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Provision On Demand Part 3: The Future of Automated Provisioning on z/OS


Part 1: What is Provisioning?

Part 2: IBM and Red Hat Ansible

The Future of Automated Provisioning on z/OS

Authors: @Hiren Shah, @Daniel Jast, @Danny Min Kim, @Haley Fung, @Bryant Panyarachun, @Travis Biro

Welcome back for part three of this provisioning automation blog series. In this installment we wanted to discuss the suggested direction customers should be considering when automating middleware provisioning on z/OS. When defining automated provisioning strategies for z/OS, there are a couple of key things to consider:

  • What will it take to maintain our current automation and provisioning assets, and do we have the skills to do so?
  • How do we best position ourselves for success as new technologies are released in the future?
  • Many in the industry are looking forward to retirement, are early-tenure professionals supported by current strategies? 

Clearly these are some large considerations to make as we continue to plan our automated provisioning strategies. One of the largest considerations we suggest for our customers is the concept of future-proofing your strategy. In defining strategies that set us up for future success, we need to consider being able to leverage new technologies and capabilities as they are released, as well as maintaining skills on our teams implementing these strategies to support the automated provisioning we are building. As new technologies are released for the enterprise, it is important to consider how our strategies can take advantage of new capabilities and improvements. Part of this is making sure standards are being leveraged, and common interfaces across platforms are being used to automate and provision. By having standard and platform agnostic tooling at the heart of our strategies, we ensure that not only will our strategies be extendable when new technologies become strategic, but also ensure there are readily available skills in the marketplace to continue following the defined strategies. 

This becomes even more apparent when we look at z/OS, which has a wide range of proprietary products which don't have readily available skills in the marketplace to use, and have less ties into the wider cloud and automation strategies many customers are pursuing. When we look at automated provisioning on z/OS, there's a necessary shift in mindset from "What technologies exist on z/OS that I can automate provisioning with?" to "How is the rest of the enterprise automating provisioning, and how can I do the same on z/OS?" Standardizing the way we manage automated provisioning capabilities with the way the rest of the enterprise guarantees we future proof our processes, as when new standards are introduced z/OS is just another platform shifting with the new norm. 

This is where the automated provisioning strategy for the IBM Z platform and Red Hat Ansible Automation come into play. Ansible has continually proven to be a highly flexible, robust, and reliable automation platform that enterprise customers can count on to automate their most critical infrastructure and workloads. Ansibles agent-less architecture enables support for a wide variety of platforms. Couple this with the abundance of Ansible content being developed by various enterprise companies and the community, enterprises have an automation solution that can cater to any use case you throw at it. Various Ansible components are developed and available in the open source community while also having a parallel stream of Enterprise development and support. Ansible's ability to automate at scale matches perfectly with the scalability of IBM Z to facilitate provisioning on multiple mainframes or LPARs with ease. 

In a conversation about the future of automated provisioning, IBM Director for IMS and Hybrid Cloud Foundation Maria Tzortzatos described the need for customers to consider an Ansible automation strategy: 

"Having a standardized, platform agnostic automated provisioning strategy is a critical piece of our clients Hybrid Cloud journey. Ansible provides a sustainable, advanced strategy for automation across z/OS and the rest of the enterprise."
- Maria Tzortzatos, Director for IMS and Hybrid Cloud Foundation 

Today, IBM Z and our customers are undergoing transformations in infrastructure as we embark on our journey to adopting Hybrid Cloud. Taking our Hybrid Cloud mission even further, we've centralized on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform as being the core Cloud Application Platform to converge our application lifecycle management and developer experiences for z/OS. We know that there are a variety of workload needs; mission critical workloads where milliseconds matter, that run on IBM Z, and others where its critical to modernize and integrate data and applications into cloud, mobile, or AI. The IBM z/OS Cloud Broker is the vehicle for both surfacing existing z/OS resources and provisioning new z/OS resources within OpenShift. The Cloud Broker delivers a uniform z/OS Hybrid Cloud experience by enabling developers to manage z/OS through a standard, self-service OpenShift catalog all driven by Ansible Automation. With the use of IBM supplied Middleware Operator collections, users can provision and manage z/OS middleware and applications alongside their distributed and containerized applications in OpenShift. With additional tools in the IBM Z portfolio like Wazi also extending what we can do from OpenShift, we have created a centralized experience for all IBM Z users from a modern and standard cloud platform. When looking at both Ansible Automation Platform and OpenShift, these platforms provide consistent experiences across all infrastructures, and enable current skillsets in the industry to work on IBM Z. Continue to look out for IBM announcements as we expand the focus on z/OS in our journey to Hybrid Cloud.

Using IBM Cloud Provisioning and Management for z/OS for middleware provisioning

With Red Hat Ansible Automation being the current strategy for IBM Z provisioning automation, IBM intends to continue to support users of IBM Cloud Provisioning and Management for z/OS. If you have existing provisioning investments for IBM middleware or other software instances with this z/OSMF task, you can continue to take advantage of the many benefits for automating provisioning that Cloud Provisioning and Management offers, including the software service catalog, resource management, and service instance registry. Read and learn more about these benefits in Part 2 of this blog series. 

Using Cloud Provisioning and Management for z/OS and Ansible together for middleware provisioning

While IBM Cloud Provisioning and Management for z/OS can be used as a standalone method for middleware provisioning, you should consider using it in concert with Ansible to get the value from both solutions. Whether you want to leverage your existing investments in Cloud Provisioning and Management templates or try the latest in automated provisioning from IBM, the new z/OSMF Ansible collection allows you to use Ansible to orchestrate any type of automation supported in z/OSMF today. As IBM continues to invest in Ansible for middleware provisioning automation, this allows you to tie your z/OSMF automation assets into IBM's wider strategies and pipelines for automation with Ansible.

Once templates are published in a software service catalog, developers or system programmers can drive software provisioning using Ansible playbooks. IBM provides a certified z/OSMF Ansible collection that includes various z/OSMF roles, which can be leveraged in a playbook to run a published template and provision a new software instance in a completely automated and self-service manner. z/OSMF also provides roles to perform lifecycle management like starting, stopping, or de-provisioning the provisioned instances.

Using Cloud Provisioning and Management for z/OS provisioning

With z/OS V2.5, IBM Cloud Provisioning and Management for z/OS will now also help clients create new z/OS systems from scratch in a monoplex configuration. Traditionally, deploying a new z/OS system in an IBM Z logical partition (LPAR) is a complex and arduous process that requires the skill of an experienced system programmer. Much like how middleware provisioning can be difficult today without automation tools like Cloud Provisioning and Management for z/OS and Ansible, the complex process of creating a new z/OS system may delay some clients from creating new z/OS systems, also impacting their DevOps agility and processes. By leveraging the same capabilities that Cloud Provisioning and Management offers today, users can now provision a new z/OS instance with z/OS provisioning templates in less than one hour, compared to the days or weeks it currently takes.

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IBM Cloud Provisioning and Management Content Solution page

Red Hat Ansible Content Solution Page

z/OS Cloud Broker Content Solution Page