In-Depth

Behind Big Blue’s SOA/Mainframe Blitz

Big Blue announced initiatives to help programmers and ISVs get that old-time mainframe religion

IBM Corp. last week announced new tools to help Java, Visual Basic .NET, and COBOL developers build SOA-ready mainframe applications. Big Blue also unveiled an initiative to encourage new (or non-traditional) ISVs to develop software for its System z platform. To that end, IBM has promised to give ISVs “no-cost” access to IT architects, along with advertising discounts and customer lead-generation tools. The hope, Big Blue officials say, is that programmers and ISVs alike will get some of that old-time mainframe religion.

IBM cited a recent survey of U.S. and EU companies by Forrester Research, which found that 70 percent of SOA users expect to increase their use of SOA, while 62 percent of companies with 20,000 employees or more are currently using SOAs or plan to embrace service-enablement in the next 12 months.

Such numbers bode well for Big Iron, IBM officials maintain. “Mainframes—which process much of the world's most strategic information and applications—are now finding second careers as the hub for SOA,” claimed Steve Mills, senior vice president of IBM’s Software Group, in a statement.

Mills and other IBM-ers expect that mainframe transactions—spurred in part by surging interest in SOA—will double over the next four years.

“Customers today are just beginning to scratch the surface of what a services-oriented approach to software can do to make businesses more responsive and opportunistic,” he continued. “By using mainframes to free up, connect, and use information that's stored in applications, companies can bring products to market faster, make quicker connections with global business partners, deliver better service to customers, and streamline their IT operations.”

Officials say Big Blue today derives more than 60 percent of its mainframe revenues from sales of new systems earmarked for Linux, virtualization, Java, SOA, and other workloads. To help cast the mainframe as an even bigger lead-pipe cinch for SOA applications, IBM announced new Rational COBOL Generation tools that make it possible for code jockeys to use their development language of choice – e.g., Java, Visual Basic .NET, PL/I, or COBOL—to create SOA-ready mainframe applications. Big Blue’s new Rational COBOL Generation tools generate a platform-independent language, called Enterprise Generation Language, which is then transformed into COBOL.

On the ISV front, Big Blue unveiled System z for ISVs, an effort designed to give software vendors the technical, sales, and marketing support they need to build mainframe-ready applications. Offered under the auspices of IBM's PartnerWorld Industry Networks, System z for ISVs aims to give participants no-cost consulting opportunities with IBM IT architects. After that, IBM will create an online environment in which ISVs can develop, port, and test applications on System z—as well as receive hand-holding (after a fashion) from IBM consultants, who are available to assist with development and porting issues.

Big Blue says it will also make architects available to work with ISVs during their initial client installations. In addition, ISVs can access IBM’s Sales Connections for System z, a service that helps connect ISVs to sales opportunities. Finally, Big Blue plans to support participating ISVs with advertising discounts, lead generation tools, and direct mail campaign support.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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