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Leveling the Playing Field

IBM Rational software advances mainframe development

IBM Rational software advances mainframe development
Hayden Lindsey, vice president for IBM Enterprise Modernization, says Rational offerings are key to successful business applications. Photography by Tom McGhee

Today’s businesses are looking for even more competitive advantages than they were a decade ago. Companies that utilize technology-driven plays have a competitive advantage. Similarly, today’s enterprise applications are inherently multiplatform: for example, an application could have a Web front end, a Java* middle layer and access data stored on a mainframe.

With all of these components, applications must be created, managed and maintained from an end-to-end perspective. With its newest Rational* offerings, IBM argues the mainframe is now, more than ever, a key component for successful business applications.

“We really do have very modern practitioner and team tools for mainframe development,” says Hayden Lindsey, vice president for IBM Enterprise Modernization. “This perception that development for the mainframe is way harder than it is for distributed computing is something that was true 10 years ago. It’s no longer true.”

A Modernization Game Plan

IBM Rational offers tools that enable applications—and the people and teams that support them—to be multiplatform. “We have integrated development environments (IDEs), we have team environments and we have a language that’s inherently multiplatform,” Lindsey says. But it’s not just about developing new applications with this new framework in mind. Legacy solutions don’t deliver the quality of service that’s now necessary for mission-critical, enterprise-scope functions.

Coming out of this economic downturn, Lindsey says customers are looking for approaches that will help them optimize and leverage their current IT investments to drive future innovation. When looking at existing resources, “it makes a lot more sense to leverage systems that are already in production,” he says. “It’s always fun to build something from scratch; in practice clients realize there’s a lot of value in the systems they have today, but they need to extend them.”

IBM factors the modernization space into four areas: applications, people, teams and infrastructure. Lindsey says, “What makes IBM’s Rational solutions unique is the emphasis on the human dimension.”

  1. Application modernization is all about helping customers make more informed decisions about what to do with the bits, so think of this as application portfolio management and enterprise architecture, Lindsey says. A new feature of Rational Asset Analyzer automates discovery, analysis and management of business rules that may be embedded in COBOL code, for example. Via integration with WebSphere* ILOG*, a business rule-management system, you can either identify and know where business rules are or with some restructuring you can extract business rules and manage them in the ILOG.
  2. People modernization helps the individuals responsible for maintenance, management, creation, build or test to be more productive. The Rational Developer for System z* family of tools offers a single IDE for mainframe, Power Systems * and distributed application development. It includes Java Enterprise Edition (JEE) and Web tooling as well as support for COBOL, Product Language One (PL/I) and even System z Assembler Language. The zEnteprise* System version also includes support for AIX* on Power Systems.

    Another important element of people modernization is attracting new talent. IBM’s new multiplatform IDEs are Eclipse-based, so developers familiar with distributed systems only need to learn a new syntax.
  3. Rational Team Concert* offers unified multiplatform team infrastructure, including support for System z, Power Systems and distributed processor-based systems. Recent updates provide source-code management, defect tracking, build, project planning, project and team status, collaboration and more.
  4. Infrastructure modernization is about getting the full benefit of the OS, middleware and hardware advances. Customers can do this by leveraging the latest compiler technologies available. Lindsey says it’s not uncommon to run into customers who are levels back on their compilers. “In doing that they’re basically giving up substantial performance and scalability,” he says.

Read more about these four areas on the IBM enterprise modernization website

Natalie Boike is a former IBM Systems Magazine managing editor.


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