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Neon brings mainframe to event-driven world

Despite the growth of distributed systems computing, mainframes still form the backbone of most large organizations' mission-critical information systems. More importantly, mainframe-based events support the applications that underpin numerous distributed business processes. In addition, for some organizations, mainframe databases are still considered the primary unit of record for all enterprise data.

With that challenge in mind, Neon Systems Inc., a maker of mainframe integration tools, recently rolled out an addition to its Shadow family of mainframe interoperability solutions. Shadow Event Publisher is described as a real-time, non-invasive solution for the capture and publishing of critical mainframe business events to distributed business processes.

"Shadow Event Publisher is the first real-time solution to enable mainframe-based events to actively participate in event-driven architectures," said William Mills, Neon's director of product marketing. "This product is a catalyst for beginning to realize the value of event-driven architecture."

He points out that many enterprises are already trying to create value from event-driven information -- but at a high cost. "We had one customer," said Mills, "who used to poll their mainframe once a second for what turned out to be only 20 changes each hour in their mainframe data." That, he noted, multiplied by scores of other examples in a typical organization, amounts to a gross inefficiency.

According to David Luckham, a Rational founder, and now a researcher at Stamford and author of the book, "The Power of Events," businesses are becoming progressively more real time by utilizing both private networks and the Internet. "What we are witnessing is the emergence of the 'real-time enterprise' as Gartner calls it, in which the whole business structure, processes and applications are event-driven," said Luckham.

According to Luckham, while Internet-based automation helps to streamline businesses and cut costs, it introduces a new problem -- managing in real time. Managing the real-time enterprise, he said, demands a new event-processing technology he calls CEP (complex event processing) that allows business process managers to understand the event activity in their IT systems.

"They can't decipher reams of network logs; they need high-level views that tell them how the business functions will be impacted," he explained. Luckham cited the recent example of the power blackout in the northeast in which no one manager had a global view of that event-driven situation. "Neon's products are positioned to help with the real-time management of event-driven systems," he said. "They are a first step toward introducing CEP into the eBusiness world."

Neon's Mills explained that Shadow Event Publisher provides a single interface for the real-time capture and publishing of critical mainframe business events occurring within DB2, IMS and CICS environments. He termed it "non-invasive" because it doesn't require touching the application code. Instead, "listeners" -- small bits of code -- ensure that events are captured in real time and "pushed" asynchronously via multiple messaging protocols, HTTP and WebSphere MQ, to drive various business processes and maintain data consistency.

Mills said that Shadow Event Publisher meets a need that until now has only been addressed by expensive custom coding and/or techniques like polling. In the broader IT context, he noted, Shadow Event Publisher expands the four walls of your IT shop so that "you can communicate effectively with distributors and partners, and make them part of your virtual enterprise."

About the Author

Alan R. Earls is a technology and business writer based near Boston.

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