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Transform the IBM i-series/AS400 with DevOps: It's possible


i-series is an IBM midrange computer system used extensively by many large insurance firms, retail businesses and banks. Being a legacy platform, projects executed on it generally follow the conventional waterfall development and slow releases.

Today's environment demands agility. Can you transform your i-series and be agile - YES. Have we done it - YES. Let me help you understand with an example.

Here was the problem!

A leading global bank was embarking on a transformation program and wanted to reduce system downtime during scheduled outages of their Core application by routing the requests to a 'stand-by' application to provide business critical services.

The challenge was that the core platform was a 25-year-old monolithic application built on i-series and the entire concept to reality had to be achieved under very stringent timelines. Our team was up for it and we addressed the problem by successful implementation of DevOps & adopting agile principles. This is the first time it has been attempted by any service provider.

How did we address the problem?

Infosys partnered with the client's tooling team and spearheaded the DevOps pipeline implementation.  The deliveries happened in a MVP manner and shippable components were ready after every 2 sprints.

Tools adopted:

  • IBM Rational Developer for i (RDi) - Primary build tool based on the Eclipse platform. It comes with all features supported by any other IDE available in the market and gives a much needed break from the 'Green-Screen'
  • IBM Rational Team Concert (RTC) - Played a dual role of
    - Application Lifecycle Manager: Used for creation of Product Backlog, Sprint Backlogs, Work allocation & collaboration
    - Source Control Manager: Source codes were migrated to the RTC Jazz server and check-out/check-in were performed using RTC. It also allowed concurrent development and facility to auto-merge. 
  • Smartbear Collaborator - Provided the entire review workflow for logging review comments/defects. The reviewer could give in-line comments/log code defects against each line of code and the developer could action the same accordingly.
  • ARCAD Skipper & Deliver - These are two main tools provided by ARCAD for Build & Deploy. These are seamlessly integrated with RDi + RTC; build and deployment can be requested at the click of a button as opposed to the extended conventional release process.
  • ARCAD Observer - Cross-reference tool used to perform detailed impact analysis and understand program flows.
Devops Process and Tooling.png

How did the client realize value from the solution?

  • Increase in productivity from use of DevOps tools
  • Release cycle reduced to 2 sprints only
  • People & process moved from waterfall mode to DevOps mode enabling enterprise agility

And our teams in turn benefitted from:

  • Current staff being trained in open source CI-CD tools
  • Built expertise on Arcad specific tools
  • People & process moved from waterfall mode to DevOps mode

This journey however was not easy and we were faced with multiple challenges.  DevOps tools for i-series were unexplored and we didn't have any SMEs available. Additionally, the application built across geographies added to the complexity making cleaning up of the non-standard source code types a tedious and prolonged activity. The biggest challenge was to change the team's mindset to move out of the conventional way of doing things and step into the new world.

What made this even more difficult was that for stand-by application to perform its required task when the main application is down, it had to be installed on a separate iASP (Independent Auxiliary Storage Pool) from the main application. 

Based on ARCAD consulting, it was suggested to install one ARCAD instance per iASP which would come with a heavy licensing cost.

We did a PoC to move the ARCAD installation into system pool (SYBAS) from the iASP and this instance was accessible across all iASPs. This in turn provided a saving of around 78,000 USD 

It was a challenging task (took us almost 3 months to implement the entire pipeline) but surely not impossible - and made us the pioneers in implementing DevOps on i-series while adopting agile principles. I would love to hear your views and recommendations if you have done similar work at your clients.

Blog authored by
Vivek Narayanan, Sr. Technology Architect

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