Much attention has been paid to the hardware and operating-system aspects of the new IBM mainframe technology, including the specialty processors and virtualization. An equally important story for users is the steady stream of above-the-operating-system infrastructure software from other IBM platforms that is now making its way onto the z10. These include SOA (service-oriented architecture) support from WebSphere, systems management features from Tivoli, and information integration tools from InfoSphere. While, as noted in previous articles, this migration is not yet complete, TCO/ROI studies suggest that the new infrastructure software can bring significant benefits even to true-blue z/OS shops.
The result, for long-time third-party mainframe-software vendors like CA, Compuware, and BMC, would seem to be increased competition, resulting in lower prices and margins in some cases. However, IT buyers of these tools are finding support for the new technology in upgrades of these tools that make them more useful than ever.
Web service support
Let's take the case of Web service support. Clearly, applications that invoke legacy third-party databases like CA IDMS, CA Datacom, CCA's Model 204, and Software AG's Adabas would find it useful to Web-enable the interface to these databases.
CA IDMS r16.1 is now offering the ability to create "secure, auditable" Web-service interfaces to the business logic accessing its database. CA Datacom allows "end-to-end" tuning of Web service applications, and supports creation of XML documents from data. Sirius Software adds SOAP support and a Web server to Model 204. Adabase SOA Gateway provides a Web-service interface to Adabas itself. So, in all of these cases, users find some degree of support for Web-enabling their existing mainframe-database-dependent applications.
System management and IT governance support
How about system management tools and IT governance? CA has announced an IT governance framework that is intended to involve products such as CA MICS Resource Management and CA OPS/MVS –- in other words, CA will monitor applications as services. Likewise, BMC's MAINVIEW (for example) is part of a framework for Business Services Management. And Compuware's Abend-AID, File-AID, Hiperstation, Strobe, and Xpediter are all part of "Business-Driven Service Delivery."
Application modernization support
In application development, CA, Compuware, and BMC all offer specific solutions for application modernization, including Web-enabling mainframe applications. Note too that Micro Focus (long popular as a COBOL development tool vendor) offers extensive modernization features, such as Micro Focus SOA Express and Micro Focus SOA Planner.
It is also worth noting that third-party vendors have paid attention to trends that have not yet hit the mainframe, such as agile and hybrid programming. Agile programming involves teams of individual programmers iterating prototypes to "spiral" towards a solution while interacting with the ultimate customer. Hybrid programming involves open-sourcing parts of the code and setting a community to work on that code as part of an overall development effort. Neither has penetrated mainframe development much; but development solutions such as CA Gen and BLUEPHOENIX's AppBuilder offer spiral-development and other agile-programming support.
Careful consideration prior to implementation advised
All in all, traditional third-party providers seem well prepared to handle the new software that IBM is throwing at the mainframe. The one area in which they are not clearly visible is in creating support for distributed applications that span the mainframe and non-mainframe platforms –- such as the mainframe as a hub applications discussed in an earlier article. On the other hand, IBM has not yet completed providing the necessary support for an application with multiple copies on z/OS mainframes in New York and Linux server farms in San Francisco. Still, it seems likely that the necessary software will be in place by sometime in 2009.
Users are well advised to probe the intentions and capabilities of their third-party tool providers when the mainframe business-critical application becomes a sub-application of a composite application spanning Unix/Linux and z/OS environments across the Web. The resulting need for performance retuning, upgrade, and reallocation of transaction workloads will make IT and tool needs significantly different from today, even for those users most proactive in embracing the new mainframe software technologies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Wayne Kernochan is president of Infostructure Associates a subsidiary of Valley View Ventures.