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Modernizing IBM Z

Leveraging IBM z15, Parallel Sysplex, IBM Z Open Development, zCX and more is key for modernization.

Animated figures working on a DevOps infinity symbol.

Over the years, we’ve seen a variety of IBM Z* infrastructures. Some had very small footprints and some had multiple data centers and many mainframes. Many mainframe systems are operating on the near latest IBM Z hardware, yet some of them look like they were configured in the last century. 

Years ago, it was easier to see all application components and find and fix problems. Applications were less complex compared to today, where application components can be anywhere. 

One reason some IBM Z systems don’t take advantage of the latest innovations is the lack of time. As workforces run lean, they sacrifice learning new technology. Time is spent keeping the business alive and not allocated elsewhere. This causes two problems:

  1. IBM Z systems that don’t take advantage of innovation
  2. Difficulty attracting new talent into the mainframe world

Getting the most from the IBM Z platform takes effort at several layers within the environment: hardware, network, OS, subsystem and application. 

Take Advantage of Innovation

The IBM z15* is the ultimate platform for mission-critical workloads in your hybrid cloud infrastructure. It’s engineered to encrypt your data everywhere, provide for cloud-native development, and it has the highest level of stability and availability so your workloads can run continuously. But the IBM z15 isn’t the only
IBM Z innovation you should leverage. These innovations can help you get the most out of the platform:

Parallel Sysplex

A sysplex is a clustering technique for multiple z/OS* images and is used so images can cooperate with one another and use resources more efficiently. Parallel Sysplex, a more complex version of this technology, uses multisystem data sharing technology. IBM Z workloads can be built to take advantage of this technology to share resources and data, and to have continuous availability and failover. Shared data can support concurrent read/write access with no impact to data integrity or performance. Parallel Sysplex relies on coupling facility LPARs or internal coupling facilities (ICFs) that provide the data sharing capability to the LPARs within the cluster or plex. 

Mainframe applications must be designed to be sysplex-capable. Start with an end-to-end component model. The areas that need augmentation will become apparent. 


The creation of LPARs can look like a stream of consciousness sometimes. There are valid reasons for creating LPARs, which will vary widely from company to company. An optimal configuration would be:

  • Two mainframes
  • Two sysplexes 
  • Each sysplex spans bothmainframes
  • Two LPARs in each sysplex

The IBM Z network

IBM Z systems and applications should take advantage of virtual IP addressing (VIPA). VIPA removes the IP address association with a physical link and keeps the IP address active. In short, each address space or application region and LPAR can have its own VIPA association. This allows for the dynamic movement of these processes in the event of a planned or unplanned outage.

Multiple LPAR systems should take advantage of HiperSockets, the fastest method available to transfer data between them. HiperSockets provides the fastest TCP/IP connection within the mainframe and eliminates the need for internal physical connections. 


IBM Z DASDs can snowball into a complex mess on the actual hardware without careful, thoughtful engineering. The data should be viewed as your most important asset. If mined correctly, this data can enable your IBM Z operation to become more efficient, allow you to locate problems before they become outages, and provide your business insights to grow and become more profitable. 

Working from the access level toward the hardware, your IBM Z platform should be able to:

  • Isolate test data from production at the hardware level
  • Designate isolated test andproduction LPARs 
  • Achieve sysplex isolation 
  • Synchronously replicate storage locally and asynchronously remotely
  • Encrypt all IBM Z data (in, out, inside and access points)

Whether you replicate synchronously or not will depend on your outage toleration level. Local, synchronous replication with asynchronous remote replication positions you for zero downtime. Lastly, encrypting everywhere is possible with the new IBM z15. Encrypting your IBM Z data at rest and in flight ensures that your data is seen only by those authorized to see it.


You have multiple tooling software options, and within each is a security database. Security databases, like other IBM Z components mentioned previously, should also be separated into test and production databases on sysplex boundaries. Beyond this, you can also:

  • Verify your system is secure even if you think it already is
  • Build security awareness
  • Monitor system access and system logs
  • Schedule regular security training for your security team, operators, programmers and help desk
  • Review, audit and clean up your security databases at least annually 
  • Implement multifactor authentication where possible
  • Implement role-based access management
  • Monitor IBM Z securitymessages and set up alerting where necessary

Attracting New IBM Z Talent

Typical mainframe development includes requirements, design, development, test and release. Many changes are bundled and released infrequently. This makes for longer test cycles and increased production issues. The future lies with rapid iterations of develop, test, build, deploy. Current problems lie between the cycle times of systems of engagement and systems of record. The former measures their iterations in days or weeks and the latter in months. 

Adapting IBM Z development to the DevOps Agile world is a must. If you want to attract a new generation of IBM Z experts, give them the view they want. This way, they will want to learn all about what’s under the hood and behind the green screen. 

IBM Z Open Development

Modern IBM Z access is Eclipse based. You can even set up IBM Z processes as REST APIs with z/OS Connect. A starter toolset to get you going is IBM Z Open Development, an integrated development environment (IDE) that allows you to transform your IBM Z development into a GUI. Developers will be able to get views into their software not possible via green screens. IBM Z Open Development features include:

  • Graphical view of logic in IBM Z code
  • JCL editor
  • Hierarchical data flow
  • Visual, GUI, Eclipse-based debugging for COBOL, PL/I and C/C++
  • Access to z/OS and UNIX* files sets via a folder view display
  • Simple access to a GIT repository
  • Build Capability with Java* APIs via IBM Dependency Based Build (DBB)

IBM Developer for z/OS

IBM Developer for z/OS is an IDE for development and a debugging of z/OS applications. It’s built so you can develop multiplatform, multilanguage applications. You can expose applications as web or rest services. 

With IBM Developer for z/OS, you get:

  • Visual program control flow
  • Hierarchy call views
  • Data element views 
  • Compilation search capability
  • Access to z/OS, JES and UNIX artifacts
  • Ability to create z/OS datasets
  • Drag and drop across LPARs
  • Debugger access
  • Code review
  • Automated testing
  • Interface to Jenkins jobs and pipelines

Open Source and Linux

IBM Z systems have the largest processor cache of any system, and at 5.2 GHz, they’re the fastest processors on the market. Open-source Linux* distributions run on IBM Z and will benefit from the platform’s high data security, operational efficiency, availability and performance. 

Running Linux on IBM Z provides the platform for enterprise cloud and analytics. Coupled with virtualization, a single IBM Z server can run thousands of virtual Linux servers concurrently. It may be cost effective to migrate thousands of your x86 workloads to a Linux on Z or a LinuxONE* machine. 

Linux on IBM Z and Containers

Running containerized applications packaged as Docker Container images on IBM z/OS is now possible by using IBM z/OS Container Extensions (zCX). Developers (Dev) and SysAdmins (Ops) can collaborate to develop, test, deploy and operate popular open-source packages, Linux applications, IBM software, and third-party software together with z/OS applications and data.

zCX is a new feature with z/OS 2.4. It provides the ability to run Docker images into a z/OS system. It’s now possible to:

  • Provision a fresh new zCX appliance in z/OS
  • Install an application from private DockerHub repository
  • Manually build and deploy the MPLbank microservices application
  • Update application automated deployment with Jenkins Build
  • Test the deployed application
  • Manage zCX docker images with Portainer
  • Show zCX monitoring with Grafana dashboard
  • Deploy application from zCX using Jenkins

This is a very critical capability to run business applications in containers in a secure and cost-effective way. It enables resiliency for critical workloads.

The DevOps Journey

Many tooling options are available for your DevOps journey. Investigate your current development pipeline and see what’s working and what isn’t. Reach out to your teams and get discussions going on these topics to make sure you’re taking complete advantage of what you already have and are on the road to realizing the full potential of the modern IBM Z platform. 

Modern and Cost-Contained DevOps

Mainframes power the world, processing vast numbers of transactions across countless mission-critical applications. The teams behind this success understand the value of comprehensive change and release management and have long-practiced mainframe variations of DevOps. 

Still, today’s enterprises rely on complex networks of applications spanning mobile to cloud, and new generations of DevOps methodologies are deployed where mainframes are part of a larger picture. This creates pressure on mainframe sites; with today’s dispersed development and operations teams, cost becomes a concern. Historic cost-cutting methodologies like software quarantines are often difficult to maintain when adopting modern, DevOps strategies. 

Regardless of what DevOps tools you choose, innovations can complement your strategy while enabling cost reductions and improved workflows. Virtualizing and cloud-enabling relevant mainframe applications provides your preferred DevOps toolchain everywhere you need it, while limiting costs of additional software licenses or capacity. Today’s mainframe application virtualization, cloud and software-as-a-service options combined with creative partnerships, are powering the next evolution of a modern and cost-contained mainframe DevOps.

Vince Re

Co-founder and CTO, VirtualZ Computing

Vince is a patented technologist with 30-plus years' experience. 

Sponsored Content: Open-Source Tools Create New Opportunities

The enterprise computing environment has evolved into a multicloud, hybrid cloud architecture with the goal of making all data and processes an integral part of an organization’s digital transformation strategy.

In the past, organizations felt constrained in an attempt to integrate the mainframe as part of their digital strategy, leaving the platform out of innovative transformation efforts. Further compounding this was a limited choice of tools designed for expert mainframers who were aging out of the workforce.

Today, open-source tools empower a new generation of developers through a community-based, crowdsourcing model. 

Open-source tools are now coming of age. The Open Mainframe Project released the Zowe framework, enabling development and operational teams to securely manage, control, script and develop on the mainframe just like any other platform.

Most recently, mainframe extensions to the Eclipse Foundation’s Eclipse Che 7 project are enabling a new generation of developers to use their favorite tools to easily build innovative mainframe apps.

These and other open initiatives are changing the game for organizations looking to leverage the power of the mainframe for digital transformation.

George DeCandio


Broadcom Mainframe Division

George is responsible for the team of architects that lead product development across the mainframe portfolio. 

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