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In the world of mainframe computing, application developers and system administrators have long dealt with unique challenges, complexities, and legacy technologies.

However, recent advancements in Large Language Models, specifically the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) model, have begun to reshape how mainframe professionals should approach their daily tasks. This article will explore the benefits Large Language Models (LLMs) bring to mainframe education, research, and best practices, highlighting step-by-step guidance and the potential impact of AI on the mainframe industry.

The Role of LLMs in Mainframe Education

LLMs have the potential to revolutionize mainframe education, enhancing training programs and empowering the next generation of mainframe professionals. Some of the key areas where LLMs can contribute to mainframe education include:

  1. Training Plans: LLMs can help design comprehensive and customized training plans for mainframe students, ensuring they acquire the necessary skills to excel in their careers.
  2. Step-by-Step Guidance: LLMs can provide real-time assistance, guiding students through complex tasks and helping them develop a systematic approach to problem-solving.
  3. Research and Explanations: natural language understanding capabilities enable LLMs to provide explanations for mainframe concepts, tools, and programs, making them invaluable resources for students.

The Impact of LLMs on Mainframe Development and Administration

Understanding existing systems and assessing the impact of changes is a crucial part of mainframe development and administration. LLMs can aid mainframe professionals in several ways:

  1. Program Analysis: LLMs can analyze mainframe-specific code, helping developers and administrators understand the purpose and functionality of various code segments.
  2. Impact Assessment: By analyzing the dependencies and relationships between different parts of a mainframe system, LLMs can help professionals assess the potential impact of changes and make informed decisions.
  3. Easier Understanding: The ability to provide context-aware insights and explanations simplifies the process of understanding complex mainframe systems, especially for newcomers.
  4. Boilerplate for New Developments: LLMs can generate boilerplate code based on natural language input, speeding up development and reducing time spent on repetitive tasks.
  5. Updating Documentation: LLMs can assist in updating and maintaining documentation, ensuring that developers and administrators have access to accurate and up-to-date information.
  6. Benefits for System Administrators: System administrators, who often deal with a wide variety of tasks and technologies, can benefit significantly from the ability to provide context-specific assistance and guidance.

In conclusion, the LLMs are revolutionizing mainframe development and administration, offering unprecedented support and assistance to professionals in this field. Their ability to enhance mainframe education, simplify research and analysis, and provide step-by-step guidance make LLMs an invaluable tool for both new and experienced mainframe professionals. As AI continues to advance, we can expect even more profound changes in the mainframe landscape, driving innovation and efficiency in this vital industry.

Introducing mfgpt: A Tech Demo for Mainframe Professionals

We built mfgpt as a tech demo. You can get mfgpt from github:

mfgpt is a tech demo wrapper script for shell_gpt. It uses the gpt-3.5-turbo model.
Interestingly, mfgpt itself was developed through a brief conversation with ChatGPT, the AI model based on the GPT architecture. This demonstrates the power and versatility of GPT as a tool for various industries, including mainframe computing.

This is how mfgpt works:

mfgpt --c3270: Analyzes the content of all c3270 screen sessions and generates a helpful text based on the input.

mfgpt --explain <filepath>: Analyzes a file and generates an explanation of the content, including detailed explanation and external resources. The file should be a source code or script from an IBM Mainframe (z/OS).

mfgpt --task <task>: Provides step-by-step instructions for a given task prompt.

The `–c3270` option delivers excellent outcomes, thanks to its ability to accurately process 3270 screen data. Users can quickly understand the content of various sessions and take appropriate action.

However, the `–explain` option yields medium results, as some files may be too long or complex for current AI models. While the generated explanations can be helpful in certain cases, more complex files may require additional human intervention to ensure accuracy.

The `–task` option, on the other hand, delivers suboptimal results. The generated step-by-step instructions tend to mix up certain aspects, which could cause confusion and leads to wrong instructions. This limitation suggests that improvements are needed for better task-based text generation for mainframe professionals.

While the tech demo offers promising results, it is evident that further advancements in language models are necessary to fully cater to the needs of mainframe professionals. The upcoming GPT-4 API access or the next iterations of large language models could potentially address the limitations observed in the `–explain` and `–task` options.

Examples of mfgpt calls