Recognising a role for its big-iron boxes in contemporary SOA environments, IBM 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 claims is turning its System z mainframe into a global hub of Internet-based computing. It 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," senior vice-president and group executive at IBM's Software Group, Steve Mills, said.
"The labour cost issue is the single biggest driver moving more workloads back to the mainframe."
With IBM's plan, users could consolidate processing on a mainframe instead of spreading it on many distributed servers, IBM distinguished engineer at the rational software group, Hayden Lindsey, said.
"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.
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 customises 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.
The planned DB2 Viper for z/OS data server will also link unstructured data such as email, 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.
The upcoming Tivoli Federated Identity Manager for z/OS offered secures transactions across mainframes and distributed computers using SOA and Web services technology, IBM said. Featured are identity management and compliance tools to enhance System z's encryption and intrusion detection features.
IBM was making the right move by promoting a mainframe role in SOA, principal analyst at Forrester Research, Phil Murphy, said.
"The presumption there is that the mainframe had nothing to do with SOA, and this [announcement] changes that," he said.
"I guess my view is the industry tried, 'Let's everyone get off of the mainframe', in the late 90s. It didn't work because there are many organisations that need that level of power.
"Mainframes have been used for applications insulated from the public security breaches of newer technologies. It's a natural to expose those transactions as services."
Also being announced is Systems z for ISVs, an initiative providing software vendors with technical, sales, and marketing resources to build applications to run on IBM middleware and System z boxes. This program is being offered through IBM's PartnerWorld Industry Networks and provides ISVs with free consulting sessions with IBM architects. IBM will build a custom online environment where vendors can develop, port, and test applications on System z.
IBM also is providing next-generation mainframe developers with courseware via the IBM Academic Initiative.
Shelley Solheim of IDG News Service contributed to this report.