Posts Tagged ‘web services’

IBM Makes a Big Play for the API Economy with StrongLoop

September 25, 2015

APIs have become essential in connecting systems of engagement with the systems of record typically found on the IBM z System. That’s one reason why IBM earlier this month acquired StrongLoop, Inc., a software provider that helps developers connect enterprise applications to mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) and web applications in the cloud mainly through rapidly proliferating and changing APIs.  Take this as a key signal IBM intends to be a force in the emerging API economy. Its goal is to connect existing enterprise apps, data, and SOA services to new channels via APIs.

api economy ibm

Courtesy: developer.IBM.com (click to enlarge)

Key to the acquisition is StrongLoop’s position as a leading provider of Node.js, a scripting language that has become a favorite among developers needing to build applications using APIs. According to IBM it intends to integrate Node.js capabilities from StrongLoop with its own software portfolio, which already includes MobileFirst and WebSphere, to help organization better use enterprise data and conduct transactions whether in the cloud or on-premises.

These new capabilities, IBM continues, will enable organizations and developers to build scalable APIs, and more easily connect existing back-end enterprise processes with front-end mobile, IoT, and web apps in an open hybrid cloud. Node.js is one of the fastest growing development frameworks for creating and delivering APIs in part due to it similarities with JavaScript. This shortens the learning curve.

Although Node.js is emerging as the standard for APIs and micro-services, APIs still present challenges. These include the lack of an architected approach, limited scalability, multiple languages and point products, limited data connectors, and large, fragile monolithic applications.

Mainframe data centers, in particular, are sitting on proven software assets that beg to be broken out as micro-services to be combined and recombined to create new apps for use in mobile and Web contexts. As IoT ramps up the demand for these APIs and more will skyrocket.  And the mainframe data center will sit at the center of all this, possibly even becoming a revenue generator.

In response, StrongLoop brings API creation and lifecycle support and back end data connectors. It also will integrate with IBM’s API management, creating an API Platform that can enable polyglot run-times, integration, and API performance monitoring. It also will integrate with IBM’s MobileFirst Platform, WebSphere and other products, such as Bluemix, to enable Node across the product portfolio. StrongLoop also brings Arc and its LoopBack framework, which handles everything from API visual modeling to process manager to scale APIs, and a security gateway. Together StrongLoop Arc along with IBM’s API Management can deliver the full API lifecycle. IBM also will incorporate select capabilities from StrongLoop into its IoT Foundation, a topic DancingDinosaur expects to take up in the future.

At the initial StrongLoop acquisition announcement Marie Wieck, general manager, Middleware, IBM Systems, alluded to the data center possibilities, as noted above: “Enterprises are focused on digital transformation to reach new channels, tap new business models, and personalize their engagement with clients. APIs are a critical ingredient.” The fast adoption of Node.js for rapidly creating APIs combined with IBM’s strength in Java and API management on the IBM cloud platform promises a winning strategy.

To make this even more accessible, IBM is adding Node.js to Bluemix, following a summer of enhancements to Bluemix covered here by DancingDinosaur just a few weeks ago. Java remains the leading language for web applications and transaction systems. Combining StrongLoop’s Node.js tools and services with IBM’s WebSphere and Java capabilities will help organizations bridge Java and Node.js development platforms, enabling enterprises to extract greater value from their application investments. Throw in integration on IBM Bluemix and the Java and Node.js communities will gain access to many other IBM and third-party services including access to mobile services, data analytics, and Watson, IBM’s crown cognitive computing jewel.

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

API Economy Comes to the IBM z System

June 11, 2015

What comes to mind when you hear (or read) about a RESTful IBM z System? Hint: it is not a mainframe that is loafing. To the contrary, a RESTful mainframe probably is busier than it has ever been, now running a slew of new apps, most likely mobile or social apps with REST APIs connecting to z/OS-based web services plus its usual workloads. Remember web services when SOA first came to the mainframe? They continue today behind the new mobile, cloud, social, and analytical workloads that are putting the spotlight on the mainframe.

Travel and Transportation - Passenger Care

Courtesy of IBM: travel fuels mobile activity (click to enlarge)

A variety of Edge2015 sessions, given by Asit Dan, chief architect, z Service API Management and Glenn Anderson, IBM Lab Services and Training, put what the industry refers to as the emerging API economy in perspective. The z, it should come as no surprise, lies at the heart of this burgeoning API economy, not only handling transactions but also providing governance and management to the API phenomenon that is exploding. Check out IBM’s APIs for Dummies.

The difference between first generation SOA and today’s API economy lies in the new workloads—especially mobile and cloud—fueling the surging interest. The mobile device certainly is the fastest growing platform and will likely become the largest platform soon if it is not already, surpassing desktop and laptop systems.

SOA efforts initially focused on the capabilities of the providers of services, noted Dan, particularly the development, run-time invocation, and management of services. The API economy, on the other hand, focuses on the consumption of these services. It really aims to facilitate the efforts of application developers (internal developers and external business partners) who must code their apps for access to existing and new API-enabled services.

One goal of an enterprise API effort is to access already deployed services, such z-based CICS services or those of a partner. Maybe a more important goal, especially where the z is involved, is to drive use of mainframe software assets by customers, particularly mobile customers.  The API effort not only improves customer service and satisfaction but could also drive added revenue. (Have you ever fantasized of the z as a direct revenue generator?)

This calls, however, for a new set of interfaces. As Dan notes in a recent piece, APIs for accessing these assets, defined using well known standards such as web services and Representational State Transfer (REST) with JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), and published via an easily accessible catalog, make it efficient to subscribe to APIs for obtaining permissions and building new applications. Access to the APIs now can be controlled and tracked during run-time invocations (and even metered where revenue generation is the goal).

Now the API economy can morph into a commercial exchange of business functions, capabilities, and competencies as services using web APIs, noted Glenn Anderson at Edge2015. In-house business functions running on the z can evolve into an API as-a-service delivery vehicle, which amounts to another revenue stream for the mainframe data center.

The API economy often is associated with the concept of containers. Container technology provides a simplified way to make applications more mobile in a hybrid cloud, Anderson explained, and brings some distinct advantages. Specifically, containers are much smaller in size than virtual machines and provide more freedom in the placement of workloads in a cloud (private, public, hybrid) environment. Container technology is being integrated into OpenStack, which is supported on the z through IBM Cloud Manager. Docker is the best known container technology and it works with Linux on z.

With the combination of SOA, web services, REST, JSON, OpenStack, and Docker all z capable, a mainframe data center can fully participate in the mobile, apps, cloud API economy. BTW, POWER servers also can play the API, OpenStack, Docker game too. Even Watson can participate in the API economy through IBM’s early March acquisition of AlchemyAPI, a provider of scalable cognitive computing API services. The acquisition will drive the API economy into cognitive computing too. Welcome to the mainframe API economy.

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

February 25, 2014

How the 50 Year-Old Mainframe Remains Relevant

The mainframe turns 50 years old this year and the many pundits and experts who predicted it would be long gone by now must be scratching their heads.  Yes, it is still around and has acquired over 260 new accounts just since zEnterprise launch. It also has shipped over 320 hybrid computing units (not to be confused with zBX chassis only) since the zBX was introduced and kicked off hybrid mainframe computing.

As for MIPS, although IBM experienced a MIPS decline last quarter that follows the largest MIPS shipment in mainframe history a year ago resulting in a 2-year CGR of +11%.  (Mainframe sales follow the new product release cycle in a predictable pattern.) IBM brought out the last System z release, the zEC12, faster than the mainframe’s historic release cycle. Let’s hope IBM repeats the quick turnaround with the next release.

Here’s what IBM is doing to keep the mainframe relevant:

  • Delivered steady price/performance improvements with each release. And with entry-level BC-class pricing and the System z Solution Edition programs you can end up with a mainframe system that is as competitive or better than x86-based systems while being more secure and more reliable out of the box.
  • Adopted Linux early, before it had gained the widespread acceptance it has today. Last year over three-quarters of the top 100 enterprises had IFLs installed. This year IBM reports a 31% increase in IFL MIPS. In at least two cases where DancingDinosaur recently interviewed IT managers, Linux on z was instrumental in bringing their shops to the mainframe.
  • Supported for SOA, Java, Web services, and cloud, mobile, and social computing continues to put the System z at the front of the hot trends. It also prominently plays with big data and analytics.  Who ever thought that the mainframe would be interacting with RESTful APIs? Certainly not DancingDinosaur’s computer teacher back in the dark ages.
  • Continued delivery of unprecedented scalability, reliability, and security at a time when the volumes of transactions, data, workloads, and users are skyrocketing.  (IDC predicts millions of apps, billions of users, and trillions of things connected by 2020.)
  • Built a global System z ecosystem of tools and technologies to support cloud, mobile, big data/analytics, social and non-traditional mainframe workloads. This includes acquisitions like SoftLayer and CSL Wave to deliver IBM Wave for z/VM, a simplified and cost effective way to harness the consolidation capabilities of the IBM System z platform along with its ability to host the workloads of tens of thousands of commodity servers. The mainframe today can truly be a fully fledged cloud player.

And that just touches on the mainframe platform advantages. While others boast of virtualization capabilities, the mainframe comes 100% virtualized out of the box with virtualization at every level.  It also comes with a no-fail redundant architecture and built-in networking. 

Hybrid computing is another aspect of the mainframe that organizations are just beginning to tap.  Today’s multi-platform compound workloads are inherently hybrid, and the System z can manage the entire multi-platform workload from a single console.

The mainframe anniversary celebration, called Mainframe50, officially kicks off in April but a report from the Pulse conference suggests that Mainframe50 interest already is ramping up. A report from Pulse 2014 this week suggests IBM jumped the gun by emphasizing how the z provides new ways never before thought possible to innovate while tackling challenges previously out of reach.

Pulse 2014, it turns out, offered 38 sessions on System z topics, of which 27 will feature analysts or IBM clients. These sessions promise to address key opportunities and challenges for today’s mainframe environments and the latest technology solutions for meeting them, including OMEGAMON, System Automation, NetView, GDPS, Workload Automation Tivoli Asset Discovery for z/OS and Cloud.

One session featured analyst Phil Murphy, Vice President and Principal Analyst from Forrester Research, discussing the critical importance of a robust infrastructure in a mixed mainframe/distributed cloud environment—which is probably the future most DancingDinosaur readers face—and how it can help fulfill the promise of value for cloud real time.

Another featured mainframe analyst Dot Alexander from Wintergreen Research who looked at how mainframe shops view executing cloud workloads on System z. The session focused on the opportunities and challenges, private and hybrid cloud workload environments, and the impact of scalability, standards, and security.

But the big celebration is planned for April 8 in NYC. There IBM promises to make new announcements, launch new research projects, and generally focus on the mainframe’s future.  A highlight promises to be Showcase 20, which will focus on 20 breakthrough areas referred to by IBM as engines of progress.  The event promises to be a sellout; you should probably talk to your System z rep if you want to attend. And it won’t stop on April 8. IBM expects to continue the Mainframe50 drumbeat all year with new announcements, deliverables, and initiatives. Already in February alone IBM has made a slew of acquisitions and cloud announcements that will touch every mainframe shop with any cloud interests (which should be every mainframe shop at one point or another).

In coming weeks stay tuned to DancingDinosaur for more on Mainframe50. Also watch this space for details of the upcoming Edge 2014 conference, with an emphasis on infrastructure innovation coming to Las Vegas in May.

Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog

SOA Software Enables New Ways to Tap Mainframe Code

January 30, 2014

Is the core enterprise processing role handled by the mainframe enough? Yet, enterprises today often are running different types of workloads built using different app dev styles. These consist of compound applications encompassing the mainframe and a variety of distributed systems (Linux, UNIX, Windows) and different programming models, data schema, services, and more. Pieces of these workloads may be running on the public cloud, a partner’s private cloud, and a host of other servers. The pieces are pulled together at runtime to support the particular workload.  Mainframe shops should want to play a big role in this game too.

“Mainframe applications still sit at heart of enterprise operations, but mainframe managers also want to take advantage of these applications in new ways,” says Brent Carlson, SVP at SOA Software. The primary way of doing this is through SOA services, and mainframes have been playing in the SOA arena for years. But it has never been as seamless, easy, and flexible as it should. And as social and mobile and other new types of workloads get added to the services mix, the initial mainframe SOA approach has started to show its age. (Over the years, DancingDinosaur has written considerably on mainframe SOA and done numerous SOA studies.)

That’s why DancingDinosaur welcomes SOA Software’s Lifecycle Manager to the mainframe party.  It enables what the company calls a “RESTful Mainframe,” through governance of REST APIs that front zOS-based web services. This amounts to a unified platform from a governance perspective to manage both APIs as well as existing SOA assets. As Carlson explained: applying development governance to mainframe assets helps mainframe shops overcome the architectural challenges inherent in bringing legacy systems into the new API economy, where mobile apps need rapid, agile access to backend systems.

The company is aiming to make Lifecycle Manager into the system-of-record for all enterprise assets including mainframe-based SOAP services and RESTful APIs that expose legacy software functionality. The promise: seamless access to service discovery and impact analysis whether on mainframe, distributed systems, or partner systems. Both architects and developers should be able to map dependencies between APIs and mainframe assets at the development stage and manage those APIs across their full lifecycles.

Lifecycle Manager integrates with SOA’s Policy Manager to work either top down or bottom up.  The top down approach relies on a service wrapping of existing mainframe programs. Think of this as the WSDL first approach to designing web services and then developing programs on mainframe to implement it.  The bottom up approach starts with the copy book.  Either way, it is automated and intended to be seamless. It also promises to guide services developers on best practices like encryption, assign and enforce correct policies, and more.

“Our point: automate whatever we can, and guide developers into good practices,” said Carlson.  In the process, it simplifies the task of exposing mainframe capabilities to a broader set of applications while not interfering with mainframe developers.  To distributed developers the mainframe is just another service endpoint that is accessed as a service or API.  Nobody has to learn new things; it’s just a browser-based IDE using copy books.

For performance, the Lifecycle Manager-based runtime environment is written in assembler, which makes it fast while minimizing MIPS consumption. It also comes with the browser-based IDE, copybook tool, and import mappings.

The initial adopters have come from financial services and the airlines.  The expectation is that usage will expand beyond that as mainframe shops and distributed developers seek to leverage core mainframe code for a growing array of workloads that weren’t on anybody’s radar screen even a few years ago.

There are other ways to do this on the mainframe, starting with basic SOA and web services tools and protocols, like WSDL. Many mainframe SOA efforts leverage CICS, and IBM offers additional tools, most recently SoftLayer, that address the new app dev styles.

This is healthy for mainframe data centers. If nothing else SOA- and API-driven services workloads that include the mainframe help lower the cost per workload of the mainframe. It also puts the mainframe at the center of today’s IT action.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter: @mainframeblog


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