American Airlines and DXC: Mainstreaming the mainframe for modernization

Mainframe systems have been a staple of the enterprise data center for decades. With solid reliability and outstanding processing speeds, the mainframe continues to oversee high-volume transactions for most of the world’s largest companies.

As the number of transactional workloads continue to rise, the mainframe’s strategic relevance has only increased. Leaders know that mainframes provide the most bang for the buck in delivering reliable data, security, scalability and performance.

However, as organizations look to innovate, IT teams often don’t include mainframes in their modernization plans. We believe they may not realize what can be accomplished on the mainframe, especially since DevOps toolsets are not readily available. Developers are missing modern tools that are intuitive and easy to use. In addition, a culture of “if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it” remains pervasive and hinders progress.

Some developers, as well as company executives, may assume they’ll eventually move off the mainframe anyway, so why bother modernizing it? As a result, legacy mainframe applications are excluded from DevOps and delivery transformation. The mainframe usually languishes in a silo — a surefire recipe for disaster, especially as greater numbers of transactional web applications come to rely on it.

Not so at American Airlines, where embracing digital innovation and responding quickly to market demands are key objectives of the airline’s IT program. Guided by American’s Tech 2.0 technology goals, the airline aims to transform the way IT is delivered and ensure the systems are reliable.

American sought to implement DevOps toolchain and practices for its mainframe-based Flight Operating System (FOS) application, a mission-critical system for flight schedules and crew management.

A partnership to achieve transformation

To transform development practices, DXC Technology and American worked together to embrace distributed code and introduce DevOps to FOS. From the outset, we ensured that everyone was on the same page about what we expected to achieve with mainframe DevOps and why it mattered to the airline.

Next, we established a Minimum Viable Product to ascertain the art of the possible. We realized a base change in mindset and practices were needed to complement the new tools. Hackathons, sandbox experiments, road shows and peer reviews helped socialize solutions. We could see how modern mainframe tools could help integrate the FOS into American’s existing DevOps toolchain and mainstream the mainframe application.

Product teams are learning new technologies and are now actively participating in and adding value to the airline’s modernization programs. DevOps metrics are used as a barometer to determine whether the airline is delivering value faster and improving quality for its passengers. With modern tooling and updated processes, plus a supportive culture that provides a positive developer experience, any organization can get more value out of its mainframe platform.

At American, DevOps is fundamentally changing and improving how development and operations are done today. We will continue to measure the results and keep iterating towards building an agile and scalable system that’s ready for rapid change and growth.

 

To learn more, read the technical blog Implementing DevOps for Transaction Processing  Facility (TPF) mainframe.  


Hari Sathya is a delivery executive with DXC Technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misty Shafer Sterne is managing director of Flight Attendant Technology at American Airlines.

 

 

 

 

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