICS team and expect to deliver the following tools as Zowe plugins for CICS customers, first for the China market, in 3Q/4Q this year.
CICS Statistics Visualizer plugin
In the past, CICS health status check needs to be done manually by CICS experts who have profound CICS skills and experience. The workflow includes understanding the system design, configuring CICS statistics programs and collecting CICS statistics data from CICS sample region at service peak time by uploading statistics data and analyzing the data, and finally generating reports and diagrams. With CICS Statistics Visualizer plugin on Zowe Web UI, all the work can be done automatically. The plugin also supports statistics data comparison of a single region at different time intervals, which can largely simplify the work the customer used to do before to monitor and analyze the system, like CICS health status change after CICS upgrade or configuration change, the trend of system resource utilization over time etc. Furthermore, key CICS health indicators can also be queried by a simple shell command line through Zowe Command Line Interface (CLI).
CICS Liberty Debugging Assistant plugin
In the past, the customer needs to collect and store a list of debugging information from different storages and locations to troubleshoot a CICS Liberty problem. This includes CICS Job log from mainframe JES, JVM profile and Liberty configuration files, STDERR/STDOUT/JVMTRACE files and Liberty output files like messages.log, trace.log and ffdc from zFS, MVS system dump accompanying with JAVADUMP, SYSDUMP and CEEDUMP dumps depending on the problem. In addition, CICS trace level needs to be configured and Interactive Problem Control System (IPCS) must be used to format the unformatted dumps. With CICS Liberty Debugging Assistant plugin, all the debugging related configuration, debugging information collection and dump formatting can be done conveniently by one-click operation.
CICS Application CI/CD plugin
Nowadays, CI/CD is widely used in software development. More and more customers have increased demand on the z/OS development CI/CD to modernize the mainframe development, integrate with the distributed platform development, and assist the full stack developer to work with the mainframe services. Zowe acts a good platform to eliminate the operation gaps to enable the z/OS development CI/CD, which provides some plugins like CICS and DB2 plugins to help simplify the application development. As Git is widely being used for the distributed development, to centralize the code management, Zowe plugins (or cli) can be built for mainframe DevOps, like:
Trigger the build automation and end to end test automation (e.g. online COBOL or batch COBOL)
Trigger the env update when there is a CICS or DB2 configuration update
This blog was written by Andrew Smithson, an active member of Open Mainframe Project’s Zowe community and technical lead for z?OS Connect Enterprise Edition. This blog originally ran on IBM Developer’s website and can be found here.
One of the key features of Zowe version 1 is the API Mediation Layer which provides a single place where you can find all the APIs that are available on your mainframe and access them from a single well known HTTP endpoint. When you first install Zowe, you get the APIs for working with data sets, Jobs, z/OS MF and the API mediation layer itself. If you want to add your own APIs, such as the administration APIs for a z/OS Connect EE server, you can use Zowe to add an existing API without having to change anything in the server that provides the API.
The configuration file contains the information about the server that is displayed in the API Catalog as well as the URI the server is available on. This file is then placed in the config/local/api-defs directory inside the API mediation layer installation directory. The API can be made live by sending an HTTP POST request to the /discovery/api/v1/staticApi of the discovery service. If you use the httpie client, the following command can be used.
http POST https://<hostname>:<port>/discovery/api/v1/staticApi
Written by Kuang Jian, Dean of School of Software Engineering, BUPT
This is a guest blog post by Kuang Jian, Dean of School of Software Engineering at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (BUPT), a university directly under the administration of the Ministry of Education (MoE) and co-built by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology(MIIT) in China. It is a comprehensive university with information technology as its main feature, engineering and science as its main focus and a combination of engineering, management, humanities and sciences as its main pursuit, which becomes an important base for fostering high-tech talents.
This blog will provide an overview into how BUPT works with the IBM China University Program and how students were introduced to Open Mainframe Project’s Zowe, an open source software framework for the mainframe that strengthens integration with modern enterprise applications.
Dean Kuang, students & IBMers at the IBM China Systems Lab
BUPT established a partnership with IBM China’s University Program in1996 and has participated in several of the program’s initiatives. In fact, the team from the School of Software Engineering in BUPT won the second place award in the ICBC-IBM FIN-Tech Contest in 2018.
Through the FIN-Tech contest experience, we had some basic knowledge of IBM Z and learned the value it brings to the market. Unlike distributed platforms such as Linux, it’s not easy for students in a university to have hands-on experience on the mainframe. So when Open Mainframe Project’s Zowe was introduced to us, we found it very attractive and wanted to know more.
From initial research, we learned Zowe was released last August to break the silo and reduce the steep learning curve of IBM Z. The Zowe framework provides interoperability and using the latest web technologies among products and solutions from multiple vendors. It helps enable developers to use the familiar, industry-standard, open source tools to access mainframe resources and services. An innovative framework based on a modern technology stack, Zowe provides the perfect opportunity for students to become the next generation of mainframers.
In addition to learning more about Zowe, the IBM China Systems Lab invited us to visit the China Systems Center for a mainframe tour. It was an amazing experience that inspired our students to join the Zowe community.
IBM Z expert introducing IBM Z14 and Storage DS8000 to Dean Kuang & students
We are collaborating with IBM to develop a native Zowe application plugin with configurable page and widgets to view data provided by IBM Z automation and monitoring products. We recently kicked off this project with three postgraduate students, who have already been assigned to work together with IBM advisors. We believe our students can complete the project successfully with their passion and the support from IBM and Open Mainframe Project. We are also eager to extend our knowledge and skill to open source and IBM Z and contribute code back to the Zowe community. Stay tuned for more details and updates…
Joe Winchester, Senior Technical Staff Member of IBM gives details on the feedback that was received during the recent “Play Forward” open call for The Open Mainframe Project’s Zowe framework. Joe also explains how the Zowe onboarding squad is looking to engage Zowe users with its “Componentize, Update, Package, Install, Distribute, Support” initiative to improve the Zowe installation process.
New releases of Zowe are fresh installs that are unable to share configuration and customization of previous releases.
Configuration data is held in the same directory as the runtime. In order to launch multiple Zowe instances on different ports or different configurations requires different full installs
The lack of an enterprise installer inhibits deployment into production without install history auditing, rollback, and other features that SMP/e provides.
There is no prescribed location that a single shared and managed Zowe release gets installed into an LPAR that can be shared by different tools wishing to extend that single base. Without this there is the risk of a proliferation of Zowe instances on an LPAR. This widens the number of Zowe instances requiring maintenance and support as well as undermining the cross tool integration that is one of Zowe’s core goals.
Zowe brings up many address spaces for functions that not all customers wish to use. Customers have asked for a more modular startup process as well as the ability to lifecycle address spaces independently similar to a micro-service runtime stack.
Customers want the choice to consume Zowe releases, including PTFs and APARs, from commercial companies who extend Zowe through the support channels of the commercial company they have a relationship or contract with, but without impacting the ability to blend the solutions from commercial companies across a shared core Zowe software stack.
The onboarding squad in the Zowe project, which is a sub-group within the Zowe project that focuses on helping those new to Zowe with getting it successfully installed, is looking to improve this. Under an effort called “Componentize, Update, Package, Installl, Distribute, Support”, the onboarding squad wants to engage anyone who has installed Zowe to contribute to making the install experience better. Specific ideas being discussed include:
Provide an SMP/e distribution with the ability for z/OS customers to consume base Zowe as well as apply PTFs and APARs.
Separate runtime from launchtime data, with configuration variables being specified in a PARMLIB member so that independent launches of Zowe can be run with isolated ports and dynamic environment data
Allow Zowe to be started in a more controlled way so that individual microservices can be independently started and stopped without bouncing the entire started task.
Allow Zowe’s core function to be extended with new API servers and desktop applications at launch time without the base Zowe file structure requiring modification
Being an open source project means everyone can contribute to Zowe’s success, and this is a great opportunity to get started. Even if you can’t make the call, join the #zowe-onboarding channel on Slack or submit issues to the Install GitHub Repo to also participate in this work.
This blog originally ran on the IBM Developer blog. You can view the blog here.
In today’s episode of the “I Am A Mainframer” podcast, Steven Dickens sits down with Usman Haider. Usman is a masters student at NUST University in Pakistan and an alumni of the Open Mainframe Project internship program. Usman tells Steven about his experience in the program, his thoughts about the mainframe, and it’s future.
Steven Dickens: Hello, my name is Steven Dickens and you’ve tuned into the I Am A Mainframer podcast, brought to you by the Linux Foundation. We’re a collaborative project under the Linux Foundation focused on the mainframe platform. And I’m joined today by Osman Haider who’s one of our former interns and who’s also loved the experience so much the discipline for this year’s internship program. Usman’s a master student at Nest University in Pakistan. An end to end developer who’s got experience with several programming languages. I’m really excited to talk to us as men. Usman, welcome to the show.
Usman Haider: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today.
Steven: Fantastic. Usman tell the listeners and me a little bit about yourself. Tell us a little bit about your background and what you’re doing out there in the community.
Usman: So I am basically an electrical engineer. I did my bachelor’s in 2011 and since then I’ve been developing software in different programming languages. I’m an electrical engineer, but my interest in software is growing because of the open source community. And I love to contribute to open source projects and technologies, and my main interests are Linux development open source software development packaging cloud technologies software development for embedded systems. Currently, I am working towards overdevelopment I am and I am really interested in that.
Steven: Oh, fantastic. So interesting background not been in the industry that long, which is always good to hear. Tell me a little bit about how you got interested in the mainframe.
Usman: So, I am basically using Linux for more than five years. Last year when I was looking for an open source project to work during the summer, I came across a blog post and there was a topic that was mentioning the Master the Mainframe contest. So, I read the read about that and I started using the Z/OS system. And then I got to learn about the mainframe systems. That’s how I got inserted in mainframe, it’s power, it brings to the table, and the security. That was really when I decided to join the mainframe community.
Steven: Tell me a little bit about how you found the Master the Mainframe contest what your perspective was getting onto the platform and how you really found that as an on-ramp into the technology.
Usman: So I really like the idea about the contest, because it gives you a hands-on experience. It gives you access to the platform in a way that you don’t get. You don’t get access to Z/OS or the mainframe. For example, Linux architecture or the x86 machines are everywhere, but the Z systems or the mainframe systems are very hard to find. You don’t have any online access to those systems. So for students, it is a very good opportunity to get hands-on with the mainframe architecture and the z/OS.
It also covered all the technologies. So, I really the mainframe and I recommended it to other students as well and I am planning to do this again next year.
Steven: Oh, fantastic. So, you’re looking to enter the competition again next year?
Usman: Yes. And I’m also telling other students to go look for the contest and get hands-on with the mainframe contest, because I came to know that this skill is valuable. You can get people that know c++, Python, & x86. But this skill, I find it rare. So that’s why I am telling my fellow students and my fellow colleagues as well to really get hands-on with this.
Steven: Fantastic. So, you were an alumni of the Open Mainframe Project internship program, which just I think closed the applications for 2019. Could you give us a perspective of how you found that program what you were working on, and what your project was like?
Usman: So, I like the whole process of that internship program right from the student application to selection and to the completion of the internship program. The application process is very easy and consisted of answering a few questions only. You just have to give a few details about the project you are proposing. So, it’s not very hard for a student to apply. It’s not very time-consuming. So, it’s very easy for the students to apply and also there are a lot of good projects for students to choose from. There was information about the mentors, so they can always contact their mentors and see if a project fits their skill. So, my past experiences are very good.
I really like the idea of the kickoff call where all the selected students interact with each other. They tell each other about their skills and what projects they will work on. So, everyone knows who will be working on which project which is very good.
Steven: So I know to see it in the notes that was shared before us joining the podcast together that you did some really cool projects in your internship. Could you maybe share what you were doing with some of the listeners, so they can get an awareness of some of the projects that you were involved in?
Usman: So I selected the project that was titled “Increase the number of s390x packages in SUSE Package Hub Project”. Although I had development and very basic software packaging experience, I never used something like Open Build Service. Open Build Service is a platform that allows you to package your software for different architectures and different distributions. So, a large number of developers are using OBS for packaging and many companies are also making use of it. So obviously it is a very active IRC channel and community, and they collaborate very well. So, I saw this as an opportunity to learn from and interact with experienced individuals and professionals.
So, during the internship, I worked on packaging the open source software for the s390x architecture. The main idea was to select different software packages like Zabbix, Icinga and Cacti that are monitoring packages, and to build and test those packages for S390X architectures For that testing, I got online access to the S390C machine using the IBM community cloud. I built all the software and then I deployed the software on the s390X. Then I tested the software, removed any bugs or reported any potential bugs to the community of mainframers.
There are a lot of open source packages available for Linux and what we were targeting in that project was to pull those packages to s390x as much as we could. So we were four students that were working on that project and we have all contributed a large number of packages. People can use those packages on S390 X machines. All those packages are available now on OBS and anyone can use them.
Steven: Fantastic. So it sounds like you had a packed few months. What were the biggest challenges that you faced and kind how did you overcome them?
Usman: The biggest challenge as an intern was to get started. There were a lot of projects and the biggest challenge was selecting the right project. But after that, there was a great mentorship from my mentor. He worked at SUSE as an engineer and he really helped us a lot. Everything worked as planned. So, there were no problems during the internship. So, the only challenge I think, was the project selection, because there were so many group projects and good mentors.
Steven: Okay. So, I noticed here in some of the notes that you’ve started to get involved in the Zowe community and that you’ve started to contribute and engaged there. How’s that been as a new platform to really get involved with? Obviously, it looks like you’ve done some good work in the Linux space. How are you finding that sort of front end to the z/OS environment, IE: Zowe?
Usman: So after I went through the Master the Mainframe contest, the feed it gives you is not very user friendly. It’s a black screen and you get to use a keyboard, and you navigate from using the keyboard. But after getting to know about Zowe in the last open source conference in Anambra, IBM introduced to Zowe. I really like the interface.
The reason why I’m so excited is that it is going to change the feel of the mainframe. I see this could be a big shift. It can attract more users and more customers. The purpose of Zowe I think is to make the platform more accessible. But in the meantime, we should not compromise on the scalability and security or any other useful feature that the platform is currently providing.
So, I think Zowe will bring in contribution from the large open source community because it’s an open source project. All of the open source developers can contribute and there is access to the Zowe machine. I think this can lead to potentially increase the number of consumers as well. So that’s why I’m really interested. We can make a big shift in the mainframe.
Steven: That’s an interesting perspective I think even with your insight, you’re spot on with where the community sees in that platform and the impact it’s going to have on both the existing mainframe clients but also bring in new clients into the platform.
So one of the questions I always ask my guests on the show is, where do you see the platform in two to three years time? How do you see some of the shifts we’re seeing in the mainframe space?
Usman: The mainframe in two or three years will be about adding security, the Internet of Things. The machine learning internet of things. Everything is connected, so that’s security’s main concern.
With the IoT and machine learning coming, you need a computational power as well. So, the mainframe is providing you both the computational power and security. The two main technologies you need in two to three years. I have seen technologies at the open source summit, the machine learning things on the IBM platforms, the speech to text things and the image recognition things on the IBM mainframe platforms. So I really see mainframe growing in these two fields. So I really see a big boost or increase in two, three years.
Steven: Yeah, we tend to see the same thread. I mean, it’s interesting seeing have clients are picking up on that security thread. I was reading an interesting piece that says your organization is either a data securer or a data abuser. I think a lot of people are going to see themselves on either side of that. People are going to choose who they place their business with depending on whether people are a data securer or an abuser. I think obviously we see the mainframe as a platform to enable people to secure their data provide that trust that clients.
So, as we start to wrap up. Is there anything else you want to share with the group before we bring this to a close? Are there any other parting comments?
Usman: One thing I want to mention is that there is not so much awareness in students and universities about the mainframe. Maybe I am wrong, but that that is what I think. When I attended the conference last year, I met people from different universities. There were people from 80 countries at the last Open Source Summit and I discussed mainframes with them, and there were I think only 10% of people who really knew about the mainframe. So, I wanted to highlight this point that if there could be a promotional campaign or some awareness. The community is already doing great. They are very welcoming to new people, but maybe if something can be improved, about the awareness of the mainframe and the access to the mainframe can be useful for the mainframe and the community as well.
Steven: You’re taking a part in that promotion today by spending some time with us on the Open Mainframe Project podcast. So, thank you for helping us get the message out Usman. It’s been great to talk to you. Thank you very much for your time today.
Usman: Thank you so much. Thank you for giving me your time and for giving me the opportunity to talk about the mainframe.
Steven: So thank you for listening. My name is Steven Dickens. I’ve been your host today. I’ve been joined by Usman Haider who’s one of the great community members impacting how this platform is perceived out there in the academic community and in the community as a whole. Hopefully, we’re going to be seeing a lot more advertisement as he continues to expand these efforts. Please subscribe to this podcast for future episodes. And with that, I’ll bring today’s episode to a close. Thank you for joining us on The Open mainframe project. I’m a mainframe or podcast.
Written by James Grant from Open Spectrum Inc. & advocate for the Open Mainframe Project
Hello Raleigh and the rest of the world! We are excited to announce the official launch of ‘The Raleigh Mainframe Meetup Group‘. We created the Raleigh Mainframe Meetup group for a couple of reasons:
The mainframe has been and continues to be, the host for the majority of mission-critical applications in Financial Services, Healthcare, Government, Education, etc.
There is a demand in the Raleigh community for education and access to mainframe platforms and mainframe development tools.
We will be hosting and organizing three mainframe meetups for 2019 in the Raleigh area that will showcase the value of the mainframe from a technical and business perspective. We will focus on the following industries:
Education & Academia – Bring awareness to the open mainframe project and help future developers build skills utilizing the tools available with the open mainframe project.
Healthcare, Biotech, Life Sciences – How healthcare, life sciences, biotech are using cognitive technologies available on the mainframe to advance research and improve care.
Financial Services/Fintech – How fintech is leveraging the mainframe with technologies like blockchain and adding digital services to existing core banking systems that are run on the mainframe.
Each meetup will include industry experts as well as a hands-on workshop.
In the latest episode of the “I Am A Mainframer” podcast, Steven chats with Alex Kim from Vicom. Alex tells Steven about his journey to the mainframe, how The Open Mainframe Project’s Zowe framework is contributing to Vicom’s innovative VIVA project, and where he thinks the mainframe is heading in the next few years.
Steven Dickens: Hello, my name is Steven Dickens and you’re here for the I Am A Mainframer podcast, brought to you by the Linux Foundation’s collaborative project The Open Mainframe Project. I’m really glad today to have one of my good friends out there in the community. Joining us is Alex Kim who’s really a rock star out there in the community really on the cutting edge doing some cool things. So Alex, welcome to the podcast. Alex Kim: Thank you Steve, for the introduction. I’m honored Steven: The honor’s all mine. It’s really good that we finally get you on to the podcast. It’s been too long. So Alex, just get us orientated. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Give us an introduction. Let the listeners connect to who you are and really give us a perspective and get us started here, if you don’t mind. Alex: Hello everybody, my name is Alex Kim. I am a mainframe engineer and an architect. I started working as a chip designer in mainframe in IBM Poughkeepsie in 2001. I was in a team where we developed crypto express cards and I was a designer for the AES at the time. It was a new encryption algorithm standard. I moved to different development projects and then also moved to a sales organization as a pre-sale technical specialist covering the financial sector in Wall Street. I’ve been with IBM premier vision partner Viacom Infinity for about five years now working with various clients. There are nice teams in here and we’re still at IBM and working with IBM teams like Steve and working on a lot of fun projects. Steven: You’ve been too humble there my friend. There’s some really good stuff that I know you’re doing and we’ll come back to that later on in the podcast. But that’s a very humble overview of your skills. I see you as one of the guys on the cutting edge there in the community, working on some interesting stuff. So, I think it’s gonna be good. If I can get you to be a little bit less humble and tell us a little bit more about what you’re doing out there and some of the cool projects. One for me would be the crypto stuff. That’s the cutting edge and are typically the best and the brightest. So, maybe just give us a little bit about how you got started. Where you were working first on that some of that crypto technology. I know that’s getting a lot of press right now. And depending some of the cool stuff like Blockchain on the platform. So really keen to if I can get you to give a little bit of your perspective and how you got started on the platform. Alex: Sure. So I was a graduate student at Polytech University in Brooklyn, which is now part of NYU. My advisor and professor in my research plan, I was part of the chip design lab. It was around 1999 and 2000. I think at the time the encryption standard was Triple DES, which is known as the Data Encryption Standard was fading out because computing power was at a point where you can break the code or in a day or so. So, there was a proposal out there from many different countries and candidates submitted. At the end, there was an aggregation selected called AES. That was the product that I worked on. One day I was walking by the library and there was IBM recruitment on campus, and they are giving a pizza away. So, I went there for pizza and I started talking to our recruiting manager. She was very interested in my research and asked me to bring the regimen the next day. So, I did and after like five months after I started working for IBM. So, I got really, really lucky. Steven: So we have a free pizza to thank for us starting your career on the platform. It’s amazing what you can get with free pizza. Alex: Oh, yeah, yeah. College kids and pizza. You can never separate them. Steven: That’s one for me to remember. Next time I’m doing a hackathon with The Open Mainframe Project. So starting off in the crypto space on a really cool project got you into the platform. Then you no longer work for IBM, you work for Vicom. Tell me a little bit about that transition and how you made the move from IBM to one of our great community members who work on the platform and really support your fun side. Alex: So, when I moved to the Wall Street clients set to support my sales team for IBM, one of my clients I was working with was supported by anIBM partner. I learned about the company, and how they assist on top of IBM Support and collaborate with it. I thinkIBMwanted to encourage a lot of partners to take more ownership. I saw the opportunity that I can contribute in that effort, and support my clients with some other skills that I had from the development experience. I was doing other things that maybe help customers to use mainframe more. So, I wanted to join the team and thankfully I was able to join. I still work with the same team from IBM, but I think I’m proud of extended team. Steven: Fantastic. The podcast is called I Am A Mainframer. You know, I think a lot of our listeners are either established on the platform or a new and trying to understand it. I’ve been really keen to get your perspective about why you see yourself as a mainframer. What got you interested? So if you could maybe give us a perspective there that would be really interesting for the listeners, I think. Alex: When I started working for IBM in 2001, the first year I learned a lot about things. The acronym was “RAS”, reliability, availability and serviceability. It’s almost engraved in my brain that anything I do, I always think about that. So, when I think about the mainframe it’s those three letters: reliability and availability and so serviceability. I was working with at the time a distinguished engineer on a RAS feature. So he’s basically with other team members the RAS theory and developed a lot of chips and mainframe architecture with that. So going to his office, looking at all this research documents that he created from the basic components into certain level to the architecture level was amazing. I think mainframe today still stands for those three letters and then it became an enterprise system or enterprise computing when I came to the field. Customers actually rely on those three things. Critical business should have those three things all the time. Steven: I agree when you speak to clients and when we speak to people on this podcast those really sort of come through. As key foundations for how they use the workloads on top of the platform, and really some of the architectural choices, the development teams, making the hardware engineering teams and ultimate those clients are when they’re architected for these workloads. I think it’d be really good to maybe share that with some of the listeners. One of the coolest things I’ve seen over the last sort of 12 months is somebody developing a voice assistant for the mainframe. I know that’s your pet project. It literally blows me away every time you demo this. So, can you just share with the listeners what you’ve developed what Viva as a project is and really what we can expect from that technology coming out over the next few months. Alex: Sure. VIVA stands for Vicom Infinity Voice Assistant. A lot of people, including myself, has a voice assistants at home. I have like six or seven Alexa ECHOs at my place. A lot of people might have Google Home and I use it daily. And I think it will be another major human interface to the computers.
The beginning of this fever project for the mainframe was starting with thinking “how cool it would be to ask a question to a device how the mainframe is doing?” Every morning I have two kids going to school, and I to clothe them properly I ask, “Alexa, how’s the weather?” Then she answers me, then I can get the information right away so I don’t have to look at my smartphone for the temperature for the weather. So, I thought it’d be cool to do that with the mainframe. I started with our summer intern in 2017. This was second year he’s come for a summer internship at Vicom Infinity. His first year, he got a project for Hyperledger which is very high level and very conceptual. So the second year he wanted to do something fun and realistic and I picked three things together. Raspberry Pi, voice recognition and RESTful API for the mainframe. So, we meshed that together and came out with something that you can ask questions about the mainframe systems. So we showed our demo to our president at the time at the end of the internship testimonial. Our president really liked it and I think he saw the potential that it could be helpful to our clients at some point. So we started investing more time and effort and came up with a more secure and more reliable usable technology so that you know we can introduce it to our clients. Steven: Fantastic. Anybody should look out for the demo of this. I think it’s a really good user interface. Not only a fun project, but I can see the business applications. And the way you demo it getting those executives to query about the mainframe performance, peak usage, your month end process in or after a busy day being able to just query the mainframe and check performance. I think it’s a really cool project. One of the other things that I know you’re heavily involved in is Zowe. I see your name more frequently than I see anybody else is probably in the Zowe slack channels. Can you just give me your perspective of Zowe and maybe if there are any connections to VIVA, of how you see that? Alex: I’m more of a user of Zowe the open source project. We really think it was a perfect moment for Viva because we ere using API connected to time to integrate many other system API’s the mainframe, but we wanted to use something free so that you don’t have to pay to start the project. When we were introduced to Zowe, I was like, “Wow, this is it. We should definitely dive in and use it”. We got it working after two months. We got a lot of help from local development teams and from overseas in the U.S. and Canada. It was great working together and they still are working together. It was a perfect match.
Steven: So where do you see Zowe going? Have you see its impact on the rest of the open source community and on the mainframe community? Alex: I think its more of a testing the water period, that a lot of people want to get some awareness, and how it’s being used with the initial packages. For example, our use cases demonstrate how you can create an API and then integrate it with some other application in your enterprise. I think as for Zowe, if people continued to demonstrate their use cases, a lot of people will have their own ideas and their own way to contribute back to the community. Steven: So it’s interesting to talk about community. We’re on the Open Mainframe Project podcast. What role do you see the OMP and the Linux Foundation playing in that mainframe community? How do you see that coming together? Alex: I think the OMP has done a great job for the past three years. It’s been great, especially for Zowe’s side was the US Open Source projects. I think there are some mainstream audiences that may want to know about this. Also, working together in the open source community will have great potential to expand mainframe users and developers. For example, having some other Linux Foundation project like Hyperledger or Let’s Encrypt, and have them integrate something with Zowe across platform development might be something good. I would love to see that happen as a personal user. And I think there will be a lot of development and collaboration on the non-mainframe side. Steven: Where do you see the mainframe platform going over the next 12 to 36 months? Where do you see for the short term and maybe medium term future? What do you see ahead for the platform? Alex: I think that the pervasive encryption topic that IBM is easy to broaden to the market really hit the hat. It couldn’t be better timing or, I shouldn’t say better because we see a lot of security breaches and I think he should, we talk about the encryption and security vulnerability, and how to how to exploit the features and how to prevent data breaches. Open Source traditionally address those areas very well. I think having OMP with the Linux Foundation focusing on the security topic over the next 36 months might be very good. I think has potential as that people will try to drive it that way. Steven: Yeah, I think it’s going to be an exciting time. I mean with what’s coming down the pipeline from some of the security guys here. You know, it’s the communities definitely digging in on this requirement. Every day you hear about a hack at there and some other companies being hacked. So, I think as we all look to engage with clients around the mainframe platform and security, that message just seems to resonate. Alex: I see a lot of our customers finally getting to the ideas and started to implement those pervasive encryption features. There’s a lot of open source out there and you can run it on any platform. So we just need to let people know that they can choose to run open source on the mainframe and then make it stronger and protect it. Steven: Yeah. That’s a foundation for me, the ability to protect that data and be able to provide a platform where you know you’ve got encrypted data. You’ve got that strong robust security at every level through the stack. That’s just foundational for me whenever we talk to clients so I’m not surprised. You say that but it but it’s reassuring to hear that. That’s coming through in your conversations out there in the community. Alex, This has been absolutely fantastic. Always a pleasure to talk to you. You’re such an innovator in the space. We talked about Viva and I recommend everybody check that out. Is there anything else you want to share with the group as we would look to wrap up? Are there any other sort of parting final comments? Alex: I really wanted to thank you, the Linux Foundation, The Open Mainframe, and the other developers of Zowe and development community for their endless time and effort putting this together. Steven: Oh it’s always a pleasure Alex. Always great to talk. So you’ve been listening to the open mainframe project. I’ve been talking to Alex Kim from Vicom about some of the great work he’s doing and how he’s innovating on the bleeding edge of voice recognition and the mainframe. Please look to subscribe and join us again for future episodes. My name is Steven Dickens. It’s been a pleasure talking to you today on The Open Mainframe Project, I Am A Mainframer podcast. Thanks for much for your time.
By Martha McConaghy, SHARE Vice President and active member of the Open Mainframe Project
For as long as I can remember, there has been a lack of representation for women in technology, especially in mainframes. Despite having a history that includes leaders such as Grace Hopper, women have typically been scarce. This is not an issue unique to mainframes or SHARE. When the Open Mainframe Project first mentioned the idea of collaborating on an initiative to support Women, SHARE quickly jumped onboard and decided that it’s time we, as an association, help change the conversation.
With the inspiration from the Open Mainframe Project, we are excited to introduce a new track at our upcoming conference, SHARE Phoenix, titled “Women in Technology.”
We hope the sessions offered at SHARE Phoenix will be the start of a longer-term initiative to develop a community that encourages women in the field, and becomes a place to find support, share best practices, and network with like-minded individuals.
Through networking opportunities, panel discussions, and sessions presented by women in the field, we hope to create an environment of mutual support among existing members, and create opportunities that will ultimately welcome more women into SHARE.
Below are a few activities you can expect to see at SHARE Phoenix, which includes kicking-off the “Women in Technology” initiative with a networking lunch sponsored by the Open Mainframe Project.