DevOps: What Does It Mean For System z?

A recent buzzword in the IT industry is DevOps, being a term for eradicating any gap between the IT disciplines and/or processes of Development and Operations. In simplistic terms, Development is the full application code lifecycle, while Operations is the management and ultimate delivery of IT business services, typically Production orientated. However, what does this mean for the System z environment?

From a big picture viewpoint, the typical mission critical business application comprises many layers, including System z and other Distributed Systems platforms. Even though there are many solutions and “dashboard” type approaches for Operations to manage the IT service, there will always be differences when managing IT platforms, whether System z, Wintel, UNIX, Linux, et al.

Additionally, there may be some interpretation as to what DevOps is and should be from an ISV viewpoint. If you’re an ISV with a rich history in performance management, your viewpoint of DevOps will be identifying and resolving performance problems, because you believe a performance problem will manifest itself in a Production Operations environment, but is ideally fixed in the Applications environment. Conversely, if you’re an ISV with a software portfolio incorporating many Application Development solutions, your viewpoint will be streamlining the Applications Development lifecycle for all platforms, expediting the delivery of Production changes, simplifying the burden on associated Operations Change and Problem Management processes.

Clearly the System z environment has matured over many years and application code portfolios have been managed by SCM tools such as CA Endevor SCM, Serena ChangeMan, ISPW, et al. Even the acronym SCM has various interpretations, whether Source Code Management, Software Configuration Management or some other term.

Recently agile workstation solutions that simplify the application development process have evolved, for example IBM RDz (Rational Developer for z Systems), Compuware Workbench, typically incorporating Eclipse function, allowing for a common framework of multiplatform application code development.

By definition, System z means zero downtime and as such, due diligence, continuity and no/minimal impact regression have been built into each and every change process for many years. Therefore from a Systems Programming viewpoint, any heterogeneous DevOps technical frameworks that might emerge will have little relevance to existing System z processes. However these System z oriented change processes could and no doubt should be recognized by the DevOps framework, extending the System z approach to all platforms.

Whatever your viewpoint and whatever System z tooling your organization deploys for end-to-end Application Lifecycle Management, including Development and Operations, you should not lose sight that an objective of DevOps is to bring together the various IT departments that are impacted by Production Service changes. Therefore if only from a simple communication and collaboration viewpoint, even the most mature and maybe bigoted System z professional should embrace DevOps.

In conclusion, DevOps is an evolving framework that will facilitate quality controlled continuous application delivery for multiple platform business solutions, typically including the Systems z platform. By definition, DevOps encompasses many IT processes, Development and Operations as a minimum, where each and every organization probably has their own interpretation of where interdependent Systems Management functions interact; for example, Performance Management, Change Management, Problem Management and even Capacity Planning. The savvy organization will embrace DevOps as a framework, review their existing software function tooling and in all likelihood, deploy a best-of-breed approach when facilitating continuous application delivery for heterogeneous platforms. It is unlikely that one ISV will provide a fully inclusive best-of-breed software portfolio for DevOps, hence the universal, open and platform independent approach of Eclipse.