SOA Breathes New Life into the Mainframe

Arthur Cole

There's no better feeling than realizing a major legacy system that looked ready to be mothballed (at great expense) has some life left in it after all. Such is the case with the stalwart mainframe, which has emerged anew as a robust platform for advanced Service Oriented Architectures (SOAs).


We found this interesting write-up on The Hartford Insurance Cos., which is finding new use for its old mainframe hardware by updating the policy admin systems with new SOA software. The goal is to foster an environment in which centrally stored applications can be mixed and matched based on business needs, rather than IT preferences.


Not surprisingly, there are a host of solutions aiming to leverage the mainframe-SOA connection. HostBridge Technology, for instance, recently developed a version of its XML-enabled Customer Information Control System (CICS) that is compatible with Computer Associates' Telon Application Generator to allow for tighter integration between existing mainframe applications and new Web services platforms. Users can now generate CA Telon and Gener/OL transactions as either XML documents or as SOA services.


IBM also has outfitted its System z mainframe with a new set of CICS capabilities with an eye toward converting the platform into an SOA computing hub. The company's CICS Transaction Server is designed to integrate mixed-language applications into enterprise-wide operations.


On the development side, the new Ivory Service Architecure 3.3 from GT Software lets you build Web services from mainframe assets using a batch process leveraging CICS and IMS tools. The kit provides a graphical modeling environment and a beefed up SOAP processor that supports XML and XDS schemas.


Not everyone is sold on the mainframe idea, however. HP and Clerity Solutions, for example, have joined forces on a mainframe migration system based on Clerity's UniKix rehosting system. The system will be incorporated into HP's Mainframe Alternative program, which seeks to draw customers onto the HP Superdome system, which the company argues is cheaper to deploy and support than a mainframe.


While it's true that mainframes are considered yesterday's old clunkers compared to the sleek architectures available today, it makes a lot of sense to leverage existing technologies as far as possible, especially when they still prove useful for advanced service architectures. And while IBM's System z is considered state of the art, those pondering future hardware upgrades would do well to survey the field before making an irreversible move.

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