Each day, mainframe applications support billions of online banking and mobile device-initiated e-commerce transactions across the globe. These applications are often deceivingly simple on the front-end—hit a few keys on your phone and a few days later a package arrives in the mail. We tend to take the stability and reliability of mainframe applications for granted, but the fact is these applications are highly complex. They require massive amounts of development, testing and quality assurance work within short periods of time to bring high-quality software products to market quickly.

At the same time that mobile devices are driving increased mainframe workloads and reduced development cycles, many of the highly skilled, veteran mainframe developers are preparing to retire, creating a significant mainframe skills shortage. The traditional mainframe development environment, which is unique, incredibly feature-rich and highly optimized, is based on an outdated user interface that confuses and alienates the current generation of software developers. So, how can companies continue to attract the “best and brightest” to this significant computing platform that services a substantial amount of their business?

In our industry, we’ve come to realize that game-changing innovation frequently comes from surprising origins. Over the past few decades, sophisticated, yet standardized development environments have emerged for other non-mainframe platforms. These Graphical User Interface (GUI) development environments are based on common standards and incorporate simple concepts such as drag-and-drop and cut-and-paste. They also share common behavior in editors, debuggers, performance profilers and code coverage collectors. There’s a lot of commonality shared, so a .NET environment for Microsoft development has similar functionality with an Eclipse Java development environment. A distributed development landscape has emerged where it’s not that big of a stretch for a developer to bounce from one platform/language/database environment to another. Developers can transition from one environment to another without major retraining.

The time has come to provide the next generation of mainframe developers the same intuitive functionality in the development environment. If a talented software developer can access a mainframe development environment where everything is standardized and intuitive, then developing and maintaining the mainframe components of new or legacy applications become more effective and efficient.

So, the key now is giving mainframe developers access to a modernized development environment in order to maximize their productivity—even if they don’t have prior knowledge of legacy mainframe development tools. This also helps “future-proof” mainframe development environments by giving new and inexperienced mainframe developers the tools they need to forge a career of producing high-quality applications that drive business success. This article explores both of these benefits and examines new innovations specifically designed to improve productivity and drive collaboration between older and newer generations of mainframe developers.

Shortened Development Timetables
The application software industry has always been keen to reduce the amount of time it takes to develop complex, yet high-quality, reliable applications. In the past decade, methodologies such as agile and scrum have evolved to promote rapid development. Software development teams face increasing pressure to deliver high-quality apps on time and within budget. Meeting condensed release schedules is absolutely essential to accelerating speed to market and satisfying customer demand for improved functionality, and establishing and maintaining a competitive advantage. 

However, the unintended consequences of condensed release schedules can include poor software quality and performance, leading to a tarnished reputation in the market or worse, loss of customers to the competition. Unfortunately, many development teams often aren’t equipped with the right tools and appropriate technology to adequately meet the demands of these constrained test timetables. At the highest level, a modernized, intuitive development environment is needed to give mainframe developers the tools they need to be as productive as possible.

Improving Data Access and Simplifying Processes for File and Data Management

Developers need test data to develop new functionality, conduct testing and manage production problems related to business-critical applications. However, studies show that developers can devote up to 60 percent of their actual development time on data-related tasks. Today’s modernized development environments help developers focus their time better by providing quick and convenient access to necessary data and files. 

Specifically, more intuitive data editor tools now support browsing and editing of IMS and DB2 databases and other mainframe file systems. As one of the older mainframe database and transaction management systems, IMS requires highly technical and specialized knowledge to manage and support. Now, developers can easily edit, browse and understand IMS data constructs from within the same standardized editor they use for other mainframe data types.

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