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Matching Mobile With the Mainframe

System z is a secure platform to handle mobile’s growth

6/18/2014 12:38:00 AM | The increase in the sales of smartphones in recent years has enabled many businesses to move the face of their corporation into almost every household in many countries. I know that the fastest path to me obtaining my current bank balance is via the app on my Android phone—yet at the back end, I’m using the same systems as if I had inquired on the Internet or even gone to an ATM.

It’s this explosion and the seismic shift in how customers now go about their daily lives that is fueling the rise in the demand for transaction processing at high volume and continuous availability. It would be too simple to say that the System z platform is the best fit for this growth, so let’s investigate why.

Mobile Users Set to Outnumber Desktop Users

Sales of smartphone in 2013 exceeded 1 billion units, and that is expected to increase to 1.2 billion in 2014. Mobile Internet users are expected to outnumber desktop computer-based Internet users by 2015. As our devices are available to us 24 hours a day, they require a similar operation from the systems they access. The continuous availability that pervades with System z is a prime consideration for these operations. When that fails, the consequences are now enormous, particularly in the financial sector, and usually become news.

To give you some perspective on transaction rates, consider the following statistics. For every second of each day, there are:
  • 250 iTunes downloads
  • 3,600 Instagram photos taken
  • 7,000 Tweets sent
  • 30,000 Facebook likes
  • 46,000 YouTube viewings
  • 60,000 Google searches
  • 1.15 million CICS transactions on System z
It’s not just the fact that this volume is being handled; there are other considerations as well, such as security. System z has always implemented the latest in cryptographic processing, making the platform as secure as possible. Mobile devices and their data must be protected and have secure access in all locations. As technology advances at a rapid rate, so does the activities of those who seek to benefit illegally from any flaws in existing IT architectures.

Keep Infrastructure Up-To-Date

Another area to consider is the existing infrastructure of businesses that have been investing in System z for some time. Many of these core applications have existed for decades, and have been the heartbeat of many a corporation. Making the business logic of these programs available to modern interfaces has been at the center of application providers for more than a decade, with the advent of the TCP/IP transport layer providing protocols such as Simple Object Access Protocol and HTTP. Usage of RESTful APIs and adding JSON support onto the HTML and XML-based Web services that exist today has enabled the mobile device to become part of the System z architecture.

Developing the mobile app is also making technological advances as well. IBM Worklight Server provides multiple adapters, which are server-based software components responsible for propagating back-end enterprise systems and cloud-based services to the end-user device, enabling the deployment of common code apps into multiple operating systems such as Android, iOS and Windows. The Worklight Server is deployed on Linux for System z, integrated by support for mainframe hardware, including cryptographic processors.

There is a large portfolio of development tools available on System z to support the activities involved in delivering new mobile apps. The delivery of GUIs via the Eclipse platform has brought the face of System z into the modern age.

These flexible tools can now be integrated across the Enterprise to provide a single environment for any application developer to produce code, be it Java or more traditional languages such as COBOL, and test in isolation before deploying to the host. This delivers productivity gains, now necessary to any business wishing to port onto a mobile device. If the end user is not finding the experience to their liking, then updates can be rolled out to correct this at short notice.

IBM DevOps, a collaboration of development and IT operations that seeks to automate the delivery of continuous processes, accelerates the Enterprise software delivery lifecycle, and improves the customer experience by enabling a reduced timeframe for feedback.

“Companies that master effective software development and delivery in rapidly changing environments such as cloud, mobile and social will have a significant competitive advantage,” Kristof Kloeckner, general manager, IBM Rational Software, states in a 2013 news release.

IBM itself has developed a mobile app that enables systems administrators to monitor and manage their own IBM BladeCenter servers. The IBM Remote app will allow users to connect to their systems, view health information and even power them on and off.

Look Ahead to Stay Competitive

One of the aspects of bringing the corporate business into the home is the opportunity to harvest data from the customer. This enables the service provider to build a profile of their customer, and refactor their responses accordingly.

Consider the scenario of a mobile user finding an item that exceeds their anticipated budget. Using a mobile device, they find the same item within budget at a competitor. The competitor service now needs to direct the customer to their nearest location. The transaction has multiplied and become bi-directional—the service provider now has expanded into a vertical business, using location services, to complete the transaction. System z offers a large range of analytical services that can exploit the fact that so many companies run their business critical transactions on the platform.

The volume of data that is now required to evaluate all aspects of a mobile transaction and to produce results that are directly beneficial to the provider, requires a resilient system to support this.

Today’s CEOs have predicted that technology advances will be the most important external force impacting their organizations. IBM has adapted System z through the years to support trends in IT, making the platform the most comprehensive and flexible in anticipation of future challenges.

It’s this realization that has delivered success during recent years, but there’s also an understanding that cloud and mobile services will continue to expand at a rapid rate that cannot be accurately predicted. Most corporations know that the IT industry will change in the coming years, in exactly a direction that we don’t yet fully comprehend, but System z has evolved through the years to be at the forefront of any technological advances that lie ahead.

Peter Siddell is a Senior IT Specialist based in the IBM Hursley laboratory in the U.K. He has more than 30 years of experience in IT with more than 20 years spent on CICS.

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