New SOA Software Rolls Out For Left-Out Mainframes

Hoping to help users and resellers pull mainframes in as a more active participant in service-oriented architectures (SOAs), GT Software has rolled out a set of development tools designed to leverage existing technical resources and programmer skills.

One of the important advantages of the Ivory Service Architect, according to company officials, is it allows developers with little training to graphically orchestrate mainframe-based transactions, data and Web services into a multi-operation business service.

"Mainframe development is often underappreciated, but can be a pretty valuable component in an SOA environment," says Rob Morris, a senior vice president of marketing and strategy at GT Software. "We think these tools can help mainframes become a much more active participant in that environment."

Given the heavy investments larger companies have made in their mainframes during the past couple of decades, some analysts believe they represent a sizeable reserve of untapped resources that potentially could make an SOA more effective.

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"Mainframe-application portfolios are a significant investment. When looking to extend this investment into SOAs, one thing is for sure: You simply can't code your way into the future," says Dale Vecchio, a research vice president at Gartner. "Look for tools that enable mainframe developers to quickly and easily become service developers in an automated, code-free environment."

While GT Software brings its products to market through partners overseas, it currently sells direct in the United States. However, the company plans to launch its first U.S. partner program next quarter.

"We are going to very aggressively set up a channel program in the U.S., introducing something that has not been done before with a set of tools like this for mainframes. If the program does what we think it can, it will represent the majority of our business, if not all the revenue," Morris says. "The company will be looking for both solution providers and pure resellers to help them gain access to a number of vertical markets that are typically mainframe centric including financial services, the federal government, insurance, and telecom."

Because the products often requires little or no training, Morris believes it will appeal to VARs because there will be little upfront monetary investment to get started.

"The [ease of use] features changes the dimension of our ability to partner because the partners we'll set up do not have to invest heavily to understand how it works or in training for their people," Morris says.

The Ivory Service Architect, comprised of Ivory Studio and Ivory Server, helps developers assemble composite business services from existing mainframe assets and then publish them as Web services. The resulting solution can serve as a runtime engine for carrying out those business services, a company spokesman says.

Some of the new features of Ivory Studio include support for IMS-based transactions and 3270-based based applications. Other improvements include a "function node" to the Ivory Studio Modeling Environment, which provides for processing within a business service that is not based on pre-existing code. The new version also features wizards that reportedly help developers learn how to use the product in one day, according to company officials.

Trying to encourage prospective users, the product has built-in support for a number of IT platforms and services that, once recognized, can be used immediately within an SOA.

For instance, out of the box the product can be fully integrated with AmberPoint's runtime governance software, making it possible for various management and service policies to be enforced without manual intervention. Two others include Fuego's mainframe-based business services and Systinet's Registry product that can serve as a foundation for life cycle management.

Expected to be widely available on Jan. 3, Ivory Service Architect is priced at $25,000.