IBM System z goes mobile

A recent IBM Redbook documented how you could use the latest mobile phones (iPod, Android, others) with the mainframe. I found the document here although it seems to have gone AWOL for the moment. (Resources sometimes appear, disappear, and reappear on the IBM website.)  Otherwise, try this.

The document, titled Access to z/OS from Smartphones was authored by Alex Louwe Kooijmans, Lydia Parziale, Reginaldo Barosa, Dave Ellis, Ankur Goyal, Fabio Riva, and Kenichi Yoshimura. The goal is to “demonstrate that it is possible to combine the traditional strengths of the mainframe to manage large volumes of data and run business transactions can be combined with the Web 2.0 paradigm… and show how mainframe data can be accessed by modern smartphones such as Android or iPhone.”

This really isn’t new. Viterra, the Saskatchewan grain cooperative, a year ago let its members access data through CICS via their Blackberry devices, even while standing in the middle of a field. However, the Redbook authors take this even further by imagining new System z capabilities. “We can receive notifications in real time, for example, of successful/unsuccessful termination of a TWS job stream, or we can immediately get alerts about abends that occurred on a critical application,” they write.

Of particular interest to the authors is the iPhone with its widely embraced intuitive interface and phones using the Android OS and its open software development environment. Combining the intuitive GUI of the iPhone with the open dev of Android leads the authors to imagine two scenarios:

  1. Accessing mainframe-based information proactively as it is delivered on demand in real time
  2. Notifying users when certain events occur on their mainframe computers

Except, maybe, for the mainframe delivering this information to this latest generation of smartphones none, of this is exactly new.

The tools and technologies to do this exist starting with SOA on the System z. Organizations as different as Ball State University and Aetna Insurance and Sears Canada already use their mainframes in an SOA strategy that delivers mainframe data to users with the latest consumer devices. The authors describe how CICS, HATS, XML, AJAX, REST, ATOM, and a slew of other Web 2.0 technologies can be readily combined to make this happen.

What has inspired these mainframe IBMers has been the rapid adoption of Smartphones. Welcome to the party. Back in February, I suggested to a CFO readership at Business Finance Magazine that they ditch their laptops for smartphones. They didn’t exactly jump at the idea; even C-level execs don’t want to let go of their Excel spreadsheets. But with a smartphone they don’t have to. They can access all their spreadsheets and documents and even mainframe data through the cloud (private and/or public) with just a smartphone.

Think about it; the 3270 terminal of the future could very well be a smartphone. And with SOA and SaaS it could happen sooner than you think.

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7 Responses to “IBM System z goes mobile”

  1. zarchasmpgmr Says:

    One company provides a TN3270 client for BlackBerry. That confirms interest to me…

  2. Alan Harrison Says:

    Hmmm. I love the idea of 3270 emulation on my smartphone. Anyone yet done a Symbian S60 client?

  3. ltlfrari Says:

    3270 on a smartphone is pretty unusable. Far too small to use productively.
    By the way, I am the Dave Ellis mentioned in this article. I am very interested in using web technologies to access the mainframe although my approach tends to be off the beaten track because I’m an old time sysprog at heart.
    You can follow me on my blog at

  4. IBM Gets Serious About Mobile | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] other platforms going mobile. Over a year earlier, DancingDinosaur was writing about  using the z with smartphones. With SOA, Java, Linux, WebSphere, and Lotus running on the z and with data that mobile apps and […]

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  7. IBM Mainframe Tweet-Up with Ross Mauri Generates Action | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] has been on top of the mobile mainframe since IBM first began talking about it in the spring of 2010, and most recently here and here. The mainframe, especially with the new […]

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