Written by Joe Winchester, Member of the Zowe Leadership Committee
The SHARE conference is always one of the highlights of the mainframe calendar. It began as a volunteer user group back in 1955 for IT folks to collaborate, creating the Share library that in some ways was the genesis of open source on the mainframe. It’s the birthplace of The Open Mainframe Project‘s Zowe which was first announced at its 2018 conference in St. Louis. At this year’s virtual summit, we were treated to two days of Zowe content.
On Feb 16, the Enterprise-wide track began with Gustavo de Paiva, Guilheme Cartier and Matheus Milani de Oliveria, all of whom spend a lot of their time working directly with customers in Latin America and beyond. They shared their story with demos showing integration between products and solutions, reinforcing the maturity of Zowe as being not just a bunch of cool tech (which it is) but also its business value in solving real IT problems. A hugely fun session.
Petr Vacula showed how Zowe can be used alongside test automation tools, something that’s proving very popular with customers adopting devops practices and shift testing to become more agile. Helping mainframe customers be more confident rolling out software updates to their line of businesses is key to their success, and Zowe’s ability to be leveraged for test automation is something that’s proving very popular and in-demand.
The Zowe Command Line Interface (CLI) and VS Code extension Zowe Explorer both lean down on z/OSMF REST API to serve data. Petr Plavjanik and Rose Sakach gave a great presentation around z/OSMF configuration for Zowe client-server traffic, full of tips and best practices. Watching this I was just non-stop taking notes of all the great information that Petr shared with us.
To round the day off Sean Grady gave a masterclass on the Zowe desktop showing how it can be used to perform many mainframe tasks from your fingertips and become a powerful tool in the hands of the next generation of z/OS sysprogs, sysadmins and developers. The Zowe desktop has come on hugely since its inception and the squad have done an amazing job last year to add new function and capabilities, and seeing the architect and squad lead of this take it for spin in front of us all was a real treat.
Meanwhile on the App Architecture track, I was lucky enough to co-present with my colleague Russ Bonner, a super smart CICS technical specialist who has a huge depth of experience with mainframe CICS customers. Russ gave a wonderful demo of a CICS Cobol devops scenario starting with the world before Zowe (CEMT, ISPF edit), then presented the same steps using Zowe CLI and Zowe Explorer (with the source code in PDS members), ending up with source code in github and a Travis CI pipeline driving down on the Zowe CLI. To round it all off as a bonus track we had the first public presentation of the CICS VS Code extension sample that Russ used to perform the program from within a programs list from within the extension’s VS Code view. Past, present and future of CICS development.
On Wednesday 17, (St. Patricks Day !) Dan Kelosky and I kicked off the Enterprise-wide track with a quick race around the circuit, stopping at each of the 4 Zowe components, and showcasing some of the great content that was added in 2020 (Keyrings, SSO, x509 client certificates, docker, …). Dan gave us some slick demos some of the cool stuff the CLI squad are working on with deamon mode and profile file consolidation. During the talk, the Feilong team (another Open Mainframe Project) reached out to ask us questions and this is one the things that makes conferences (virtual or face to face), so important to bring together folks from different disciplines and projects to share ideas and connect.
Bruce Armstrong, chair of the Zowe Leadership Committee, talked about the different ways that anyone and everyone can, and should, get involved with Zowe. One of the original goals of Zowe was “We are building more than technology, we are building a community” and it was great to see how this had held true to-date, with the growing set of Zowe conformance compliant badged vendor extensions (currently 56 from five different software vendors). Bruce ended with the call to arms “Come join the Zowe movement.” For those who weren’t at the session that invitation extends to everyone so please do checkout zowe.org for how to get involved at any level whether you’re a vendor, student, open source hobbyist, customer, educator, etc. All are welcome.
One of the very neat things about Zowe is how it has morphed and changed throughout 2020 and how agile the project is to change its direction based on user feedback. This is showcased brilliantly by the software development kit (SDK) talk that Mike Bauer, Tim Johnson, Ishmael Pazniak, Guilherme Cartier and Andrew Harn gave. The Node.js SDK grew out of the CLI for folks who just want to write apps that can benefit from the great core functions (token based auth, programatic facade on z/OSMF, profile management, …) but have a form factor other than CLI text or VS Code GUI. The Node.js SDK had a great year and it was wonderful to see Mike, the CLI squad lead, showing us its capabilities. Zowe has the tag lines “Open, Simple, Familiar” and the Node.js SDK makes mainframe programming familiar so folks who are skilled Node.js developers but don’t want to learn z/OS as they just write to its interfaces and can be productive out of the box. The importance of serving the developer community extends beyond just Node.js, and Cartier showed us the Python SDK while Ishmael showed us the Swift SDK that opens up the mainframe to iOS clients. Mike hinted of a possible Java SDK being considered, and I can’t wait to see how the Zowe SDK story evolves throughout 2021.
The highlight of any mainframe conference is hearing from Alex Kim, and no Zowe track would be complete without a demo of Alex talking to his Viva voice assistant asking for performance data and having it talk the result back to him. Alex introduced us to the Zebra project, (short for Zowe, Embedded Browser for RMF/SMF and APIs) which was created as part of the 2020 Open Mainframe Project mentorship program, allowing RMF or SMF data to be delivered in an industry compliant JSON format. Zebra is the newest Zowe incubator project and Alex gave us some fantastic insight and demos about its capabilities, including Zowe API Mediation Layer integration as well as some very slick rendering of performance data in Grafana (see screen shot above).
One of the great things about Zowe isn’t just the core tech is delivers but the vendor products that can be built on top. Michael Heuzey showed us how CA Sysview has a command line interface built as a Zowe CLI plugin, and how it can be used for help ticket creation as well as inclusion in devops CI/CD pipeline. A lovely way to round off the Zowe sessions.
For me, what was great with this year’s sessions is that rather than being all around what Zowe is or how it works technically, the focus was on how Zowe is being used to solve real world mainframe problems. The Zebra and SDK projects didn’t exist at the start of 2020, the Zowe Explorer (now 30k unique user downloads) didn’t exist at the start of 2019. The pace and agility of Zowe is a huge testament to the passion, skill, enthusiasm of everyone who works on the project and I can’t wait to see what 2021 will bring. As Bruce Armstrong said in his talk, ‘if you want to get involved Zowe is open source and everyone and anyone is welcome to join in and help out!’