IBM prepares ground for mainframe resurgence

Company announces new software developments tools and middleware

IBM officials said they hope to breathe new life into the company’s mainframe series with new software tools and developer initiatives

for creating interconnected business processes and applications. As organizations adopt Web services and applications built on service-oriented architecture platforms, mainframes could serve as hubs for Internet-based computing, officials said.

SOA is a framework for developing software components to manage data communications among different systems.

In the past five to six years, “there has been a growth in resource consumption on the mainframe,” spurred by e-commerce, said Jim Rhyne, a distinguished engineer at IBM.

To address the demand for more computing resources, IBM has released new software tools to simplify the development of SOA-ready mainframe applications. It also announced an initiative to encourage independent software vendors (ISVs) to create new applications for the IBM System z mainframe series. IBM will offer software developers additional technical, sales and marketing support.

As part of its mainframe strategy, IBM unveiled middleware to secure and integrate mainframe applications with other computers. And to reach the next generation of mainframe developers worldwide, the company released university-level course material and announced a global student contest.

“There’s tremendous untapped value in the mainframe,” said Robert Rosen, president of Share, an IBM user group. IBM has begun to offer smaller mainframes with specialized processors so that more users can obtain the technology at a lower cost, Rosen said. IBM has made it easier for the mainframe to communicate with other systems so that it can serve as a focal point in a distributed computing environment, he added.

For software developers familiar with Java, Visual Basic, PL/1 or Cobol who create SOA-enabled mainframe applications, IBM has enhanced the IBM Rational Cobol Generation toolset. Developers can use the Enterprise Generation Language, a platform-independent language, to develop applications and then transform them to Cobol, the mainframe programming language.

A new System z for ISVs program will provide software vendors with free consulting sessions with IBM information technology architects. IBM will create a customized online environment in which vendors can develop and test applications on System z mainframes, Rhyne said.

IBM released software that will be available later this year to help users integrate mainframe data via a SOA. WebSphere Process Server for z will link mainframe data to complex business processes, such as online credit card purchases that require checking inventory levels and shipping status.

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