IBM’s Watsonx code assistant for Z leverages generative AI to revolutionize mainframe application modernization

In a recent announcement, IBM unveiled the upcoming release of Watsonx Code Assistant for Z, a revolutionary AI-powered tool to expedite the translation of COBOL to Java on the IBM Z platform. Scheduled for general availability in Q4 2023, this cutting-edge product is set to enhance developer productivity and streamline COBOL application modernization. A sneak preview of Watsonx Code Assistant for Z will be presented during IBM’s TechXchange event in Las Vegas from September 11-13.

Part of the Watsonx Code Assistant product family, Watsonx Code Assistant for Z joins forces with IBM Watsonx Code Assistant for Red Hat Ansible Lightspeed, slated for launch later this year. These solutions harness the power of IBM’s code model, boasting knowledge across 115 programming languages acquired from analyzing 1.5 trillion tokens. With a substantial 20 billion parameters, it’s on track to become a premier generative AI foundation model for code automation. The Watsonx Code Assistant portfolio’s reach will expand over time to tackle additional programming languages, catering to the modernization needs of developers.

Watsonx Code Assistant for Z focuses on enabling businesses to harness generative AI and automated tools for swift mainframe application modernization while preserving the IBM Z platform’s performance, security, and resilience capabilities. Given COBOL’s crucial role in global organizations’ data processing, Watsonx Code Assistant for Z offers a potential solution to selectively and gradually transform COBOL business services into well-structured Java code. The sheer scale of this endeavor, encompassing billions of lines of COBOL code, highlights the efficiency that generative AI can bring to the process.

The anticipated benefits of Watsonx code assistant for Z include

  • Accelerated code development and heightened developer productivity across the application modernization lifecycle.
  • Effective management of the overall costs, complexities, and risks associated with modernization initiatives, including in-place translation and optimization of code on IBM Z.
  • Enhanced access to a broader IT skill pool leads to quicker developer onboarding.
  • Attainment of high-quality, easily maintainable code via model customization and the application of best practices.

IBM’s comprehensive approach to modernization includes steps such as leveraging the Application Discovery and Delivery Intelligence (ADDI) tool, refactoring COBOL services, converting COBOL to Java code with optimized design, and thorough validation through automated testing. This comprehensive solution aims to accelerate code development, manage costs and complexity, broaden access to IT skills, and maintain high-quality, maintainable code.

Kareem Yusuf, Senior Vice President of Product Management and Growth at IBM Software, emphasizes the targeted and optimized approach of Watsonx Code Assistant for Z, showcasing its potential to enhance applications and capabilities while retaining the core benefits of the IBM Z platform.

“By bringing generative AI capabilities through Watsonx to new use cases, we plan to drive real progress for our clients. IBM is engineering Watsonx Code Assistant for Z to take a targeted and optimized approach. It’s built to rapidly and accurately convert code optimized for IBM Z, accelerate time to market, and broaden the skills pool. This can help enhance applications and add new capabilities while preserving the performance, resiliency, and security inherent in IBM Z.”

The unveiling of Watsonx Code Assistant for Z underlines IBM’s commitment to ushering in a new era of AI-assisted mainframe application modernization. With its focus on enhancing productivity, preserving core attributes, and addressing the pressing needs of developers, this innovation has the potential to reshape the landscape of application modernization.


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