• August 19, 2019

Rocket.Build 2019: Using open source to improve the mainframe experience

Some ideas come from clever visionaries—this wasn’t one of those ideas. This idea was born from optimism, assuming “it’ll just work,” and subsequently having everything blow up in my face.

When I worked on Zowe, we used Ant scripts to automate the build process of the desktop and its applications. Ant could handle everything from C to JavaScript, we had good expertise on our team, and it was among the first open source tools that we ported to the IBM Z platform. The port was great, but clueless when it came to the additional metadata USS files have; things like extended attributes, file tagging, or formats. That knowledge simply wasn’t in the source code. When these files were copied, they lost this metadata, and I lost some hair. Ant didn’t have any notion of APF authorization, or EBCDIC, or PDSs, or VSAM. It was working exactly as designed, but lacked the functionality to make it easy for mainframe developers. The Rocket Zowe development team created solutions and we made progress, but I was determined to make Ant usable for Zowe and all mainframers.

In early spring of this year, my office hosted a local Rocket.Build event. (These local events often act as round one for the big Rocket.Build event held annually in Boston.) I put a team together to solve some of these usability problems, and 24 hours later, we had fixed many of our original grievances. Our success was due in part to IBM, as they wrote a java library called the IBM JZOS Toolkit API which included the classes required to bring this functionality into Ant. Our Rocket.Build Local project was more than just an outlet for me to get personal closure on this error. As Rocket implements modern ways to build its mainframe portfolio, tools like Ant need to be robust enough to solve the task at hand. Our team was fortunately picked to continue working on this ElegANT Build (our witty team name) at Rocket.Build/Global, being held at this very moment in our newly renovated HQ.

I last participated in a global Build my first year at Rocket Software in 2016, building a storage class visual analytics concept with Spark. I was on a team with the folks I worked with every day, but having everyone in town instead of remote was a blessing not only for that week, but also for our future working relationships. There was plenty of food and drink, camaraderie, laughs, and of course, coding. Actually, that last part has changed over the past few years. Innovation at Rocket comes from all departments, and Rocket.Build has evolved to accept non-software projects; ones that focus on customer success, sales strategies, HR onboarding, and technical writing to name a few. It’s been a blast yet again, feels great be back in this atmosphere, working on a project that is already a few steps beyond the concept phase. I’m thrilled to be seeing friends, sharing stories, and getting this out there!

Eamon Dawes

Eamon Dawes 2 Posts

When he isn’t cycling around Boston or playing boardgames, Eamon Dawes is a DevOps Engineer. He’s been with Rocket since his internship back in 2015 and has previously worked on the OMEGAMON and Zowe teams.

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