Skip to main content

DevOps and Hybrid Cloud: A Q+A With Rosalind Radcliffe

Much of Rosalind Radcliffe’s career has been spent ensuring DevOps can be cross platform and cross enterprise, including zSystems as part of hybrid cloud. Most recently, Radcliffe, IBM Fellow and CIO DevSecOps CTO, moved to the client side in the IBM CIO organization, a customer of the DevSecOps products.

The IBM CIO’s office is responsible for providing IT systems, including payroll, Devices@IBM, Help@IBM and all of the systems that support the company’s various businesses. It is a very large environment and a lot of it runs on IBM Z. The CIO’s goal is to innovate IT systems that support agile development and create business value for IBM stakeholders, both internal and external.

Here, Radcliffe discusses her career, DevOps and hybrid cloud and what it means to be an IBM Fellow.

TechChannel (TC): Why do mainframe clients continue to develop and maintain mission critical applications on z/OS, and how are they modernizing to take advantage of new technologies and capabilities?

Rosalind Radcliffe (RR): Many clients today are in the middle of modernization projects to digitally transform their business to increase value to their clients. The global pandemic and ever-increasing security threats have made digital transformation and modernization more urgent in the last few years. For many, this includes a hybrid cloud environment to get the advantage of availability, flexibility and even sustainability. According to the Harris Poll and IBV study: “A slight majority of companies have now embraced hybrid cloud (56%). We expect this trend to continue as 80% are moving workloads from public clouds back to some form of private infrastructure. Top reasons are to improve performance and latency, security and compliance.”

IBM zSystems continues to grow as a key component of enterprise hybrid cloud strategies because it is the most securable, reliable, and sustainable platform for heavy transactional workloads. It is also where our clients’ data resides. It is well known that the majority of enterprise data still resides on mainframes. A basic premise of machine learning is data gravity—run your models where your data lives. And, if most of your data is on the mainframe, that makes it the perfect platform to run your machine learning models and do real-time inferencing. Real-time AI inferencing is a feature that released with the latest IBM z16!

To take advantage of this great technology and transform applications to provide the best user experience, a DevOps practice is a prerequisite.

Clients see DevOps as a foundational enabler or pattern on the journey to hybrid cloud.  Our vision at IBM zSystems is to make z/OS a widely available platform of choice in a hybrid-cloud environment bringing together the benefits of IBM Z, cloud and DevOps for a complete solution. As CTO of DevSecOps for IBM, I can confirm we are a perfect example of drinking our own champagne.

TC: How are you drinking your own champagne? Give us some examples.

RR: We currently have an ongoing effort to improve our environment to make the best use of the hardware that we have and to allow our teams to get better utilization of or systems. Just like many large enterprises, we have teams using old processes with old practices, so we are also in the process of truly transforming. When I say transforming, we are going all the way to infrastructure as code for z/OS.

We have created a “ZRES” build automation that creates the system image for you. This capability is built in Python to make it more understandable to the new generation of IT professionals. In a Git repository you create a YAML file to specify which products you want in your system image, and the system configuration for the specified products. Once the image is created, automation is used to IPL the image and run a verification process to ensure it works.

This initial test is done in a sandbox environment to keep applications running. Once the new image is verified, automation moves the running workload of the target LPAR to be updated. When the workload is moved, the LPAR is shut down, and re-IPLed with the new updated image. Verification runs again to ensure the LPAR is functioning correctly, and assuming it is, the workload is moved back and the process moves on to the next LPAR.

Using automation this way for the system updates—and using an application pipeline for all application deployments—allows us to remove all access from production and have a zero-touch environment. With no more guessing or having to investigate a system to understand what’s really going on, we have a documented configuration and standard images across the environment. This makes it a lot easier for new team members coming on board to understand the environment and allows for simpler overall management of the systems.

TC: How are you helping new developers?

RR: A key element of our journey has been empowering developers with cloud-native tools for code editing, debugging, building, testing, etc. This enables continuous integration, via agile DevOps best practice of testing as early and often as possible. IBM Developer for z/OS (IDz) is the premier integrated development environment (IDE) for z/OS applications. While it was introduced originally as WebSphere Developer for z/OS, it has evolved over the past 20 years, and version 16.0 was recently announced.

A recent survey conducted by our market intelligence team with a Systems Research Community gave us three interesting insights into our z/OS developers world. To no one’s surprise, the primary IDE used by z/OS developers is still ISPF, followed by Eclipse. But in 5 years, they envision Eclipse and VS Code being used heavily by their development teams. Within the IBM CIO office, we are working to move our teams to IDz Enterprise Edition (IDz EE) using their choice of Eclipse or VS Code connecting into our pipeline, which is using IBM Dependency Based Build—a part of IDz EE.

TC: Has it been difficult to change these processes and get everyone on board?

RR: The hardest thing to change in any transformation is the culture. The same is true in the IBM CIO office. Both new and experienced developers are learning from each other in a non-penalty environment. Although we have a full hybrid cloud and systems running in lots of places, the reality is I would like to run as much as appropriate on IBM Z from a security and availability or always-on standpoint. I can keep things more available on the platform because of the hardware stability in addition to all the agile capabilities that I can exploit. Meanwhile, I continually chip away at the fears and the misconceptions about development on z/OS.

One way to start is by removing that fear and making it simpler and more accessible. Encouraging people to play with z/OS in IBM Cloud with Wazi as a Service, allowing them to experiment, understand and learn in a penalty free environment. They have the freedom to know they are not breaking an existing system or impacting production. Not failing in production gives them the freedom to experiment and do the same things that you are doing in every other environment, but it just happens to be running in a more secure platform in the background and leveraging automation of continuous integration and delivery. We happen to be using Teckton for our common pipeline, because that is what our distributed side is using. You could just as easily use Git or Jenkins and still include the mainframe in your toolchain.

When you onboard new developers and ask them to use JCL or ISPF, it is like a foreign language. But if they can use VS Code the same way they did in school or on a distributed platform, they soon become zealots. Much of fostering an agile, collaborative culture comes from education and creating awareness of possibilities as we improve mainframe skills and expand the innovation and ecosystem around the platform.

Many developers have experience with open source and sharing software utilities, which has actually been part of the mainframe culture for years, when we had tapes that shared code among clients. Okay, we did not call it open source, but that is what it was in the early days because we were sharing utilities and functions between organizations. We did not want people to have to rewrite things, so we shared it to make it generally available.

Experienced developers must learn how to trust open source that has been vetted by the community and then supported by a trusted vendor. We are validating how to govern open source to create new code—and maintain our millions of lines of existing code. Our original mainframe user group (still going strong today) is called SHARE. Join us at SHARE the next meeting and help us forge new capabilities in this area.

TC: What’s in the future for DevOps on z/OS?

RR: On the near horizon, I mentioned the work we are doing on automated pipelines that enable infrastructure as code, and the increased use of automation—plus the inclusion of the security team in “DevSecOps” practices—will allow us to shift security left and add continuous compliance to the CI/CD process.

Whether DevOps morphs into DevSecOps, DevBizSecOps or value stream platform engineering remains to be seen, but I am convinced that the concept of agile, integrated development and operations will continue to fuel business innovation well into the foreseeable future. Knowing the strength and security of the IBM zSystems platform is also clear. IBM Z is a critical differentiator to enterprises of all sizes around the globe for its unmatched scale, reliability and security. According to a recent report conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Deloitte, 90% of respondents said that they see the mainframe as a platform for new growth and long- term applications.

TC: Last year you were named an IBM Fellow. What does this designation mean?

RR: IBM Fellow is a significant honor; it’s a recognition for what you have achieved and what IBM expects of you in the future. It is an appointment directly by our CEO Arvind Krishna. I earned this through the work to transform z/OS so that it can be part of a full DevOps transformation.

I accepted the new challenge of modernizing the ways of working for IBM CIO. It’s a very large, complex environment, but it’s a great next challenge for my career. Within the CIO we are client 0 for the IBM capabilities, to allow us to help drive improvements and scale required by large enterprises. My passion for improving the ways of working will help us within the CIO achieve a true hybrid cloud showcase environment. Providing the secure, reliable environment our applications require, while at the same time improving the development experience through automated intelligent workload placement. This will allow us to use the IBM Z hardware for what it is best at, optimize our spend across systems and continue to drive to the IBM sustainability goals.

Further reading:

DevOps capabilities page
IDz product page
Wazi as a Service product page
Join the DevOps Solutions Community
ADFz and IDzEE announcement
IDz and DBB announcement