One of the biggest problems facing mainframe sites is their aging population of experts. Many mainframe geeks, gurus and mavens are starting to think about their pensions and their retirement. One solution to the problem of an aging and retiring staff is to automate as much as possible, but that doesn’t solve the problem of how to create new applications or update existing applications to work in new ways, such as cloud, mobile working or incorporating public APIs to create some completely new application.
The big question for organizations is “How can we ensure that we can digitally transform so that we can still operate successfully in the fast-evolving digital world?” The answer is to come up with a way of making everything on Z available to people who are used to working in other ways on other platforms. And that, in a nutshell, is where Zowe comes in.
The Open Mainframe Project, a collaborative project managed by the Linux Foundation, officially announced Zowe on August 28, but the project was also announced at SHARE in St. Louis by executives from IBM, CA Technologies, Rocket Software and the Open Mainframe Project.
Zowe is the first open-source framework for z/OS. Zowe provides solutions for development and operations teams to securely manage, control, script, and develop on the mainframe like any other cloud platform. It aims to bring together industry experts from a range of companies to drive innovation for the community of next-generation mainframe developers—whether or not they have mainframe platform experience. And that’s the key to mainframe-using organizations being successful in the future—those new developers don’t need to have previous mainframe experience! By using Zowe, non-mainframer developers can use the open-source industry-standard tools they are already familiar with to access mainframe resources and services.
According to the press release, Zowe’s mission is to enable delivery of intuitive, productive and improved integrated capabilities for z/OS “through an extensible open-source framework and the creation of an ecosystem of Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), system integrators, clients and end users. This new framework will enable an ecosystem of software solutions intended to provide a simple, intuitive environment for a variety of IT professionals performing administrative, development, test and operation tasks on z/OS, and help onboard the next generation of mainframe users.”
All of Zowe’s code is open source, and will be made available under the open-source Eclipse Public License 2.0. You can access the code from the Open Mainframe Project website. The Zowe GitHub site is another useful resource.
Zowe has four components:
1. Zowe APIs. The Zowe APIs are really the REST APIs from z/OS, which are made available through the z/OSMF. Using these APIs through Zowe, it’s possible to submit jobs, work with the job entry subsystem (JES) queue and manipulate data sets. Associated with this are Zowe Explorers, which are visual representations of these APIs that are wrapped in the Zowe Web UI application. The clever part is that the Zowe Explorers create an extensible z/OS framework providing new z/OS REST services to enterprise tools and DevOps processes.
2. The Zowe API Mediation Layer. This is comprised of:
3. The Zowe Web UI. Also known as zLUX, this component is designed to modernize and simplify working on the mainframe, and, by using the UI, allows users to create any applications they need. The UI works with the underlying REST APIs for data, jobs and subsystems, and presents the information in a full-screen mode as opposed to using a command-line interface. At SHARE, it was described as a native and extensible z/OS web UI that provides a unifying user experience where different applications in the Zowe Web UI can work together and deliver launch-in-context to provide a fast path to additional information.
- The API Gateway, which is built using Netflix Zuul (a gateway service that provides dynamic routing, monitoring, resiliency, security and more) and Spring Boot technology (which makes it easy to create stand-alone, production-grade Spring-based applications that “just run”) to forward API requests to the appropriate corresponding service through the microservice endpoint UI.
- The Discovery Service, which is built on Eureka and Spring Boot technology and acts as the central point in the API Gateway that accepts announcements of REST services, and is a repository for active services.
- The API Catalog, which publishes APIs, and their associated documentation, that are discoverable from the service catalog. A service can be implemented by one or more service instances, which provides the same service for high availability or scalability.
4. The Zowe Command Line Interface. This allows users to interact with z/OS from a variety of other platforms, such as cloud or distributed systems. The users can submit jobs, issue time sharing option and z/OS console commands, integrate z/OS actions into scripts, and produce responses as JSON documents. With this extensible and scriptable interface, users can tie in mainframes to distributed DevOps pipelines and build in automation.
The Best Is Yet to Come
IBM contributed the extensible z/OS framework that provides REST-based services or APIs allowing users to use new technology, tools, languages and modern workflows with z/OS. It’s also contributing z/OS Explorer Core, which gives developers a set of discoverable foundational services or building blocks that can be used across all aspects of Zowe. Rocket Software is providing a web UI, and CA Technologies is providing a command line interface.
As an aside, Zowe’s name was chosen because it sounded exciting and new. Retrofitting it into an acronym, we get Z for IBM Z, O for open source, and WE because it is inclusive of everyone.
I expect that we will hear a lot more about Zowe in the future.