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    October 20, 2023

    The Broadcom Approach to Test Data Management for the Mainframe

    All software development teams require high-quality test data to validate that new applications, updates, and fixes work as expected in different scenarios and conditions. Test data is critical to determining if software is ready for release, meets the organization's quality and usability requirements, and is compliant with relevant industry and regulatory requirements.

    Over the years, formal processes and practices have evolved for how teams generate, store, mask, and maintain data in order to support the effective testing of applications, software, and systems. Test data management (TDM) practices ensure that test data preparation is centralized, and testing teams have the necessary data sets for covering different use cases, without any of the prohibitive costs or risks associated with cloning the production environment. A critical component of TDM is ensuring that any sensitive assets, including user data and confidential business information, are protected and anonymized. The goal is to allow software testers to closely model the production environment using equivalent data, while also complying with data privacy and security requirements.

    The challenges of TDM on the mainframe

    Addressing these requirements for mainframe applications can be challenging because of the legacy nature of the environment. Copying mainframe data to an external test environment can be slow and complex. Test data setup can be hard when dealing with file storage and access mechanisms, such as VSAM, and hierarchical database systems like IMS and IDMS. Even if you could connect to these legacy databases from an external system, there would be a complete mismatch between the processing power of the mainframe and the systems connecting to it. Obfuscating sensitive information in mainframe test data can also be a big challenge because mainframes can contain a massive amount of data and often it is difficult to know exactly where the data exists across the environment. You need to ensure that the masking is done in a manner that is consistent with how sensitive data is obfuscated across your distributed and cloud environments as well. That can be a challenge when masking data in older formats and languages, such as IMS and COBOL.

    When doing TDM in mainframe environments, there are other hurdles to jump as well. A big one is finding a way to right-size mainframe test data in a non-production environment to cover the needs of your application team. Testers and developers usually only require small data sets to do their testing. But they often have to wait for it to be provisioned by a central team or search through large copies of production data to find what they need. This can often result in testers spending between 15% and 40% of their time waiting for test data, searching for it, or creating it manually.

    Broadcom's approach to mainframe TDM

    Broadcom's Test Data Manager for the mainframe addresses these challenges by enabling testers to generate, mask, subset, and manage test data on the mainframe itself.

    The solution uses an automated data profiling feature to detect what sensitive information exists on the mainframe and how it might be related to other data. It includes native technologies that can model or identify the underlying metadata that makes up your IDMS database or your IMS or DB2 or AS400 data. Our solution can then identity the PII, PCI, PHI, or other sensitive information in those application databases. One distinguishing feature of Broadcom's TDM for the mainframe is that it actually creates an audit trail for the process through which the solution discovered the sensitive data and for all the logic employed in masking that data. The entire audit trail is stored as an immutable PDF, which can then be shared with enterprise auditors as required.

    Another out-of-the-box functionality available with Broadcom's TDM for the mainframe is its high-performance native masking engines. This technology automatically obfuscates sensitive data and de-identifies or masks all the attributes that tie a certain data element to a real person. Importantly, it does all the processing associated with the masking on the mainframe itself, meaning your data does not have to move out to an external—and potentially less secure—non-production environment.

    Broadcom's TDM for the mainframe allows you to test applications using small, rich subsets of test data that you can copy, extract, and store directly within the mainframe. All data sets provisioned for testing are cloned automatically so multiple teams can work on it in parallel as required. The ability to test using small subsets of data directly on the mainframe can significantly reduce the infrastructure costs that are otherwise involved when moving, copying, and storing large sets of production data to an external system.

    A native synthetic data generation capability in Broadcom's TDM for the mainframe addresses situations in which your organization might not have source data from which to create a test data subset. This can happen when you have a new development project or when you want to test outlier conditions or negative scenarios. Our product can automatically configure data generation rules for the columns and tables that constitute the application, without having a source to start with.

    Significantly, our product allows test data engineers to create and submit self-service forms for data they might require for testing an application or system. Multiple dropdowns allow the team to select the source from which they want the data and the target to which it has to be sent. The solution’s self-service capability can help testers significantly cut down on the time they would have otherwise spent submitting a ticket or set of tickets to a central team and waiting for them to respond. A similar self-service capability enables testers to find and reserve specific data records in a mainframe production database for testing purposes. The feature allows testers to query for and retrieve current and relevant datasets, without having to clone full copies of production data.


    Managing test data for mainframe environments can be challenging. Broadcom's TDM for the mainframe can help organizations overcome those challenges with features that allow software teams to generate, store, mask, right-size, and manage test data on the mainframe itself. The technology helps organizations reduce some of the infrastructure costs associated with TDM on the mainframe, while also boosting efficiency and security.

    Satya Mohanty

    Satya Mohanty has over 15 years of experience in Test Data Management (TDM) in various roles including TDM Developer, Consultant, and Program Lead. He has vast TDM consulting experience for a TDM CoE for 50+ clients, and currently leads Broadcom's TDM practice for two verticals.

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