The challenge of testing in the mainframe world

Modern development teams require agile, flexible environments to be able to deliver quick change reliably and enable business competitiveness. But the reality is that fixed, shared mainframe environments cause environment bottlenecks that hinder projects, slow time to market, and result in quality issues and spiralling costs.

The shortage of mainframe test environments is a big blocker to any project across the enterprise which relies on mainframe. Many projects involve a change only in the “front end” but depend on testing the “back end” (i.e. mainframe) even when it is not changing, and suffer from lack of mainframe test environments.

How does PopUp Mainframe solve this problem?

PopUp Mainframe is a complete virtual mainframe environment, running on x86 hardware, which can be provisioned and deprovisioned on demand. Read more about PopUp Mainframe here.

High-speed provisioning of dev and test environments becomes a reality with PopUp Mainframe – it provides agile test environments that you can quickly save, delete and restore via self-service.

What can PopUp Mainframe be used for?

PopUp Mainframe can support all kinds of development testing – including unit testing, system testing, regression testing, integration testing, UAT, and break-fix testing.

Note: The ZD&T license terms don’t allow pre-production testing, stress testing or performance testing.

What does typical mainframe testing look like compared to testing with PopUp Mainframe?

During a mainframe test cycle, traditionally the team would use a dedicated LPAR or have a MIPS allocation for their test phase and a strict time window to complete the testing in. With PopUp Mainframe, all that changes.

PopUp Mainframe is a complete, fully functioning substitute for physical mainframe. To the user there is no difference in the experience using a PopUp Mainframe compared to physical mainframe. It is a hardware emulator with z/OS installed and can run the full IBM mainframe stack to mirror exactly your physical mainframe envs. This means that PopUp Mainframe runs REAL MF CODE + any 3rd party software needed, so testing using PopUp Mainframe can give 100% test coverage and confidence that the code will behave identically on the physical mainframe.

PopUp Mainframe integrates seamlessly with mainframe IDEs such as IBM Developer (IDz) and Topaz (Compuware), ensuring the developer can use the tools they are comfortable with.

How does it save time, cost and effort?

The savings and benefits of using PopUp Mainframe for mainframe testing don’t just apply to the mainframe teams, they extend to any team which requires a mainframe environment for their testing – potentially most development teams across the enterprise.

Cost savings

Testing can represent a significant proportion of the cost of maintaining a mainframe platform as mainframe test environments often have a large MIPs allocation. Using PopUp Mainframe for testing instead of the physical mainframe will greatly reduce total mainframe MIPS consumption thereby reducing mainframe running and licensing costs. The test processes using PopUp Mainframe will be running on commodity x86 hardware, at a fraction of the cost of physical mainframe.

Using PopUp Mainframe for test environments means MIPS can be reallocated to the business critical production transactions.

With PopUp Mainframe, when a mainframe test environment is no longer needed, it can be switched off and it will no longer consume any resources. When the mainframe test environment is brought up again it will be exactly as it was. This means there are no ongoing maintenance costs for PopUp Mainframe, compared to huge overheads for maintaining and supporting the physical mainframe.

Time and effort savings

The long process required to provision a mainframe test environment (if one is even available) can severely delay project delivery. With PopUp Mainframe, teams no longer need to wait for their mainframe test environment, and any project requiring testing with the mainframe will complete much more quickly. Projects no longer have to wait, worry about or plan for mainframe environment allocation slots or test time-windows. This is a direct cost saving for project delivery and will result in much faster business change, therefore enabling business to be more competitive. This increased delivery speed is particularly vital for those following traditional quarterly mainframe release cycles.

The effort and time taken to provision mainframe test environments manually can also be saved. This is typically a time-consuming and error-prone activity and requires large maintenance, scheduling, and coordination overheads by the test environment management team.

The many benefits of PopUp Mainframe

Aside from just the cost, time and effort savings, there are many benefits of using PopUp Mainframe for your testing…

  1. Scale and replicate test environments on-demand

PopUp Mainframe overcomes the issue of insufficient dev and test mainframe LPAR availability/MIPS allocation. With PopUp Mainframe, mainframe test environments can be provisioned on-demand and scaled according to changing requirements. Mainframe test environment constraints will depend on the availability of commodity x86 hardware.

PopUp Mainframe gives you the flexibility to match environment provisioning to the business needs and adapt your delivery models in line with agile practices. Teams can elect to have one PopUp Mainframe for a specific project, or give individuals their own (identical or different) mainframe environment to work in.

  1. Test automation and integration with CICD pipelines

PopUp Mainframe gives the ability to implement mainframe test automation capabilities, improving test efficiency and drastically reducing the length of mainframe project deliveries. Needless to say there are many benefits of test automation including fast feedback which improves developer productivity.

PopUp Mainframe can also be integrated with CICD pipelines, so a new mainframe test environment can be provisioned and torn down as part of your existing (or new) pipeline. This immediately frees up teams to focus on the development and testing rather than management and setup of test environments.

Introducing test automation and integrating mainframe test environment provisioning into a CICD tool has the potential to completely transform the way and speed that mainframe projects are delivered.

  1. PopUp Mainframe runs on any x86 platform deployed anywhere

PopUp Mainframe can run on almost any existing enterprise hardware – desktops, servers, laptops, containers, VMs and in the cloud. This means that the mainframe test environments are very accessible. They can be provided for external users or for users to work on a project in isolation. This also improves enterprise security, keeping your core mainframe secure and aiding compliance.

I already discussed the large cost savings which can be achieved when using commodity x86 hardware to provision your mainframe test environments on-demand compared to running and maintaining a large physical mainframe system. PopUp Mainframe can also run in the cloud – on prem and/or multi cloud, bringing all the benefits of cloud infrastructure.

  1. Improved quality of testing

With PopUp Mainframe, mainframe test environments are guaranteed to be available and the environments are cloned from approved gold copy images so there is low risk of environment config issues/inconsistencies. This generally results in increased mainframe test coverage, even given the same time window as pre-PopUp Mainframe. Mainframe testing can become more comprehensive with negative testing, failure testing etc.

  1. Shift left

Using PopUp Mainframe means that projects can test with the mainframe earlier in the lifecycle and throughout the project, rather than just having 1 test window planned well in advance, or even skipping the mainframe testing entirely. This means that defects are found earlier in the lifecycle, saving on dev/test costs. It also reduces risk as projects can guarantee that they will be able to complete their mainframe testing.

  1. No more test environment config issues

Using isolated mainframe test environments which are created from a gold copy mean you can be confident in the state of the test environment – as you are testing on the exact same environment each time. This reduces errors and time spent on environment config and setup. It also reduces the risk of release as the testing will give you more confidence that the code will perform as required in production.

  1. Version your mainframe test environment, create snapshots, fast-forward and rewind

With PopUp Mainframe, golden copy images with different topologies and different software are created for different requirements. These can also be version controlled.

As with other virtualisation software, snapshots can be taken during development and testing. This provides rewind and fast-forward capabilities within mainframe test environments which are not possible using a physical mainframe.

  1. Reduced business risk

Being able to spin up mainframe test environments on-demand, use automation to test and validate changes enables teams to deliver change in smaller chunks rather than large, infrequent releases. This drastically reduces business risk as each individual change is much lower risk and can be more easily fixed/rolled back if needed compared to a big bang release.

  1. Reduced reliance on niche skills

With PopUp Mainframe, mainframe test environments can be made available to non-mainframe resources via self-service tools complete with pre-configured test packs. This will reduce your dependence on niche, expensive mainframe skills and enable projects to complete more quickly and cheaply.

What impact can PopUp Mainframe have on wider teams, and the enterprise as a whole?

The impact of adopting PopUp Mainframe for mainframe testing on your organisation can be huge. Providing fit-for-purpose mainframe environments on-demand allows mainframe teams (and teams dependent on mainframe test environments) to deliver as fast as other technology areas which already follow agile and DevOps approaches.

This liberates the whole enterprise (including the mainframe teams which have been previously left-behind) to adopt agile and DevOps practices which has a much bigger business impact than piecemeal adoption.

Learn More

Read more about how PopUp Mainframe can transform mainframe testing in your organisation, or contact us to find out more!