IBM updates bring SOA to mainframes

Rational tools, software updates target younger crowd

See correction below

The desire to access mainframe data and business logic has inspired many grand tech initiatives, including client-server, XML, and SOA. It’s fair to say that most big, mature SOA implementations have been built on a foundation of mainframe services.

That’s one reason IBM, who is among the only remaining U.S. mainframe vendors along with Unisys, announced app dev tools for mainframes and plans for mainframe versions of its most popular enterprise software. Mainframes are finding a second career as a hub for SOA and other services, said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive of IBM’s Software Group.

To facilitate that move, IBM unveiled new Rational development tools that generate Cobol code and yet cater to the style of Java and Visual Basic programmers. The company also said that it will release mainframe z/OS versions of its WebSphere Process Server, WebSphere Portal, DB2 Viper, and Tivoli Federated Identity Manager later this year.

Despite the dated image of “big iron,” mainframes remain the primary transaction engines and business logic repositories for most large enterprises. Large-scale SOAs have to hook into mainframe applications that form the backbone of the enterprise.

Mainframes keep chugging along, but the developers who maintain the Cobol code are retiring. Hence the release of tools targeting those with more recently acquired programming skills, Mills said.

IBM is betting that training young developers will be more palatable to enterprises than migrating decades of mainframe business logic to modern server platforms -- a huge, high-risk undertaking. After all, if the mainframes still work, why replace them?

Correction:
In this article, we  should have stated that Unisys, in addition to IBM, are among the only remaining  U.S. mainframe manufacturers.
InfoWorld regrets the error, which has been corrected.

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