At the Intersection of Mainframe and Open Source, Linux Foundation's Open Mainframe Project Reports Record Growth

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Mainframe computing was born in the 1960s with the arrival of the System/360, and has continued to advance today to the z14, and continues to set the standard for the ultimate in security, availability, performance, and scalability.

Today's mainframe is a platform for mission-critical apps (real-time financial services, healthcare, government, and more) and, most recently, has become the darling of blockchain, given its reputation for fast data access, transactional scale, and trust.

Unlike its ancestors, today's mainframes secure transactions and protect sensitive data with a dedicated cryptographic coprocessor (the CP Assist for Cryptographic Function, or CPACF), with both cryptographic and hashing blending speed and security that keeps sensitive keys private from applications and operating systems.

Open-source software has rejuvenated the mainframe as "a viable consolidation platform that both saves on licensing costs and enables technologies such as virtualization, cloud, containerization and cryptography that are vital to survive in today's economy," according to the Linux Foundation's Open Mainframe Project which today reported rapid growth with the launch of four new projects and a COBOL Working Group. The project also welcomed Micro Focus as a new member.

CBT Tape, GenevaERS, Software Discovery Tool, and Mainframe Open Education have been accepted as new projects, joining existing projects including Ambitus, ADE, ATOM, COBOL Programming Course, Feilong, Mentorship, Polycephly, TerseDecompress, Zorow, and Zowe. 

"The Open Mainframe Project is a crucial pillar that intertwines the mainframe industry with the open-source community," said John Mertic, Director of Program Management for the Linux Foundation. "We depend on our members to suggest new projects while we ensure a vendor-neutral governance that helps breathe new life into traditional technologies like COBOL and CBT Tape. We look forward to continued growth in both the development and use of these technologies."

The roots of the open-source movement trace back to SHARE, but much of that initial collaboration came together with CBT (Connecticut Bank and Trust) Tape in 1975.  CBT Tape is an open library of free software distribution for the IBM mainframe, Multiple Virtual Storage (MVS), and OS/390 operating system environment that continues to grow and get updated. With each iteration of these tapes, new and ingenious tools and examples became available. 

"We were open before open-source was a thing," said Sam Golob, current editor of CBT Tape. "We persevered to showcase our ambitious concept and extensive library. We are excited to learn more from the Open Mainframe Community and continue to be available for the next generation of mainframers."

It is estimated that there are more than 200 billion lines of COBOL code in production, and it has been a hot topic in recent months as there is a demand for program developers. In April, Open Mainframe Project launched a COBOL volunteer resource, Q&A forum, and a Training Course, which offers introductory-level materials with Microsoft's Visual Studio Code editor (VS Code) and hands-on labs. Today, Open Mainframe Project announces the launch of a COBOL Working Group that aims to address misunderstanding about the technology and promote its continued usage, learning, and discourse. 

"If COBOL code stopped working, so would the global economy," said Cameron Seay, Chair of the COBOL Working Group and an Adjunct Professor at East Carolina University. "Most people don't realize that COBOL plays an important role in our digital future. We can build upon the success of the past and its vitality in the present. This group will help raise awareness of this in not only the mainframe world but everywhere."

The Open Mainframe Project has helped fill the skills gap with its Mentorship project and will now go even further with the new Mainframe Open Education project. It offers a simple platform through which experts share up-to-date materials and foster collaboration with the broader community. The result is a clear learning path that rejuvenates the workforce and drives access to business-critical systems.  

"Today's mainframe talent is getting close to retiring, and the universities, with a few exceptions, have not traditionally taught mainframe technologies," said Robert Dahlberg, Open Mainframe Project Mentorship Coordinator, and Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, College of Engineering. "The Mainframe, Open Education Project, will address this challenge by providing easy access to curriculum and learning roadmaps to help train new talent for mainframe jobs. New innovations in software have forced a resurgence of the mainframe, which is silently running critical infrastructure and, because of its efficiency, taking over the running of our hybrid clouds and server farms." 

GenevaERS is the single-pass optimization engine for extraction and reporting on z/OS. This project assists in the full analytical data supply chain, from efficiently transforming data to updating reporting repositories to creating multiple analytical outputs in a single pass for enhanced high-level, scaled, and integrated reporting. It can be an application development platform for high-volume ledger systems for some of the largest businesses in the world.

"The collaborative services approach to solving significant customer problems has always had a community aspect to it, "said Kip Twitchell, GenevaERS Technical Steering Committee Chair and IBM Financial System Global Subject Matter Expert. "Open Source and the Open Mainframe Project is the natural next step in its development, renewing the power of the mainframe and transforming the world's significant business systems at the same time."

The Open Mainframe Project is comprised of business and academic leaders within the mainframe community that collaborate to develop shared toolsets and resources and welcomed Micro Focus, an information technology company that delivers enterprise application software globally, to its ecosystem. 

"As long-standing vendors of robust mainframe technology, Micro Focus understands the mainframe world very well," Neil Fowler, General Manager, Application Modernization and Connectivity Product Group at Micro Focus. "We're delighted to join the growing community of practitioners at Open Mainframe Project, who are looking at open source collaboration as a means to maximizing the value from their mainframe environment."

One of Micro Focus's first priorities will be to continue to drive the effort of the COBOL Working Group. 

"COBOL's success over six decades is legendary, and its usage remains significant across thousands of organizations, "said Derek Britton, Application Modernization Group, Micro Focus. "That value is not always fully understood. The new Open Mainframe Project COBOL Working Group aims to clarify and encourage the continued use of COBOL applications on the mainframe and beyond by providing insight, resources, and information to help IT decision-makers build their application, technology, and training plans based on practical, factual input. COBOL's open and adaptable design makes the OMP working group a perfect platform to lead this discussion, and Micro Focus are delighted to be able to lend our support to the group." 

Open Mainframe Project celebrates its 5-year anniversary at the inaugural Open Mainframe

Summit virtual conference on September 16-17. The event is made possible thanks to Platinum Sponsors Broadcom, IBM, and Rocket Software; Gold Sponsors SUSE and Vicom Infinity and Silver Sponsor Micro Focus. 


Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Special Correspondent

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