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Bringing the mainframe into the SOA fold

Mainframe SOA: SOA Software, with help from Merrill Lynch, and GT Software have launched tools for incorporating mainframe platforms and programmers into an SOA.

Tapping the mainframe vaults -- which contain billions of dollars of IT investments -- for new service-oriented applications often seems to require the skill of a master safecracker. But two new products from SOA Software Inc. and GT Software Inc. aim to make it easier for organizations not only to reuse their legacy riches, but to incorporate mainframe platforms and programmers into a mainframe SOA.

SOA Software, a provider of SOA and Web services management, security and governance products, this week acquired the X4ML Mainframe Web services platform and personnel from Wall Street brokerage Merrill Lynch & Co., and re-branded it as Service Oriented Legacy Architecture. SOLA enables mainframes to expose and consume Web services from CICS applications.

Merrill Lynch began building X4ML in 2001. As of today, the company is exposing and consuming more than 600 Web services and processing more than 1.5 million transactions per day.

"At Merrill Lynch, the majority of the business runs on the mainframe," said Jim Crew, the "father" of X4ML and now vice president of SOLA at SOA Software. "It's difficult to reuse those billion-dollar investments in newer distributed applications," he said. "The right way is to do it using Web services."

However, the market and the tools are geared to distributed programmers, Crew said. "We recognized if you're going to publish a Web service, then the person who did the work to publish the service should understand the service they're publishing. So if it's a mainframe program it should be a mainframe programmer."

The SOLA tool set includes a user-centric, browser-based development environment. The platform requires no additional hardware or software for Web services runtime. Services are automatically documented in a centralized UDDI repository. SOLA will be available separately or as part of SOA Software's SOA security, management and governance infrastructure.

"A mainframe Web services platform is a way of moving customers more quickly toward a service-oriented architecture," said Ian Goldsmith, vice president of product marketing for SOA Software. "We allow customers to deploy mainframe Web services that are part of a central policy definition and enforcement model, that employ service-level agreements and have comprehensive monitoring and management."

"Bringing CICS applications into an SOA infrastructure, and exposing the applications from the mainframe side to a SOA registry and allowing them to coexist with other services, is unique," said William A. Mougayar, a vice president and service director at Aberdeen Group in Boston."

Making the mainframe platform part of an SOA is the issue at many large companies, said Rob Morris, senior vice president of marketing and strategy at GT Software in Atlanta. "If you're a financial services company, an insurance company, a Wall Street company, this is a huge issue. They've all committed to SOA. The question is not just how to get started, but how do I include the assets I have -- the people, platforms and applications. That's where the debate really exists in these shops."

GT Software is addressing that issue with the release of Ivory Service Architect, an integrated tool set that enables developers to assemble multi-step, multi-operation composite business services from existing mainframe assets and publish them as Web services.

Ivory Service Architect includes the Ivory Studio graphical IDE and Ivory Server, which consists of a SOAP processor, a business service flow processor and a central repository for WSDL discovery. Ivory Server exploits both CICS and IMS processing routines, as well as native data access capabilities.

"Mainframe developers don't know Java or .NET. We provide an avenue for them to participate and they do not have to learn anything else," Morris said.

Ivory Service Architect provides a modeling environment that allows mainframe developers "to orchestrate multiple pieces of functionality and assemble them into higher-level business services," Morris said. "You can take a CICS transaction, an IMS transaction, an external Web service and create a flow that would start when somebody says, 'that's the service I want.'"

Morris said Ivory offers integration with an "SOA ecosystem" that includes SOA runtime governance and management software from AmberPoint Inc., business process management software from Fuego Inc., and the Systinet Corp. registry.

Aberdeen's Mougayar said more activity in the mainframe arena is likely. "You've got SOA, GT, Neon, HP Modernization Services, IBM, of course. Expect more to jump into the mainframe-to-SOA stream. It's like the Internet 'webifying' everything, so now it's 'SOAing' everything."

The value of doing so, however, is up to organizations, he said. "The next step is what customers do," Mougayar said. "The value is in mingling those services together and mediating and extracting value, not just exposing them."

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