Developing Node.js with IBM Developer for z Systems and z/OS

IBM Developer for z Systems (IDz) makes it easy to develop and run Node.js applications on z/OS. With JavaScript and JSON editors, z/OS remote file system explorer, z/OS remote shell support, and z/OS UNIX Application run configurations, the tools you need are built into IDz.

This article covers two basic examples of Node.js applications on z/OS: a simple file writer and a simple server. For experienced Node.js application developers, much in these basic examples will look familiar. They are provided both as an introduction for developers who are unfamiliar with Node.js, and to contrast the simpler applications with configurations that take advantage of IDz. You can the samples in this post within the Node-js-Samples directory of the git repository: https://github.com/ibm/idz-utilities.

Before you start: Install node on your mainframe and include it in your PATH when you access it from a shell.

author.js

The author/author.js script writes “Hello, World!” to a file called test.txt.
You can run author.js from a mainframe shell or from a run configuration in IDz:

Shell launch

  1. Access the mainframe using a shell, either from IDz or from a terminal emulator on your workstation.
  2. Navigate to the directory that contains author.js.
  3. Run author.js using the command node author.js.
  4. Refresh your z/OS file system (or use the ls command) to see that the test.txt file has been written to the directory.
  5. To prepare for running the script from a run configuration in IDz, delete the test.txt file.

Run Configuration in IDz

You can set up z/OS UNIX application run configurations to launch and run Node.js applications.


  1. In the IDz Remote Systems view, connect to the z/OS system.
  2. Set the loc parameter in author.js to the absolute file path name. This example uses the absolute path of the directory for author.js and the file name test.txt (For more information about using an absolute path rather than a relative path, see “Known Issues.”)
  3. In the main menu, click Run>Run Configurations, and then, in the Run Configurations window, right-click z/OS UNIX Application and click New.
  4. In the Name field, type a name for the run configuration.
  5. In the Connection field, choose which mainframe connection to use.
  6. In the Program name field, type node (unless the system administrator has installed node under a different name).
  7. In the Remote Working Directory field, type the absolute path of the directory where node is located.
  8. On the Arguments tab, type the absolute path of the author.js file, for example, /u/user/blog-ex/author/author.js.
  9. Click Run to save and run the configuration. IDz opens the Debug Perspective, where you can see the node instance running until the job completes.
  10. Refresh the z/OS file system to see that the test.txt file has been added to the same directory as author.js.

server.js

The basic-server/server.js script implements a simple webserver.

Shell launch

  1. Access the mainframe using a shell, either from IDz or from a terminal emulator on your workstation.
  2. Navigate to the directory that contains server.js.
  3. Run server.js by using the command node server.js.
  4. To prepare for running the script from a run configuration in IDz, find the pid of the node process and stop it. Otherwise, you can specify a different port for the node process when you define the run configuration.

Run Configuration in IDz

  1. In the IDz Remote Systems view, connect to the z/OS system.
  2. In the Run Configurations window, right-click z/OS UNIX Application and click New.
  3. In the Name field, type a name for the run configuration.
  4. In the Connection field, choose which mainframe connection to use.
  5. In the Program name field, type node (unless the system administrator has installed node under a different name).
  6. In the Remote Working Directory field, type the absolute path of the directory where node is located.
  7. On the Arguments tab, type the absolute path of the server.js file, for example, /u/user/blog-ex/basic-server/server.js.
  8. Click Run to save and run the configuration. IDz opens the Debug Perspective, where you can see the node instance running until you stop the process.
  9. Navigate to the URL of the node server to see the running server. The URL is similar in form to remote.system.connection.name:port, where port is the value of the port variable in server.js.

express-server.js

The express-server.js script is a more complicated example that takes advantage of node modules. It uses the popular node module 'express' and demonstrates interactions with environment variables.

Shell launch

  1. Access the mainframe using a shell, either from IDz or from a terminal emulator on your workstation.
  2. Navigate to the directory that contains express-server.js, for example, express-server/.
  3. Change the PORT variable in the .env file to the port where you want to run the server.
  4. Run npm install to install the dependent packages listed in package.json.
  5. Run express-server.js by using the command node express-server.js. To prepare for running the script from a run configuration in IDz, find the pid of the node process and stop it. Otherwise, you can specify a different port for the node process when you define the run configuration.

Run Configuration in IDz

  1. If you have not installed the required node modules for express-server.js, complete steps 1,2, and 4 of the shell launch instructions.
  2. In the Run Configurations window, right-click z/OS UNIX Application and click New. In the Name field, type a name for the run configuration.
  3. In the Connection field, choose which mainframe connection to use.
  4. In the Program name field, type node (unless the system administrator has installed node under a different name).
  5. In the Remote Working Directory field, type the absolute path of the directory where node is located.
  6. On the Arguments tab, type the absolute path of the express-server.js file, for example, /u/user/blog-ex/express-server/express-server.js.
  7. On the Environment tab, add a new variable named PORT and specify the port number you want to use. The value that you specify for this variable supersedes the value set in .env.
  8. Click Run to save and run the configuration. IDz opens the Debug Perspective, where you can see the node instance running until you stop the process.
  9. Navigate to the URL of the node server to see the running server. The URL is similar in form to remote.system.connection.name:port.

Known Issues and Limitations

The only way to set up a z/OS UNIX Application run configuration for remote Node.js applications is to set the remote working directory to the directory that contains Node.js. Pointing directly to node's location in the Program name field does not work, and leads to the following limitations:

  1. When writing to files using a script like author.js, the application fails to write to the intended location if a relative file path is specified. There should be no issue when an absolute file path is specified for the target location.
  2. If you use the .env environment variables file for the Node.js project, the variables are ignored by the run configuration because they are not in the working directory. Put all essential environment variables in the Environment tab of the run configuration. This limitation can be seen in the express-server project. The express-server.js script has a hard-coded default port number that it uses if it cannot find a port number. This project also contains an .env file with a PORT variable assigned to a different port. If you run express-server.js from a shell, the script opens a server at the port assigned in .env. If you run express-server.js from a run configuration, it opens a server at the default port, unless you define a PORT variable in the Environment tab. If you define a PORT variable, it opens a server at the value assigned to PORT.

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