Ansible for IBM Z User Spotlight Series
In this series we shine a light on the people who make our community thrive. We share the inspiring stories of users who combine experience, skill, and curiosity to shape strategies, influence organizations, and take our tools to new heights.
Get to know Bill Pereira
Bill Pereira is a z/OS System Programmer and an active member of the Ansible for IBM Z community. After studying Computer Systems Analysis and Business Administration, he obtained numerous certifications in mainframe technology. Bill has since worked with mainframes in several countries and is passionate about bringing modernization and new technologies to the z/OS platform.
In this quarter’s interview, we sat down with Bill Pereira to chat about his trajectory, pivotal moments and his take on modernization tooling.
Q: Bill, tell us a bit about your career journey so far.
I started working as a Console Operator at IBM about 12 years ago. Then I started doing deeper work as a Systems Programmer in Brazil and Poland. I was interested in working with other technologies and played around a bit as a developer. I also began participating in technology events. I became fascinated with Node.js and cloud computing, so I started exploring z/OSMF and Zowe. That led to me getting involved with Zowe and other modernization projects. Last year I moved to the Netherlands, where I now work at Cognizant attending to the financial sector.
"When you find something that you’re passionate about, you have to make it work, you have to make it fit into your agenda."
Q: What got you interested in platform modernization?
I am patient with z/OS, but I also have some criticism. We have good hardware, but I think we need to adapt and explore other technologies and tools to make us better. What really got me interested was seeing other people exploring all the possibilities out there with cloud and other platforms, and yet no one in the mainframe community was using them!
Q: You engage a lot with the mainframe community. What motivates you to be so active?
The feeling that you’re making a difference for someone. I started doing some presentations that helped some people, and that was the best feeling. I also helped organize meetup groups in Brazil, and that helped new professionals find their first jobs and helped them grow. Those are the kinds of rewarding things that motivate me to be part of the community. When you find something that you’re passionate about, you have to make it work, you have to make it fit into your agenda.
Q: Do you consider yourself to be a mainframe influencer?
Yes, but I didn't start with that intention. It was something that just happened!
Q: What are some highlights from your work as a mainframer?
One of the things I like the most is that no matter how long you’ve been working on this platform, there is always something to learn. There is always something new that will bring new sets of challenges. Even people working on this platform for over 40 years, they will have new challenges as well.
Q: What would you say to the mainframe community about the benefits of choosing and using a range of tools?
Explore on your own. See what opportunities you have and what possibilities are out there. Fit some exploration time into your daily activities. Try new things and present the results to your peers and the community; this is how new opportunities start to happen. I didn't have a platform where I could play without worrying about what I was doing, but that didn't stop me from exploring. I joined IBM’s Master the Mainframe course (now called IBM Z Xplore), and I mentioned this at conferences. People started noticing my activity on LinkedIn, and that’s how I landed in my current role. Now I have a lot more freedom to lead and make decisions about which tools to use and what to explore next.
Q: How do you make the business case for more mainframe investment?
In previous roles that was a challenge. But my feeling now is that some customers are more open and willing to put more things on the mainframe. And some companies are starting to get people together to try new automation. For example, I'm currently working on a project that involves automating the SSL certificate management process from creation to deployment. It started on z/OS, but we’re using the same tool to bring our automation to other platforms, such as Azure. These are the kind of projects that drive mainframe investment.
Q: Have you sensed resistance from other mainframers around new technologies or embracing hybrid cloud?
This culture varies a lot because many people who’ve worked on mainframe for a long time can be resistant to change. The idea is that if something’s working, why should we change it? But it’s different at my current company. I'm seeing more incentives for trying to change things. We provide access to new tools. We have Zowe, Ansible, and Python, for example, and have people in squads from multiple teams exploring new automation opportunities on z/OS.
"By automating, you save time for things that will really bring value for you."
Q: What would you say to members of the community who are hesitant about using or contributing to open source projects?
Participating in the community is what took me to where I am now. It helped my development and my learning. Participating and contributing with others is how we help each other learn and find solutions.
Q: With the many options for tooling available, what attracted you to Ansible?
I decided to try Ansible when I started on the platform, and it was really quick to get something working. The learning curve was really nice. It took about two or three weeks of learning, and I got some help from the Ansible for IBM Z team. I decided to write a playbook and found it was really easy. Now I'm working on Mainframe Modules, and about 20-30% of the project is already on Community Modules.
Q: What made Ansible so easy to pick up?
Q: Anything missing for Ansible for IBM Z to thrive?
More community. When I see other communities, they are active in social media. When someone starts on a project, they post a public question, so that they can learn with other people. They are more connected through web channels and have contact with more people to learn the technology. I think we still need to grow in this area.
Q: You've used JCL, REXX, and custom scripting. Now you use Ansible, too. Has this affected your organization's automation strategy?
We’re focusing on Ansible as the main tool for automation projects. We decided this because it’s simple to maintain and easy for new team members to learn. Plus, we can use Ansible with other programming languages and tools. For example, you can take advantage of existing JCL or REXX assets, but you can start new projects with something newer. And it doesn't stop there; there are other cloud migration projects that are using Ansible as the main tool. At my company, several people who are fascinated with Ansible and who are willing to learn are starting to work together.
Q: Has Ansible been valuable to you personally in terms of projects, products, and technology direction?
Absolutely. By automating, you save time for things that will really bring value for you. And just recently I was approached by a team that was working on an Azure migration project, and because of my knowledge of Ansible, they came to me for help. This was not a z/OS project, but it provided me with some great experience and visibility across my organization.
Q: How do platform-agnostic technologies help the next generation of mainframers?
It makes it easier for new team members to get started because they can focus on what’s important. They can learn concepts and the platform instead of specific interfaces.
Q: What value have you seen from working in a hybrid environment?
You can put things together and take the best from each platform. For example, it's easier to keep code in git than in other source code managers, and you can access repositories on multiple environments, such as Azure or z/OS.
Q: What do you envision for the future of mainframe automation?
Today, many community members think that because the mainframe has the best hardware, no one can successfully migrate workloads to other platforms. But in our hybrid world, we need more agility. I think mainframers are starting to see the importance of using more automation tools, programming languages, and open-source options. This lets you use the tools that you really like, which can bring out better work. In the future, people will do this even more because it is needed.
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