Mainframes are hip now! Compuware fires its dev environment into cloud

But analysts say good luck convincing newcomers


In an attempt to entice new blood to those dinosaur systems of record known as mainframes, Detroit software firm Compuware has moved its development environment to the cloud.

The company's flagship mainframe Agile/DevOps product Topaz is now available on Amazon Web Services.

As Compuware and competitors such as IBM and Micro Focus have realised, in addition to convincing firms to take on high licensing usage fees, there's a mainframe developer shortage. Industry has struggled to convince students to learn ancient programming languages such as COBOL.

Not that it hasn't tried. Players have pulled out everything from offering education to schools (IBM) to modernising their tools with DevOps (Compuware) to appear cool and hip.

The Topaz development environment allows writing, testing and debugging COBOL, PL/I and Assembler code. By offering it in the cloud in addition to on-premises (similar to IBM's approach with developer tools). Compuware hopes to cut the admin required as well as increase the speed of receiving app updates, making it more like other non-mainframe tools available today.

"Large enterprises can more quickly and easily adapt the mainframe and continue reaping its full benefits," CEO Chris O-Malley said in a statement.

Robert Stroud, a New York-based analyst at Forrester, told The Register it can take businesses up to 12 months to test and release changes to on-prem software.

"The biggest problem with mainframe is the perception" that it's "old, antiquated and slow," he said. "The jury's out" whether Compuware's move will indeed attract new developers, but it's "going a long way" to fight it."

Others are less optimistic.

Dale Vecchio, chief marketing officer at mainframe software firm LzLabs, told The Reg "this a perfectly reasonable thing for Compuware to do" for existing users.

But he added that "this is not going to turn around the skills challenge" to increase adoption because developers still haven't picked up the languages. Offering an easier-to-handle programming environment probably isn't enough if you don't know the language.

"You can bring a horse to water, but you can't make it drink," he said. ®

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