IBM upgrade targets legacy data reuse

IBM this week announced a new version of its Web-to-host software suite that is aimed at speeding integration of legacy systems with portals and sharing data among applications via Web services.

IBM designed its existing WebSphere Host Integration Solution suite for companies that want to provide access to applications and data that reside on mainframes and other host computer systems - via a Web browser and GUI interface rather than the "green screen" interface of terminal-emulation products.

One key feature in the new version, WebSphere Host Integration Solution 3.0, is support for WebSphere Portal. The pairing allows companies to integrate legacy data in a portal environment without rewriting code. With the new version, companies can bring host assets into a portal screen, side by side with data from packaged application vendors such as SAP or Siebel, says Mark Heid, WebSphere host integration business unit manager. The process is wizard-based, so users are spared a lot of programming effort, he says.

"Up until now, doing anything in portals with host assets was quite a pain in the neck. Now that we have a wizard-based way of doing it, it's a real clean play," Heid says.

A new product added to the host integration suite is WebSphere Host Access Transformation Server (HATS) for rejuvenating green-screen applications. With HATS, users can give legacy applications a Web-like GUI through the use of a rules-based transformation engine. The transformation engine converts host screens to GUIs on the fly, in real time, and does not require any changes to the host application, Heid says.

"In the past, green screens have required individual intervention, screen by screen, laboriously translating them," Heid says. "It's a quantum leap in productivity."

For more sophisticated rendering of green screens, IBM's host integration lineup offers WebSphere Host Publisher. This tooling product lets users choose to render certain elements from various host screens, rather than replicate all of the elements of each green screen. By picking which data to translate from the host application, companies can create composite screens that consolidate only the data that's relevant.

New in Host Publisher is the ability to make host data available as a Web service. This feature is important in application-to-application integration, Heid says. Instead of going to an end user with a Web browser, legacy data is instead being routed to other applications for their use.

Today, a good portion of the world's business applications and data resides on mainframes and other host computers - analysts estimate that 70 percent of the world's information assets are tied up in host systems, Heid says. "There are about a 180 billion lines of code today in host applications, and 5 billion more are being written every year," he says. Integrating these systems with Web technology is vital if companies are to make the more of their legacy investments, Heid says.

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