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Application Developers and IBM zCX

IBM z/OS Container Extensions (zCX) is bringing this flexibility and modularity to the IBM Z platform.

Blue, illuminated code

The increasing prominence of application developers in IT enterprise has dubbed them "the new kingmakers," according to author Stephen O'Grady. In his book (aptly titled The New Kingmakers), O'Grady highlights two digital IT trends that have contributed most to developers' newfound role of direction setting across organizations: open source and cloud computing. Open source creates access to useful software and components, allowing developers to work and innovate without extensive budget or sales interactions. Cloud computing makes the infrastructure used to run software available at a low cost. Coupled together, open source and cloud computing give developers the access and freedom to lead their organizations. 

IBM z/OS Container Extensions (zCX) is bringing this flexibility and modularity to the IBM Z platform. As a key feature of z/OS version 2.4, this new offering will enable application development processes and DevOps as they exist on any other platform. Existing business-critical investments in z/OS can be used and innovated on without requiring an application developer to have deep knowledge of IBM Z. This is achieved by allowing users to deploy and manage any open-source and Linux on Z software Docker image on z/OS without requiring a separately provisioned or managed server. In other words, you can use the latest open-source tools, popular NoSQL databases, analytics frameworks, application servers and more within your z/OS environment while providing the application-level resiliency and security of IBM Z.

Linux containers are at the heart of zCX, and Docker is the technology that implements them. Docker enables a micro-service architecture, facilitates open-source collaboration, and brings development and operations together. Docker allows developers to work inside containers, and systems operators to work in parallel outside of them. This agility and consistency are the building blocks for continuous delivery and integration of cloud components in a portable manner.  

By focusing on Docker, zCX reduces the complexity of installation and configuration, reduces the service footprint on Linux to what Docker supports, and grants access to a vibrant ecosystem of Docker images. Application developers can use the familiar and standard Docker command line interface to the Docker engine for access to the Docker image ecosystem and creation of Swarm clusters of IBM zCX instances. IBM intends for future support for Kubernetes clustering for orchestration, scalability and management of IBM zCX with compatible cloud platforms. 

Troy Flagg is an IBM application developer who has been hands on with zCX for a few months now. Troy works on a team of developers to deploy existing Docker images for s390x from Dockerhub. The team works on the following: 

  • Images for managing and monitoring Docker environments
  • Images for driving analytical workloads 
  • An image development tool to develop other images with languages, build and test tools, and runtime libraries
  • Hypothetical business applications that make use of several open-source components (be on the lookout for detailed GitHub content of this work when IBM zCX is launched next quarter!)
As an application developer himself, Troy describes the value of zCX as the following: 

“It leverages Docker technology to provide access to the z/OS operating system, enabling a wider, more modernized z/OS software ecosystem. zCX is an excellent way to deploy new non resource-critical workloads on the mainframe. In my experience, things that used to take days if not weeks to set up can now be done in hours, if not less. zCX feels exactly like Docker, which is a huge win, as it allows traditional Linux on Z developers to 'Dockerize' their applications and have a seamless transition to deploying them on z/OS. I think zCX has the potential to trivialize a good portion of the effort to bring new applications to the mainframe and I am excited to see how customers can exploit it.”

While zCX will not be available until the z/OS version 2.4 release in the Fall of 2019, there are resources available to learn more about zCX in the meantime. 

Visit and bookmark the zCX Content Solution homepage for resources and technical content as they become available.

Finally, we would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below. 

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