Evangelizing Mainframe
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Why IMS Still Matters

As we near 2016, it may come as a surprise that a 45-year-old system like IMS is still relevant for businesses today. In fact, it remains the system of record for industries spanning banking, insurance, manufacturing, finance, medical/healthcare, airlines, education and more.

Consider this: 75 percent of Fortune 1000 companies and thousands of global companies use IMS. Yet, what’s surprising is that most of these entities are unaware that the information on their applications comes from IMS. That’s because it works so well.

Let’s face it, it’s no coincidence that IMS has been around so long—its inherent reliability and dependability make it a natural fit for business needs. But it’s precisely this reliability that can make IMS “invisible” to data and system architects. This means that even in today’s modern era, IMS isn’t being used to its fullest advantage, especially when it comes to integrating the latest and greatest technology.

Today’s Business Needs Demand Integration

Modern technology advancements mean today’s businesses have demands to meet from all directions, including to:

  • Achieve greatest levels of self-service, mobile/cloud and bring your own device
  • Contend with business intelligence, business analytics and the Internet of Things
  • Realize real-time access to enterprise data residing on any platform
  • Ensure customer- and business-focused IT (get that 360-degree view)
  • Need to build and deploy apps rapidly
  • Drive to integrate IMS and distributed systems
  • Achieve a flexible, comprehensive data virtualization platform
  • Meet growing cognitive computing requirements
Not only is IMS a part of the drive to integrate with distributed systems, but a lack of IMS awareness and utilization impacts an organization’s ability to meet all these demands.

Modern IMS: Not an Oxymoron

IMS can meet these modern business demands. It’s just that, as I alluded to earlier, most architects don’t realize how simple it can be to integrate existing IMS tools into modern applications without changing the IMS system or writing new code.

Because of this, architects may be looking to more expensive, less flexible solutions to fit the bill, when IMS is right there for the taking. A reason why people continue to overlook IMS is because of a number of preconceived notions about IMS in the industry, which can be difficult for architects and programmers to get past, including that:

  • IMS is the opposite of easy and agile
  • There are too many systems and interfaces to make integration worth it
  • IMS is old, and old equals inferior
Yet the truth is that IMS does “play nice” in the modern world. Enabling IMS and distributed environments to seamlessly interact via industry standards is not only possible—it’s relatively painless.
And, in so doing, organizations can make it possible to initiate strategic state-of-the-art business applications, as well as a host of other benefits:

  • Real-time access to enterprise data residing on any platform
  • A full view of the customer
  • Rapid building and deployment of apps
  • Compliance with industry standards
  • Integration between the mainframe and distributed systems
  • Achieving common tools and skills
IMS as a Service: Challenges

Three challenges of using IMS as a service are:

  • IMS Conversational transactions
  • IMS Multiple Segment/variable length output messages
  • IMS as a client, calling out to other distributed services
By leveraging IMS in a service, users can harness the power of IMS in new applications. By acting as a client IMS applications can also “talk” to distributed applications for greater integration and flexibility. IMS Applications:

  • Calling mobile or cloud applications
  • Calling in native language (COBOL, PL/1)
  • Don’t worry about XML/SOAP or require new COBOL XML Coding
  • Can be orchestrated to create new composite applications
IMS and the Mainframe: Both Here to Stay

The flexibility of IMS does lend itself to supporting and forwarding modern technologies, including cloud and mobile. Consider this: Gartner estimates that 50 percent of mobile applications will be hybrid by 2016. And Gartner also estimates that by 2016, 40 percent of mobile application development projects will feature cloud back ends.

The fact is, the data driving these mobile app hybrids, in or out of the cloud, could come from an IMS database. So the power and flexibility of the mainframe, it seems, are ideal for embracing the cloud and mobile era. Let’s face it: Mobility, Web interfaces and cloud platforms are a permanent fixture of modern business. As companies look to expand these offerings to keep up with market demand, they cannot overlook the mainframe and modernizing IMS. After all, it’s not happenstance that IMS remains the system of record for the majority of industry verticals. That’s why there’s no better time to embrace IMS initiatives and leverage products that tie IMS data into applications, Web interfaces and SQL.

Dusty Rivers is principal technical architect for GT Software and a six-time IBM Champion.

Posted: 11/3/2015 12:30:30 AM by Dusty Rivers

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