Mainframe-opposed pundits still spreading falsehoods about the platform’s death seem to forget 4,500 of the world’s largest companies rely on it. If figures can’t change their minds, perhaps highly-regarded analysts’ firsthand accounts of the innovation occurring can.
Daniel Howard and Phillip Howard of London-based Bloor Research are two of those analysts who write “the mainframe is unlikely to ever truly go out of fashion” and “COBOL is here to stay,” too, in their detailed review of Topaz for Total Test, Compuware’s new unit test automation tool for continuous delivery.
Working code is gold, and COBOL works for business-critical mainframe programs. Our Bloor analysts agree: COBOL as a language doesn’t pose a problem; rather, untested COBOL code is problematic because it becomes harder for programmers, especially of the younger demographic, to understand and update it.
Helping programmers improve COBOL code testing is an absolute necessity considering “mainframe programs tend to be the oldest and most important parts of the business,” the Bloor analysts write. What can mainframe teams do about it, though?
Adopt Unit Testing
The Bloor analysts argue “the solution is to build confidence in the code…via unit testing,” allowing developers to test the small parts of applications to find and fix low-level bugs before moving them into testing processes that involve larger parts.
Mainframe shops that even attempt regular unit testing must do it manually, which, due to the tedium, causes most developers to abandon or half-heartedly carry out the duty. Nothing against the developers; there just isn’t time in the day to manually unit test every minute part of several applications. However, in turn, untested code diminishes application quality and developer confidence, and ultimately inhibits innovation.
In the distributed world, “unit testing is ubiquitous when working with relatively modern programming languages such as Java,” where unit testing frameworks subject small pieces of code to “rigorous, fast, automatic, and repeatable tests,” the analysts write.
Topaz for Total Test (or, “JUnit for COBOL”)
Until recently, this functionality was absent from mainframe development. But the introduction of Topaz for Total Test provides mainframe teams with similar functionality their Java-programming colleagues have had access to for years, enabling COBOL programmers to:
- Validate code changes immediately
- Maintain the quality of your codebase
- Increase velocity to production
- Eliminate dependency on specialized mainframe knowledge
In essence, “Topaz for Total Test can be likened to ‘JUnit for COBOL’,” the Bloor analysts write. However, they’re quick to point out this comparison doesn’t do the tool justice. “Unlike JUnit, in which only the test execution is automated, Topaz for Total Test automates both test creation and test execution.”
For a product developed within one quarter and just released in January 2017, that’s a compliment of the highest order. Reiterating the importance of a tool like this, the Bloor analysts write that “higher levels of testing substantially benefit by starting at the bottom, with a solid foundation of unit tests, to dramatically increase code quality and improve the efficiency of subsequent testing.”
We agree, of course.
Read the report for an in-depth review of Topaz for Total Test, Compuware’s automated unit testing creation and execution tool, from Bloor analysts Daniel Howard and Phillip Howard.