Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Mainframe vendors, once the only platform in the computer industry, have given way to new entrants, with the likes of commodity hardware, open source software and the cloud. While still holding a sizable slice of the IT market, even IBM has broadened its focus, but not so for privately held Compuware. It has taken on the mission to “mainstream the mainframe” and is making a set of announcements intended to make Big Iron more popular, including: integrations with Splunk, Atlassian, SonarSource, AppDynamics and Jenkins; and the acquisition of assets of ISPW, a provider of agile source code management and release automation solutions for cross-platform development.
Despite decades of progress on other platforms, ‘mainframe code is still managed by siloed teams using slow processes and obsolete tools, stated the company. “If your mainframe application development isn’t Agile, your business can’t be agile,” said Compuware CEO Chris O’Malley in a prepared statement. “Our mission is to help customers achieve that essential business agility by empowering Agile DevOps teams to master the mainframe just as they do other platforms in the multi-platform enterprise.”
Clearly the mainframe will remain a critical platform for the foreseeable future, O’Malley told IT Trends & Analysis, but the perception is much bleaker. Customers are cynical about the mainframe vendors, they lie and have lost the will to innovate, he said. We’re “proving we can innovate… and we’re trying to bring the mainframe to mainstreet”. “You’ve got to work hard to re-earn that trust.”
Compuware wants to reach out to what it calls the “renegade developers” and motivate and enable them to leverage the mainframe. “To do that… we’re going to get rid of the esoteric differences on the mainframe… (and make it) a collaborator with the usual suspects in DevOps.”
Since going private at the end of 2014, the company, which was founded in 1973, has been on an aggressive pace of innovation. In addition to a constant flood of new products, it has been receiving positive reviews, as well as increasing revenues and bookings each quarter, said O’Malley.
In July analyst Rich Ptak, Ptak Associates LLC, lauded Compuware for delivering on its promises. ‘They not only provide much needed and highly effective solutions, they are living proof of the high efficiency and agility that can be accomplished in mainframe computing by delivering high quality solutions at an unheard of pace. Congratulations to them.’
Joe Clabby, Clabby Analytics, was equally effusive in his praise a couple of months later. ‘It is refreshing to see innovation being driven on a grand scale at Compuware. Since Chris O’Malley’s arrival, new products are arriving and new functionalities are being brought to market every quarter across all of Compuware’s product lines.’
The outlook for the mainframe appears more positive than at any time in the recent past:
-IBM’s mainframe business grew 15% in the latest quarter available (2015 Q3);
-7 out of 10 IT planners, architects and managers at global enterprises with $1 billion or more in annual revenues ranked the use of the mainframe for large-scale transaction processing as very important; and,
-security is a central driver to mainframe growth (BMC’s 10th annual mainframe research report).
Still, there is a lot of work to be done, said O’Malley. “There partnerships are the first steps, we’re doing a lot because I think we need to.”
He said there is an urgent need for mainframe to fit into CIOs’ world order of fast and agile. “Somebody, not necessarily Compuware, has to rise up to that challenge.”
Moving forward, O’Malley said the company is purposely looking for a new audience for our technology. “We believe that the controlling audience inside IT will be those that run DevOps. They’re looking to be renegades to make IT fast and agile… it’s those people that we see to be our future customers and those people see the mainframe as problematic.”