User story: Raytheon on track
- By Jack Vaughan
Sometimes, one killer app begets another. For Robert Vettor and IT colleagues at Raytheon, the famed FedEx package tracking application of the 1990s seemed like a useful model for an in-house app that could plot the path of important inventory inside the 78,000 person-strong defense and avionics conglomerate.
In this day and age, that means opening new windows on mainframe data troves using Web services technology.
Raytheon workers wanted to input a parts order or a part number for an item and be able to track its history, said Vettor, senior business technologist for Raytheon’s enterprise applications group in Dallas. Prior to the new app, system users had to access a mainframe “green screen” to look at information about a part. This involved starting up a 3270 emulator.
“You might have to go through 70 pages of information, when you just wanted a specific piece of information,” said Vettor. “Most employees prefer using the Web apps, but most of the key data resides on mainframes.”
Vettor’s team tested several solutions, and finally chose Verastream software from WRQ to create a solution that can take parts number input, sift through the data, retrieve the two or three data elements that the user may want, merge this with tracking data, and then place the results on a Web screen.
Said Vettor: “The WRQ product uses a database paradigm. You can treat the mainframe like a database. When you want data you ‘select, insert and update.’ This can return from WRQ Verastream as a Web service.”
Such capabilities move mainframe legacy integration into the realm of Web services and so-called Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). “The call to the mainframe is a service,” said Vettor. “The [software tool] ‘abstracts’ the mainframe so that it looks like a database.”
In effect, Raytheon’s development team uses Verastream to encapsulate host logic and data via Web services. The services are accessed within Microsoft Visual Studio .NET.
The ramifications are vast for IT development managers caught in the abyss between Microsoft and Java technology. “Our app is built on .NET, but other applications, including Java apps, can interface with the system. If they use the same service, they can call the mainframe as well.”
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Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.