SOA Meets Big Iron

In the world of software, service-oriented architectures are all the rage. Now IBM wants to make its mainframes the hub by which SOA-based applications are hosted and managed.

Big Blue today is launching a new set of initiatives intended at making it more appealing for enterprise customers to host their Web-based software natively on mainframes. The goal is to facilitate that by enabling its base of business partners to migrate their applications regardless of their programming skills. IBM is launching a significant campaign to bring ISVs on board.

The scalability and quality of service that mainframes provide make it suitable to use big iron for managing mission-critical, transaction-oriented applications that interface with other systems via the Internet, says Scott Hebner, IBM's vice president of strategy and programs for ISV and developer relations. That particularly is the case for large organizations.

"The mainframe is becoming a more attractive platform for many of these customers, using it as a hub to interconnect and manage with a high degree of security and integrity," Hebner says. "All these transactions are flowing across different applications and processes through the Internet."

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However, that is easier said than done. Partners and customers alike lack the diverse programming skills needed to generate the various types of code to run applications on the mainframe and distribute it across platforms.

Toward that end, IBM is launching new tools to simplify applications on its flagship mainframe platform, the z Series. The IBM Rational Cobol Generation toolset allows developers using Java, VisualBasic, PL/1 and Cobol to generate SOA-based applications that run on mainframes. Developed by IBM's Software Development Lab in Raleigh, N.C., the applications can run on IBM's z/OS mainframe operating system and link with Cobol-based applications.

To help partners generate these applications, IBM is launching System z for ISVs, an initiative to provide technical, sales and marketing resources, which will be offered via the company's PartnerWorld Industry Networks. IBM says its sales and technical consultants will work with ISVs during their first client implementations.

"We don't expect an ISV to invest in a service-oriented architecture, in general, and in System z, in particular, without the help of IBM," Hebner says.

Daniel Lieber, president of partner Innovative Ideas Unlimited, Wakefield, Mass., says the offering vastly simplifies the effort of porting code to the mainframes.

"A developer was able to port an application in a day," Lieber says. "I think it will give the mainframe a new lease on life."

As part of the initiative, IBM is also launching WebSphere Process Server for z, which connects a mainframe to business processes using Web services. Such processes might include checking-inventory levels when conducting an online credit-card purchase, according to IBM. In addition, the WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus for System z will integrate applications and services as part of an SOA.

Also for z/OS, IBM is launching WebSphere Portal, a version of its DB2 Viper database, and Tivoli Federated Identity Manager, which will add identity management, policy and compliance into the mix.