More on Mainframe Modernization

Following on from the Modernization Topic – lets answer a few questions about that area:

Q. >What are the architectural aspects of SOA that scare mainframe professionals, and what are the best ways to overcome those reservations?

A.> An important part of that question is whether SOA – or some aspects of it does scare mainframe professionals. Obviously mainframe professionals tend to believe and work passionately for high quality deliverables and levels of service, with strong controls to ensure this. I think that the issues for most would be around the degree of change involved and how that might impact what the mainframe delivers to the business. SOA, if supported with the right tools can actually deliver strong levels of control and increase the business awareness of ongoing work and transactions. This can help to reassure mainframe professionals, as well as the fact that by including the mainframe in SOA, it can help to further demonstrate the continuing importance of the mainframe to the business.

Q.> How do WebSphere offerings fit in with offerings from IBM-Rational? And, will these work with other toolsets?

A.> The business/IT environment can be highly complex and unique to each organization. Depending on differing priorities and where each asset is in its own lifecycle, there may be different decisions being made as to what the key area to focus on and where to progress the business. In some cases that will require analysis and redevelopment of the application for modernization, based around the Rational tooling, in others you will see a more direct approach using WebSphere integration capabilities, but in many cases – probably most – there will be benefits from using a range of these capabilities over the longer term. This is a way in which IBM Services experts can provide assistance by reviewing your existing infrastructure and suggesting a roadmap as part of their SOA Healthchecks – helping you to identify when to use Rational and when to use WebSphere.

Q.> The key themes of IBM’s SOA initiatives have long been ‘Connectivity’ and ‘Reuse’. These terms would seem to take on new dimensions when talking about Mainframe SOA projects. Briefly summarize how IBM views ‘Connectivity’ and ‘Reuse’ when including mainframe data or logic?

A.> Certainly from an IT perspective Reuse and Connectivity have been and continue to be important issues. The assets one is likely to find on a mainframe tend to be those assets which are extremely valuable and therefore likely to be key in any reuse more widely across the enterprise – and these assets may have been more difficult to reuse historically. Reuse of course is a 2-way practice – information and data is involved more widely across the business which demands a better connectivity implementation – they really are 2 sides of the same coin. And of course with the high quality enterprise data and applications that exist on the mainframe the connectivity infrastructure needs to be capable of delivering very strong and reliable connections. This is what the WebSphere solutions are built on.

Q.> Many Mainframe-SOA projects don’t get done because of 2 main concerns – (1) maintaining integrity and SLAs, and (2) visibility into the transaction flow from mainframe to the outside. Summarize IBM offerings for addressing these concerns.

A.> IBM well understands these concerns. Both WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere MQ, the foundation for all IBM’s runtime offerings are built on an absolutely rock solid transactional implementation, enabling the mainframe assets to be used and reused without the quality of service or the quality of data being impacted negatively – instead it is used to extend these traditional mainframe attributes wider into the business – a positive really rather than a threat.

In today’s economy some long-term projects are being put on hold, or replaced with projects that offer quicker ROI. Does IBM offer templates for a 60 or 90 day Mainframe SOA project?

A.> It is more important than ever to not get bogged down in long term IT projects that do not offer clear benefits to the business, especially benefits that can be seen in the near term. Projects that will have overall benefits to the business are likely to need to be justified by a single project use – and once successful may then be rolled out more widely. For modernization of assets this reduces the scope for tasks and level of effort – driving the focus on fast implementations that show clear benefits. While it is still worthwhile to review which projects can reap the largest benefits using efforts such as the SOA Healthchecks mentioned above, it is likely that once identified initial projects might be found that will see results by selecting WebSphere MQ to simplify connectivity and to service enable application interfaces. Not only is a WebSphere MQ project likely to be easier to cost-justify than a more substantial and involved implementation but it will show rapid benefits with increased reliability, enhanced manageability and simpler application interfaces. Further to this other ‘quick hits’ might be from WebSphere DataPower SOA appliances as they are extremely rapid to configue and deploy, needing little in the way of further work, or another choice could be to put a foundation of Governance in place with WebSphere Service Registry and Repository. By quickly finding and logging existing services assets, both developers and adminstrators can quickly reap benefits in both finding and tracking the use of existing assets, reducing exceptions and increasing the potential for reuse.


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