Recognizing a role for its big-iron boxes in contemporary SOA environments, IBM on Monday is unveiling tools and initiatives intended to give its mainframe more prominence in SOA.
The effort aims to help users handle the proliferation of business processes and applications that the company says is turning its System z mainframe into a global hub of Internet-based computing. The company expects the SOA trend to prompt a doubling of the number of transactions on mainframes before 2010.
"We are seeing an increase in the workloads coming back on the mainframe. The IT world tends to ebb and flow a bit," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive at IBM's Software Group, at an analyst event in New York City last week.
"The labor cost issue is the single biggest driver moving more workloads back to the mainframe," Mills said.
With IBM's plan, users can consolidate processing on a mainframe instead of spreading it on many distributed servers, said Hayden Lindsey, IBM Distinguished Engineer at the Rational Software group.
"Customers are seeing this and in fact they're finding it more cost-effective to consolidate a lot of their workload onto many fewer z machines than hundreds or thousands of distributed machines," Lindsey said.
A mainframe user echoed this assessment.
"It's easier to manage the mainframe than a bunch of Windows servers. We have a smaller staff running the mainframe and those functions run 80 percent of our business," said Bill Homa, CIO of supermarket chain Hannaford Brothers, headquartered in Scarborough, Maine.
Hannaford Brothers deployed a System z mainframe last October to serve as the hub of its SOA.
"We used to be fairly distributed, but the difficulty of managing thousands of distributed servers was just a nightmare. In the past five years we've made an effort to make everything we can centralized," Homa said.
Key components of Big Blue's SOA initiative are new IBM Rational Cobol generation tools, which enable developers using Java, Visual Basic, PL/1, and Cobol to build SOA-enabled mainframe applications. The tools include Rational Cobol Generation Extension for z/OS and Rational Cobol Runtime for z/OS.
"We generate Cobol for deployment onto the mainframe," Lindsey said.
To connect mainframe data to complex business processes in an SOA, IBM is rolling out WebSphere Process Server for z, software that can help SOA-enable processes such as an online credit card purchase that requires checking inventory and shipping status.
The IBM WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus for IBM System z, meanwhile, integrates applications and services as part of an SOA running on the mainframe. For advanced ESB functionality, a new version of WebSphere Message Broker is shipping.
IBM WebSphere Portal 6.0 for z/OS combines applications in an SOA and customizes the information, such as enabling a sales manager to see a deal status, revenues, and product information, on the same screen for specific users, according to IBM.
Additionally, the planned DB2 Viper for z/OS data server will link unstructured data such as e-mail, videos, audio, images, and RFID-generated data with relational information on databases. It will support the IBM System z9 Integrated Information Processor, which is designed to free up computing capacity.