Improving the Mainframe Developer Experience
by Steven Dickens | March 8, 2023

On this episode of Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series, Futurum Research Senior Analyst Steven Dickens talks with BMC Software’s DevOps Evangelist, Tony Anter and Lead Project Manager, Mark Schettenhelm during the SHARE Conference in Atlanta. Their conversation covered the importance of improving the developer experience, eliminating the silos between distributed and mainframe application development, and the delivery of modern tooling to help customers improve the experience to deliver innovation faster.

It’s a great conversation you don’t want to miss.

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Steven Dickens: Hello and welcome to the Futurum Tech Webcast. Brought to you in collaboration with BMC. I’m joined today by Antony and Mark. Hi, welcome to the show guys.

Tony Anter: Thank you.

Mark Schettenhelm: Thank you.

Tony Anter: Thank you for having us.

Steven Dickens: So tell us a little bit about your role. Let’s get started there. Position for the listeners and the watchers, what you do for the organization, Mark.

Mark Schettenhelm: Right. I’m a lead product manager specializing in developer tools.

Steven Dickens: Fantastic. And you?

Tony Anter: I’m a DevOps architect and evangelist and I come in from industry to help people understand the art of the possible.

Steven Dickens: And we’re going to come back to that because there’s some fantastic things we’ve been talking and I understand your background. There’s lots going on in BMC right now, a lot of it around what you guys are calling the developer experience. Let’s just maybe get started there. What does that mean for you?

Mark Schettenhelm: Right. What it means is we’re all techies, right? We’re hauling to technology and I think we focus so much on technology, we sometimes forget the developer, the people part. So what we’re doing at BMC is really focusing on the developer experience as they work with their code and using the technology to serve them rather than starting with technology which may or may not help the developer.

Tony Anter: Start at the root of where all the technology and all the changes are really happening.

Steven Dickens: And Tony, you’ve got that outside inexperience, we’ve spoken a few times on the phone. I think what you bring to these discussions from sort of our interactions is that outside in perspective. Tell us a little bit more around you’ve got that background and that experience, what are those developers looking for?

Tony Anter: Developers want tools that are easy to use. They want to be able to go into a situation on their local development environment and not have to go over here for this and go over there for that and go switch tools to this to do this thing and switch tools to that. They want everything in a single pane of glass. They want everything at their fingertips so that then they can concentrate on doing what they do best, which is writing awesome code, writing great business solutions. Right?

Steven Dickens: And that’s moving the tools into the background, removing some of that friction and really enabling that developer to do what they’re good at, which is writing code.

Tony Anter: Right. These are all implementation details. These aren’t things that the developer day-to-day should be concerned with. All that should happen under the hood. What they want to see is all the tooling necessary for them to write great solutions.

Steven Dickens: They want the tools to empower what they’re doing, not be in the way of what they’re doing.

Tony Anter: Exactly.

Steven Dickens: So obviously BMC’s on a journey with that at the moment, some new stuff coming out. Tell us a little bit around what that’s meaning for some of the portfolio.

Mark Schettenhelm: Right. You’re going to see an increasing expansion of DevOps and the pipelines and the APIs. We’ve been doing that for years. We’re continuing to grow that and we’re also moving into other things like Azure DevOps or GitLab and GitHub and extending that and making it more and more open so that it’s like you were saying, it’s not really the interface, it could be things behind the scenes. So we’re expanding that into the community.

Tony Anter: The other thing I’d mentioned in that too is our expansion into VS Code. So if you look at what is the most popular IDE today for college students that are coming out of engineering school, far and away add the rest of them together and it’s not as popular as VS Code. It’s lightweight, it’s easy, and BMC is doubling down on enabling VS Code to work with all of our capabilities and tools in the background to really give that awesome developer experience that, I don’t want to say kids, but that new hires are used to.

Mark Schettenhelm:Really anyone. I like VS Code.

Tony Anter: I use it too. Yeah, it’s my IDE of choice.

Steven Dickens: So it’s removing some of those barriers so that there’s not that I need to develop on this mainframe tool in order to develop on the mainframe, it’s democratizing development.

Mark Schettenhelm: Exactly.

Tony Anter: Yeah.

Mark Schettenhelm: You’re working, it just happens to be in the mainframe but you don’t think about it, which is how it should be. It’s another server.

Tony Anter: And this is one tool, so I bring up VS Code because it’s new, but we have VS Code, we have Eclipse for those guys who really love Eclipse and all the tooling built into that. For that matter, if you love the ISPF interface and you want to stay with the tried and true, we meet you where you’re at. Developer experience is about meeting people where they’re at.

Mark Schettenhelm: The developer experience.

Tony Anter: Right. And giving them the tools they want.

Steven Dickens: So you’re not trying to disenfranchise some of those people who’ve maybe got 30 years on the platform who are used to using a green screen interface, but are you also trying to embrace that new kid coming out of college who’s got a VS Code background?

Mark Schettenhelm: He can slide right into the mainframe and work with it easily.

Tony Anter: And those ISPF guys, we walk on the ground they build. Those guys are wizards, so I don’t want to interrupt what they’re trying to do. Whatever makes you successful and makes you productive is where BMC wants to be.

Mark Schettenhelm: And some of the things we do actually work with that behind the scenes, like the pipelines. You can initiate something in ISPF, but behind the scenes, a pipeline can come up and do something, automate a task for them.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, it’s using that best of both worlds.

Mark Schettenhelm: Right.

Tony Anter: Exactly.

Steven Dickens: So some of the data here, 82% of DevOps teams in a recent survey that you commissioned said they wanted to prioritize using the same application development tools across both mainframe and distributed teams. So we’ve talked about sort of from a mainframe perspective, you see that across both mainframe and the distributed side. And I’d put in there the cloud as well, obviously.

Tony Anter: Yeah, I mean, I’ve talked to a lot of different companies and as they’re bringing new people in, those people are used to the tools that are already being used on the distributed side and it only makes sense from a cost, capability, training, all that if you have a single set of tools across both and there’s no reason not to use both of them. The other piece to that is if you’re going to attract that new talent, you have to be able to give them those capabilities that they want, which is what the distributed guys are already using.

Steven Dickens: So one thing we hear a lot of in the industry is about code velocity. So it’s great to be able to get out of the way of the developer, but what does that mean for the business? I get the impression that what you’re saying is removing friction for that developer. What does that translate to from a velocity point of view at a business level?

Mark Schettenhelm: It means getting a lot of new features out to your end users to help the business instead of being a roadblock or being slower to have the mainframe, which is really behind the scenes for everything running to be much quicker to respond to the market faster. And so it really helps the business in the end.

Tony Anter: Yeah. I mean, how much is it to you as an organization to be able to get that new solution that you’re working on out one month, two months, four months, six months earlier than you expected or than you used to be able to do? In today’s world where everything is like that and ChatGPT is creating new things at a whim, the faster you can go, time is money.

Mark Schettenhelm: Right. And it really all rests on the mainframe, but also on the mainframe developer and anything we can do to make their life better, their experience pays off in the end.

Steven Dickens: Right. So I think for me that’s the ability to get those new features in, whether they’re a competitive response, whether that’s sort of new revenue generated service, whether that’s adapting to something that’s going on in the market, getting those features into market faster from a velocity point of view is where this pays off.

Tony Anter: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

Steven Dickens: So we talked a little bit, and I know there’s some good stuff in what you guys are doing around testing and automation, the whole sort of shift left approach. Where’s that fit within the developer experience for BMC?

Mark Schettenhelm: Testing is a real pain point for developers and it lacks a science and a methodology and thought. There’s not real measurement for it. And so we’re providing the KPIs, the measurement, the test data, the code coverage, all the things that are very well-defined on the distributed side, but now on the mainframe side so that we can really automate them and make it more effective.

Tony Anter: And we’re pushing for immediate feedback. If I make a code change, I want to know, does that code change work or not? Is this bigger than just, does it build, does it compile, can I generate it and then push it down the pipe and a week later I find out there’s an issue. I want to find that issue right now. I want to see exactly what the quality of my code is, whether it tests out and makes the changes that I’m trying to do, all that. It’s that immediate feedback that will delight the developer.

Steven Dickens: And that’s coming from, I’d imagine the velocity and the speed of code that we were talking about earlier. You need that testing feedback at the same velocity as you are developing the code.

Tony Anter: Yes. Higher speed more velocity does not mean poorer quality, right? It means higher speed and more velocity at the same or better quality than what I had before.

Steven Dickens: Because you do typically smaller drops of code more frequently than larger drops of code less frequent.

Mark Schettenhelm: Exactly.

Tony Anter: Exactly.

Steven Dickens: So fantastic guys, that’s a really good summary. Would there be any key takeaways or things that you would sort of stress to people watching the video around what developer experience means from BMC?

Mark Schettenhelm: I think it’s really, again, we have the technology, but really looking at the developer is the key thing that involves all the changes that helped the industry and also their end users and anything we can do to open them up to be creative and take away some of the drudgery.

Tony Anter: Happy developers are productive developers, happy developers are innovative developers, happy developers stay with the companies they’re at. If you take anything away from it, take those three things because if you make working at your company and developing your solutions a delight, then the sky’s the limit to what you can accomplish.

Steven Dickens: I don’t think I could say it better than that, Tony.

Mark Schettenhelm: Me neither.

Steven Dickens: Fantastic. You’ve been listening to the Futurum Tech Webcast brought to you in collaboration with BMC. Please click and subscribe and we’ll see you next time.

About the Author

Steven Dickens is Vice President of Growth and Business Development and Senior Analyst at Futurum Research. Operating at the crossroads of technology and disruption, Steven engages with the world’s largest technology brands exploring new operating models and how they drive innovation and competitive edge for the enterprise.  Read Full Bio.