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IBM Z Open Editor

The fundamental underpinnings of an open approach to cloud-native development driven by DevOps practices

Our focus around application development for the mainframe over the years here at IBM has been to push the envelope in terms of innovation. One of the best mainframe integrated development environments (IDEs) in the market has been IBM Developer for z/OS (IDz), with consistently proven productivity benefits and a plethora of features that allow enterprises to standardize on development practices across heterogenous platforms.
Over 15 years of providing best-in-class capabilities we’ve learned a thing or two about providing good editors as a basic building block for IDEs. We’ve evolved the COBOL and PL/I editing capabilities within IDz based on customer input over this time period, and it’s exciting to see these capabilities being brought to Visual Studio Code as IBM Z Open Editor (you can download the extension here).

IBM Z Open Editor and IDz

IBM Z Open Editor is free to download and use, and gives users a taste of the advanced capabilities that IDz provides for all aspects of development for the IBM Z platform. These capabilities include:
  • Real-time syntax checking and highlighting while you type
  • Problems view with all syntax errors and (in COBOL) unreachable code
  • Outline view and outline search
  • For both variables and paragraphs:
    • Declaration hovers
    • Peek definition
    • Go to definition
    • Find all references
  • Code and variable completion
  • Code template snippets
  • Finding and navigating references
  • Previewing of included copybooks and include files
  • Navigate to copybooks and include files
  • Refactoring such as "rename symbol"
  • Search and replace refactoring across multiple program files
For a visual of the above capabilities, see Figure 1 (below).
Figure 1
In addition to all of these features for COBOL and PL/I editing, users can leverage basic syntax highlighting for JCL (see full documentation here).
A view of the COBOL editor and its various options is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2
The implementation leverages Language Server Protocol (LSP) and is designed to fully support Bring Your Own IDE (BYOI). IBM Z Open Editor works with the Zowe extension to provide dataset and member browsing capabilities, and full Git integration makes it all the more appealing and powerful. The IBM Z Open Editor Visual Studio Code extension can be “dropped” into the browser-based Eclipse Theia IDE to provide all its capabilities in the browser.
The Theia-based editor is a default web-based editor for developer workspaces in Eclipse Che v7, which means that you now have best-of-breed editing capabilities with Eclipse Che if you choose to leverage these extensions as described. All of this dovetails nicely into the idea of BYOI, which provides flexibility and choice to developers, and makes it appealing for new entrants to the workforce who have to develop code for the IBM Z platform.

DevOps for IBM Z 

This brings me to the larger narrative around DevOps for the IBM Z platform. Our focus is on driving enterprise-wide standardization by providing the developer community with choice, flexibility, and the ability to leverage the same familiar open tools, and processes that are used for cloud and distributed development. This approach, combined with the embrace of open-source software like Git, allows IBM Z shops to truly standardize across the enterprise by shedding the baggage of having to use legacy SCMs (isolated and primitive library managers).
With the introduction of Dependency Based Build (DBB) for Git, customers can now evolve their DevOps processes based on industry standard tools and enterprise wide CI/CD processes, without having to jump through hoops due to proprietary mainframe vendor-specific implementations for integrating these old library managers into Git, while still using these obsolete library managers for build and deploy. For a visual of this integrated pipeline, see Figure 3.
Figure 3
Git integration using DBB also opens up the ability to leverage generic artifact repositories like Artifactory and Nexus, to store COBOL and PL/I load modules for deployment—again a big step forward in standardization. Combined with the superior, fully virtualized and stubbed developer-centric unit testing capabilities of zUnit, DevOps on IBM Z is a practical reality, allowing customers to continuously improve based on continuous feedback.
Stay tuned for more innovation in the months to come! It’s a great time to be an IBM Z developer, with all of these new capabilities for tapping into the full potential of the most powerful platform on the planet.

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