Monday, 19 November 2007

Rational mainframes

Who says mainframes are hard to use and integrate with other systems? Well, it seems just about everyone who hasn’t spent long periods of time working on them. Experienced mainframers, of course, always stress the reliability and security of mainframes compared to any other system.

Anyway, it seems that IBM has taken the “hard to use” criticism on board and has done something about it. So last October, it initiated a $100 million mainframe simplification project with promises of management and development tools that would be incredibly powerful, but very easy to use. And a couple of weeks ago it started delivering the stuff.

These Rational development tools included retooled compilers for COBOL and DL/I on z/OS, a turn-key COBOL or Java code generation tool called the Rational Business Developer Extension, and an RCD (Rapid Component Development) tool that can scan existing COBOL code and identify useful jobs or processes, which it then componentizes. This product is called Rational Transformation Workbench.

The thinking behind the new products is that organizations have high-quality code that is supporting the business and already up and running. What’s needed is a simple way to expose that code – rather than writing what could very well be less efficient or bug-ridden code. So rather than the mainframe being a box that sits quietly somewhere within an organization and gets on with its work without bothering anybody, it now becomes a major player in the development of a business. Which, as you’ll appreciate, is a position IBM prefers mainframes to occupy.

The compilers are Version 4.1 of Enterprise COBOL for z/OS and Version 3.7 of Enterprise PL/I for z/OS. These are designed to integrate mainframe applications with Web-oriented business processes.

Version 7 of Rational Business Developer Extension uses code written in IBM’s EGL (Enterprise Generation Language) to generate COBOL or Java. EGL is similar to COBOL in construction and helps “modernize” code by allowing users to work in an SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) environment.

IBM also announced Version 7.1 of Rational Developer for System z. This is claimed to be a simplified development environment for programming mainframe applications. Although described as new product, in many it is a repackaging of existing IBM technologies.

I’d also like to mention (again) the Virtual IMS User Group at It’s first virtual presentation is on the 4 December at 10:30 CST. One of NEON Enterprise Software’s IMS experts will give the first presentation. Following the presentation, Virtual IMS Connection members will be able to ask any questions they have and share their own experiences. It’s all free.

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