At PopUp, we believe mainframe can and should be for everyone.

Let’s start this post with a definition.


‘Old School’ Mainframe Engineers: People who may have been working on the mainframe for many years who are comfortable with green screen and traditional ways of working.

‘New School’ Mainframe Engineers: The next generation of people who want to utilise modern tooling and work in collaborative agile ways.

Of course the situation is not black and white, and there are many mainframe engineers who fall somewhere between these two groups. But these phrases will be helpful for discussion.



The ‘New School’ perspective on the mainframe


For some ‘new schoolers’, mainframe is seen as an old, outdated technology which is not required in the modern world. They may also think that a career in mainframe is not a wise choice due to the perception of mainframe usage reducing, therefore providing less opportunity to grow and develop new skills. However this is far from the truth of the situation.


The results from the recent 2023 BMC Mainframe Survey Report tell us that year on year, more and more people working in mainframe, and particularly at the executive level, believe in the mainframe’s ability to grow and attract new workloads. This perception is growing, and reflects a steady rise in data volumes and workloads on the mainframe in recent years.



Mind the Skills Gap


Unfortunately, we are in a situation where many (‘old school’) mainframe developers are retiring from the workforce leaving behind a workforce skills gap, and in many cases, extensive and difficult-to-support code libraries.


picture of a mainframe green screen ISPF

Trusty ISPF!

To address this skills shortage, companies need to attract the next generation of mainframers (‘new schoolers’) to their teams. To be attractive, organisations must provide modern mainframe development tools and embrace modern ways of working (which are usually appealing to ‘new schoolers’). Although many people love trusty ISPF, it’s just not sexy!


‘New schoolers’ need to see that mainframe is a dynamic, relevant platform which is here to stay for the long term, with a wide enough scope to sustain a long career.


For new hires to be effective, ‘old schoolers’ and ‘new schoolers’ need to work side by side collaboratively and productively on the same projects. Due to the different working styles and expectations, some organisations are struggling to get these groups of people to work effectively together.



It doesn’t matter if you’re ‘old school’, ‘new school’ or somewhere in between, PopUp can help!


PopUp Mainframe is a z/OS virtual instance running real z/OS code for Dev and Test, identical to a physical mainframe. PopUp comes packaged as a fully featured, optimized virtual machine image. It runs on any enterprise x86 hardware you choose – on prem or in the cloud.


PopUp helps attract ‘new schoolers’ to your organisation, while supporting ‘new schoolers’ and ‘old schoolers’ to work together and improving team productivity. It does this in many ways:


  • Screenshot of BMC AMI DevX Workbench UI

    Modern IDE: BMC AMI DevX Workbench

    With PopUp, ‘new schoolers’ can easily use automated pipelines and APIs. PopUp also makes it easy for teams to adopt modern ways of working introduce automation pipelines and start using git. This is very attractive for ‘new schoolers’ and may aid recruitment.

  • ‘New schoolers’ will be at home using a PopUp, as PopUp ships with modern tools already installed set up and ready to go (meaning nothing needs to be installed on the physical mainframe). ‘New schoolers’ can use IDEs which provide remote debug and editing, code assist and more.
  • Using PopUp, ‘old schoolers’ are free to use green screen and traditional mainframe tools, which look exactly the same on a PopUp as they do on a mainframe (since ZD&T is a hardware emulator and emulates the Z hardware).
  • PopUp levels the playing field for ‘old schoolers’ and ‘new schoolers’ by offering a range of tools with which to perform development activities and enabling each team member to choose which tools they are most comfortable with (while working side-by-side on the same projects).
  • This strategy of providing a range of tools to team members and letting them choose which ones they are most comfortable with also brings other benefits. It supports ‘old schoolers’ to adopt new ways of working and new tools at their own pace. It is likely to improve job satisfaction as team members have some autonomy about their tool usage.



Organisations can recruit new team members who prefer ‘old school’ ways of working, ‘new school’, and anything in between. New hires will be quickly productive either way.


Together we all can (let’s be confident!) … will… change the perception of mainframe as a legacy technology.


An Example


One of our customers, a pensions company, supported their team members (which consisted of ‘old schoolers’, ‘new schoolers’ and some people in between) to transition from green screen to modern mainframe tools in a phased approach. They did this in small groups, by giving each person a PopUp and supporting them to use modern mainframe tools when each person was ready – at their own pace and comfort level. This approach was driven by empathy and resulted in a very successful project and productive team.


As this customer said,

“From going from a green screen, to having an IDE…that’s just a complete game changer.”



If you are curious to know more about how PopUp can support your mainframe modernisation goals, contact us today.



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