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How Zowe Is Bringing the Mainframe into the Modern Age

Anjali Arora, SVP and Chief Product Officer at Rocket Software, explains how Zowe is helping bring a new generation of users to the mainframe.

At the Open Source Summit last fall, The Linux Foundation announced a new project called Zowe. Essentially, Zowe is a new open source software framework that allows developers to use modern tools and technologies on mainframe systems running z/OS. The project is the outcome of collaboration among IBM, Rocket Software, and Broadcom within the umbrella of the Open Mainframe Project at The Linux Foundation. Since Zowe’s launch, there has been a huge community response and the project is on the verge of marking several technical milestones.

We sat down with Anjali Arora, SVP and Chief Product Officer, Rocket Software, to learn more about Zowe and Rocket’s involvement, including the contribution of their web UI and other technologies to the project.

Why does the mainframe need Zowe? The answer is simple. Mainframes have been around for ages. But not much has changed in that world while rest of us have moved on to shinier things like cloud and Kubernetes.

“Mainframe is very proprietary technology, and it’s very old. The tools and code for the mainframe are also very old – it’s COBOL and assembler. The UI is green with no support for touch,” said Arora.

Modern tools

The goal of the Zowe project is to create a framework that enables developers to bring their latest tools to work on the mainframe. IBM, Broadcom, and Rocket Software worked together and open sourced their own technologies to achieve this. According to the project website, Zowe provides various components, including an app framework and a command-line interface, which lets users interact with the mainframe remotely and use integrated development environments, shell commands, Bash scripts, and other tools. It also provides utilities and services to help developers quickly learn how to support and build z/OS applications.

“What Zowe allows both end users and developers to do is enable a newer generation of users and developers to have access to all the critical data within all these financial, retail, and insurance systems living on the mainframe,” she said.

The fact is that almost all of the critical mainframe applications were written decades ago. Some of these companies are more than 100 years old, and they are using mainframe systems for their mission-critical workloads. So, what Zowe is trying to achieve is to open source some of these technologies to help companies bring their existing workloads into the modern day. This will also allow them to attract a new generation of users and developers.

“Bear in mind, the mainframe is still powering mission-critical applications including banking transactions,” said Arora. “The mainframe is not going away. It is better to bring the new generation to the mainframe than try to move the critical data elsewhere.”

The Zowe community is also actively working to engage potential new users and expose them to the mainframe by organizing hackathons and other activities around Zowe.

If you’re attending IBM’s THINK next week in San Francisco, you can learn more about the Open Mainframe Project and Zowe in any of the five sessions.  Or, you can stop by the SUSE Booth (#562 in the Think Infrastructure Campus) on Tuesday, February 12 at 5:30-6:30 pm for a happy hour with OMP.  Learn more about the many sessions and the happy hour at:

You can watch the complete video here:

Learn more about the Open Mainframe Project and how to get involved in this “Keeping up with the Zowians” blog post.

Swapnil Bhartiya