IBM Introduces Generative AI Capabilities for watsonx to Accelerate Mainframe Modernization

IBM is introducing watsonx Code Assistant for Z, a new generative AI-assisted product that will help enable faster translation of COBOL to Java on IBM Z and enhance developer productivity on the platform.

According to IBM, this product will be generally available in Q4 2023, and is being designed to help accelerate COBOL application modernization. Watsonx Code Assistant for Z will preview during TechXchange, IBM's premier technical learning event in Las Vegas, Sept 11-13.

Watsonx Code Assistant for Z is a new addition to the watsonx Code Assistant product family, along with IBM watsonx Code Assistant for Red Hat Ansible Lightspeed, scheduled for release later this year.

These solutions will be powered by IBM's code model, which will have knowledge of 115 coding languages, having learned from 1.5 trillion tokens.

The watsonx Code Assistant product portfolio will extend over time to address other programming languages, to improve time to value for modernization, and address growing skills challenges for developers, according to IBM.

Watsonx Code Assistant for Z is being designed to assist businesses in leveraging generative AI and automated tooling to accelerate their mainframe application modernization – all with the goal of preserving the performance, security and resiliency capabilities of IBM Z.

The COBOL data processing language supports many vital business and operational processes at organizations globally. At scale, using watsonx Code Assistant for Z in comparison to other approaches could make it easier for developers to selectively and incrementally transform COBOL business services into well architected high-quality Java code – with estimated billions of lines of COBOL code as potential candidates for targeted modernization over time.

Generative AI can help developers to more quickly assess, update, validate and test the right code, allowing them to more efficiently modernize large applications and focus on higher impact tasks.

IBM is designing these capabilities to provide tooling for each step of the modernization journey. The solution is expected to include IBM's Application Discovery and Delivery Intelligence (ADDI) inventory and analysis tool.

Following ADDI, key steps on the journey include refactoring business services in COBOL, transforming COBOL code to Java code with an optimized design, and validating the resulting outcome, including using automated testing capabilities. Potential benefits for clients include:

  • Accelerating code development and increasing developer productivity throughout the application modernization lifecycle
  • Managing total cost, complexity, and risk of application modernization initiatives, including translation and optimization of code in-place on IBM Z
  • Expanding access to a broader pool of IT skills and accelerating developer onboarding
  • Achieving high quality, easy to maintain code through model customization and the application of best practices

"By bringing generative AI capabilities through watsonx to new use cases, we plan to drive real progress for our clients," said Kareem Yusuf, PhD, senior vice president, product management and growth, IBM Software. "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."

For more information about this news, visit