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Open Mainframe Project Celebrates 5 Years of Zowe, Looks Back on Growth

Since the Open Mainframe Project was founded eight years ago, the program has grown and evolved to become a pillar of the mainframe community, serving as a focal point for the deployment and use of Linux and open-source technology on the mainframe.

Over the past near-decade, Open Mainframe has branched out into several other projects and offerings, including Mainframe Open Education, Zowe, a COBOL Programming Course and recently, the Open Mainframe Summit, bringing the mainframe community together to share best practices, learn technical insights and network with other passionate mainframers.

Highlights From Open Mainframe Summit 2023

Reflecting on 2022’s Open Mainframe Summit, John Mertic, executive director of Open Mainframe Project, recalls, “Our number one challenge was: How do we get more end users in the audience?” The solution: Open Mainframe Project co-hosted the Open Mainframe Summit 2023 with IBM TechXchange in Las Vegas. “It was great being part of the larger IBM community work there,” he says.

This year’s Summit, held Sept. 11, featured several morning keynotes—diversity in the mainframe community, best practices for mentorship, Zowe use cases and an Open Mainframe Project overview —along with shortened, 20-minute sessions. Topics included Mainframe Open Education, open-source enablement, Zowe, Galasa and more. Mertic notes, “We started to see a number of customers coming from major financial groups and other key customers as well. It was a real highlight seeing them spend time with our community, learn what’s going on and understand the technologies.”

Co-hosting the event with IBM TechXchange created opportunities for a broader customer community and end user base to participate in sessions and learn more about the technology powering their businesses.

Mertic and his team hope to find similar success in November, when the Open Mainframe Summit will be co-hosted with the Open Source in Finance Forum in New York. “We’re going to predominantly have people that are outside the mainframe audience coming to this event, but they’re all financial services, so they all have mainframes. So, the content there is going to be really tailored to engage that audience,” Mertic says.

In New York, the Open Mainframe Project team looks to educate and inform the non-mainframe audience about the state of the mainframe and break down misconceptions, demonstrating how open-source tools can eliminate silos across teams.

5 Years of Zowe

This year also marks the fifth anniversary of Zowe, the first open-source project based on z/OS, bringing together industry experts to drive innovation and allow development and operations teams to securely, manage, control, script and develop on the mainframe like any other cloud platform. “It’s always exciting to see a project get to this point,” Mertic says.

Mertic recognizes the milestone as a sign of the project’s maturity and success, especially because Zowe is all about driving innovation in an environment that values stability, adding, “Seeing it at this five-year point, it’s like validation, in a way, of all of the work that happened even before Zowe was announced.”

Zowe has made a significant impact on the mainframe ecosystem since it began, opening the mainframe to new audiences and showcasing it as a platform for innovation.

For a long time, ISVs looking to build applications and services for the mainframe would have to leverage a large amount of staff resources just to be able to put up a front end that would be accessible by a mainframe.

That’s where Zowe comes in. Mertic explains, “Before we were maintaining all of this glue and infrastructure code. Zowe comes in and solves that problem for you—and gives you even more pieces. It gives you desktop environments, CLIs, SDKs, API endpoints, all sorts of different ways to expose your mainframe apps and services and data to the rest of your enterprise.”

Zowe’s impact is measured by more than just code. “The talk [about the mainframe] after Zowe was launched had a tone of reinvigoration, bringing new workloads, bringing new interest, bringing new players to the table, having this being not a legacy platform but an actively invested in platform.”

The Future of Zowe

Zowe is bridging the gap between IT teams, benefitting organizations by fostering a cohesive architecture. Looking ahead, Mertic expects Zowe’s influence to spread to other technologies, following the same thought pattern.

He explains, “The better you’re able to leverage these [methodologies], the better it is for the organization, the more sticky the platform is, but also the more valuable the platform is…you’ll see organizations look to leverage the platform because of the integration story. That’s an area where I see Zowe being able to have an amazing impact.”

Galasa and the Growth of Open Mainframe Project

At this year’s Summit, the Open Mainframe Project team also introduced a new open-source project: Galasa. Originally focused on testing automation on z/OS, Galasa has quickly been adopted in several other environments and operating systems, helping organizations building new applications to have a common set of tools that pull together all parts of the enterprise to deploy on multiple hardware tools using different data sources.

“[Galasa] is pushing down the road of this long-term piece of making the barrier of working with a mainframe really, really low—making it easy for an enterprise to integrate, easy for teams to leverage, using the tooling that they’re using all over the rest of their enterprise,” explains Mertic. “I see projects like Galasa, Zowe, Feilong, among others, all pushing down that path. This is a tipping point of more and more work happening to make the mainframe more accessible to development staff.”

Part of Open Mainframe’s growth trajectory over the past eight years has involved Mainframe Open Education, a community partnership program that began in 2020. Mainframe Open Education is a convenient platform for mainframers to create and donate learning tools to cultivate mainframe skills and encourage knowledge sharing. Mertic recalls, “We looked at the landscape and said, ‘Wow, Zowe has brought together our ecosystem in a way that we’re able to collaborate on a common way to access made at mainframe data and services using modern tooling. Could we do the same thing around education?’”

Similar to other Open Mainframe projects, Mainframe Open Education has reached a mature stage, according to Mertic. “It’s graduated to an active stage, which means it’s a project that has put together the right infrastructural pieces of how [the team] works, what their policies are, their governance and all of those things to have a smooth-running, sustainable project,” he says.

Thanks to the continued investment and dedication of the Open Mainframe Project team, its leadership and the surrounding mainframe community, it’s safe to assume that the project’s growth trajectory will continue, revealing the mainframe as a platform for innovation and growth, educating people and pushing the platform forward.