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Thoughts from the Integration Consortium:
Evaluation Criteria for Mainframe SOA

online columnist  Integration Consortium     Column published in DMReview.com
December 1, 2005
 
  By Integration Consortium

This month's column is contributed by Robert Morris from GT Software.

The Mainframe is Dead!  Long Live the Mainframe!

The mainframe death knell has tolled prematurely more than once. This workhorse refuses to die, largely because it continues to deliver maximum availability, scalability and performance to the enterprise. Now, service-oriented architecture (SOA) promises to extend this value beyond the glass house, integrating the mainframe with the rest of the IT world and capitalizing on years of mainframe investment to improve overall business performance. To collect on that promise in a timely manner, companies need tools specifically designed for mainframe SOA, leveraging mainframe applications, data and environments, as well mainframe developers. This article examines the criteria for evaluating and selecting the right tools to make rapid mainframe SOA development a reality.

What is SOA?

According to Integration Consortium Vice Chairman Steve Craggs, "In a service-oriented architecture, IT components are related to the business service they deliver and are then made available as reusable components to be executed as part of other business services as required."1 This enables the elimination of redundant code that performs the same function in a variety of applications, reducing maintenance and change management overhead and errors, and improving flexibility.

Given this fundamental premise, there are massive benefits to be realized since the mainframe houses many of our critical business assets that can be used to fuel SOA initiatives.

Given the potential upside, there is much more to consider for mainframe SOA than simple Web services. Issues such as getting the right service granularity are key to the process. Tool selection will absolutely dictate success, so you should consider carefully the tools you will use for mainframe SOA development.

Evaluation Criteria

Many mainframe development tools can leverage mainframe transaction or 3270 screen-based applications to produce wrappers or adapters that "bridge" mainframe-based building blocks mechanisms with distributed platforms.

Best-of-breed characteristics truly differentiate the options. Craggs divides these into: development and deployment, operations and flexibility.2

Development and Deployment

First, how does the toolset handle Web services? While not synonymous with or even required for SOA, Web services provide a widely accepted access standard. Look for a toolset designed to help the mainframe developer become quickly comfortable with deploying mainframe components as multi-operation Web services.

The toolset should make it easy to assemble and orchestrate the execution of multistep, multi-operation business services from mainframe assets, preferably through graphical modeling that reduces or eliminates coding, shortens the learning curve and speeds development. This ensures that the developer can deliver business services at the right granularity to ensure appropriate use and reuse within the SOA.

The modeling environment should also provide visual feedback of problems early in the development process and enable the testing of components in isolation, simulating performance in real operations, without requiring that all components be completed and assembled before they can be tested. The toolset should also provide development lifecycle support to ensure that untested components or changes don't enter the production environment.

The toolset should enable the mapping of mainframe programming structures to technologies such as XML and Web services, and provide access to mainframe data sources, such as DB2, VSAM, Adabas and others, under a single SQL-style interface.

Even the most sophisticated functionality can be ineffective if not easy to use. The toolset should be intuitive and accessible, largely automating the creation of services, without requiring extensive training or consulting to produce results.

If the toolset is based on a solid understanding of mainframes, it will support the stringent integrity and recoverability requirements of the mainframe environment.

Operations

Craggs says, "An SOA 'ecosystem,' far exceeding the functionality offered by Web services alone, will be an essential requirement for a successful, enterprise-class SOA." 3 The optimal mainframe SOA toolset will fully participate and seamlessly interoperate within the ecosystem.

This means the toolset must be integrated with the major SOA ecosystem components like management or registry. The same is true of security, where the toolset should link the ecosystem with mainframe security facilities such as RACF.

Flexibility

The toolset should be flexible enough to support the appropriate processing location for a mainframe-based business service, whether in its own mainframe address space or within an existing mainframe environment such as CICS or IMS. Whenever processing is on the mainframe, the toolset should utilize native performance optimization features and provide statistics reporting to support capacity planning and load management.

Mainframe SOA - Today

Mainframes have a major role to play in SOA. The trick to leveraging mainframe resources is twofold: assign the right people to build business services from mainframe components and equip them with the best tools for the job. No one knows more about mainframe applications, functionality and code than mainframe developers. The right mainframe SOA development toolset will enable these developers to readily visualize and understand the concept and benefits of deploying a business service composed of mainframe components. Beyond that, the right toolset will equip mainframe developers to assemble and deploy services quickly and easily, requiring minimal training and no consulting. In short, the right toolset will instantly transform mainframe developers into service developers, delivering the promised advantages of SOA today.

References:

1. Craggs, Steve. Best of Breed Mainframe SOA Tools. Saint Consulting Limited, 2005.
2. Craggs, Steve. Best of Breed Mainframe SOA Tools. Saint Consulting Limited, 2005.
3. Ibid.

...............................................................................

For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Data Integration and Service-Oriented Architecture.

The Integration Consortium is a non-profit, leading industry body responsible for influencing the direction of the integration industry. Its members champion Integration Acumen by establishing standards, guidelines, best practices, research and the articulation of strategic and measurable business benefits. The Integration Consortium's motto is "Forging Integration Value." The mission of the member-driven Integration Consortium is to establish universal seamless integration which engages industry stakeholders from the business and technology community. Among the sectors represented in the Integration Consortium membership are end-user corporations, independent software vendors (ISVs), hardware vendors, system integrators, academic institutions, non-profit institutions and individual members as well as various industry leaders. Information on the Integration Consortium is available at www.integrationconsortium.org or via e-mail at info@integrationconsortium.org.

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