IBM has announced software enhancements for the System z that it says will make working with the mainframe easier and more relevant in a service-oriented architecture (SOA) environment.
The products are:
- IBM Rational Cobol Generation Extension and Runtime, available now, which allow developers using Java, VisualBasic, PL/1 and Cobol to create SOA-enabled mainframe applications.
- WebSphere Process Server and Enterprise Service Bus, available in June, which connects mainframe data to business processes through an SOA, such as an online credit card purchase that requires checking inventory levels and shipping status.
- DB2 Viper, later this year, to support the z9 Integrated Information Processor (zIIP), which is a processor designed to help the mainframe support database applications.
- WebSphere Portal 6.0, later this year, which will allow customer employees to see information from different applications on one screen.
- Tivoli Federated Identity Manager, later this year, which will secure transactions across mainframes and distributed computers.
All of them serve the Armonk, N.Y., company's purpose to show that mainframes aren't the hard-to-manage dinosaurs that some still think they are.
Steven Mills, senior vice president and general manager of IBM's software group, said the new enhancements allow programmers to develop software and Web services without having unique mainframe skills.
"You've got all the different functionality sitting inside the system," he said. "It creates a very cost-effective platform environment for multi-tier Web-facing interactive environments."
The products allow programmers to more easily access Cobol applications that have been part of customers' mainframes for decades. The Rational tools employ Enterprise Generation Language (EGL), a simpler programming language that can translate code into Java and Cobol.
EGL isn't new, but basing the Rational tools on the mainframe is.
"The first key is about leveraging skills in the marketplace to be able to build systems on all platforms," said Hayden Lindsay, IBM head of Rational tools development.
IBM, which disclosed the products at a briefing in New York City, is looking to boost the recently revamped System z with the new products. IBM released the z9 Business Class two weeks ago, which has a $100,000 starting price that aims at attracting small and midsized businesses. Last year, it released the larger z9 Enterprise Class.
IBM has also released processors like the zIIP, zAAP and IFL that help the mainframe process applications for databases, Java and Linux, respectively.
David Beulke, a consultant with Alexandria, Va.-based Pragmatic Solutions Inc., which helps companies manage their cross-platform data and programs, said the IBM products will improve the total cost of ownership of the mainframe that includes hardware, applications and the labor to make it all work.
"Several recent shops I have been at have big (WebSphere) transaction workloads and the Rational (WebSphere) suites and the zIIp and zAAp will offload and save these clients a lot of mainframe CPU," he said. ".Net does not scale and Unix systems are usually I/O bound at some point for large workloads. For smaller workloads, these other platforms are sometimes workable but for failover and continuous availability of the mainframe always works."
William Homa, chief information officer for Hannaford Bros. Co. supermarket chain in Scarborough, Maine, said the mainframe has helped the company centralize almost all its processing from the stores, making inventory checks and distribution easier.
He said the company is moving toward an SOA environment and wants to develop systems for its sister companies overseas, and new tools from IBM could help them do that.
"The employees in our stores are using handheld units" for inventory checks, Homa said. "The screens are black and white and not graphical. Our sister companies want those handhelds to have a graphics interface. We said, 'Fine.' We can take those systems that are text-based and modify them using SOA."
Beulke said he thought it was great that IBM had customer success stories that showed that the mainframe "works today and is not some marketing gas." He said the mainframe has been able to stay relevant in terms of total cost of ownership, price performance and overall growth. "Compare total availability and performance numbers and the mainframe wins because of the hardware and people, process and procedures wrapped around it," he said.
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer