I BM Corp. is trying to make it easier for companies to take advantage of a mainframe's traditional reliability and scalability for deploying emerging e-business applications.
The company yesterday announced an enhanced mainframe version of its WebSphere e-commerce software suite featuring support for Java2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) technology.
Basically, J2EE provides for a component-based and platform-independent approach to application development. Applications built using J2EE aren't tied to any product platforms or vendor application programming interfaces.
As a result, the new capability in WebSphere will make it possible for IBM users to take J2EE-compliant applications that were developed on other platforms and run them unchanged on an IBM S/390 or the eServer z900 mainframe, said David Chew, a director at IBM's WebSphere business unit.
This kind of portability lets users take better advantage of their mainframe resources to run new application workloads in a reliable and scalable manner, said Dale Vecchio, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc.
Support for technologies such as J2EE also makes it easier for companies to integrate new applications with the large base of existing OS/390 mainframe applications, he added.
"The mainframe is back on the table as a viable platform, particularly in companies that have large installations," Vecchio said.
"A lot of it has to do with the complexity of managing large Unix and [Windows] NT server farms and the inability to get the quality of service levels they've established [with mainframes]," he said.
By integrating support for standards such as XML and J2EE-compliant Java technology, IBM is making it possible for companies to develop new e-business applications and transactions on the mainframe, Vecchio said.
Despite the ease of management and the reliability benefits, the idea of running Java workloads on a mainframe is still likely to appeal only to those who already have mainframes, said Mike Gilpin, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Westlaw.com, a part of West Group, a $1.4 billion legal research and information services firm in Eagan, Minn., has been using the beta version of the new WebSphere software to link its mainframe-based data sources to new XML-based sources, said John Northway, a software engineer at the company.
"It's a bridge between our legacy data and our new data," Northway said. The software has automated much of the management and has replaced the homegrown, Java-based application server Westlaw had developed to handle this integration previously, he said.