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Mainframe SOA adoption: Interest high, adoption low

Mainframe SOA adoption: Users at the Share mainframe conference are interested in SOA, but most are not implementing it in their data centers yet.

Mainframe SOA adoption: Service-oriented architecture (SOA) was a major focus of this year's Share conference in Baltimore. But what does SOA mean to the mainframe community?

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In interviews with more than a half-dozen users at the conference, not one had implemented an SOA environment in their data centers. Some were planning out how to use their mainframe in the architecture, while others have only spoken of it generally in the office and have no specific plans.

SOA is an underlying structure that allows programs to communicate with one another and provide services to an employee or customer over the Web.

Mike Kaufman, manager of enterprise systems at Pennsylvania State University, was probably the furthest along in the process. He and others in his data center are looking for a product to support the SOA infrastructure on their two z890s.

They're focusing now on CentraSite, a program from German SOA specialists Software AG, which acts as a management platform for any programs or assets that could be part of the SOA environment. Kaufman said he hopes CentraSite can organize the programs they need to make SOA a reality.

"We're going to be rolling it out predominantly in our workflow," he said. "For example, departments will be able to request services and programs from other departments."

Jack Fromme, information systems advisor at the Illinois secretary of state's office, was like many others: on a fact-finding mission. Fromme knew how he wanted to use SOA in the data center -- he was just trying to figure out how to get there.

"I'm going to jump right back into it when I get back from the seminar. I need to get on it as soon as I can," he said.

Fromme's definition of SOA fit his department's specific needs: "It's implementing all existing BMS maps (interface between CICS programs and terminals) and CICS programs, and making them available to a broader range of servers so that data can be grabbed for many more uses on things other than a 3270 green screen."

So Fromme and Kaufman have a plan for mainframe SOA adoption -- many others don't.

Brent Calvert, technical analyst at State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Ill., said SOA was a new concept, and his data center hadn't taken it on yet, but he was hearing a lot about it at Share. Others, who declined to be named, said that they were exploring SOA, not implementing it.

Carolyn Dillon, an IT applications supervisor at BlueCross BlueShield Association, hadn't been to Share in two years and was just there to soak in the information.

"I want to see what's evolved," she said. "I want to see for myself and my company. I'm just going to turn over my findings and opinions, and find out what we can do from there."

Jim Fijolek, systems engineer at the Chicago-based U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, felt there were too many practical things he had to deal with. His data center is upgrading the mainframe operating system from z/OS version 1.4 to 1.7, and so he was busy attending sessions and getting up to speed on z/OS. Besides, he hadn't been to Share in five years due to budget restrictions and needed to catch up on some of the topics he had missed.

So instead of attending sessions on SOA, Fijolek did the best he could. He picked up the handouts.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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