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Major Announcements From Open Mainframe Summit


Guest: John Mertic
Company: Linux Foundation
Show: Let’s Talk

The Open Mainframe Summit is upon us and some major announcements are coming from the group, including 14 new vendor offerings for this year’s event. Hosted by the Open Mainframe Project, the 2nd Annual Open Mainframe Summit brings together all of the different types of mainframers, from students to hobbyists, seasoned professionals to new engineers, developers, and educators, to share best practices, discuss hot topics, learn technical insights from the best in the industry, and network with like-minded individuals.

John Mertic, Director of Program Management at the Linux Foundation, starts off the discussion by bringing to light the exciting new announcements. First off, they’re seeing member growth with two big names, Ethan Systems and Data Systems, which are vendors in the mainframe space that are making the transition and getting involved in the open-source side of mainframes. Mertic also mentions a mysterious new larger member in the financial services industry that’s joining (the name will be revealed during the summit) the mainframe industry.

The Open Mainframe Summit has had five new projects come into the foundation this year, which is the same pace they saw in the previous year. Even more exciting is the fact that they’ve had two projects graduate through their entire project lifecycle. This means those projects are mature and can be used in production environments. And it’s not just their code base that is maturing, but their community practices as well. Those projects are taking security and the release process seriously. To that end, they’re meeting all the requirements as defined in the Technical Advisory Council.

It should come as no surprise, to anyone who’s ever been involved in the mainframe industry, that COBOL is still alive and well. In fact, the Summit launched a new COBOL Programming Course. That course graduated this year and teaches how to use COBOL through VS Code. The COBOL Programming Course is getting a ton of traction, with more mentees and expansion. At first, this track started as a simple 101 course and has now evolved to include 200-level material. To those in the industry, the need for COBOL does not require justification. However, to that issue, Mertic says, “There are billions, and billions, and billions of COBOL production still in use. And, what is interesting is the last time a similar survey was done, I think, it was like eight or at least 10 years ago, the number of lines reported then versus now has actually significantly increased.” Mertic also mentions that there is more and more investment happening within COBOL and they’re seeing it across a ton of key industries, such as financial, transportation, and manufacturing.

Another project is Zowe, for which the Summit includes plenty of important sessions. Mertic says, “If I’m thinking about Zowe sessions, one is the keynote from Broadcom where it’s really talking about some of its journey to the open modern mainframe because Zowe is just a key part of that.” Companies like Com Infinity are great examples of a mentorship project that brought Zowe into the spotlight to bring more investment into the project. For those interested, there’ll be talks on Zowe Explorer and how it fits into Containerization DevOps.

The summary of the show is written by Jack Wallen

Here is the rough, unedited transcript of the show:

Swapnil Bhartiya:  Hi, this is your host Swapnil Bhartiya, and welcome to [TFiR Newsroom 00:00:08]. And, we have with us today, once again, John Mertic, director of program management at the [Linux Foundation 00:00:15]. John, [Open Mainframe Summit 00:00:16] is already here, so let’s talk about one of the things that you folks are announcing at the event.

John Mertic: So, we have a bunch of really interesting announcements. We’re seeing some member growth this year, we’re announcing three new members, two of them named. [Ethan Systems 00:00:34], along with [Income Data Systems 00:00:37]. These are vendors definitely in the mainframe space that are making that transition and really getting involved in the open source part of the mainframe. And then, we also have a, kind of call, a little bit of a mystery new member in the large member of the financial services industries that’s joining as well. We can’t really reveal their name yet. But, we’re seeing that as a one piece, we’re seeing growth and maturity in our projects. So, we’ve had five new projects come into the foundation this year, which is just about actually the same pace as we saw last year, which is really exciting that we’re able to keep that up.

And, addition, when I talk about maturity, we’ve had two of our projects, and these are the first two projects we’ve had this happen, graduate through our entire project life cycle. And, many of your listeners will know many of our Linux foundation open source projects that have these life cycles in place. What that ends up meaning is that these projects are mature. They can be used in more production sentences, their code bases, but also their community practices are maturing. So, they’re taking security seriously. They’re taking the release process seriously and they’re meeting all those requirements as defined by the [Technical Advisory Council 00:01:56]. In addition, we’re seeing growth in a few of our projects, namely [Zoe 00:02:00], which is not only increasing its Zoe conformance program, we’re seeing more and more vendors sign up there.

I think we have 14 new vendor offerings this year alone. But, they’re broadening that program to include a support conformance. So, this is similar to programs in the [Kubernetes 00:02:19] world like Kubernetes certified service provider, which this is saying that these vendors, which the first two out of the gate are IBM and [Broadcom 00:02:27] have support offerings for Zoe that live up to the standards that are driven from the Zoe community. And, that’s a good step just towards more maturity, and more downstream adoption. So, those are really a lot of the key things that we’re going to be announcing.

Swapnil Bhartiya: As you were talking about the growth of the project. When we look at a project, there are a couple of components there. The is a community there, it’s members, of course there is a code base there. And then, there is also a scope of the project, because we are talking about IoT, their Edge is there. So, if I just ask you, if you reflect on just, let’s say, one year and this growth, what is driving this growth, what is contributing to this growth?

John Mertic: So, it’s interesting. You mentioned things like Edge because I think one, one thing that this project has went through is a look of, “Hey, we’ve made it five years. What are the next five years look like?” And the recognition that they had in all of this was this project has a purpose of being an interconnection between mainframe and the rest of [Enterprise IT 00:03:38], because what they noticed was that the enterprises they’re working with, the really forward thinking enterprises out there, they’re more and more committing to a hybrid IT strategy. They’re bringing edge computing, cloud computing, all of these different technologies together. And, they’re using that as a unique differentiator between them and their competitors. And the challenge has always been, how does mainframe play into this? And, as this project has really went through this year, it’s realized, “Hey, that’s our purpose. That’s where we fit in. All the open source we drive, it’s making that connection, Zoe.”

So, we are spot on in that. The [Cobalt Programming Course 00:04:20], which was launched last year, and it has graduated this year, teaches you to use Cobalt writing through VS code. That’s another thing helping fit that gap and helping make that inner connection. So, that is the thing that really has stood out to me. And, even as we were planning for this event, we saw talks, we even purposely sourced talks that are exploring all those adjacent areas. So, we have [John O’Bacon 00:04:45] speak about open culture and community. We have [Jason Shepherd 00:04:49] from [Zito 00:04:50] speaking about IoT and Edge. We have speakers from the continuous delivery foundation talking dev ops, and cloud native delivery. We have speaking from open source in the finance open source security. All of these different pieces here, which I know you probably haven’t been to a ton of mainframe conferences, but you never see these people speak at a mainframe conference. So, having them here is really, to me, the mind change and the transition that we’re starting to see happen in this community, and talks like this are really going to help draw that community back into that larger conversation.

Swapnil Bhartiya: There are so much to unpack there. So, I would just go one by one. Let’s just pick Cobalt for a second. Of course you mentioned the programming course, which was also the attention it got was impressive. And then, you folks also released the Cobalt survey results. So, I want to, if you can quickly talk about the program course, and then we can also talk about the results of the survey. What did you find there?

John Mertic: Yeah, so the Cobalt Programming Course, it’s continuing to get a ton of traction. There has been a few mentees this year, and last, that worked in contributed a bunch of great materials. What we’re seeing there is they’re expanding a lot of their breadth. At first they started with a very simple 101 course, and now they’re starting to get to that 200 level of materials, and really starting to help build that out. And, they’re looking at more and more ways to have this distributed out there. They already have the course on [Coursera 00:06:32] and some other platforms. They’re exploring additional platforms to bring this to as well. And, we’ve just continued to see that as just having steady growth, new learners coming in, and those learners are transitioning to people filling in Cobalt roles.

So, we’re seeing that full life cycle starting to come through. And, the working group, I think, is just such a great compliment to what they’re doing, because there just has never been, and maybe there hasn’t been, I guess in a long time, this is center of thinking ahead of where this industry is going and understanding it. And, the survey results, which I want to be very kind to the people that put this together and have a great talk at the session that we’ll go into details. But, what I will say is there are billions, and billions, and billions of production Cobalt in still use. And, what is interesting is the last time a similar survey was done, I think, it was like eight or 10 at least years ago. And, the number of lines reported then versus now has actually significantly increased. So, there is more investment actually happening within Cobalt. And, we’re seeing it across a ton of key industries, financial transportation, manufacturing, you name it, we’re seeing those, it’s still very focal industry. So, I would definitely come to the summit to learn more about the results of that, because there is some real fascinating pieces that is just reemphasizing the point of how central Cobalt really is to our society. But, it’s not a legacy language of importance, it’s actively being invested in.

Swapnil Bhartiya: If I ask you that, when we covered the event last year, the interest in Cobalt has grown up, people are caring more about, and you also needed to that. So, if I can ask that once again, what is driving that?

John Mertic: Yeah. Even, if I look back at when this really hit our collective consciousness, what I think we saw is there is always been this code in there, and are already within our industry. But, it just was so much in the background, and it was just so much not directly thought about that when it came out in the forefront all of a sudden everybody’s paying attention a ton. What I think we’re starting to see here is tools, and you could almost say the cobalt maybe in the early stages of when we first started the [Open Mainframe Project 00:09:07] And we were having to have that same level of conversation where people thought these mainframes were… Nothing was going on with them and they didn’t even know they were still existing.

And, now that Cobalt is coming to the forefront, the investment is turning active, with that the innovation starts to turn itself upside down as well. We see a new project early this year, [Cobalt Check 00:09:33], which was bringing test-driven development to the platform. And, when you start to see people paying attention, that’s when the technologies come in, and that’s where the forward-thinking starts to come in, and the ball starts rolling. So, like I said, this code’s always been there, it’s not been in front of us, but now that Cobalt is really in front of us now, now it’s starting to become something that, “Hey, we care a lot about.” “Hey, we have a lot of interest in.” “Hey, we really want to continue to invest in this, because we realize how important it really is.”

Swapnil Bhartiya: The second project that I want to talk to you about was Zoe, it’s still evolving. Tell me, what do you have in the pipeline? [Inaudible 00:10:19] an open source project, everybody can go and check it out. But, if I ask you from your perspective, what can we expect from the community for this year? And, of course, at the event, if you can find it some [spastic 00:10:29] sessions that people should attend.

John Mertic: Session wise, boy, it is always hard for me to say, “Pick one Zoe session, and this is the one you want to really attend here.” That’s a great question there. I would think if I’m thinking about Zoe sessions, one is, as I look at a bit of the keynote from Broadcom where it’s really talking about some of it’s journey to the open modern mainframe, because Zoe is just a key part of that. And, I think, that tells a little bit of a story of where an enterprise is coming in to it. But, then I also start to look at some talks that are coming from folks that are getting a little bit new into the Zoe community. [Ray Cole 00:11:16] from [BMC 00:11:17] talking about their [Workflow Wizard Project 00:11:18] that they contributed, and really BMCs first foray into open source, and into the Open Mainframe Project.

There’s going to be a lot of great talks here on things like we’re the [Zebra Project 00:11:35], for example, that is by [Com Infinity 00:11:39]. Again, that’s a great example of a mentorship project that turned into a new part of Zoe that’s continuing to be invested in. And, there’s just more and more like that, that getting into that, there’s going to be some talks on the [Zoe Explorer 00:11:54], [Containerization DevOps 00:11:57] was Zoe. So, there’s going to be some things you want to check out for sure.

Swapnil Bhartiya: John, thank you so much for taking time out today and talk about the upcoming summit and I’ll see you after the summit. Thank you.

John Mertic: Thank you.