Big Iron for app dev debuts

IBM last week introduced a new testing package designed to give S/390 users a cheaper system to develop e-commerce applications.

The S/390 Application Development Solutions (ADS) model, due November 26, offers a preconfigured mainframe with application development workstation software. IBM will license the system as a test environment for new applications.

"Batch windows do not exist anymore because e-commerce transactions are running and up all the time, so the opportunity for testing when off-line does not exist," said Mike Rhodin, an IBM software server executive.

The S/390 ADS includes five electronic-business templates to aid users in migrating data and designing clients, such as a Web browser or graphical user interface, for CICS applications and migrating from existing mainframe programs.

IBM also offers consulting to get the environment up. Pricing starts at $US170,000.

Analysts said the IBM package offers some leeway for companies with high license fees to maintain mainframes for testing and production.

"IBM's biggest challenge is that all the e-companies are deploying not on the S/390, but on the Unix and NTs of the world," said analyst Rob Schafer at Meta Group in Stamford, Connecticut. "What has historically killed the 390 platform is not the [hardware] cost -- IBM fixed that long ago -- but the software is high-cost, not just on the operational production side, but also on the test and development side."

Meanwhile, mainframe developer Frank Boyle, deputy CIO at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service in Washington, said he prefers to test on the production machine.

"One problem is that no two systems, mainframe or file server, are alike, so you may still run into trouble when in the production environment," he said. "We have used contractor's mainframes for testing, but there always is a little surprise. It's best to test on the same computer as the live environment because there are so many variables."

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