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Open Mainframe Project Begins First Quarter With More Growth

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect daily life around the world, companies turned to digital opportunities to continue to grow their businesses and maintain regular operations in the face of changing circumstances. As the need for online resources exploded across the globe, so did interest and engagement with online communities.

Throughout the pandemic, for instance, those within the mainframe and open-source communities continued to support one another. And the Open Mainframe Project—an open-source initiative within The Linux Foundation that works directly with programmers and developers to create and distribute advances to mainframe technology—was a linchpin of this support system. It certainly was a year of change, as you’ll see in the Open Mainframe Project’s 2020 annual report highlighting the ways the organization and the open-source community have grown during this year of online connections. Here are some highlights from the report:

New Projects Joining the Ecosystem

Whether it be projects, training courses, or education materials, the Open Mainframe Project ecosystem experienced massive growth throughout 2020. One of the greatest points of expansion was in the projects that joined ecosystem. Each new project was presented to, reviewed and approved by Open Mainframe Project’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which consists of technical volunteers from member companies.

With the help of the TAC, Open Mainframe Project was able to more than double its number of projects from eight, to 17. These new additions include:

These projects join ADE Ambitus, ATOM, Feilong, Mentorship, Polycephaly, TerseDecompress, Zowe, Zowe Conformance Program and Zorow in the group of projects piloted by the Open Mainframe Project.

In addition to the projects that joined Open Mainframe Project in 2020, several businesses and tech companies also joined the open-source ecosystem. Some new members joining the ecosystem include:

  • HCL Technologies
  • Micro Focus
  • Red Hat
  • Software Engineering GmbH

“The Open Mainframe Project, which launched with 12 founding members, is now compromised of 41 business and academic organizations,” says John Mertic, director of the Open Mainframe Project and director of program management at the Linux Foundation. “That’s an increase of 225% in the last five years. In fact, when compared to the last year, the project ecosystem grew 14% with new members coming with extensive technology, mainframe, COBOL, and open-source expertise.” Open Mainframe Project plans to continue this trend of expansion with the addition of more projects to the ecosystem in 2021.

Virtual Summit Takes the Stage

In addition to the sharing of new projects in 2020, Open Mainframe Project also created online opportunities for connection between companies and thought-leaders in the digital industry during the annual Open Mainframe Summit. While the event was originally scheduled to take place in New York City at Marist College, the summit quickly transitioned to become the Open Mainframe Project’s first ever virtual conference to comply with COVID-19 precautions.

More than 380 registrants from 176 companies around the world attended the Open Mainframe Summit, which featured keynote addresses, breakout sessions and lightning talks covering a mixture of executive and technical content. Among the popular sessions were the women in technology panel, COBOL sessions, new mainframer journeys and project overview sessions for Polycephaly, Feilong, Zowe, and Ambitus. While the pivot to virtual was an unprecedented adjust to the event, Open Mainframe Project plans to have an in-person summit in 2021.

Zowe Continues to Grow, Reaches Milestones

For Zowe, one of Open Mainframe Project’s largest project, 2020 has also been a very busy year. The community continues to grow with nearly 231 committers, more than 27,680 commits and around 1,650 developers regularly discussing information, sharing best practices, and asking questions on Slack. The project also achieved several significant milestones throughout the year, including the release of version 1.17 that includes several noteworthy features and system enhancements.

Additionally, Zowe Explorer was utilized in the Master the Mainframe program and Open Mainframe Project’s COBOL Training Course in 2020. This meant that those who were learning mainframe skills for the first time or receiving a refresher could have open and easy access to training materials. Finally, the Zowe Leadership Committee also updated and restructured the Zowe Conformance Program, which helps Open Mainframe Project members and open-source participants integrate Zowe with new and existing products that allow use of mainframe applications across the system.

With the updates, every extensible component’s test criteria was modified to enable exploitation of the Zowe Long Term Support (LTS) capabilities. Applications that fulfill the new testing requirements will earn a Zowe “V1” conformance badge. 44 products from Broadcom, IBM, Phoenix Software, Rocket Software and Software Engineering, have implemented extensions based on the LTS framework, earning these members conformance badges. Programs like Zowe demonstrate the accessibility of open-source projects for both developers new to mainframe skills and companies looking to expand their technology, as well as the continuing growth of applications across platforms.

Creating a Stronger Ecosystem

Despite the challenges and roadblocks, 2020 proved to be a fruitful year for Open Mainframe Project and the projects within its ecosystem. To continue the success of the open-source community both inside and outside of the digital landscape, Open Mainframe Project focused on a few key themes in 2020—including diversity and inclusion. Across the globe, conversations around diversity and inclusion captivated businesses in every industry and at Open Mainframe Project, mainframers focused on promoting diversity and encouraging inclusiveness in both the community and projects it creates as a way to drive better results.

“We get more opinions, different perspectives, innovative ideas resulting in greater outcomes,” says Yvette A. LaMar, co-chair of the Open Mainframe Project Marketing Committee. “We see diversity and inclusion not only as a critical part of where our society needs to go but also is a critical part of our community’s success.” To tackle this challenge in the mainframe industry, where the lack of diversity in technology is especially notable, Open Mainframe Project partnered with SHARE for their “Women in IT” initiative from their successful Fort Worth and digital SHARE conferences. In addition, Open Mainframe Project hosted its own “Women in IT” panel during the Open Source Summit in Europe to focus on diversity. Open Mainframe Project is also a sponsor for “How Personal Experiences Shape Corporate Inclusion”—the latest webinar in the Making Our Strong Community, Stronger collaborative initiative on diversity, equity and inclusion.Through these partnerships and events, Open Mainframe Project is committing to amplifying diverse voices throughout the community.

Beyond a focus on diversity and inclusion, Open Mainframe Project also invested in enhancing training resources in 2020. With the help of community members, the project assembled the COBOL Training Course, which offers an easy overview of the coding language of developers of any skill level. By creating easier access to mainframe training, Mainframe Open Education seeks to bring together experts and resources to educate and train the upcoming generation of mainframers. The Mainframe Open Education project is closely aligned with Open Mainframe Project’s Mentorship project, which was originally launched in 2017. By working with mentors from member companies like Broadcom, IBM, Rocket Software, SUSE and Vicom Infinity, students are able to gain experience with Linux, open source, and mainframes.

Looking to the Future

While 2020 marked many milestones and accomplishments for Open Mainframe Project, the organization is already looking forward into 2021. The Open Mainframe Project Governing Board, for example, has already planned out key goals and objectives to meet for 2021—including:

  • The launch of the Open Mainframe Project Ambassador program, which will recognize and enable a select group of individuals within the community to be evangelists for the umbrella, it’s projects and technical efforts
  • Collaboration across other open-source foundations, focusing on efforts where project strengths align with other horizontal foundation efforts and create mutual value for both project and downstream vendors and end-users
  • Continual project growth, while ensuring existing projects are being adopted downstream
  • Hosting the second annual Open Mainframe Summit in September

The transition to an online environment and its challenges made 2020 a difficult year for many organizations. But with the support of the open-source community, the Open Mainframe Project was able to welcome new members, expand its resources, amplify new voices and share its mission far and wide with online users across the globe.