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IBM donation launches new Zowe™ Chat Incubator - expands z/OS use

By Mary Gorczynski posted Mon May 16, 2022 10:21 AM


What is the challenge?

Today’s application landscapes are increasingly hybrid, complex and often include IBM zSystems. However, we often see information, teams, and data silos in organizations.

Operations teams suffer from being overwhelmed by having to use many different tools and by lack of skills. They are struggling with inconsistent alerts, interrupted workflow to swap between tools, and challenges when having to share data across multiple teams. Multiple people with different job roles, skills and often working from different locations, are involved when resolving incidents. All this increases the time to problem resolution!

IBM’s solution

IBM’s AIOps tools can help the operations teams to detect incidents quicker, understand dependencies and find root causes more easily, as well as to resolve the analyzed issues. But throughout this process, the operations professionals need to collaborate, and they need a system of communication.

ChatOps, which is chat-platform-based operations, provides just that, by connecting people, processes, tools, and automation in a seamless and transparent way through a chat platform, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, and extensive use of chatbots!

Based on these observations and many discussions with customers, IBM decided to invest in a component named IBM Z ChatOps, which provides ChatOps capabilities for IBM Z AIOps offerings. The initial release was delivered about 1.5 years ago, in November 2020, and is a key component in several IBM Z AIOps suites.

IBM Z ChatOps allows to surface information from IBM Z AIOps tools, such as IBM Z System Automation, IBM Z NetView, IBM OMEGAMON, and IBM Z Workload Scheduler in popular chat platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Mattermost.

All of this provides unique collaborative incident remediation capabilities with benefits such as improved collaboration, faster incident detection and resolution, and faster onboarding of next generation Z operators.


Look at what users of IBM Z ChatOps are saying:

  • “With the latest version of IBM Z ChatOps it is possible to give commands on the Mainframe system via Mattermost (or another tool) and it works very well! A top addition that allows the Mainframe to be better suited to the new era and generation. These are the developments we need!”Emile Stoffels – Automation and Monitoring Specialist at Dutch Tax Office
  • “ChatOps is very helpful and will minimize downtimes”Large Communications Company in North America


IBM donation of Common Chat Framework to Open Mainframe Project

Since the beginning, IBM was and continues to be a major contributor of ZoweTM  Open Mainframe Project in terms of code donation as well as development resources that continue to work on this Linux Foundation Project.

High level Zowe vision statement is explained in 3 words: open, simple, familiar:

  • Open because Zowe provides open source for the z/OS platform to simplify the co-existence of applications and services running on z/OS with hybrid cloud applications and services. Moreover, Zowe offers multiple extensible interfaces on the different components that enable a rich ecosystem of free and commercial solutions.
  • Simple because Zowe offers multiple modern and easy-of-use interfaces to interact with z/OS reducing the learning curve for people that are new to the platform. A browser-based User Interface, a Command Line Interface and a VS Code extension makes the interaction with z/OS less different from the other platforms.
  • Familiar because Zowe promotes Open community of practices with the objective of demystify that z/OS is complex and hard to interact with.  

IBM saw the possibility to extend Zowe with an additional way to access to z/OS resources and services though a chat tools that are already in use in the enterprise and hybrid cloud environment. Based on the success of IBM Z ChatOps offering and customer feedback, IBM thought that there was value in adding a Chat component to Zowe infrastructure and that it is aligned to the overall visionary strategy of Zowe.

Based on all of this, IBM decided to donate a core component of IBM Z ChatOps, named Common Chat Framework that enables communication with different chat tool servers (currently Mattermost, Slack and Microsoft Teams are supported) providing an abstraction layer to interact with them. In addition to the code donation, IBM decided to contribute to the creation of a Zowe Chat squad with experienced resources, with the objective to open the chatbot technology, expand it through a multi-vendor collaboration and contribution for the benefit of the z/OS platform.

Zowe incubator proposal

In the Zowe open community, new technology contributions go through a series of steps to become part of Zowe. IBM, in collaboration with Broadcom, proposed the donation of the IBM Common Chat Framework to the open community. This initial phase is referred to as an “incubator” – which is the start up of organizing the software, developers, designers, and stakeholders.  The proposal was accepted by the Zowe Technical Steering Committee. As an approved Zowe Chat incubator the work has begun to not only contribute the software but also establishing a regular cadence of meeting to collect requirements, do design, develop, and incrementally deliver working code.

For incubators to be accepted, several criteria need to be included in the proposal. For example, Zowe integration with existing services is key and the proposal needs a vision for the technology. The Common Chat Framework provides extensible interfaces today for various chat technologies. This gives the squad a jump start on working code. The direction is to integrate the Chat Framework to the Zowe security services and provide extensible services to enhance the chat experience. For example, there is interest in integration Natural Language Processing in chat to broaden the possible use cases of the technology. This is a great time for those of you interested in chat technology and chatbot development to get involved.


Next steps

Now that the Zowe Chat incubator is live, we are looking for feedback (sponsor users) and possibly contributors, to make it as much as possible “multi-vendor” and improve the accessibility to z/OS services and resources. Visit Zowe website to be more engaged with Zowe Chat incubator project.

In general, we are working on improving the user experience of Zowe with new features. For better fit into the realities of users’ business scenarios and improve the user experience, we got a survey to understand your current workflow, scenarios, pain points and then see how the new feature could help. This survey may take 3-4 minutes to complete and it can help us validate our design and assumption in advance. We really appreciate your time, and your comments are completely anonymous.

Finally, if you are you willing to learn more about IBM Z ChatOps solution, look at the Solution Brief.