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Getting to Know the Open-Source Zowe Project

Zowe—the first open-source framework for z/OS—is poised to break new ground for IBM Z clients. Announced on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at SHARE in St. Louis, by executives from IBM, CA Technologies, Rocket Software and the Open Mainframe Project, the open-source project promises to be a game changer.

“Open source redefines industries across the board. We’ve seen it solve problems and lead to innovative solutions. Open source changed the automotive industry and the cloud changed networking, too,” says John Mertic, director of program management for The Linux Foundation and director for the Open Mainframe Project. “We’re excited to see what Zowe and open source will do for the mainframe industry.”
Zowe emerged as an answer to one of the mainframe community’s most popular asks: Make IBM Z open source. “The whole idea for the project came from the mainframe community. We all love IBM Z, but we’ve also seen other platforms accelerate in growth because they’ve embraced open source,” says Andy Youniss, president and CEO at Rocket Software. “More and more mainframe users and mainframe customers were waiting for the day IBM Z would finally be open, too.”

The Modern Mainframe

Like the rest of the mainframe community, the contributors that brought Zowe to fruition already knew the value behind the platform. Unfortunately, they also knew that not everyone sees how relevant the mainframe is. “We have this great platform that does so much heavy lifting for the world. It’s extremely secure and it processes things faster than anything else,” says Greg Lotko, mainframe general manager at CA Technologies. “We’ve all been searching for ways to have others see the light and understand what it is we know.”
The best way to help others see this mainframe “light” was to listen to the community and opt for open source. Zowe is specifically designed to open the platform, enable the mainframe community and attract new people to the mainframe. To effectively do this, the companies knew the platform had to appear familiar and open. “We all quickly concluded that, if we’re going to look familiar to someone new, there’s a set of foundational elements the platform should have. It has to be common, and it can—and should—be accessible to anybody,” says Barry Baker, vice president of IBM Z software at IBM.

The Role of the Open Mainframe Project

The Open Mainframe Project—a foundation hosted by The Linux Foundation—was key in making this new open-source framework as effective as possible with the goal of providing a vendor-neutral home for open source on the mainframe. The Open Mainframe Project has worked on several open-source projects in the past as well, providing a broad range of expertise. It’s hosted an internship program where students worked on open-source projects, assisted existing open-source projects that just needed additional support and more.
Collaboration is fundamental for open source, but it was also pivotal during the development of Zowe. IBM, CA Technologies, Rocket Software and The Linux Foundation each brought their unique perspectives to the table to make Zowe the best it could be. “We got together, and based on our companies’ histories, we knew we each had our own user communities. We had extremely collaborative sessions because we all brought our own perspectives, and that’s when the magic really happened,” says Youniss.
The name “Zowe” is also more meaningful than you might think. “We had this desire to have something catchy and easy to say, and we liked how ‘Zowe’ sounded. That’s when we ended up thinking about the spelling,” says Lotko. Eventually, everyone agreed to spell it Z-O-W-E. “The ‘Z’ brings in IBM Z, the ‘O’ alludes to open source and the ‘WE’ brings in a common theme of inclusivity,” Baker adds.

Zowe’s Future

And inclusivity is truly what defines Zowe. This is a huge step forward for the mainframe ecosystem, but the true test lies in what kind of transformation Zowe will bring. “We’re looking forward to seeing what Zowe becomes, and how it will transform the community over time,” says Mertic.
As far as where Zowe will take the mainframe, that’s really up to the community. The project’s founders are excited to see where it goes. “Zowe is about empowering the community. We could have this go into places where we would never have thought of,” says Youniss. “We’ll all be here for guidance, but the collective mainframe community will bring Zowe where it ultimately needs to go.”