Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ptak Associates Tech Blog: Dimension Data: Workspaces of the Future!

Ptak Associates Tech Blog: Dimension Data: Workspaces of the Future!: By Bill Moran and Rich Ptak Dimension Data has been a successful international presence for a number of years  - read about their latest acquisition that ups its North American presence.....

Monday, January 16, 2017

Compuware Topaz for Total Test automates Cobol code testing + acquisitions + product enhancements!

By Rich Ptak

In January, 2017 Compuware marked yet another quarter of delivering on its promises to provide solutions and services to “Mainstream the Mainframe.” This time it includes automated COBOL code testing, 4 acquisitions in 12 months plus other product enhancements. Let’s get started.
Billions of lines of COBOL-based programs are the operational heart of computer data centers worldwide. For well over 50 years, COBOL programs continue to be used for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is simply because they work. The adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” could have been written exclusively about these programs.
Web, mobile and distributed applications often leverage COBOL programs on the back end. As such, in today’s rapidly evolving, hi-volume computing environment, companies must be able to rapidly implement COBOL code updates and changes to stay digitally competitive. Such changes, however, risk the introduction of serious errors and bugs, which, even once discovered, (in itself a notoriously difficult task) can be even more difficult to correct. Testing is required to uncover or avoid introducing such errors.
Creating mainframe unit tests has been a labor- and time-intensive task as they are manually designed, developed and custom tailored to each program. Making things more difficult, is a frequent lack of program documentation, even as those with expertise and deep program knowledge leave the work force.
Changing and updating mainframe COBOL programs remains an intimidating bottleneck; a task to be avoided, if at all possible. This is untenable in today’s digital enterprise where speedy adaptation to changing circumstances is an absolutely fundamental requirement to the survival of computer-driven services, let alone their on-going success.
Until now, no vendor had attempted to comprehensively attack the challenge of mainframe unit test creation, let alone bring automated Java-like unit testing to the world of COBOL applications. But once again, Compuware steps up to provide an effective and solid solution in the form of Compuware Topaz for Total Test.

First, a little context

Over the last two years, Compuware has introduced solutions that address multiple, long-standing mainframe application lifecycle challenges in mainframe operations. These include:
  1. Intuitive visual analysis of even extremely complex and poorly documented mainframe programs and data structures (Topaz for Program Analysis and Topaz for Enterprise Data). 
  2. Real-time quality control and error detection of mainframe coding syntax (Topaz integration with SonarSource).
  3. Agile cross-platform source code management and release automation (ISPW and integration with XebiaLabs).

Compuware’s newest offering will resolve some important issues currently handicapping unit testing of mainframe code through comprehensive automation of critical tasks. Let’s review what they just introduced.

Topaz for Total Test = Automated Mainframe Unit Test Creation and Execution

By automating the processes of unit test creation, Compuware’s Topaz for Total Test transforms mainframe COBOL application development and testing. It does so without requiring any code changes to a COBOL program, while automatically creating and running tests on logical units of code. Developers at all skill levels can now perform unit testing of COBOL code similar to how it is done for other programming languages (Java, PHP, etc.).
Compuware goes beyond distributed tool capabilities by automating the collection of additional data that can be used in multiple ways. The data is preserved with the unit test and can be used to validate code changes. This approach allows the test data to travel with the test case making it easier to execute test cases on different systems. Developers can collect and save data stubs of existing input data and edit it for testing specific sections of code.  
Topaz for Total Test, as part of the Topaz suite, can be used with other elements to provide a comprehensive solution for dev/test operations. Here is closer look at how Topaz for Total Test automates many of the steps in unit test creation and execution:
  • Use Xpediter to gather test data call parameters and program results, 
  • Topaz for Total Test creates complete test case (fully automated),
  • Topaz for Total Test generates data stubs and program stubs (fully automated),
  • Unit test uses data stub created by Topaz for Total Test (fully automated),
  • Topaz for Total Test allows easy on/off use of stubs – no re-compilation required (fully automated),
  • Topaz for Total Test automatically cleans up after tests, 
  • Topaz for Total Test adds unit tests into test scenario (fully automated),
  • Continuous build process uses CLI to run test suite,
  • Topaz for Total Test executes test suite (automatically).
Benefits realized by IT mainframe organizations include acceleration of development processes, reduced time, effort and number of resources needed to create/run tests as it will be easier to update and change mainframe code. Overall operations efficiency improves as well because potential problems are identified and addressed at the earliest possible time in development.
Among Topaz for Total Test’s unique features and capabilities are Program Stubs that allow the main program to be isolated from the sub-program calls. And, sub-programs may be tested independently of the main program. Together these capabilities enable developers to split the testing of a large program into testing a set of smaller programs.
In effect, Topaz for Total Test reduces the complexity of doing good testing by focusing on small parts of the program. The solution is useful to developers at all levels of skill. Its ease of use and significant automations improve efficiency (faster test failure identification and resolution), speeds execution and development times and provides centralized control of testing.
There is much more to the product than we cover here. Compuware has plans for further enhancements, extensions and integrations to be delivered on a quarterly basis. Given their track record of performance, we expect they will delight their customers. If you have a significant amount of mainframe code in your shop, it makes good sense to check out Topaz for Total Test. 

Other items in the announcement

For their 4th acquisition in the last 12 months, Compuware acquired MVS Solutions with its popular ThruPut Manager, which automatically and intelligently optimizes the processing of batch jobs. ThruPut Manager:  
  • Provides immediate, intuitive insight into batch processing that even inexperienced operators can readily understand,
  • Makes it easy to prioritize batch processing based on business-based policies and goals,
  • Ensures proper batch execution by verifying that jobs have all the resources they need and proactively managing resource contention between jobs,
  • Dramatically reduces customers’ IBM Monthly Licensing Charges (MLC) by minimizing the rolling four-hour average (R4HA) processing peaks without counter-productive “soft-capping.”
As part of their third acquisition in 2016, Compuware added Standardware’s COPE IMS virtualization technology to its portfolio. With COPE, enterprises can rapidly deploy multiple virtual IMS environments to as many different active projects as they require without having to create costly new IMS instances or engage professionals with specialized technical skill-sets. As a result, even less experienced mainframe staff can perform IMS-related Dev/Ops tasks faster and at a lower cost. In addition, integration with Compuware Xpediter permits debugging within COPE environments.
Finally, Compuware announced updates such as graphical visualization of IMS DBDs in Topaz Workbench. The tool presents the structure of IMS databases at a glance and eliminates the need to pore over IMS configuration files to find this information. In addition, a new Strobe Insight Report compares the last execution statistics with the average execution statistics. The data is visualized in an interactive scatter chart based on collected SMF 30 data. With such visualization, analysts are able to quickly identify jobs that have exceeded their norms by a user specified percentage and, then, take the appropriate action. The tabular portion of the report compares and contrasts the average CPU, Elapsed Time and EXCP count with the last values collected.

The Final Word

With the announcement of Compuware Topaz for Total Test, the company has provided a significant advance in mainstreaming the mainframe. The digital agility of any enterprise is constrained by its least agile code base. By eliminating a long-standing constraint to COBOL agility, Compuware provides enterprise IT the ability to deliver more digital capabilities to the business at greater speed and with less risk.
The January announcement marks Compuware’s 9th consecutive quarter of delivering significant solutions that solidify mainstream positioning, while benefiting mainframe development and operations. We’ve commented on and have to admit that we have been impressed at virtually every announcement.
The steady stream of substantive improvements and additions has allowed Compuware to establish a strong market position for themselves. Their delivery of effective, innovative solutions provides solid enhancement to their reputation for successfully resolving significant problems that have hampered mainframe operations.
Congratulations to them. Check them out and see if you don’t agree with us. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Dimension Data: Workspaces of the Future!

By Bill Moran and Rich Ptak

Dimension Data has been a successful international presence for a number of years. They have less visibility in the US and North American markets. Founded in South Africa in 1983, NTT acquired them in 2010. Their current revenue exceeds $7.5 billion, demonstrating strong, consistent growth that continues after joining NTT.

We focus on their end user solutions covered in our briefing with them. We do encourage you to visit their website[1] to view their full range of offerings. This Wikipedia article details their history[2]

First, we must compliment the quality of Dimension Data’s marketing and advertising. Normally, we don’t comment on this aspect of operations. However, we found their recent advertisements in The Economist magazine to be noteworthy, and so include one here. Such creativity will help them capture the attention of the US and North American markets.
For several years’ post- acquisition, NTT wisely kept the management team in place. This, combined with the financial strength and presence resulting from the association with NTT, facilitated expanding their marketplace positioning. As part of a larger entity, Dimension Data got more exposure, as well as added to existing proven customer confidence in their ability to deliver.

The Dimension Data Advantage

Dimension Data recently briefed us on their End–user Computing (EUC) strategy and offerings. To fully understand their offerings requires knowledge of their vision of how Digital transformation is changing companies, and its effect on various company stakeholders. So, we will first examine some of the relevant trends and resulting pressures.

Organizations are under significant pressure to cut costs. In response, some are reducing office space use by individual employees. In many US companies, this trend is implemented by encouraging employee home offices. This significantly affects the infrastructure and technology needed by the company. In other cases, companies are implementing changes to the working environment to attract and retain the best talent and remain competitive. Again, these changes will impact workspace design, communications, digital infrastructure, cloud (especially hybrid), data and information storage, (cyber)security and accessibility.  

Accompanying these macro trends are others specifically related to transformations that accompany the move to an increasingly Digital world. Some well-known, some not. Dimension Data has identified a number of these, which include:
  • Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
  • Internet of things
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • Robotics
  • Digital Technology Platforms
  • Cloud, specifically hybrid Cloud
  • Big Data & the tools to analyze it

For many customers simply identifying and installing the correct technology is insufficient. Some are ill-equipped to cope with the new trends. Many risk being overwhelmed by the challenges facing them in the new digital environment. Others are incapable or uninterested in managing the operating technology.
                   Figure 1 Workspace for Tomorrow
That is precisely the entry-point identified by Dimension Data that provides as the opportunity for them to stand-out and outshine the competition. Dimension Data steps in with the ability to deliver a consultative workshop engagement specifically designed to help clients to develop a plan to smoothly move their workspaces to the next level.
Dimension Data is able to provide both an overall architecture, and a framework adaptable to fit the specific needs of any organization. Dimension Data is focused on enabling “Workspaces for Tomorrow” (Figure 1 – at right). This provides the basis for implementation and delivery of a comprehensive suite of workspace services to design, implement, maintain and even manage workspaces. 
Dimension Data has a unique offering which consists of a complete set of managed services to help customers designing “digital workspaces to embrace the way employees live, work, and collaborate.” Further, they “help organisations seamlessly unify the physical and virtual world into a digital experience.”
Let’s look specifically at Microsoft technology services. Dimension Data builds its expertise in this area on recently acquired Canada-based Ceryx. Ceryx specialized in assisting customers install and manage email services. Under Dimension Data’s auspices, they are broadening their offerings to provide ‘Managed Cloud Services for Microsoft’, which include all of Office 365, Skype for Business and Microsoft Cloud, as well as other Microsoft products. As a North American company, Ceryx additionally benefits Dimension Data with increased visibility in Canadian and US markets. The End-user Computing suite of Workspace services includes Workspace Mobility, Workspace Productivity Consulting Services and Software Services.

The Final Word

End-user Computing spearheads the “Workspaces for Tomorrow” effort within Dimension Data. Existing business units in networking, security, datacenter, collaboration, customer experience and service support cross-selling. With strategic partnerships with both Microsoft and VMware and the support of the NTT Group, Dimension Data is the engagement leader for outcome based services to enable “Workspaces for Tomorrow”. All this combines to provide an impressive array of experience, expertise and product.
Dimension Data has an impressive reference list of worldwide customers for end user computing, including well known banks, oil & gas companies, automotive manufacturers, etc. We believe that a significant opportunity for growth exists for them in the US and North American markets. We highly recommend investigating what they have to offer. We think that there is a very good chance that they just might turn out to be your best partner for your modernization efforts.