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Debugging Tools Provide a Complete Picture of Your Mainframe Coding Environment

Why your modern mainframe needs interactive debugging tools

Modern computer systems have revolutionized businesses, enabling them to get insights, automate processes and drive outcomes at a speed and scale never seen before. One aspect that hasn’t changed, even for the most advanced systems, is the problem of bugs.

Bugs prevent code from functioning as it was intended and challenge those who are writing or testing code to find and fix the problem, typically without knowing where to start looking. The debugging process can be time-consuming and complex, especially when using basic tools that lack interactive capabilities and don’t scale well.

What IBM mainframe programmers may not realize is that they have several options for solving their bug problems. While many programmers leverage the tools that are readily available to them and accept their organization’s status quo, this approach can limit their ability to debug quickly and efficiently. More advanced tools enable programmers to solve problems fast and determine the root cause of the problem, thus avoiding the same error from recurring.

Choosing the Right Debugging Tool

While many organizations buy one type of debugging tool and stick with it, there are compelling reasons to upgrade from basic or non-interactive tools to more sophisticated models. The time savings and versatility to debug many types of code enabled by interactive tools offer a strong return on investment.

There are three tiers of tools:

  • Basic tools are customized to solve a particular problem, which means they’re not scalable across other debugging issues or types of code. Users will need to have some idea of where the bug is occurring to zero in on it, or else they’ll spend a lot of time going through code to identify the source of the problem.
  • Non-interactive tools are typically proprietary tools used to find bugs in z/OS environments. While they report on data structures, their big drawback is that they do not determine what’s causing the problem, which means the issue is likely to recur.
  • Interactive tools offer a modern and scalable approach to debugging. These tools identify issues quickly and efficiently while also determining what caused the problem so it can be prevented. Interactive tools offer the ability to debug in nearly any z/OS environment and save significant time by helping users identify where the problem exists, so they have a clear starting point.

Programmers and developers should consider which tool is best for their needs instead of being locked into one tier because of a legacy approach to debugging. Maybe for some users, a print statement of code and basic tools work well. Others may find a significant benefit in seeing what’s happening in a program at a detailed level and being directed to a point in the code where the bug is occurring to accelerate the debugging process.

Debug Code in Real Time 

Because interactive tools direct users to where a bug is occurring in the code, users can debug in real time. The tools highlight the specific statements being executed in the code, giving users the ability to determine if that particular instruction is delivering the expected results.

With interactive tools, users gain a detailed and more complete picture of their entire coding environment than with non-interactive tools. Knowing more about problems—and especially where a bug is occurring—eliminates the arduous trial-and-error process of tracking down an issue. Yet picking the right tool and understanding how debuggers differ, and why those differences are important to programmers and developers, can be tricky.

Our new e-book, “The Best Tools for Debugging Modern Mainframes,” explains why organizations need interactive debugging to resolve coding problems in mainframe systems. The e-book offers expert insights on:

  • The pros and cons of different debugging tools
  • The limitations of non-interactive tools
  • The unique benefits of interactive debuggers
  • Innovative tools that complement interactive tools
  • How to inspect a system dump for bugs

The e-book also shares how ColeSoft’s interactive debugging products help software engineers, programmers and others fix bugs quickly, effectively and efficiently. These tools do more than debug code. They test code as it’s written, allowing programmers and others to ensure instructions work the way they’re intended and if not, allow users to make changes as soon as the code is created.

As the e-book notes, “Interactively debugging programs in real time eliminates the challenge of having to review hundreds or thousands of lines of code after it’s finished.”