IBM Z Xplore Experience

What even is a mainframe anyway?

If you asked me a few months ago what a mainframe was, I don’t think my reply would have gone much further than “a big computer”. Now, as I approach the final stages of my IBM Z Xplore journey, I’m fully convinced of the importance of mainframe computing in this constantly-evolving technological landscape and have experienced first-hand the power of the associated tools which are available.

With unmatched stability and adaptability, mainframe computers are renowned for their ultra-high security, incredible speed and unparalleled uptime (less than 1 minute of planned downtime per server per year!). They provide exciting solutions to a vast array of modern problems, such as those posed by optimising machine learning or operating on the blockchain.

But everybody needs to start somewhere, and IBM Z Xplore has provided the perfect platform for that. As a beginner I’ve learned everything from the basics of mainframe architecture and hardware to programming and relational databases, browsing datasets and submitting jobs through the easy-to-use Zowe Explorer extension for VS code before being encouraged to discover the wide range of alternative interfaces.

My personal highlights: retro interfaces, containers and the IBM LinuxONE

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring the mainframe through UNIX System Services, getting to grips with the Zowe Command Line Interface and tackling the challenge of writing my own programs in languages like Rexx and Python. I even had a go at using an IBM 3270 terminal (well, an emulation of one), which displays jobs and data in a lovely 80 character wide “green screen” from the 1970s!

I particularly enjoyed the activities involving the IBM LinuxONE system, being given the opportunity to access a virtual machine to play with completely for free. Here I was able to see the true capability of the mainframe and experiment with powerful tools such as Docker and Ansible to open up a world of possibility for containerisation and automation.

Get ready for the next challenge

It’s very clear to me that the mainframe community is continuously building and improving on solutions to stay at the forefront of data-handling and computation, and with new IBM Z Xplore challenges being added all the time, I look forward to being a part of it. Remember, the learning journey never stops!

If you’re interested in finding out more about IBM Z, I highly recommend the IBM Z Xplore platform. You can get started with it here:

Originally published on the IBM Z Community.