Two significant events have happened recently:
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- IBM has rationalized its data-related middleware and put it under the heading of "information integration," as part of an "information on demand" strategy.
- The IBM System z9 folks have begun a strong strategy of positioning the System z9 as the premier platform for data serving.
How do the two relate? Or, to put it another way, how can IBM customers leverage both information integration and the System z9's new data-serving capabilities?
IBM's information integration solution set is less about the name and more about what customers can do with IBM's new data-related software architecture.
That architecture consists of individually useful capabilities, as shown below.
Table 1: Taxonomy of key information integration tools
| Replication, EAI, and ETL tools
Example: Those in WebSphere DataStorage (formerly Ascential) & WebSphere Information Integrator
|Database as a data warehouse or data marts
Example: DB2 for z/OS
| Database as an operational data store (ODS)
Example: DB2 for z/OS
| Enterprise Information Integration (EII)
Example: WebSphere Information Integrator
Combined, these information integration tools, on any platform, can play a key role in business-strategy success, as shown in Table 2. The "VOS" in this Table is a virtual operational store, combining ODS and EII, which acts as a "virtual" enterprise-wide database.
Table 2: Ways to use information integration tools in key IT and business strategies
|Aim||Ways to use a VOS|
|Integrate business processes||
|Implement Web services interfaces to existing information||
|Improve RTE capabilities by speeding time to react to current customer or supply chain data||
|Reduce time to develop new applications leveraging proprietary information, such as portals||
|Audit all information in the enterprise for government requirements or Sarbanes-Oxley||
|Cut IT costs||
|Attain better scalability of existing multi-tier applications||
|Facilitate mergers and acquisitions||
System z9 data serving
System z9's new data-serving capabilities, as announced on 1/24/06, have three components:
- Improvements in DB2 on the System z9.
- Improvements in other data-handling capabilities on the System z9 (zIIP).
- Improvements in other System z9 capabilities that affect data-handling, e.g. data security.
DB2 for z/OS improvements, in V8 and the forthcoming "vNext", include:
- Support for high-performance "native" SQL stored procedures.
- Extension of database security via "roles" and auditing.
- Performance boosts, e.g., an Optimization Service Center.
- Simplification, e.g., via "partitioning by growth" and default databases/tablespaces.
- Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) support, including integrated XML data and WebSphere integration.
Of these, perhaps the most important is the support for a "superset" of standard SQL, so that most applications can access DB2 for z/OS (and IMS) or other databases with the same code.
zIIP is a specialty engine for the System z9 that allows outside applications to access mainframe data stores with high performance and the rest of the System z9's virtues. As IBM notes, zIIP allows such non-mainframe applications as ERP, CRM, BI, and data warehousing to access and take advantage of business-critical mainframe data much more easily. This, in turn, gives users a good reason to place more of their data centrally in a common repository, on the mainframe data server.
Other key data-serving features in system z9-109 include:
- Greater performance from the hardware (e.g., 80% more bandwidth and 40% more FICON channels, leading to up to 125% improvement in I/O and 56% improvement in response times).
- Robustness features, include redundant I/O interconnects and Parallel Sysplex.
- Business compliance and security features, including higher-performance advanced encryption with protection for data shared outside the organization.
Marrying the two
The need to unite mainframe data serving and information integration stems from two long-time facts:
- Much of a typical large enterprise's structured (numeric) mission-critical and business-critical data continues to reside on the mainframe.
- Much of a typical enterprise's semi-structured (e.g., text) and unstructured (e.g., graphics) data that relates to business-critical data — for example, a hospital's charts and doctors' notes relating to a patient — resides outside the mainframe.
Until now, no one could do anything about this, for two reasons:
- The information integration tools that allow a broad view of data across both mainframe and non-mainframe data stores had not yet been created or integrated effectively.
- The mainframe did not support standard transactional access such as standard SQL.
Thus, the two events cited above are key to marrying information integration and mainframe data serving:
- IBM's new information integration product suite allows users to issue transactions easily across mainframe and non-mainframe data stores.
- IBM's new and announced System z9 capabilities not only allow applications to see the mainframe as similar to Unix/Linux and Windows servers (via encapsulation of mainframe applications as services and support for standard SQL) but also make the mainframe a strong platform for carrying out all types of transactions (e.g., XML support, performance enhancements, and security and robustness features).
In other words, using IBM's information integration tools and the latest System z9 technology, a user can much more easily "redirect" a business-critical application such as ERP, CRM, or BI to use mainframe as well as non-mainframe data, and store structured, semi-structured, and non-structured data equally on the mainframe or off it.
Fruitful areas to apply system z9 plus information integration
The marriage of information integration and System z9 also offers users the opportunity to employ a mainframe in new ways.
For example, users with mainframe data warehouses can now add semi-structured and unstructured data to these. Thus, the "extended data warehouse" that is often discussed these days will support more current data gathered from a greater array of data sources such as outside the organization on the Web, and BI applications that before could not access the mainframe's data or were forced to copy it frequently to another platform can gain richer insights with higher performance.
As another example, users in such efforts as "master data management" are now seeking to create metadata ("data about data") that establishes the relationships between all copies of related customer, supply-chain vendor, or distributor data. Much of this key data is on the mainframe; therefore, for performance's or simplicity's sake, it makes sense to place the repository of this metadata on the mainframe. The mainframe can therefore potentially be used as the focal point for an effort to rationalize the data architecture of the enterprise, with dramatic effects on IT costs, the ability to gain strategic insights, and react to events rapidly — "information on demand."
Of course, not all difficulties have been swept away. Customers should expect to have to carry out due diligence, formulate a process for incorporating key applications in the mainframe-information-integration marriage, and deal with the gritty details of implementation.
Nevertheless, I conclude that a mainframe-information-integration marriage is now, for the first time, real, and its potential achievable. In turn, that means that the mainframe is of greater strategic importance to the enterprise beyond its own boundaries, as an integral and by no means negligible part of overall IT information efforts. New ways to leverage mainframe data serving using information integration are nice for the customer; but leveraging the mainframe as part of an overall information strategy is even nicer.
About the author:Wayne Kernochan is president of Infostructure Associates, LLC, a Lexington, Mass.-based analyst firm. Send Kernochan an e-mail here