Zowe LTS V2 Key Features, How Open Mainframe Project’s Zowe Has Evolved and More
Rose Sakach, product manager at Broadcom and chair of the Zowe Technical Advisory Council, on Zowe LTS V2 key features, along with the evolution of open source on the mainframe
The "silo" is a familiar concept among those in IT. Mainframe application development and operations have typically existed separately from the rest of the corporate infrastructure. Given the system’s sheer processing power and unmatched levels of security, it made sense, and for decades, the mainframe on an island was a workable arrangement.
But times do change. Facing an ever-dwindling pool of mainframe programmers and administrators and an increasingly urgent need to accelerate delivery processes, customers began asking, and then demanding, more.
"Every mainframe vendor heard the challenges from their customers," says Rose Sakach, product manager at Broadcom and chair of the Zowe Technical Advisory Council. "They needed people with the expertise to develop and maintain applications. They needed to increase automation and efficiency. And they wanted to leverage tools for the mainframe that they were already using on all their other platforms. Our goal was to transform the mainframe without compromising its core benefits."
What's New and How to Get StartedIn 2018, The Open Mainframe Project, which works to expand the use of open-source software and Linux in mainframe environments, unveiled Zowe (pronounced ZOH-ee), an extensible framework that facilitates the use of administration, management and development tools that run on the z/OS operating system. The second major version, known as Long Term Support (LTS) V2, features a collection of subtle and significant changes.
For starters, there's improved scalability, making V2 more suitable for large organizations with modern DevOps environments ready to leverage mainframe services and automation across the board. Installation, configuration and selected client extensions have been simplified and tightly secured by default. Some underlying libraries have been upgraded. New “incubator” projects include Zowe Chat, which enables the use of Slack, Microsoft Teams and other chat clients with z/OS, the Zowe Explorer for IntelliJplug-in, which provides mainframe access from integrated development environments (IDEs) such as Intellij, PyCharm, and WebStorm, and ZEBRA—an API (parsing service) which helps make mainframe RMF/SMF data records exploitable by transforming them to industry compliant JSON format.
Sakach further notes that the overall user experience is enhanced, in part from performance improvements to the command line interface (CLI).
"The goal is to provide not just a consistent user experience but a better and more efficient one," she says. "In Zowe V1 for example, a user can login and interact with five conformant services in a consistent manner, but it requires five logins. Now with V2, that same user can experience those five services through a single logon."
Beyond that, the continuous development process makes it simple for current users to advance to V2 and for new users to start with the release of their choice. Zowe support is modeled after what's in place in other open-source communities. Over the entire support window, software updates, security patches and fixes are available and regularly applied. Specifically, for each release, support is provided for a minimum of 4 1/2 years. This time span consists of a two-year "active" phase followed by a "maintenance" phase. The just-announced V2, naturally, is in the active phase. Around the same time, the final V1 release, 1.28, reached the maintenance phase.
For those new to Zowe, Sakach recommends reading the documentation available at zowe.org. In addition to linking to release notes for both V 2.1 and 1.28, the homepage features links to webinars and other recent events. She adds that most new V2 users start with the Zowe CLI and Zowe Explorer client-side components. The Zowe Explorer extension is available from Zowe.org or the Visual Studio code marketplace. She also recommends attending this year’s Open Mainframe Project Summit in September to hear about the latest innovations and best practices.
Zowe Is the Way ForwardSakach, who adds that she is a "proud mainframer," is excited and gratified by the response to Zowe. Since January 2022, Zowe has more than 130,000 downloads and by most recent count, the number of contributors has soared past 500.
"All of our numbers are trending in the right direction—the community engagement and adoption has been fantastic,” she says. "It's exciting to see Zowe growing and maturing, and becoming increasingly embedded in our customer environments. I love to see mainframes adapting to the needs of hybrid environments."
As the Open Mainframe Project continues to grow and shape the Zowe framework, the words of Grace Hopper often come to Sakach's mind. Hopper, a legendary coder (among other things), said, "The most dangerous phrase a manager can use is 'we've always done it that way.'"
"We feel that Zowe is an antidote to that quote," Sakach says. "I think mainframe executives have unfortunately equated the mainframe's dependability and reliability with 'we've always done it that way.' But customers are now realizing that they can have the best of both worlds. They're understanding that open solutions are better than closed solutions, that community collaboration is key, and that for all platforms, freedom of choice is empowering teams. That can be true for the mainframe as well."
About the author
Neil Tardy is a contributing writer to TechChannel.
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