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.
We at the Open Mainframe Project are thrilled at the technical progression and the community support of Zowe. Launched just seven months ago, we announced the 1.0.0 milestone last month and have had more than 664 downloads of Zowe to date! We’ve even seen some cool integrations – Alex Kim, a mainframe engineer and architect with Vicom Infinity, developed a VIVA, a virtual assistant for interacting with your mainframe!
You can catch VIVA in the video below – a Zowe webinar that the Open Mainframe Project hosted last month. You’ll learn more about project, get an introduction to Zowe and see a live demo of the interactive one-of-a-kind VIVA. https://youtu.be/XixEltbRmds?t=2391
As the community grows and continues to advance the support of Zowe, the project invites everyone in the mainframe ecosystem to contribute and get involved in the work. Learn more about how to become part of the community in this blog post.
We would also urge everyone using Zowe beta releases v0.8.x and v0.9.x to move to the latest v1.x.x release, as the beta releases will no longer be supported or maintained. The v0.8.x and v0.9.x releases of Zowe will not be available for download after May 31st, 2019.
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.
In our latest episode of the “I am a Mainframer” podcast, Steven chats with Andy Youniss from Rocket Software. Andy co-founded Rocket back in 1990, and has served as CEO for nearly 30 years. Andy describes how he started Rocket with a college roommate, the company’s growth and his thoughts on why mainframe is still the go-to infrastructure in 2019.
Steven: Hello my name’s Steven Dickens and you’re here on the I’m a Mainframer Podcast from the Open Mainframe Project. I’m joined today by Andy Youniss and I’m really looking forward to our conversation.
Andy’s from Rocket Software, and thousands of companies depend on Rocket Software every day to solve their most challenging business problems by helping them run existing infrastructure and data, as well as to extend those assets to take advantage of Cloud, mobile analytics, and future innovations. Andy is joining us as I say, and he was a co-founder of the company back in 1990 and has served as the CEO for over 30 years. Thanks for joining us Andy, great for you to be here.
Andy: Thanks for having me.
Steven: So Andy, we’ve known each other for a few years now, I’m looking at the introduction that the teams given me this, and just some fantastic things. I didn’t realize that you’d been the CEO with Rocket for 30 years and were a co-founder. So maybe lets start there, could you just tell me a little bit about that and how this business got into mainframes and kind of get us orientated to get us started?
Andy Yeah, going all the way to 1990, I had worked for a small start up company here in the Boston area. We were building mainframe products, products around the mainframe. They were solving really interesting problems for mainframe customers. This small start up company I worked for got bought out by a larger company down in Washington, D.C. I wanted to stay in the Boston area and I had some ideas of new products, new solutions to bring to market, and so I started Rocket with a colleague of mine, and from the very beginning we made some important decisions.
One is that we were going to begin our journey, begin Rocket Journey in the mainframe space. We knew the customers well, we knew the technology well, and we knew the types of problems that those customers wanted solved.
We also made a very important decision from the very beginning to partner with IBM. Back in 1990 we could have made other decisions, but we really wanted to stay close to IBM and IBM customers, and so those two decisions about “lets make sure we start with our footing in the mainframe space”, and “let’s make sure we start with being a good IBM partner”, those really set the direction for Rocket for the next 30 years of our journey.
Steven: Well I’m looking here, it started out from you and a colleague, and now you’re up to over 1500 employees. That must have been a pretty wild ride over the last sort of 30 years. Can you kind of give us some commentary of what that’s been as you’ve grown to that sort of size and scale?
Andy: Yeah, we started here in the Boston area, and we started hiring engineers. We were going to be a very engineering centered company, and that’s my history. I’m a software engineer, and I actually first got introduced to mainframes in the early ’80s after I graduated from college. I knew when we built Rocket, we were going to be good at a few things. One was we were going to be good at engineering, we were going to build really good products, and we were going to be good to engineers. We were going to treat engineers well.
So in our early days we were hiring engineers, we were small and we were not venture backed. We bootstrapped the company and grew as fast as we could bring on our next customer. So we grew slow and steadily and there was a time where we needed more engineers and we just couldn’t hire them fast enough. We decided maybe a strategy would be to acquire businesses that had good engineers, good engineering talents, and good products. So one of the first things again (we did) was acquire local, Boston based businesses that had good engineers, and good engineering talent. That’s one way that we have been able to grow not only our customer base and our product set, but our Rocketeers. So our growth from zero to 1500 engineers has happened organically, but it’s also happened inorganically through our acquisitions, and we’ve acquired and grown all over the world.
So even though we’re here in Boston, we have engineers in many locations including India, We have a couple of labs there in China, in the Netherlands, all throughout Europe, in Australia. So it’s been global growth and we’ve been finding great engineers and engineering talents all over the world. What’s also interesting is sometimes we acquire engineers with really strong mainframe skills, but most of the time we’re hiring good engineers, introducing them to the mainframe and they’re doing amazing things in that technology landscape once we unleash their capabilities onto that just awesome platform.
So our growth has been interesting, acquiring mainframe talent and just really good engineering talents and just letting them learn and grow in the mainframe space.
Steven: Well that’s interesting. From the way you describe it, mainframe’s been at the core of the business for 30 years, still the core of the business today. We obviously get a lot of feedback, and the industry’s got a perspective on mainframe and part of these podcasts are trying to reshape that perspective. But why are mainframes from your perspective, still the go-to platform, go-to tool, go-to sort of infrastructure for so many of the industries that we see them deployed in?
Andy: So I obviously hear this a lot, and talk a lot about this. When Rocket started in 1990, I did receive a lot of advice, an overwhelming amount of advice that it probably didn’t make sense to start a mainframe centered company around the time when client server was all the rage. My server was the next big wave and you can imagine over the past 30 years, multiple other waves have come and gone, and the general wisdom is you probably shouldn’t continue to focus on mainframe; but we look at it very differently.
As others have run away from the mainframe, we’ve actually intentionally run toward the mainframe. The reason for that is, instead of looking at general wisdom and theory and potentially large macro-trends, we look at our customers. Our customers primarily are large, global businesses. They’re focused on financial services, or insurance, or re-sell, or manufacturing, or even government services, and companies, enterprises of those shapes and sizes, and continue to do a lot of their core business on the mainframe. Over the past 30 years, the use of the mainframe in those enterprises has grown.
So the number of mainframes today may be less than what it was 30 years ago, but the amount of transaction processing, the amount of data, the amount of critical business data in operations still flows through the mainframe.
Steven: Why do you think that is Andy? Why do you think people are still kind of relying on this platform, if you will? I mean I know the answer to that, I’m sure you know the answer to that; but I think our listeners would be keen to get your perspective, why are people still seeing this as a platform that can do things that other systems can’t?
Andy: Yeah, as you know it’s multiple vectors, and you can start with any one of them, but certainly something that you hear a lot about lately. Especially since the new D14 was launched, you hear people talking about this more, you can say it starts at security. The mainframe is a trusted computing platform, it’s extremely, implicitly trusted in large enterprises, the transactions that flow through mainframes are secure. The data that flows through and is stored on or close to the mainframe is extremely secure. The horsepower on the mainframe that allows you to secure it, encrypt it, protect it is something that is really unparalleled. So it can kind of start there if you’re in an industry, if you’re in a business where it’s absolutely mission critical that the data, the transactions, are absolutely secure. Mainframe is really unlike anything else out there.
But it can also be about reliability. It can also be about availability. It could also be about scalability, and so again, depending upon how you want to approach it, the mainframe certainly provides all of that and more. So I think that’s historically what’s happened, is these large transaction processing systems, large amounts of data, I mean mainframe did big data before big data was even called big data. So all of that is why the mainframe is what it is, and then there’s so many interesting things happening now with mainframe that will ensure that it will continue to be, not only viable, but mission critical into the future.
Steven: So I mean if that’s the good news story, and obviously you know I subscribe to that view of the world, what’s the challenges? If that’s the pros column, what’s the cons column? What’s the challenges you see for the platform?
Andy: The challenges in many ways are self imposed by history and by the members in the ecosystem, people who are part of the mainframe ecosystem. What I mean by that is, we’ve all heard for so long, the mainframe is going away, et cetera, et cetera, and so you see companies saying, “Well I can’t buy mainframe skills. I can’t hire people that know the main fame.” It’s within my IT organization, my employees would rather work on something more, I’m putting quotes around this now, “Something more modern than the mainframe,” and so it’s this self fulfilling prophecy that the people have imposed on themselves; but the fact is the mainframe is as modern as any other computing platform.
The mainframe is now as open as any other computing platform, we see that at Rocket, you don’t have to be my age in 30 years to be experienced with the mainframe. You can be in high school or come out of university, and be extremely productive on the mainframe right away, because all of your favorite languages and tools are there. Now, that doesn’t get a lot of press, there isn’t a lot of marketing around that, it isn’t widely known, but if you are a data scientist, all the data science languages that you want are on the mainframe.
In fact, all the data that you want to analyze is on the mainframe and so what a perfect marriage? Why do I need to move that data somewhere else, wait for it to get there, hope it gets there in time, or in the right way, and integrate it with everything else appropriately so I can do my analytics when I can do it right on the mainframe itself? So kind of a long answer to the myth around this it’s hard to find skills, it’s hard to find people, I need to transform my IT organization because I can’t do what I need to do on the mainframe, all that has really changed I would say over the past decade, over the past 5 years, certainly over the past few years; and again we prove that every single day at Rocket.
We bring on new Rocketeers who are young, who are smart, who are incredible computer scientists, and we let them apply their skills in this amazing mainframe space and they’re productive and they do amazing things very quickly because that platform is as modern as anything else.
Steven: Yeah that’s interesting that a lot of what you said resonates for me from that kind of open source movement, that’s where a lot of the, if you will call them college kids, and younger professionals are kind of getting into the world of computer. They’re getting into that kind of open source movement, and obviously that’s why we open Mainframe Projects three years ago now to kind of intersect that part of the market.
Rocket’s a relatively new kind of member of the Open Mainframe Project, obviously as the CEO can you kind of give us a sort of brief description of where you see Open Source? How you see a community? Kind of what role you see the Open Mainframe Project playing in that?
Andy: So, Rocket has been bringing Open Source to the mainframe for many, many years. We actually started boarding popular languages and tools to the platform over five years ago. But only recently have we joined the Open Mainframe Project, and so I think we’ve been doing some work and I feel so good because now we’ve found kind of a home. We’ve found our community within the Linux Foundation, within the Open Mainframe Project. We’re now connected with other people in the ecosystem who think the way that we do, which is that we need to bring more and more open source to the platform for the good of the ecosystem, for the good of the community.
So, yeah we’re relatively new to the Open Mainframe Project, we’re thrilled to be a part of it. We probably should have found it earlier, I don’t know why we didn’t but we didn’t and now we’re here, we’re very happy that we’re here, but we absolutely believe that for the future of, really of any platform right? But mainframe for sure, openness is the key; and I guess what I find really interesting is, and again I’ve been in the space for 30 years, more than 30 years, is the members of the mainframe community, if you will, have been asking for openness for quite a while. Now with the Open Mainframe Project they’re getting it, it’s available to them, and on the one hand as an observer, it’s interesting to see how quickly the community will embrace this openness, and then what the community will do with it, and where they will bring it next.
Historically in the mainframe world, the users of the mainframe looked at the software vendors to tell them what’s going to happen next. That’s kind of reflectively the motions worked forever, you know 30, 40, 50 years in the mainframe, now it’s flipping, which is the community can decide on it’s own where it goes, and use open technology to ride in that direction,. So that’s a new motion for the community and it’ll be very interesting to see how quickly it get adopted and exploited.
Steven: One of the interesting developments for me, and I was at the pleasure of being asked to share in St. Louis when Zowe was launched, but as you say, it’s how do we bring open source in that community, sort of crowdsourcing of development and stewardship of a code base to what has been probably the most closed platform over the decades sever wise. And I think for me, that intersection of the two is really interesting, how an operating system with such rich history and has been developed so tightly in the past, is not embracing open source and that sort of crowd source community developed roadmap development, kind of focus that comes from how open source is developed.
So, I’d really be keen to get your view of kind of why did Rocket see Zowe as something that was really interesting? Is there a kind of manifestation of open source and severless? Why were you guys interested, why were you so keen to join, and maybe where do you see things going, if you can give me that as a perspective Andy?
Andy: Zowe, as you said, was really kind of announced and launched August of last year, August of 2018, but we had been working on what would become Zowe two years prior. It really came out of conversations we had with many customers, all different industries, all different geographies looking for kind of common platform capabilities that cut across products, and cut across vendors, if you will.
I think for too long customers would see products from different software vendors kind of look and feel differently, get installed differently, get consumed differently, and even within, I could tell you with our Rocket products set, and I’ll kind of pick on ourselves.Within Rocket we might have 20 different products, and they would all look and feel different, and again get kind of consumed differently; and so this desire for commonality is something we heard loud and clear from our customers and so we started on this effort within Rocket to build this common user experience using modern and open technologies, and we said, “But what if we could really solve this problem, not just for Rocket, because we’re only one small player in this really large ecosystem, what if we could really solve it for the whole community?”
And at the same time I know within IBM there were similar conversations and I know at the time within CA there were similar conversations and the three of us got together and said, “What if we brought all of this together and made it open for the good of everybody? For the good of the community?” So that’s kind of how it started, we were big believers in it. we were hoping we could get others, and we were so thrilled that IBM and CA looked at it the same way, now that Zowe is launched, it exists, it’s real. By the way, the Open Mainframe Project is the perfect vehicle from which to launch this thing. So, I mean the timing couldn’t be more perfect, and so now we’re looking for other like minded people who want to not only consume, but contribute to Zowe.
So, I think it started with the desire for commonality for modern, for open, that’s where it started and where it’s going is going to be determined by the community. That’s what I’m most excited about. I talked about Zowe many times, in front of many different audiences, and this community that hears the story, likes what they hear, sometimes a little bit confused about what they hear because they haven’t heard about openness before on the Z platform. Then they reflectively say, “Okay, what are you going to do next with it?” And I flip it back and say, “That’s not a question you can ask anymore, now it’s what can you do or what can we do next to it?”
So the more of us that embrace Zowe, the more of us then will have ideas of where Zowe goes next, and maybe it will be more about user experience, and maybe it will be more about CLI or maybe it will be more about APIs or maybe it will be about all of that. The good news to me is the community gets to decide where it goes and then we all focus our efforts on that.
Steve: Yeah, and that’s one of the questions I always like to ask in these podcasts. So I give you a crystal ball, I give you the ability to look say three or five years into the future, where do you see us landing? So what would Rocket software, the kind of open ecosystem, around the mainframe look sort of three to five years out? Where do you think we’ll end up?
Andy: What I think Zowe will allow all of us to do is to look back in five years and say, “Back in August of ’18, we started to change the conversation and now the conversation is changed, so the mainframe is considered a first class participant in any modern IT infrastructure, architecture, application landscape within a customer set.” That because of Zowe, every single modern language and tool is available on the mainframe just like it is on any other platform. And that allows IT, senior IT leaders, the business decision makers to say, “Now we can use the best tools to solve the best problems. We’ve got all those tools available to us, so we’re going to take advantage of mainframe, where mainframe makes sense.”
I think that’s the real game changer here, Zowe is going to allow the mainframe to part of that conversation, where over the past decade it just wouldn’t have been considered. Just think about it, data science can happen on the mainframe, not just because some small sector within the IT organization believes in it. But because the entire organization believes the mainframe is capable of delivering that type of value to the business, because all of the openness is there, so I think that’s looking back, five years from now looking backwards we’re going to say it all started in August of 2018 with Zowe.
Steve: Okay, that’s a fantastic perspective, and that’s where I see us ending up Andy. So, I try and as I look to wrap up, kind of ask that crystal ball question of where we’re looking going forward. Then I’d like to ask a question of I guess on the show, what would have been your advice if you’d have had the time machine to kind of go back, and I’ll pick 30 years ago, as you were starting Rocket, what advice would you have given to the 30 years younger Andy Youniss as he was looking to sort of found Rocket and start things out, what would be your advice to your younger self?
Andy: My answer is have more conviction about what you’re doing, again, we started this mainframe company in an era where everybody was focused on other things. It took us a while to really have the confidence to say, “You know what? We absolutely love the mainframe.” Our customers knew that, our employees knew that, our friends at IBM knew that, but we really didn’t tell that story loudly; but we have recently.
We absolutely love the mainframe, we love the mainframe customers, we love the mainframe community, and we’re not afraid to say that. I think if we had that confidence and conviction to say that 20 years ago, 25 years ago, that would be the advice I would give my younger self, like we knew it, we knew this was the right place to be. We knew this was the right place to make our investment, we were kind of quiet about it for a little bit too long, and now we’re not afraid, we’re not bashful about it. We love the mainframe, we love the mainframe space, and we’re going to do everything we can to continue this journey that we’re on to make the mainframe this first class participant in every IT discussion and every business around the world.
Steven: Andy in that last answer, you probably encapsulated everything I would have said in wrap up for our conversation today. That love of the mainframe platform, the desire for that to exist in an open source community and for us to plan forward to bring new people into this platform and enjoy working on the platform as much as you’ve obviously enjoyed it over the last three plus decades.
Andy it’s been absolutely spectacular to talk to you today, really enjoyed our 30 minute conversation. Is there anything you’d say as we wrap up?
Andy: Steven, I always appreciate when we get together and talk. Thank you for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing the conversation, we’ll I’m sure be together at IBM THINK in San Francisco in February and until this best of everything, we’ll see you in a few weeks.
Steven: Fantastic, thank you very much.
So that’s been Andy Youniss from Rocket Software, the CEO talking us through how Rocket is investing it the mainframe space, how he sees the business going forward, and gave us both a look forward five years, and a retrospective of the fantastic history of Rocket over the last 30 years. My name’s Steven Dickens, you’ve been listening to the Open Mainframe Podcast. Please join us for next episode by clicking subscribe, and thank you very much for your time today.
Zowe is an open source project on z/OS and has been developing very quickly over the past ~6 months. With two week sprints and a monthly release cadence, most people don’t have the time to keep up with all the community developments and still do their day jobs. Time is always the most valuable and finite asset, so the following resource recommendations have been categorized based on the amount time and commitment you have to devote to keeping up with the Zowians.
Just Checking In (~30 min/week): The following resources are available to anyone interested in the project, but for those who only have time to follow the major announcements and are interested in learning more about high-level value propositions. The following social media resources are a must for you:
LinkedIn: Search and follow #Zowe to make sure Zowe announcements appear on your news feed. Also, feel free to connect with me – I try to post the 1-2 most important developments each week.
Twitter: Search and follow #Zowe to see the most recent conversations. Also be sure to follow @OpenMFProject, the community that hosts the Zowe project.
Curious and Wanting to Learn More (~60 min/week): So you are interested. Zowe might be a project whose vision and professional goal’s to modernize the mainframe user experience peak your interest. But you aren’t quite ready to jump in. You want to learn more about the project before investing the time required to get familiar with the code and exploit the Zowe technology. If this is you, here are some links you’ll want to save in your bookmarks:
Zowe.org: This is the developer community site and there’s a lot to explore.
A great place to start is the project documentation and visit the “Getting Started” section to learn about the architecture and components. If you keep reading you’ll find the archive of the release notes which describes what’s new or changed in each release.
Ask for an Overview Presentation: Work with your software vendor, or reach out directly to the Zowe User email distribution list and connect with a Zowian to schedule a 1-on-1 project overview presentation.
Ready to get Involved – Perhaps you expect to work with Zowe related products and services. Maybe you have talked with your manager and you are planning to invest your time in learning about and contributing to the Zowe community. No matter your situation, you are looking to get connected directly with the development community and begin participating in open source development. If this is you, here are the resources to get you looped in to all the day to day developments (there are over 50 committers whose full-time job it is to work on this project):
Get connected with the developers: We use a variety of tools in the open source community.
The most direct and quickest way to connect is through Slack.
Join one of our open zoom meetings by viewing our developer calendar. We use Zoom for all our meetings, and minutes are posted here.
Check out what we are working on: We use Waffle, a Kanban tool that aggregates all our Git Issues. You can use Waffle filters and tags to see who is working on certain issues, when they are expected to be done and which Git repo the issue belongs to.
Get your hands on the source: Visit our Github page to view the source files and please submit issues, make pull requests and ask for help.
Fig 1: Zowe Community Waffle (Kanban) Board: Used to manage all Git Issues open across all Zowe Git Repos. Use the filter in the top right to filter for what you are looking for.
Fig 2: Zowe Community Developer Calendar: Used to bring Zowe community members together for scrums/standups as well as cross squad playbacks. Each squad manages its own set of repos and calendar events.
So there you have it. Keeping up with the Zowians is as easy as determining how involved you want to be in the project and community. If you have any problems accessing any of these resources you can always reach out to the Open Mainframe Project who manages our open source tools and services by sending them an email at email@example.com .
In our latest episode of the “I am a Mainframer” podcast, Steven Dickens chats with Ludmila Salimena from IBM. Ludmila has been in the Mainframe industry since 2009 after entering the Master the Mainframe Competition. Ludmilla describes how she began her career in working with the mainframe, and gives advice for those looking to work with the platform. She also describes how she’s planning on helping the next generation of mainframers through internship programs and networking.
Steven: Hello and welcome. My name is Steven Dickens. I’m here today on the Open Mainframe Project, I’m A Mainframer podcast. The Open Mainframe Project is a Linux Foundation collaborative project that it promotes Linux and Open-Source on the Mainframe. I’m joined today by my guest Ludmila Salmena. Hi, Ludmila.
Ludmila: Hi, Steven. Thank you.
Steven: Yeah. Thank you for joining us. Always good to talk to people from around the world, so maybe if you could just give us a little background on yourself, and give us a little view on your career and how you’ve been working in the mainframe ecosystem? Always good to start there and get your perspective.
Ludmila: Sure. My first job position was not in the mainframe world. One day, I entered the Master the Mainframe Competition, and that was my door to the mainframe world. It was not the first time I heard about mainframes because my dad is also mainframing, so it was pretty easy. So because of him, I already knew about mainframing. I knew how powerful and important mainframes are to many companies.
After I completed the Master the Mainframe Competition, I got an internship opportunity at IBM. That was back in 2009. I started as an upper salesperson but in a few months, I started to work with the compass in Brazil. Since I was hired, I was in the academic initiative program for IBMZ, but year after year, I was incorporating other activities related to the ecosystem such as working with clients and their strategies for IBMZ, developing community outreach such as the fair, hackathons, events, meetups. It’s a very broad bunch of activities.
Steven: Okay. Something interesting there that you mentioned, you mentioned your father was on the mainframe. Can you maybe just give us a little view of what he used to do on the platform?
Ludmila: He is still a mainframer.
Steven: Oh, okay. Fantastic.
Ludmila: Yes. He’s DBA DB2, and worked with ZBM since the beginning.
Steven: Oh, excellent.
Ludmila: As you can imagine, after many years hearing him talk on the phone and seeing him working from home with green letters, mainframe was not a mysterious thing to me. I used to go with him to the office and play with terminals. It would be great to have some cameras at that time, so that I could share some interesting memories right now.
Steven: Oh, fantastic. You’ve been a mainframer since the age of six by the sound of it?
Ludmila: Yeah. We can say that.
Steven: Excellent. One of the other things you mentioned was your first encounter with the mainframe. Well, probably in your professional career at least was in the Master the Mainframe Contest. That’s a really interesting program and I know a lot of our listeners will maybe have heard about it, but it will be good to get your perspective of that contest and how that provided a portal into both the mainframe world and IBM.
Ludmila: Yeah. The essence of the contest is showing different terms and information you needed in your mainframe job position. The focus of the contest is exactly to achieve all kinds of participants. If you have no knowledge on mainframes or any kind of enterprise level IT, this is the correct place to start. If you tell me, “Hey, I already know a little bit on mainframes.” Master the Mainframe is also a good place to keep learning. Every year, we launch a bunch of new activities. Each challenge is different, is unique. You can have experience from JCL, COBOL. There are also many coding challenges that you can learn about it.
Steven: Okay. It sounds like a broad range of activities. From your experience, what have you liked most as you’ve gone onto the mainframe platform? Either in the Master the Mainframe contest or since you’ve joined IBM, what’s been your passion?
Ludmila: I think there are many strengths related to mainframe that I like. I think the one that I like most is the compatibility because it’s very interesting that you’d be able to upgrade your hardware and know that all programs will continue working without code changing is amazing. I am a little bit far from the technical side now for a few years, but those kind of strengths are very interesting on the platform.
Steven: Okay. Now, you’re working within IBM, and with schools and universities. You’re working in an academic program to try and pull those institutions through onto the platform. What’s the feedback you’re getting from those academic institutions as you try and position the mainframe technology?
Ludmila: In Brazil, there are many rules guiding the university’s curriculum. When I speak with these schools and universities, usually I tell them to incorporate the mainframe content in their curriculums, but they complain that they are not seeing job opportunities for their students. Therefore, I have been working with the IBMZ community to pair them closely with those universities. So faculty can see there is opportunity in this place and the companies can share appropriately this information with the academia in general.
Steven: Okay. You see the biggest challenge moving forward is that joining of the academic institutions with the people who would actually have those job roles, i.e. the end clients. Is that where you see the biggest challenge moving forward?
Ludmila: Yes. The communication between mainframe employers and academia must exist and needed to be proven. Unfortunately, this is not happening as much as I’d like to. The academia is preparing the professionals of the future and today, you can work with high school students coming into colleges, universities, etc. The students today don’t know of the kind of job possibilities they can look for. The companies today, they are (the ones) who are implementing and being a part of the technology transformation and they needed to visit schools and show to faculty and students the possibilities of technology because it’s huge. I am here happy to work with employers to introduce them to academia community to make this happen.
Steven: So I think if I was to give you a title, it would be a mainframe matchmaker. You’re making that match between the academic institutions and the students and the employers, the end users of the mainframe, and really trying to join those two communities together and get them to work with each other. Would that be a fair summary?
Ludmila: Yes. Perfect.
Steven: That’s your new title, Ludmilla, mainframe matchmaker.
Ludmila: Yes. I’m going to add this.
Steven: Fantastic. As we talk a little bit about the Open Mainframe Project, we’ve got a number of academic members, and they help us advance a key part of the mission which is to recruit, teach and educate the next generation. One of the ways we do this, is through our internship program. The Open Mainframe Projects got an internship program now that’s been running for the last three years. We’ve taken almost 30 students through that program. What advice would you give to students looking to get into the mainframe space? What would sort of be your path that you would suggest to a student who’s looking at the mainframe and saying, “How do I get into this technology?”
Ludmila: There are many possibilities. As a student, you can get involved with Master the Mainframe, you can explore and use the Linux cloud as you already mentioned, you can go to internship programs on Open Mainframe Project and also explore some identical patterns related to mainframe. All of them give you the experience in all levels to get into the mainframe industry.
Steven: Okay. That’s obviously people looking to get into the mainframe space, students. Obviously, a lot of our listenership here is already in the mainframe space. What would be those best practices or tips for those people already in the mainframe industry maybe looking to our different skills, maybe looking to move jobs? What type of advice, hints and tips would you give to people already in the mainframe space?
Ludmila: The same channels that the students can use of course, and each one is going to take advantage in his or her way. But I think staying up to date in all modern capabilities and tools on mainframe can provide you a long future, a brighter future. We have to update ourselves.
Steven: Okay, excellent. Speaking from the Open Mainframe community side, what would you like to see from us? How would you like to see the community evolve over time specifically in the skill space?
Ludmila: The Open Mainframe Project has a unique ability to access a broader open-source community. I’d say I would love to see them share the value of this platform with the community that can help get the word out there.
Steven: So it’s getting the word out and try and use the community that we’re building within the Open Mainframe Project to amplify the message and reach new audiences?
Ludmila: Yes, because we have many developers that work today, and they just don’t know the possibilities using mainframe and open-source. So this project is amazing to give opportunities to developers. They’re already creating amazing products.
Steven: Fantastic. One of the things that’s been big and hot in our community over the last few months since the summer has been this Zowe Project. This is bringing open-source and crowdsourcing development to the once closed world of ZED OS, which for me is just really fundamental and transformational about the way that open-source as a movement is interacting with probably the last bastion of closed source code, ZED OS. So for me, it’s been a really transformational time. Question for me, how does open-source help with the challenges of universal mainframe development and particularity through a Zowe lens?
Ludmila: Open-source allows today’s developers to use the tools they are comfortable using. They can leverage the power of the platform with those specific skills.
Steven: You think it’s going to break down those sort of skills barriers and those barriers to entry to the platform. Is that where you think Zowe is going to be most powerful?
Ludmila: Yes, because you don’t need specific skills, and open-source connects everybody today and this project is amazing and it’s very recent and I’m looking forward to working closely with students. Especially in Brazil next year.
Steven: A couple of questions I ask everybody in this type of forum. First off, if you had a crystal ball, and you could look three to five years into the future, would you be able to give us your view of the mainframe three to five years from now? How do you think it’s going to be impacting the industry?
Ludmila: Wow. That’s a tough question.
Steven: It catches everybody out. So it’s a good one to make you think.
Ludmila: Yeah. In my point of view, I expect that the developer community & the students can see the modern mainframe the way we both know. I see that in three years, considering all situations we are facing in many countries, this can position us in a very important platform to many industries such as education and banking, since we already have already a long history with them.
Steven: Okay. The second question that I always ask is if you could speak to the Ludmila that was at college, and go back in your own life, what would you say to the young 20-year-old Ludmilla about how to build a career on this platform? What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
Ludmila: I shouldn’t say this and I hope that my dad doesn’t listen to your podcast. He’s been trying to pitch me this since I was 15 years old or before I could ever think about an IT degree. He is always pushing me like, “Hey, there are many job positions. Hey, this is amazing, and I am still working with this, and this is going to live forever, and you should be studying.”
Steven: As a father to a 15-year-old daughter, your advice is listen to your father.
Ludmila: Yes. I won’t show this podcast to him.
Steven: I’m going to play it to my daughter so that she listens to it somehow. This is fantastic. Just as we look to wrap up, Ludmila, just a sort of final couple of questions if you’ll permit me. Are there any specific requests or interests you have within the Open Mainframe Project as you look ahead for this next 12 months?
Ludmila: I am very excited about Zowe and the new ways students will be able to interact with the platform. I wanted to be able to share it with them, and provide them the opportunities to participate in the open-source community, so that they can build their skills.
Steven: Okay. You see internships and Zowe as the things that are of most interest to you over the next 12 months?
Ludmila: Yes. The real life experience is something that helps you create your path with your career. It’s a very good opportunity.
Steven: My final question, what advice do you have for the mainframers working in the IT industry?
Ludmila: For this one, we would have to record a new podcast to just talk about it.
Steven: If I can keep you brief Ludmila, what would be your maybe top two or three pieces of advice?
Ludmila: First of all, I think the most important is to shift perception, because we need to promote our strengths, our value impact, and the opportunities in mainframe. Mainframe is such a modern technology with so many possibilities, that we all should be talking about this all day. If I can say, please remove the acronyms. Remove the jargo. Remove all these letters from the job descriptions because it’s not helping to attract the new professionals. The new generations don’t know those names. They don’t know what JCL is but, they are amazing programmers. They can learn about COBOL. They can pursue any mainframe job position. But sometimes, they are afraid of the acronyms. Once again, be close to school, your faculty and students, because you can be a guest speaker to a mainframe class. You can be a mentor. There are so many possibilities, but we need to put everybody together and connect all mainframers.
Steven: Ludmila, that’s been fantastic. It’s been a real pleasure to talk to you over the last few minutes. Any parting comments? Any final things before we wrap up?
Ludmila: I think the last thing that I would add here, it’s important to us to go to the community where we can find the mainframers. We don’t have to expect them to come to ours. That’s the reason why I am parting up meetups, conferences, communication channels. I’m organizing a series of meetups in Brazil, and I think everybody should be creating and promoting this knowledge and experience to the students and future mainframers.
Steven: I couldn’t agree more, Ludmila. I think getting involved in the community and building the platform and breaking down some of those barriers is certainly why I see myself as a mainframer. From our conversation today, it sounds like that’s where you see yourself as a proud mainframer. Thank you very much for your time today, Ludmila. It’s been fantastic to talk to you.
Ludmila: Thank you, Steven. It was great.
Steven: You’ve joined me, Steven Dickens on the Open Mainframe Project, I’m a Mainframer podcast. Please look for us on iTunes and other platforms and click the subscribe button. We’re going to be here talking to you on a regular basis around what it means to be a mainframer going forward on this platform. Thanks so much for your time today.