Services drive SOA on the IBM System z

Times have been tough for SOA since Anne Thomas Manes declared it dead in Jan. 2009.  With IBM along with the rest of the industry shifting focus to its new darling, the cloud, SOA indeed seems to have fallen out of favor.

For the System z, however, SOA, with the emphasis squarely on the S (services), is a critical component if companies are to be able to leverage their legacy software assets in the new virtualized, cloud-dominated world. In this case—and Manes was right—it not really about SOA but services. Cloud computing, it turns out, may not need SOA but it sure depends on IT as services. Everything in the cloud is an IT service of one sort or another.

This year there has been a slew of announcements of new or enhanced tools to help extract valuable business logic and data from mainframe applications for use as services, whether part of an SOA or cloud strategy. SOA Software, Software AG, GT Software, WebLayers, and, of course, IBM’s System z Rational toolset all are targeting the mainframe SOA tools market.

GT Software has an especially nifty tool in its Ivory Services Architect. Basically, Ivory provides an XML engine that simplifies the process of defining, extracting, assembling, and deploying services based on CICS, IMS, VSAM, and other mainframe applications. The resulting services run on the System z, usually on the IFL, zIIP, or zAAP. (You could deploy on the z general processor but why eat up the MIPS unnecessarily?)

GT provides two Camtasia videos, one for creating a CICS service, the other for an IMS service. In the videos they create a web service with about a dozen clicks in 60 seconds. You pull the functionality right from the existing mainframe copybook. Try it for yourself here.  The Ivory customer I spoke with created a proof-of-concept in 20 minutes and put a fully functional mobile banking application based on mainframe services into production in three months (including extensive testing).

Among other vendors, Rocket Software, which merged with Seagull, released LegaSuite Integration 5.2. It helps organizations service-enable their existing applications and data. Specifically, organizations can non-invasively create Web services from existing applications and data on mainframe. It promises to take advantage of all the next-generation functions offered by IBM’s CICS TS V4.1 like event processing, ATOM feeds, and plug-ins to CICS Explorer.

Early in March Aetna, the insurance company, opted for WebLayers as its SOA governance tool. Over a year ago I wrote a case study on Aetna’s transition to SOA and it was apparent then, when it first encountered non-compliant rogue services, that they needed SOA governance.

Aetna operates a System z running CICS, IMS, and DB2. These applications contain a wealth of valuable business process knowledge. SOA in the form of services offered the only way the company could leverage that value without having to completely rewrite everything, which would have entailed a massive, risky undertaking with no guarantee of success.

In the System z world, SOA is far from dead. Services remain the best way yet to tap the value of legacy mainframe applications, create new integrated applications, and make all of it available to the distributed world and to the cloud.

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One Response to “Services drive SOA on the IBM System z”

  1. Tim Says:

    Great post Alan. I’d say that the term “SOA” has jumped the shark, but the practice of it has gone mainstream.

    Here’s a video of Rocket’s LegaSuite Integration tool in action with CICS:

    Full disclosure: I work for Rocket Software 🙂


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