Evangelizing Mainframe
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Breaking Down the Barriers to New Mainframe Development

One concern I hear mainframe shops voice quite often is that of skills. They're looking not only for the skills needed to manage and run the mainframe environment, but also those needed to develop new mainframe applications, and perhaps more importantly, maintain and modify existing applications. Cost of development is also a concern that has come up from time to time, and application-development activities can appear more costly at traditional mainframe pricing.

Let’s take a look at the resources available to address these concerns. First, let me remind you about the IBM Academic Initiative and the work they are doing to bring mainframe curriculums to more and more institutions of higher education. Mainframe curriculums are available to these institutions as well as private organizations that wish to educate their employees.

Several tools are available to bridge the gap for the neophyte mainframe developer. Whether they choose to develop in Java or .Net and access mainframe services, or if they work in “legacy” languages, there’s something for the new developer. CICS and IMS have both been updated over the years with robust integration points for service-oriented architecture (SOA). And they have both implemented an integrated Java container for developing J2EE objects from right within your mainframe subsystem. Utilities exist in each subsystem to assist the developer with XML generation and Web-service generation. A nice bonus to all of this is that somewhere around 85 and 90 percent of the Java execution on these subsystems is eligible to run on a specialty engine, thereby drastically reducing total cost of ownership (TCO).

Since we’re talking about connectivity, I should mention that z/OS is fully supported by the WebSphere ESB, WebSphere Message Broker, and WebSphere MQ environments for connectivity and ESB integration on the mainframe. These environments greatly simplify the integration application assets into an SOA development model and can make reuse of “legacy” mainframe assets transparent to the developer.

On the desktop, we have Rational Developer for z (RDz), which brings a z/OS environment together with a modern IDE used for Java, etc. to the developer. For those developers already familiar with Eclipse, this is a perfect fit. RDz provides access to the mainframe systems (TSO, VSAM, JCL, etc.) and integration with mainframe development tools—such as the IBM Debug tool, File Manager and Fault Analyzer, along with the standard Eclipse environment for Java/Web projects. Of course, integration with some source code management tools is also available.

Also available is a no-fee offering called CICS Explorer, which provides an Eclipse environment to the developer who is specifically targeting CICS assets for modernization and new development.

Cost was already mentioned with regard to specialty engine offload, let’s take that another step and look at low TCO options for developing new mainframe functionality. IBM offers two Solution Editions in this area. The Solution Edition for Application Development and the Solution Edition for WebSphere provide low-cost native mainframe environments targeted at new application-development activities. Also, the RDz Unit Test Feature provides an emulated z/OS environment running on x86 hardware for application-development purposes.

As you can see, many resources are available to make application development both easier and lower cost on the mainframe platform. Lower-cost and ease of development, in conjunction with the best platform in the world for availability, performance, security and manageability, eliminate many excuses for developing new applications for the mainframe platform.

Chris Gombola is Enterprise IT Architect with 13 years of experience at IBM.

Posted: 10/11/2011 8:05:56 AM by Chris Gombola

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