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How DevOps and the IBM Z Digital Transformation Model Accelerate Innovation

Digital Transformation Model
Illustration by Rutger Paulusse

As consumers’ demands and expectations of technology continue to change and advance, organizations must evolve to keep up. Those that aren’t innovating might be left behind with consumers moving on and competitors moving in. Staying ahead requires transformation.

Organizations need a digital transformation strategy in place while providing value to customers. The developer community is the engine for digital transformation, notes Barry Baker, vice president, IBM Z* Software. “If the developers aren’t tuned up, they’re not able to execute and deliver new capabilities or change applications with speed and confidence.”

The right development methodologies, tools and processes are needed to support these changes and adapt as quickly and efficiently as possible. Paired with IBM Z, clients can accelerate digital transformation.

Clients can achieve that by adopting DevOps as part of their agile process. Without DevOps, your organization won’t meet its business demands, says Rosalind Radcliffe, Distinguished Engineer and chief architect for DevOps for Enterprise Systems, IBM. “You have to be able to deliver whatever you’re producing to the end users to get value. With DevOps, it’s about speed and quality and getting to end users fast.”

The IBM Z Digital Transformation Model

Effective digital transformation requires small, incremental steps to minimize risk and quicken development. IBM addresses these business challenges with the IBM Z Digital Transformation Model (ibm.co/2L4pAAK).

The foundation level of the model is called “Run and Maintain.” With it, organizations have a current view of resources and use the latest compilers and subsystems to reduce costs while maximizing performance. Developers first must have an understanding of existing applications. “I can’t go in as an application developer and start making changes and enhancements without knowing the impact I’m going to have,” Baker explains. Building on the foundation are:

  1. Expose: Enable apps and data
  2. Evolve: Automate and transform
  3. Optimize: Predict and respond

With this model, organizations can unlock the value of their enterprise application assets on IBM Z. The mainframe is a modern system, and nothing about the platform is limited, Radcliffe explains. It allows for agile shift-left testing, automated test and deploy, and modern tools including open source.

A Solid System Foundation

With the foundation focusing on efficiency and performance, the environment should be current with the latest fix packs, Baker explains. Without it, clients are putting the overall solution at risk. “It’s about problem avoidance and reducing downtime,” he says.

IBM delivers both performance and runtime improvements through an integrated approach. It starts with the hardware and moves up the stack through the firmware, compiler technology and into runtimes, Baker says. “Clients that stay current on both the run times and hardware will be best suited to respond to growing demands that are coming at them” (i.e., opening existing applications through APIs, growth and volume of workloads).

Once up to date, organizations can use DevOps to change the way they work and the tools they use, better positioning themselves for the future. While all apps will need to move to the current development practices, Radcliffe suggests focusing first on apps that change frequently.

The IBM Z platform has key business assets full of code that was first written 30-plus years ago and has continued to evolve holding vast amounts of data and business logic, Radcliffe notes. “Organizations need to take advantage of that information to disrupt the disruptors,” she says. “Use all that information to your business advantage. Be the one in the lead because that’s the value of the system today.”

Use valuable information you already have and pair it with the right applications to take advantage of the digital transformation for your organization’s goals. Clients can maximize this with current IBM Z subsystem products and compilers that can help reduce costs and support increased workloads.

As success and demand increase, a DevOps pipeline focused on development becomes more important. “Organizations need to be positioned to take advantage of any change and have the capability to experiment, which is provided by the DevOps pipeline with automated testing,” Radcliffe says.

Finding Valuable Assets

Clients need to build on their foundational IBM Z assets, and expose them to outside applications. With the IBM Z Digital Transformation Model, exposure comes with less cost, risk and resource commitments. “If I want to expose something that’s existing today, the IBM Z Digital Transformation Model is a great way to get started,” Baker says.

For development teams to be successful, this must be simple and intuitive. IBM offers solutions for clients to begin opening new channels to help expose assets. IBM z/OS* Connect Enterprise Edition enables modern APIs to access the platform and has open support for tooling like OpenAPI.

As an example, a bank typically took a few days to open a new account manually. Through exposing its assets, the bank developed a handful of APIs using the account open process on the mainframe, cutting the time to open an account to just seconds.

To create opportunities like this, developers must find and expose the right information. Using IBM Application Discovery and Delivery Intelligence (ADDI), developers can find those assets—identify them, pull them apart, understand the relationship between them and use the right information in the best way, Radcliffe explains.

“ADDI blows everything out of the water,” Baker says. “It allows you to see what’s going on and get a complete picture of your assets, zooming in on where you need to be.”

With these applications, organizations can create APIs while minimizing risk to the enterprise, and provide newer developers with a set of tools to produce new business opportunities quicker.

Confidence in Testing

Once APIs are in place, organizations can begin looking at doing more, or evolving what they have. At this point, Radcliffe notes, most organizations are also looking to improve processes by getting different parts of the application, pulling them apart or refining them for different uses.

This is usually when teams realize they need a more agile process, and the DevOps transformation begins. Now silos can be broken, with teams coming together to develop a pipeline and tools to efficiently create applications.

The pipeline is a core component of the transformation. Clients that adopt their existing distributed DevOps pipeline using Git or IBM Rational* Team Concert to include their Z assets gain the most value. The Z teams should have the same advantages of distributed teams.

Shift-left testing is important to an agile methodology, where Baker says teams should “test, and test rapidly.” By testing earlier in the development process, problems can be identified and fixed faster with less cost.

By examining a small set of unit tests that you ran, Baker notes “if you hit a problem, you’re very close to where that problem was injected and can debug and unit test that. If you wait until later in the pipeline, the further right you get in the process before you actually find the defect, the more expensive it is.”

Having an automated delivery pipeline can make the process from idea to build and deployment more responsive. IBM solutions automate the process. IBM UrbanCode* Deploy, for example, enables organizations to automate application deployments into development, test and production environments. It’s designed for continuous delivery while providing audit trails, versioning and approvals needed in production.

“With automated testing you can be confident you’re providing value without breaking existing capabilities,” Radcliffe says.

Setting up for Future Opportunities

Teams are now optimized in development through advanced analytics to predict and respond to situations, offering continuous delivery with confidence and agility.

IBM OMEGAMON* performance management software gives clients a view of their environment, generating data about the system. It can track and understand what’s going on in the system over time to help optimize it. This information might help a developer see how an application’s response time is changing or understand what’s happening in the system, Baker says.

With OMEGAMON working alongside ADDI, operational data management and application discovery can work together to determine how best to optimize an environment further, helping eliminate problems in production.

As teams modernize with a pipeline, they’ll be able to have additional information and metrics to:

  • Help make decisions on when and where to test
  • Understand the velocity and time frame of the team delivering the value
  • See the wait states to pull out waste
  • Measure delivery frequency to increase its optimization
  • Understand code quality

“In doing this, teams have data to identify critical areas to update, make the right decision about testing and know what areas to improve,” Radcliffe says. “They have the performance metrics to improve earlier in the cycle.”

Begin Your Journey

With the IBM Z Digital Transformation Model, clients can position themselves to take advantage of current and future workloads and capabilities. Many organizations have key applications that have been developed over decades. A wealth of information can be found in those systems that developers can use.

With IBM’s solutions and framework to help organizations expose, evolve and optimize their key assets, clients can see value in the information they already have.

Valerie Dennis Craven is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.


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