[E4] DOES 2019 Las Vegas Interviews – Rosalind Radcliffe on DevOps Trends

By Jayne Groll  September 5, 2019

On this episode of the Humans of DevOps Podast, Jayne Groll interviews Rosalind Radcliffe, Distinguished Engineer at IBM, during DOES 19 to discuss the current trends emerging in DevOps including mainframe’s resurgence and the importance of Ops in DevOps

The lightly edited transcript can be found below.

Intro:
You’re listening to the Humans of DevOps Podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas, and learning, or the S-K-I-L framework. Here’s your host, DevOps Institute CEO Jayne Groll.

Jayne Groll:
Hi, everyone. This is Jayne Groll, CEO of the DevOps Institute, and we’re here for another episode of the Humans of DevOps Podcast. I’m at DevOps Enterprise Summit this week in Las Vegas and I’m really delighted to be joined by my friend and DevOps Enterprise Forum colleague, Rosalind Radcliffe of IBM. Welcome, Rosalind.

Rosalind R.:
Thanks. Glad to be here.

Jayne Groll:
For those of you who may not know you, and I think that’s probably a small proportion of the people that listen to our podcast, why don’t you introduce, tell us a little bit about you and what you do and your experiences in DevOps.

Rosalind R.:
Happy to. I’m Rosalind Radcliffe, IBM distinguished engineer, responsible for DevOps for enterprise systems. And that means I’m responsible for helping IBM transform our ZOS system or our mainframe system to allow DevOps or make it DevOps-able, as I say, as well as really working with clients to help them in this DevOps transformation to include the mainframe, the left out systems of many organizations.

Jayne Groll:
For a while there it was like the mainframe is dead, long live the mainframe and recently in the DevOps community, and you and I spend a fair amount of time in that community, we’ve really seen the resurgence, the rise of the mainframe’s role in DevOps. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’re seeing as far as that trend goes and where do you think that trend is coming from?

Rosalind R.:
I think it’s interesting. The mainframe is dead, has been a sentence that I’ve heard ever since I started in mainframe development in ’87 so it’s been there for a long time and I think there was for a while a perception that people might get off the mainframe. But it’s gotten to the point where they realize the mainframe is not an old machine. It is not that old thing in the corner. It’s actually the most modern system we have and so people are realizing, if they are large organizations that need security, reliability, high throughput transactions, the mainframe really is the best platform. And if it’s the best platform then you can’t forget about it. You can’t leave it by the side.

The other thing that happened was, in many ways, the best thing and the worst thing when Gartner came out with two speed IT, this wonderful concept that you could have a fast part and a low part when we’ll accept you go at the speed of your slowest part. And people who have done transformation or started the transformation in the front end side have realized that they’re as slow as the mainframe is. If they don’t do something on the mainframe side, then they’ve got a problem. And that’s why we see people now talking about mainframe as part of DevOps because all of the large enterprises have mainframes and they matter. And so they need to be included and they’re realizing that and now they’re starting to transform.

Jayne Groll:
And I think it’s an ode to what the customer, how the customer is driving DevOps as opposed to how DevOps is driving the customer. Right? There’s a little bit of both, of course, but the everything’s going to be in the Cloud, in a sense evolved or devolved into hybrid. Right? And the mainframe has survived client server, it’s surviving Cloud, right? So the old we’re not dead yet from Monty Python kind of applies here. Right? But in truth, I think it is very much the market telling us that yes, we believe in the principles of DevOps. We think that increasing our flow, going faster, increasing quality is really important. But don’t tell us how we need to operate, what machines, what operating systems we need to be on in order to be able to adopt and adapt those principles.

Rosalind R.:
Well, and absolutely. And one of the things that people are remembering about the mainframe is it will … It really was the first Cloud, really. I mean, if you think about Cloud today, what you want is you want the monthly license, you want your costs in that structure. And okay, that’s how the Z always used to work and people were, “Yeah. Okay.” So it’s always funny. We always go in circles. We always go in transitions, but people really have seen that the mainframe or IBM-Z, it really provides this capability and it provides the capability if I’m doing Cloud kind of things and I want to use Linux or if I’m doing ZOS kind of things. And so it’s a Cloud in a box and the funny part in is the latest machine, the latest announce of the machine, the Z-15, we actually now announced all the machines are in 19 inch racks.

Jayne Groll:
Oh interesting.

Rosalind R.:
And so it fits in a Cloud data center. All of them now fit in a Cloud data center. We switched it around. It literally fits and so it’s no longer that box over there in the corner. It really can fit into every Cloud data center. It’s what we in IBM’s Cloud use for security. It’s the crypto capability. It’s the secure service container. It’s providing a lot of Cloud capabilities. It just fits in this model and there’s no reason it should have been left out and now people are recognizing that and they’re including it.

Jayne Groll:
What I’m the most excited about, aside from everything that we’re talking about here is there’s a lot of people that have invested their careers in mainframe expertise and mainframe specialties. And I think for a period of time they were feeling disenfranchised. I think they were feeling that they were either going to be left behind or they were going to lose their jobs. I don’t think there was an overt disrespect, but I think there was perhaps an underpinning that you’re not as cool or you’re not as relevant as anyone that’s doing some of the cool, more modern things.

What are you seeing from the human side now that we’re seeing mainframe really being part of the playground, as opposed to being the kids on the side?

Rosalind R.:
I think the thing I see is that if there are people that work in the mainframe space that understand that this is a positive, then they’re adapting. They’re taking on the challenge to change and to modernize and to follow DevOps practices. I’ve seen some people my age, retirement eligible kind of people who are jumping on this and getting the value out of it. They’re taking the skill that they have in the business in the ways of working in the system itself and applying it to the new ways and it’s working really well.

The real problem I see though, is that the humans are the problem in this transformation because the Z has been left out for so long. There are a lot of people who’ve been doing ZOS development with COBOL in exactly the same way for the last 30 years and they’re afraid. They were afraid for a while that they wouldn’t be secure in their jobs. What’s going to happen to my job? Now they’re confident in the job because they know the company can’t get off the system, but they’re not confident enough to be ready to change. And I think it’s really important that people realize that those skills that they’ve developed over the last 30 years are very valuable skills and this change isn’t trying to lessen those skills or make them not useful. It’s making them more useful in training the next generation.

I’m sorry, I want to retire someday. I would want to spend my time teaching the next generation all of the knowledge I have. Look at it as a positive. It’s new things. I don’t know … I always find it funny. I don’t know many people who don’t carry a cell phone anymore.

Jayne Groll:
Right.

Rosalind R.:
I mean, but that’s a change. Why don’t you only have a phone at home? Well, because it’s better to carry a cell phone. It’s, well, maybe better. Maybe you’re always connected. Might not be better, but okay, it’s better to carry a cell phone. So it’s better to think about some of these new practices. It’s better to get some of these new experiences and take the knowledge that you have and apply it to the new ways of working.

Jayne Groll:
I agree with you. I mean, as you were speaking, I was thinking the same thing. There’s two really exciting aspects to that. First of all, one is to up skill yourself, right? And to be able to feel that energy that you felt in the early days. And in some ways because of the depth of knowledge that the individual has, there’s also a security that says, I shouldn’t be afraid to … you know, we call it add to the top of your tea, or you shouldn’t be afraid to add to the top of your tea, because you’re so stable in your knowledge of the mainframe, that supplementing it should be something like taking a new art class or doing something that is a little bit of a passion project.

And then the other part is to be inspirational because you’re right, someday I want to retire, you want to retire, and a bunch of mainframe developers want to retire. And right now they probably can’t. Or if they do, the risk to the organization is pretty strong. And probably a few years ago it would been like, “Well let’s teach the younger generation.” The younger generation may have been, “Whoa, wait a minute, I don’t want to learn that. That’s old.” And now it’s cool again. Right? So really being able to inspire the next generation who can take not only the mainframe but can take the software delivery lifecycle really to the next level by optimizing what they’re learning here is really important.

So it’s a little bit of a responsibility and a little bit of a journey. And I think that’s really, really exciting. And if you’re a mainframe human of DevOps listening to this, I hope you feel that because I’ve known Rosalind a long time and you are so passionate about this. I think that, that hopefully is something that becomes contagious but also is a message that says you have an obligation and you have a journey and both of those are available to you today.

What other trends are you seeing in DevOps right now?

Rosalind R.:
I think the thing that’s been fun is to watch as companies are realizing that not only is the mainframe part of it but Ops is actually part of it.

Jayne Groll:
I love that.

Rosalind R.:
DevOps always was DevOps. I mean Ops, you know like running the systems, including the infrastructure, infrastructure’s code. There are all sorts of things that just get brushed over in a lot of the discussion and that can’t happen. We really need to have Ops as part of it. We really need to do … And with some organizations I talk about the fact that their Ops, their infrastructure teams need to be doing DevOps in the exact same way because … And maybe they’re not merging in to the development team, but they are providing infrastructure as a service to the organization. And so I’ve got a product team that’s responsible for providing this On-Prem Cloud and infrastructure is just On-Prem Cloud.

If you get rid of the ticketing systems and do it right, please, Lord, if you do that, then you’re providing a service to your company. Become that service provider and in order to do that, you need all the DevOps practices. Everyone becomes a developer of sorts because infrastructure is code. You’re making sure you’re scripting on everything. You’re automating everything and you’re getting out of the way. You get to use … The best part about DevOps is I say, you get to use your brain for real work instead of the stupid manual tasks you have to do now.

Jayne Groll:
I always say that we were so busy automating the rest of the world, we forgot to automate ourselves. And so I think that’s part of it too. I’m also really excited about Ops. I mean, I think that site reliability engineering has brought Ops into the spotlight. It’s also brought post-production work into the spotlight and I think that’s great. I was always frustrated that DevOps ended at deployment and you kind of want to go “Now what?” Right? And I think for a long time, the definition of Ops, we heard no Ops. Right? Now we hear new Ops. I think that the definition of Ops was really unclear. And I think now there’s a lot more clarity that in some senses there’s two spirits to Ops. One is pre-production, one is post-production, but that they’re not mutually exclusive.

I think that there’s been a lot of good work here. It does. I think we’re seeing a lot more Ops presentations than we ever had before. And that’s really, really exciting.

We’re running out of time. I’m hoping again, we can sit down again and talk more about this because I do think from a human perspective … We talk a lot about upskilling, right? We talk a lot about which skills. And so if you’re a human of DevOps right now, it might be a little confusing, right? Do you need to learn security? Do you need to learn testing? Do you need learn mainframe? Do you need to learn Cloud? What about Cloud Native? It can really be very, very, very overwhelming. And as you know, DevOps Institute launched the upskilling survey in an attempt to be able to just try to make some sense of that. We’re really looking forward to seeing what this year reveals to us. Next year when we’re here it does, let’s meet again and do it.

Rosalind R.:
Sounds like fun. Looking forward to it.

Jayne Groll:
Thanks. So thank you Rosalind Radcliffe for spending some time with me. Distinguished engineer from IBM. Thank you. If you’re human of DevOps, listening to this podcast we’re at DevOps enterprise summit in Las Vegas, wishing everyone a great afternoon.

Outro:
Thanks for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps podcast. Don’t forget to join our global community to get access to even more great resources like this. Until next time, remember, you are part of something bigger than yourself. You belong.

Join the FREE DevOps Institute Continuous Learning Community to gain access to exclusive member content!


Web | https://devopsinstitute.com/
Twitter | @DEVOPSINST
LinkedIn | /devops-institute
YouTube | DevOps Institute

Sign Up for Global SKILup Day