In this inaugural episode we bring to you the revered and respected Rosalind Radcliffe – Distinguished Engineer, Chief Architect for DevOps for z Systems at IBM.
Join us for a listen as Rosalind waxes poetic on such topics as:
- how she came to be the preeminent Z DevOps Evangelist
- her thoughts on Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) on Z
- automation, and
- working smarter not harder
And set your calendar alerts now cause we have our next guest already lined up. Be on the lookout for Episode Deux (dropping on December 9th), where we’ll feature our very own Jon Sayles – IDz Expert or “Just a guy from New Jersey that happens to dabble in guitar.”
Chris H: Welcome and thanks for joining us. I’m Chris Hoina and I’m here with Chris Sayles and Rosalind Radcliffe. Rosalind, how shall I refer to you?
Chris S: Who are you? Tell us who you are.
Rosalind: Rosalind Radcliffe, IBM Distinguished Engineer, responsible for DevOps for Enterprise systems.
Chris H: That sounds impressive.
Chris S: I was gonna say – You’ve said that a couple times. haven’t you?
Rosalind: Yeah, on stage in front of thousands of people, in small meetings and on the phone. Yes, that’s what I am.
Chris S: You’re one of the Z rockstars we have with us today.
Rosalind: It’s fun.
Chris H: So how long have you been with big blue?
Rosalind: 32 years.
Chris S: What have you seen in your time at IBM? Like in terms of just transformation in the space?
Rosalind: So I started in the ISPF development team. And if you think about the world in one-way ISPF development and the way I did development 32 years ago – it is still unfortunately the way some people do development. But if you look at the world around us and you look at what has happened; the world has changed. There’s so much more. When I started ISPF PDF (Program Development Facility) was the best we had. It was a great environment to do development. It was a much better editor than a lot of other things. But that was 32 years ago, and the world has moved forward since then. But there lots of other things – when I started, we didn’t have cell phones. When I started, we didn’t have the ability to connect into the systems when we left IBM – so when we left the building, we didn’t have to work anymore.
Chris S: Could you just imagine that Chris?
Chris H: Oh goodness gracious, can I just tell my manager that now? I’ve left the building now – I can’t – I don’t have access. (all laugh)
Rosalind: Doesn’t work anymore. The problem with that though, when you left the building you didn’t have access, but that meant you had to come back to the building to work. I was the first one or one of the first ones fighting to get a PC and Mainframe development because I could do an emulator that could change the different sizes and I didn’t have to walk to the terminal room to get all the different size displays – oh, was that a pain! But, you know, that’s how we got our first PC’s in the Mainframe development organization; because we could emulate all the different terminal sizes.
Chris H: OK, so backup – 32 years ago on the 3270 ISPF – which, actually, I had to look it up, what it meant.
Rosalind: Interactive System Productivity Facility Program Development Facility – it’s actually ISPF PDF, but they dropped those last three letters a while ago.
Chris S: Official definition here in the podcast.
Chris H: That’s it – that’s in Webster’s right now, because I just looked. So that was then, this is now. What are some of the things that you are working on now or some of the things that you’re responsible for now or are involved in?
Rosalind: So now I’m still trying to get all of those people who are doing development with ISPF to understand that there’s a better way. Since I keep saying that and I keep getting in trouble for saying that – let’s put it another way. ISPF actually is not a bad editor. It really isn’t. The ISPF editor is very good for someone who knows the ISPF editor. Today we use IDE’s. And so, one of the things I continue to do is to help people understand that an integrated development environment is better than just an editor. So, I’m not really picking on ISPF as the editor, but realistically an IDE is a much better environment. So, yeah, I’m still fighting that battle.
Chris S: Real quick – so when you say I can still do VI or I can still do ISPF; for anyone out there that’s sort of fuzzy on what that means, you’re talking about there are certain types of editing techniques, there are certain key stroke combinations, certain things that you would do in order to get what you’re trying to get done, done in either editor. Like picture string editing commands and stuff in ISPF?
Rosalind: Basically my fingers know how to do it, so I don’t have to think. My brain doesn’t have to turn on when I want to edit using VI, my fingers just know where to go. ISPF, mostly I just know it – the other thing about is ISPF that’s special – is it is a walk up and use system. So, it is easy for anyone who knows absolutely nothing, to walk up and use it, because there’s help everywhere. There’s information everywhere. You can turn it off in many cases, but by default it’s all there. So, you don’t have to know anything – it’s a walk up and use system.
Chris H: It does feel like I’m on like an enlarged Gameboy or something.
Rosalind: So one of the reasons I think that’s happening is because us old people use ISPF and so you have to learn it to use it – and I really think that if we thought about ISPF as the command line to z/OS, because that’s really what it is, you have other ways of accessing the system, but when there’s a problem – when there’s a desperation hit – ISPF is always there. And it’s always going to be there. That’s when I use VI. Well, I actually use it for more than that, but I definitely use it in desperation if I can’t get to a system in any other way. It’s the way to get to something. That way to do something. So it’s never going to go away. It is important. The other thing you reminded me of is this silliness. For years everybody has been complaining about ISPF – that it’s just black screen with green characters – or might have been orange. Whatever. The first time a new developer walked up and showed me dark mode, my comment was “Oh, you like ISPF” You know okay, whatever, we’re back to the old days. But we’re not, because I don’t just have the screen. I have all the other capabilities and that’s the thing that’s important about this. Yes, ISPF is an editor, you can use GIT with ISPF, you can do whatever you want with ISPF – but, it’s just an editor. And IDE gives you a whole lot more function. It gives you the capability to do lots of other things. I can do visual debug, I can understand the system better, I can get application understanding, I can have a screen that shows me the flow of the program next to the code. Yeah, you can’t do that in ISPF.
Chris S: You sure can’t.
Rosalind: OK, so here, let’s think about all the other things. Let’s not compare editors, because OK editors, you’re going to pick your favorite editor. Let’s think about all the other function that we need. So that’s one of the things that I will keep doing – and honestly that brings us to the bring your own IDE. I don’t actually care which environment you want to do. So, we’ve had IDz for a long time and will continue to have IDz for a long time. It’s the eclipse-based editing capability. But now we have VS Code. So, we have started with VS Code, COBOL, PL/1 editor= available in Marketplace. Have fun, download it, try it, use it. It’s an editor. It’s another choice.
Chris H: Worst salesperson ever. (all laugh)
Chris S: How did you become the DevOps evangelist? How did that happen?
Rosalind: Reality was that because I’d done systems management for IBM for as long as I had, because I had done the SOA work that I had done with application design and because I’d done the application development side – I’d lived in all the worlds. So I’d lived in the apps world yelling at development, and I’ve lived in the development world yelling at apps…you take your choice. I’ve been in this world and all the sides. So the idea of bringing these guys closer together it makes sense. And if you actually talk to Carmen – before the term DevOps ever came out – I was actually working with Nationwide on this idea of bringing teams together. Trying to get the ideas of a pipeline, although we didn’t call it a pipeline, but starting this process. And then once this term DevOps came out, it just fit very naturally with this transition we were trying to make, to bring everybody together. It really is important to stop these silos that have developed over the years.
When I started we didn’t have all these silos, we didn’t have this split system. We didn’t have a lot of this. And it was developed over the years for somewhat good reasons. Somewhat good reasons – to say we needed to protect our systems, we had to keep our availability up, we couldn’t afford to have problems. So control gates were put in place. We put in separation of duties. We did all sorts of things, but we did it with people, instead of with automation. We could have done it differently and not ended up with this mess we ended up with, but maybe based on the time, that was the best we could do, so that’s what we did. Now, we have a lot more choices. We have a lot more options. We can solve the problems in much better ways so that’s why – that’s why I like this world. It’s helping everyone actually do what they want to do. If I’m a developer, I hate spending time testing, I hate spending time fixing infrastructure problems, I hate having to figure out why the Ops guys won’t give me what I need. You know – all that stuff’s crazy. So, let’s make it easier. Let’s automate everything that can possibly be automated, and it just makes life easier. As an Ops person, why on earth am I spending my time creating database tables or CICS transactions? That’s an automated task. Let me optimize the database. Let me use my brain, with real brainpower. That’s how I got into this and that’s why I’m so passionate about it. I want people to be able to actually do what they want to do and take advantage of their skills. Optimize the skills and have fun! It’s not fun sitting there fixing environment problems.
Chris H: Unless you’re sick in the head and that’s what you enjoy doing.
Chris S: Right, yeah. There are some…
Rosalind: Realistically, it is fun at times to debug a really tough problem.
Chris H: But not when you’re doing it every single day.
Rosalind: It’s not fun every day to do the stupid stuff.
Chris H: I didn’t realize that the automation extended to areas like that. From what I’ve been reading I assumed that we were strictly talking about testing. Those are the things which obviously make sense to automate.
Rosalind: Automate everything. You’ve got to figure out how to solve a problem. So at one point, we were deploying a set of servers. Okay the first time I did it manually, the second time I wrote my script, the third time I fixed my script and then I didn’t worry about it again.
Chris H: It’s actually pretty interesting in that I’m starting to hear some parallels to DevOps and Enterprise Design Thinking; in that the script is like your prototype and that it is always iterative, based off of the feedback you’re receiving from subsequent procedures. Alright, I want to go back, and you said there’s a better way to edit. You said ISPF is great, but you can’t do all those cool things that have the simultaneous applications or visualizations that are cooccurring within the same IDE. What would be your go-to IDE’s or what do you see our customers using and within those IDE’s – what are some of the things that you can do that you can’t do on the 3270 ISPF?
Rosalind: It really is beyond the editing phase. There is one catch – I will give ISPF credit for one thing. It’s actually a really good columnar editor and I know people don’t understand what I mean when I say that. But I can really block copy in the middle of something. I can do something based on the columns that the code is in. And that’s kind of handy for COBOL. Now with IDz we have the LPEX editor that lets you do the same thing, which is actually kind of very handy when I’m working with COBOL code, because columns matter. But if we ignore the editor, the editor itself, and we look at all the things around the editor – it’s the ability to see the program flow. It’s the ability to see the relationships of things. It’s the ability to see the data flow in combination with my program. It’s the ability to do visual debug and step through my code. Not just step through my code; but see where I am in context of the rest of the code, so I can understand what’s going on.
All of those kinds of things – the ability for it to help you finish your verb or bring up your variable name. Variable names – you gotta spell them the same way every time. What a pain! Okay, I’m not the best speller in the world, so this is really handy to be able to bring up what are the variables. How are they defined? Where are they? I can do that in a modern editor. I don’t have that in ISPF. All of these modern things that, honestly, if you’re a new developer, you kind of expect cuz you’ve had. All of those things are in a modern IDE. If you look at the IDE world, there are eclipse-based editors and that’s one space – especially if your java-based, eclipse-based editing has been the standard in many ways. There is VS Code. VS Code is taking off like I haven’t seen anything take off – so VS Code is taking over the world or trying to. There’s also IntelliJ and then there are a few others that have come out. But if we look at the space, eclipse and VS Code may be the top two. There’s Adam, and a bunch of others out there that give you editing capability. And everybody’s going to end up with their own flavor of editor, but if we look at the industry, VS Code and eclipse seem to be the top two. We’ve had IDz in eclipse for longer than I can remember. I know I have a mug that celebrated its 10 years, so I know it’s more than 10. So, who knows – I can’t remember when it started. But we’ve had that for a very long time. If we think about that, that covers the eclipse space and we actually came out with Z Open Development as an alternative. It’s the same editor capability, but it doesn’t have all of the other function that IDz had. It has edit and debug, but it doesn’t have all of the other menu manager and things like that. It’s focused on more the open pipeline. And from that standpoint it integrates to RTC (aka Rational Team Concert) and [GitHub] but doesn’t have all the library manager integrations.
On the other side we now have VS Code. And with VS Code we did add the COBOL editor to the marketplace, and we’ll work on what other capabilities are needed in the VS Code space. So, we can bring that up to par at some point over time. At least for the new modern editing capability. I don’t suspect we’ll take that old library manager stuff and bring it into vs code, cuz why should you? There’s no reason to. Over time people will get out of those library managers, so that’s not a problem. But we want you to bring your own IDE concept. The other thing that’s good about the vs code support is that there’s been some work done to allow VS Code to run in Eclipse Che. So, if the idea of a browser-based editor actually takes off, then it’ll work there too.
Now, anybody listening; if you are a developer in the distributed space and you like to use or are using Eclipse Che or the browser-based development, I’d love to talk to you. I haven’t managed to find a single client that has a large developer base that likes to use that. And it’s been coming along, and it’s been evolving. So, I’d love to talk to a set of people who actually like to use the browser-base to understand what it is about it and what can make it better and what is the value? I mean everybody says the value is that I don’t have to deploy it. I got that. But you know…how hard is it to install VS Code on my laptop?
Chris H: Well – If it’s anything like Installation Manager…
Rosalind: Oh it’s nothing like Installation Manager! Wait a minute here. Since you said Installation Manager…ZOD does not require Installation Manager. I can just do a P2 install and not have to worry about that silly installer. You can do it very simply and just drop these things down on your environment. You don’t have to go through a lot of nightmares, so they’re not hard to do.
Chris S: So if any of our avid listeners out there have any interest in talking to Rosalind, just hit us up and we will be sure to connect you.
Chris H: Somebody tell me what RTC means?
Rosalind: Rational Team Concert. RTC is IBM’s – and actually it’s been renamed so I’ve got to be careful. Rational Team Concert was the name of a product that was part of the collaborative lifecycle management set of products, that provided a fully integrated end-to-end modern development process for whatever environment you were building for. It still does – they just renamed it. This is IBM, so we’ve got to rename things. So now it’s Engineering Workflow Management for RTC and Engineering Lifecycle Management, I think, for the whole thing.
There are a couple of reasons it’s been renamed that way. One is that people are called engineers now. But the other reason they’ve named it Engineering Workflow Management is that RTC being a fully integrated system and being able to manage requirements through tasks, the full lifecycle in a way that supports highly regulated Industries. It’s actually used in a lot of manufacturing, aerospace, and a lot of those spaces where the people have been engineers. It’s being used for hardware engineering as well and so it really fits this picture of engineering workflow management. So the rename actually makes sense and we’re removing the Rational term from all of our products.
So we also have to think about what is future-proofing. How can we future proof? How can we provide the capabilities going forward that everyone can understand? We also have to deal with the fact the world has changed and I love the iPhone example of this. Because reality… when I started in the business 32 years ago and the only development environment I had was ISPF… the only phone I had was a phone that sat, attached to the wall. And it had to be attached to the wall. And it had a cable and it had to be attached to the wall. If you check, that phone still works. But do you only have a phone attached to the wall? No. You use the right tool. So just like you’re now carrying a cellphone, let’s move to the 21st century and use the capability that will help bring us forward, and bring us all forward. That’s especially important for the Z platform. z/OS in particular; because we desperately need the next generation to understand the value of this platform. It runs the world guys. It literally runs the world. The banking, the insurance, the trains, the airplanes, the car manufacturers – you name it, it runs
Chris H: I have two questions. First question – was the phone a rotary phone?
Rosalind: Yes, of course it was a rotary phone! Well, actually, in 1980-something it could have been a push button. I don’t remember in 1987 whether it was a rotary phone or a push button. I’m sorry, I don’t remember when we went to push buttons.
Chris H: Ok, so next question. First I’m going to prime you with a couple things and then just ask you the question. So you mentioned Eclipse Che, VS Code, DevOps, Hybrid Cloud, ZCX, which is containerization for Z…Keeping those things in mind, what do you see on the horizon for Z?
Rosalind: We’re making it that big server in the cloud. We, IBM, are doing absolutely everything we can to not remove the things from Z that matter and to continue to improve those. So the differentiation that it’s now seven nines, I mean really? Seven nines (i.e. 99.99999% reliability), not five nines; we’re talking seven nines now. OK. We’re providing additional security, so not just pervasive encryption but the data passports flowing. We’re continuing to improve the scalability of the box – not just for traditional workloads, but to be able to run thousands of Linux containers on the machine so you can scale up your environment. So those differences we’re keeping and we’re improving, and then there’s everything else. That there’s no reason for it to be different. It’s the 19 inch rack now, so it fits in the Datacenter.
We are working with Ansible so that you can use Ansible playbooks to do your infrastructure config, so it just looks like any other platform. The Linux on Z support for docker containers inside z/OS and yes, I said Linux on Z for a reason. There’s been some confusion; you’re not just going to take any Linux Docker container and run it in z/OS – it does have to have the S390 binaries in it. But that Linux container running inside z/OS now allows you to run a number of those applications that were running somewhere else, closer to the data. It allows you to run management infrastructure servers closer to the system that they’re managing. So it brings additional capability to the platform. The Linux One systems or running Linux on the Z15 and the capability that we do there – you can take the Z hardware to be your really large Kubernetes cluster. On one box – instead of having, Oh I don’t know, thousands of those other boxes that I have to manage? I can scale up on one. Think about the cost savings there.
Now, I just said cost-savings and Z. And most people look at me and say but Z is expensive. If you think about the scale that you’re getting with Z, it’s not expensive. You have to actually think about the scale that it goes to. You have to do the math that says I’m doing billions of transactions on this system, compared to these other smaller machines. So we’ve got to think about it from that standpoint. So what we’re doing is we’re bringing Z into your environment in a way that it looks like, acts like, and be consumed more like any other system, just with the better qualities of service and all the other things Z gives us. We’re removing the differences where we can. We can do things like Ansible, we can do things like a standard pipeline. There other places where Z is just plain better. Workload management on Z is better than any other platform. We’re not breaking, screwing up, messing workload management… you still have that workload management on the system. So you can have this shared system. You can run numbers of applications in one system and it will properly manage the workload and do the work that has the priority that you set. Does that help answer some of those questions?
Chris H: I think so. You talked about data gravity, right? Without bringing everything closer together, opening up the Mainframe – so we’re talking about web-based IDE’s, right? It seems like we’re just trying to blur the lines between what is distributed and what is not distributed. There should be practically no difference, especially with all the open-source tooling that we have available to us.
Rosalind: The good thing is the pipeline itself. The developer environment itself really can be the same. And we have numbers of customers that have modernized their pipeline. And so the pipeline – how I’m doing development from a pipeline perspective – the CICD coordinator, the SCM deployment tool – is identical whether or not I’m doing Java, COBOL, Node, C Sharp – it doesn’t matter. If you think about that; now it’s easier to move people around. It’s easier to cross train people. It’s easier to think about the different systems. One of the best things Nationwide Insurance did was pseudo pair programming. And I’ve got to be careful because it doesn’t meet the traditional standard of pair programming in many ways. But it’s a distributed guy and a Z guy working together to build a set of function and they weren’t necessarily following traditional pair programming methods. But they were working together to deliver the function. And what happened was, the distributed guy, the new guy, the ‘Next Generation’ – not supposed to call them kids, but the kids, could learn from the person who had been there for the last 30 years. So they could learn the business side, and the insurance side, and the whatever – and the person who had been there for a very long time could learn the new ways of working as we put it. The new tools, the new methodologies. They also had a great advantage, in that they could move everybody into a single spot. We talk about co-location and we talk about bringing teams together. Back then, when they started, they literally put business people and developers and testers and everybody together in a pod so they would work together. That makes a huge difference, because you have to have business and IT working together to deliver the function.
Chris H: I love it. Well, I think we’re about wrapped up, right?
Chris S: Yeah, I think that just about does it.
Chris H: Rosalind, thank you for meeting with us today and talking. It was very informative for me and I’m sure it was for our listeners. Do you have any closing remarks or words of wisdom for the people out in radio land?
Rosalind: Thank you for having me. I do enjoy spreading the word about how mainframe doesn’t have to be different and it is so valuable to our organizations. I guess the most important thing that I want to pass on is, that it is a way of working. It’s a way of doing things. The DevOps transformation is a cultural transformation. We talk a lot about tools and capability, but as was mentioned, yeah no. You can’t buy a tool, you can’t adopt a tool, you have to do the cultural transformation. You have to bring people together. You have to move to the new ways of working. Bring this idea of everyone collaborating together in order to get the most value. And everyone – whether or not you’ve been in the industry 30-40 or two years – has value to bring to this industry. Even if you’re fresh out of college; I don’t want to leave them out. Everyone has value to bring to this new culture. We need to learn from each other. We need this continuous learning environment and this transformation. And if the only thing you remember from this, is that you have to change the culture – then we’ve won.
Chris S: That’s fantastic. Rosalind, always a pleasure. Thank you so much.
Rosalind: Thank you