Legacy Integration Tools Driven by SOA

In the face of Gartner figures that show the high cost of turning a Cobol programmer into an object-oriented developer, integration vendors offer a different solution. A better route, they say, is exposing the business processes in legacy applications, keeping the core of the application intact. That approach allows developers to continue to work with whatever language they’re familiar with.

With an estimated 200 billion lines of Cobol code still in use worldwide, the treasure trove of business processes stored in so-called legacy applications is golden—and something that corporations want to find better ways of mining. The growth of SOA is a big factor pushing companies to look at ways to access the business processes buried in mainframe programs, and to do it without rewriting those programs in other languages.

“Two or three years ago, SOA was an interesting idea,” says Mike Oara, CTO of Relativity Technologies. “We’ve gotten to a point now where SOA has reached critical mass. [Companies are] beginning to ask, how do I use the investments in my mainframe systems by using SOA?”

Rather than rewriting Cobol code or retraining developers, Oara and others say there are more efficient approaches. “The issue isn’t how to take Cobol guys and turn them into object guys,” Oara says. Rather, it’s “how do I enable [developers] working the distributed world, the Java people, to access the business processes ingrained in Cobol today…so the Java developers can access it.” That leaves code intact on the mainframe in what is usually a highly reliable, well-tested state.

That’s where locating the business logic of the existing application and exposing the components to SOA comes in—along with tools to extract business processes. According to Mike Gilbert, VP of worldwide marketing and director of product strategy at Micro Focus, “I think service-oriented architecture means that at last we can look at integrating different components in the IT infrastructure without having to worry about…the programming language—or even what platform they’re running on.”

The idea of training developers to write in a new model, whether object oriented or component-based, goes away, Gilbert says—“and that’s the beauty of service-oriented architecture.”

The renewed strong interest in the riches buried in legacy systems has served Micro Focus well, as has a growing interest in SOA. Gilbert says nearly every customer is now introducing SOA into the IT infrastructure, driven partly by the need to reuse legacy assets in new ways.

Oara confirms that convincing customers to integrate mainframe business processes via a SOA isn’t a hard sell these days. “Every customer we talk to [has] some internal SOA initiative.”

About the Author

Linda Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She can be reached at [email protected].