Over the past 30 years, Compuware has built command-line mainframe programming tools that it fears might befuddle today’s college graduates. Its solution was to create a new product called Compuware Workbench, which repackages its tools with a GUI for a new generation of developers.

A beta of Workbench was announced last week. Workbench is an Eclipse IDE that packages plug-ins for application performance management, data and debugging tools, as well as regression testing, replay tools and source editing tools. The final edition of WorkBench is to ship next month.

Compuware began the process of migrating its tools to GUI interfaces several years ago by rolling out point products, said product manager Tyler Allman. “We now have enough components to keep the developer inside of the GUI.”

Workbench introduces new components that were previously unavailable in the Compuware toolbox, including an OEM edition of the SlickEdit source-code editor that is optimized for COBOL, Allman said. It also introduces several new file and data manipulation components. The tools are designed for IBM’s Time Sharing Option mainframe environment and Interactive System Productivity Facility terminal interface.

Allman acknowledged that Workbench does not yet have feature parity with Compuware’s command-line tools. “We broke down the [command-line] products into the 80/20 rule, and delivered the most used stuff.”

“Workers who chose IT as a profession during the past 20 years have completely different sets of skills, and use different languages and application architectures,” said Gartner analyst Dale Vecchio. “Consequently, the pending retirement of the Baby Boomer generation will have a significant impact on continuing to operate many of the legacy systems that focus on running the business.”

Up to 40% of that generation of mainframe developers is retiring soon, claimed Paul Vallely, Compuware’s solution sales director. “Backfilling individuals are not used to the old mainframe environment.”

However, modern GUI-based tools and training can help lessen the learning curve, he added.