DataDirect Puts the zIIP in SOA Mainframes

DataDirect has upgraded its Shadow mainframe data integration solution. The new Shadow version 7 offers performance improvements and data connectivity options for enterprises. The product supports service-oriented architectures (SOAs) on mainframes and lowers total cost of ownership when combined with IBM's latest mainframe "System z" specialty engines.

The combination of DataDirect's middleware and IBM zOS-based mainframes boosts computing capacity. It's the sort of thing that might be deployed by enterprises with large-scale transactional processing requirements, as entailed by enterprise resource planning and business intelligence-type applications, or SOAs.

In particular, this version of Shadow works with IBM's System z9 Integration Information Processor (zIIP) and System z Application Assist Processor (zAAP) products, which aim to free up overall computing capacity. IBM's zIIP is used to centralize databases on a mainframe and improve security. zAAP enhances the performance of Java- and XML-based Web applications.

The ability to leverage IBM's specialty engines is unique to DataDirect's Shadow product, according to Calvin Fudge, director of marketing for Shadow.

"Mainframe middleware as it is currently constituted is predominantly TCB (task control block) thread based," he explained. "So if anyone out there is using mainframe middleware product right now, they are using a product that cannot exploit a zIIP processor. So Shadow is unique in that it has this hybrid thread pool, this TCB/SRB thread guide, that allows it to divert workloads to the zIIP specialty engine. So customers are only going to get this type of exploitation of the specialty engines through Shadow."

Shadow 7 works with zIIP to optimize the performance of IBM's DB2 database, but it also supports "mainframe data queries to IMS, VSAM, Adabas and IDMS, was well as SOAP/XML parsing for the transformation of business logic and screen logic in Web services," according to an announcement issued by DataDirect.

The Shadow-IBM combo reduces the total cost of ownership for mainframe operators because of the relaxed licensing requirements that exist for users of IBM's zIIP and zAAP specialty engines. IBM's general purpose processor licenses are typically capped and based on a company's particular mainframe processing capacity, which is measured in million service units (MSUs) per hour. The licenses for zIIP and zAAP, however, are uncapped in terms of MSUs. Companies are not charged in terms of capacity.

The alternative to the Shadow-IBM specialty engine combo isn't a pretty one for mainframe operations with data-intensive applications, according to Greg Willhoit, DataDirect's chief software architect for Shadow.

"A lot of mainframe middleware options for Web services are [IBM] CICS-based," Willhoit explained. "And so when they run inside CICS, not only are they costing MSUs or processing, they're taking away from the capabilities of CICS. Basically, they are borrowing from CICS processing to do Web services process."

In addition to boosting performance and lowering total cost of ownership for mainframe operators with Shadow 7, DataDirect enhanced its Shadow Studio solution, which is an open Eclipse-based management console. Shadow Studio now includes a graphic BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) designer and runtime management interface to create workflows in a mainframe environment. Developers can also use any BPEL 2.0 designer with the system.

Shadow 7 represents a break from the past, according to Willhoit.

"For the customer, Shadow represents a huge reduction in the complexity of integrating the mainframe," he explained. "Before Shadow, there was just a proliferation of point integration solutions, and ultimately these build up. They are individually maintained. They are sometimes custom coded internally. They are just difficult to sustain and there are increased points of failure. So Shadow brings them in."

Shadow is just one of DataDirect's business lines. The company, which has been around for about 20 years, specializes in using industry-standard APIs to provide connectivity to various backend technologies and got its start in relational database connectivity (ODBC, JDBC, ADO.NET). The company also has an XML data integration business line enabling XML data with relational sources or with Web services.

DataDirect is a $75-million company, a division of Progress Software Corp., and its solutions are distributed with the products of more than 300 independent software vendors.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.