“We are maximizing our developers’ productivity by providing an integrated development environment in Eclipse, combining Java and COBOL development, and saving our customer MIPS consumption on the mainframe.”
Business Development Director
Offline development platform with Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise.
Steria delivers IT-enabled business services for private and public sector organizations. Spanning 16 countries, 20,000 people collaborate to support its systems, services, and processes, accompanying customers as a Trusted Transformation Partner to match IT and business challenges, turning customer challenges into innovative solutions. These are realized through solutions including biometrics, consulting, and infrastructure management.
As a managed service provider, Steria maintains mainframe applications for several clients, through a dedicated shared service center, in Nantes, France. This includes application development, which can be difficult and time-consuming. Mainframe applications are typically complex with outdated development environments, so much time is spent compiling programs or waiting for jobs to execute.
Steria wanted to streamline this process, as Denis Gaudefroy, Business Development Director explains: “We looked into offline, remote, mainframe development which could help us in a number of ways. Sometimes the mainframe is unavailable which means we can’t do our development work. Offline would enable us to use our development skills more efficiently, as it wouldn’t matter where a particular development expert was connected. With offline development we can check the code and run tests, without any business impact—great for us, our clients, and development productivity.”
Steria also realized offline development would help it modernize its environment, and attract new talent. Denis Gaudefroy: “The new generation of developers do not want to work in green screen environments. They want up-to-date technology, which we can provide in an offline development scenario.”
Finally, Steria wanted to pass cost savings onto its clients. When development is offline, the number of MIPS (Millions of Instructions Per Second) on the mainframe can be reduced or redeployed, directly saving costs.
Steria investigated potential solutions to run a Proof of Concept. Some required a replication of the mainframe environment onto a distributed PC platform, to enable Java development. This proved very administration heavy, demanding specialist skills unavailable to Steria outside their service center environment. It also required a distributed platform upgrade. A modern development environment was important, so Steria turned to Micro Focus Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise.
This solution provides a full-function mainframe development environment under Windows, enabling developers to spend most of their time away from the mainframe. It has the flexibility to directly integrate with the mainframe within the same offline Eclipse IDE.
Denis Gaudefroy: “We found that the Micro Focus solution could run on our existing distributed platform using the available resources.”
Steria conducted a Proof of Concept with one of its Telco customers’ applications. It took the source code to provide an executable running on a distributed platform for the stand-alone development environment. The architecture was validated and a prototype was developed to re-host all applications for this customer. Within six months all their mainframe development was conducted offline, with clear benefits: “We are maximizing our developers’ productivity by providing an integrated development environment in Eclipse, combining Java and COBOL, and saving our customer MIPS consumption on the mainframe,” says Denis Gaudefroy.
A gap analysis must be conducted for clients who are moved to the offline development model. If the client does not own all the source code and components of the applications for instance, they must be rewritten, or source code release needs to be negotiated with the software vendor. A gap analysis maps the mainframe environment in detail, so re-hosting runs smoothly.
Steria’s methodology enables preparation time to be reduced with each project. Equipment is installed, people are trained, a pilot is run on part of the application, and roll-out on the full application all happen in quick succession.
The offline development environment was the first step for Steria in streamlining processes for clients. It is introducing a continuous COBOL application integration platform, as Denis Gaudefroy explains: “Using the outstanding COBOL application compilation and debugging features within Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise, we have created an innovative offering for our clients. A collaborative application integration platform merges all developer workspaces with a shared mainline several times a day. This continuous control improves the software quality, and reduces the time taken to deliver it.”
With up to 50 developers working on a project, an inclusive development environment is crucial. Steria has seen a reduction in training costs as the intuitive Eclipse environment is easy for its developers to learn.
Most mainframe applications are highly complex, so fully understanding implications in enhancement requests can be hard. Steria uses Micro Focus Enterprise Analyzer to provide impact analysis on its development effort. This helps identify priorities to improve application portfolio quality and match it to business requirements, as Denis Gaudefroy comments: “It is a pro-active way for us to highlight any potential issues to our clients. We can tell them for instance which data is affected by a particular enhancement request. This promotes a collaborative way of working between Steria and its clients, which is really helpful.”
Denis Gaudefroy concludes: “Working with Micro Focus has been a real win-win for us and an example of where the tools, methodology, but above all the people, made a difference. The teamwork between Steria and Micro Focus has resulted in a commercial application development offering which will benefit Steria and its clients long into the future. It has enabled us to attract new develop talent with a modern IDE, our development productivity has increased and we have saved costs. Although each client project is unique with its own specific mainframe components, we are confident that full ROI on the Micro Focus investment will be realized within one year.”