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Meta: Web services lag for 'real' legacy systems

While Web services is touted as the way to integrate back-office legacy systems into new end-user applications, legacy and still widely installed IBM CICS, IMS and DB2 data streams are left out of the action.

Though the need is huge, Web services access to mainframe data streams remains pretty much non-existent, said Mark Vanston, program director at the Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group's Enterprise Data Center Strategies service. ''I think it's on top of everyone's mind and the vendors are putting out the marketing pieces on it. I think it will play an important part in the next three years. But I think you're just starting to see some of the product sets become available.''

The perception that Web services are currently being used to integrate legacy data may come from the ambiguity in many quarters surrounding the term legacy.

Vanston noted that some people define legacy as systems that are five years old, which would include relatively recent versions of Microsoft and Oracle products. But Vanston argues that true legacy systems are more likely IBM mainframe CICS, IMS and DB2 systems that date back 15 years or more. He said these systems are still widely used by large manufacturers and financial institutions. Developers of Web services packages, he added, have so far mostly ignored these opportunities.

''People have been talking for 10 years about how [mainframe CICS, IMS and DB2 systems are] going to go away and [they] haven't,'' Vanston said. ''Why not accept the fact and do an architectural approach that can at least leverage it.''

He noted that some vendors are starting to develop host access products, including Web-to-host tools that ''reside on the central server and intercept legacy data streams.''

The emerging tools will be capable of intercepting data streams designed for old green-screen terminals, such as the IBM 3270 and the DEC VT 100, and then add XML data tags and integrate the information into Web services applications for end users, Vanston said.

A Meta report released this month predicts that by 2007 ''more than 90% of large organizations will utilize host access products that externalize legacy applications via Web services.''

Widespread adoption of Web-to-host tools is as much as four years away, and Vanston does not expect significant advancement in 2003 as vendors are still refining their host access products.

He listed the top five vendors in this emerging tools market as IBM (http://www.ibm.com/), NetManage Inc. (http://www.netmanage.com/), Attachmate Corp. (http://www.attachmate.com/), WRQ Inc. (http://www.wrq.com/) and Seagull Software Systems Inc. (http://www.seagullsw.com/).

For more information on the Meta Group's METAspectrum evaluation of the host access market and Web-to-host tools, click on http://www.metagroup.com/metaspectrum.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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