Play the Cloud-Mobile App Dev Game with z/OS Client Web Enablement

Is you z team feeling a little nervous that they are missing an important new game? Are business managers bugging you about running slick Cloud and mobile applications through the z? Worse, are they turning to third party contractors to build apps that will try to connect your z to the cloud and mobile world? If so, it is time to take a close look at IBM’s z/OS Client Web Enablement Toolkit.

mobile access backend data 1800FLOWERS

Accessing backend system through a mobile device

If you’re a z shop running Linux on z or a LinuxONE shop you don’t need z/OS Web Enablement. The issue only comes up when you need to connect the z/OS applications to cloud, web, and mobile apps. IBM began talking up z/OS Enablement Toolkit since early this year. Prior to the availability of the toolkit, native z/OS applications had little or no easy options available to participate as a web services client.

You undoubtedly know the z in its role as a no-fail transaction workhorse. More recently you’ve watched as it learned new tricks like managing big data or big data analytics through IBM’s own tools and more recently with Spark. The z absorbed the services wave with SOA and turned CICS into a handler for Web transactions. With Linux it learned an entire new way to relate to the broader distributed world. The z has rolled with all the changes and generally came out ahead.

Now the next change for z data centers has arrived. This is the cloud/web-mobile-analytics execution environment that seemingly is taking over the known world. It almost seems like nobody wants a straight DB2 CICS transaction without a slew of other devices getting involved, usually as clients. Now everything is HTTP REST to handle x86 clients and JSON along with a slew of even newer scripting languages. Heard about Python and Ruby? And they aren’t even the latest.  The problem: no easy way to perform HTTP REST calls or handle JSON parsing on z/OS. This results from the utter lack of native JSON services built into z/OS, according to Steve Warren, IBM’s z/OS Client Web Enablement guru.

Starting, however, with z/OS V2.2 and now available in z/OS V2.1 via a couple of service updates,  Warren reports, the new z/OS Client Web Enablement Toolkit changes the way a z/OS-based data center can think about z/OS applications communicating with another web server. As he explains it, the toolkit provides an easy-to-use, lightweight solution for applications looking to easily participate as a client, in a client/server web application. Isn’t that what all the kids are doing with Bluemix? So why not with the z and z/OS?

Specifically, the z/OS Toolkit provides a built-in protocol enabler using interfaces similar in nature to other industry-standard APIs along with a z/OS JSON parser to parse JSON text coming from any source and the ability to build new or add to existing JSON text, according to Warren.  Suddenly, it puts z/OS shops smack in the middle of this hot new game.

While almost all environments on z/OS can take advantage of these new services, Warren adds, traditional z/OS programs running in a native environment (apart from a z/OS UNIX or JVM environment) stand to benefit the most. Before the toolkit, native z/OS applications, as noted above, had little or no easy options available to them to participate as a web services client. Now they do.

Programs running as a batch job, a started procedure, or in almost any address space on a z/OS system have APIs they can utilize in a similar manner to any standard z/OS APIs provided by the OS. Programs invoke these APIs in the programming language of their choice. Among z languages, C/C++, COBOL, PL/I, and Assembler are fully supported, and the toolkit provides samples for C/C++, COBOL, PL/I initially. Linux on z and LinuxONE shops already can do this.

Businesses with z data centers are being forced by the market to adopt Web applications utilizing published Web APIs that can be used by something as small as the watch you wear, noted Warren. As a result, the proliferation of Web services applications in recent years has been staggering, and it’s not by coincidence. Representational state transfer (REST) applications are simple, use the ubiquitous HTTP protocol—which helps them to be platform-independent—and are easy to organize.  That’s what the young developers—the millennials—have been doing with Bluemix and other cloud-based development environments for their cloud, mobile, and  web-based applications.  With the z/OS web enablement toolkit now any z/OS shop can do the same. As IoT ramps up expect more demands for these kinds of applications and with a variety of new devices and APIs.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

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