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For large mainframe shops, SOA on the upswing

Slowly but surely, large mainframe shops have turned to service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web services to access data stuck in DB2 and CICS environments.

A recent study by Share, a group for mainframe and other large system users, has found that the larger the company, the more popular service-oriented architecture (SOA) becomes.

For more on SOA and mainframes:
Mainframe SOA adoption: Interest high, adoption low

IBM mainframe CICS Transaction Server enhanced for SOA

The survey of 431 Share members indicated that for companies with 1,000 employees or fewer, less than 25% have adopted SOA or plan to. But for companies with 10,000 employees or more, that number jumped to nearly half.

Indeed, widespread SOA adoption has been a long time coming. At a Share conference in August 2006, interviews with several attendees revealed an interest in SOA but also that users were unsure about SOA and the technology's impact on their data centers. Share Treasurer Jim Michael said users still struggle to truly grasp SOA. but, said Michael, if users better understood the concept, they might discover that they already use these technologies.

There is a real opportunity for improvement in ... not
hav[ing] to worry about where the data is coming from and not to have hand-coded specialized scripts.

Pamela Taylor,
vice presidentShare

For some, SOA is broadly thought of as a language translator between applications that helps them to better perform a business process. But others view SOA as simply a collection of Web services, and that group may be underrepresented in Share's survey data.

"I think we're farther along today," Michael said. "Some people are doing things with Web services. If they knew what SOA was, they might look at their Web services and say, 'Oh, I guess we are doing some things toward SOA.' If they've already been doing Web services and aren't cognizant, they might not recognize it."

When Share meets for its conference in Orlando next month, one of the major themes will be "the SOA journey," and dozens of sessions will focus on the technology. Share Treasurer Jim Michael said the sessions have evolved from "What's this SOA thing?" to "What you need to think about as you get your arms around SOA."

Unleashing captive data
Once Share members identify what SOA means for them, they can unlock the legacy data that sits on so many mainframes and large systems out there. But that may not be easy. Half of the survey's respondents said they extracted legacy data using custom-developed scripts, a hard-coding tactic that is often laborious and time-consuming. Only 28% had adopted replication technology, which Share says "can enable more timely transfer of data between systems."

The need for better access to data becomes all the more relevant when you consider another survey finding: 86% of respondents said that they need enterprise data to be available for reporting purposes.

"There is a real opportunity for improvement in that whole area around making it more seamless to have the applications not have to worry about where the data is coming from and not to have hand-coded specialized scripts," said Share Vice President Pamela Taylor.

Despite the idea that SOA is something you do, not something you buy, plenty of mainframe-oriented vendors can help with a SOA project. IBM is certainly in the mix -- with WebSphere and CICS Transaction Server freeing CICS and DB2 data on z/OS -- as are SOA Software, CA and BMC Software.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Server Specs blog.

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