Tools such as the green screens of ISPF and the Eclipse desktop IDE, enhanced with proprietary plug-ins, have served mainframe application developers well over the years and, for those comfortable with them, will continue to do so. However, changes in the broader world of development are creating the conditions for a revolution in mainframe tooling.
First, mainframe developers are aging out of the workforce, leaving behind extensive code libraries and a workforce skills gap. Those likely to back-fill these roles know and love modern IDEs, especially Visual Studio Code, while the popularity of Eclipse is waning. For example, the annual Stack Overflow Developer Survey found that, over the past year, the popularity of Visual Studio Code grew from 35% to 51%, once again making it the most popular IDE, while Eclipse fell from 19% to 14%. According to Business Insider, 8.5 million developers worldwide use VS Code, creating a huge talent pool.
Second, application development has made great strides in productivity since the current mainframe dev tools were created, especially in DevOps automation with enablers like task runners, scripting and testing frameworks. The Stack Overflow survey cites scripting language Python as the most sought-after skill among developers, by far.
Finally, as the velocity of overall software delivery increases, mainframe is a critical component of digital transformation initiatives. According to 451 Research, 24% of companies are releasing application software daily or hourly while, similarly, DORA’s 2019 State of DevOps survey shows 20% of teams are deploying multiple times per day. Software delivery expectations have changed with continuous deployment becoming the new normal and, to remain a vital computing platform for the long term, mainframe app development needs to support this paradigm.
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