IBM launches GenAI offering it says accelerates mainframe app modernization

There was a time when mainframe computers ran the world, and they ran it with software written in COBOL. Even today, there are more than 230 billion lines of COBOL code still in use, according to IBM, yet the number of programmers available to maintain the software has drastically shrunk.

To assist them, IBM has announced a new generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) product it said is designed to assist developers seeking to modernize legacy COBOL software running on its Z-series mainframes.

The watsonx Code Assistant for Z is a cloud service that will help developers translate existing COBOL code to Java on IBM Z. It uses AI, IBM says, to support application modernization and IT automation.

“The resulting Java code from watsonx Code Assistant for Z will be object-oriented,” the company said in a release. “IBM is designing (it) to be optimized to interoperate with the rest of the COBOL application, with CICS, IMS, DB2, and other z/OS runtimes. Java on Z is designed to be performance-optimized versus a compared x86 platform.”

This is the second in a series of watsonx code assistants; the first was IBM watsonx Code Assistant for Red Hat Ansible Lightspeed, scheduled for release later this year.

The code assistants integrate with Microsoft Visual Studio Code (VS Code), allowing developers to leverage them within a familiar tool. Code Assistant for Z was originally trained on CodeNet and is actively being tuned on Enterprise Z COBOL. IBM says that customers can customize the underlying models, granting them visibility into the origins of generated code as well as letting them ensure that the output adheres to the organization’s best practices.

Watsonx Code Assistant for Z will preview during IBM TechXchange in September and will be generally available in Q4 2023.

IBM is hosting a webinar featuring watsonx Code Assistant for Z on Sept. 21 at 11 am ET. Registration required.

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Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree

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