Evangelizing Mainframe
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Think IMS Is a Dinosaur? Guess Again

IMS in the Connected World

What I tell anyone who asks me about the “supposedly outdated” mainframe: Now more than ever it’s important to pay attention to IMS solutions! Why? Because it’s the system of record—for banks, insurance, manufacturing, finance, medical/healthcare, airlines, education and a host of other industry verticals.

In fact, 75 percent of the top 100 banks worldwide run IMS. And even so, most users don’t realize that the reliability, dependability, scalability and security of their core systems are provided by this 45-year-old system. It’s this invisibility that means IMS isn’t being used to its fullest advantage, especially when it comes to integrating new technology with IMS data and transactions.

New Technologies and IMS: A Powerful Pairing

Most architects simply aren’t aware of how easy it can be to integrate existing IMS tools into modern applications without changing the IMS system or writing new code. This means they may be looking to other solutions that are more costly while providing less functionality.

And, there are perceived barriers that can be hard for programmers to overcome, including:

  1. IMS isn’t agile
  2. There are too many systems and interfaces
  3. Integration is challenging
  4. IMS is just plain old
However, in today’s mobile, web and cloud world, those barriers aren’t the reality. The truth? It is possible to enable IMS and distributed environments to seamlessly interact via industry standards to enable strategic state-of-the-art business applications.

Consider that IBM has been marketing the mainframe as the ultimate platform to host cloud initiatives, while the mainframe is also recognized for IFL—providing the ability to run Linux on System z with all the security benefits.

In fact, leveraging IMS solutions for today’s modern applications can help organizations address many significant business needs. These include:

  1. Web self-service, mobile/cloud and bring your own device (BYOD) requirements
  2. Real-time access to enterprise data residing on any platform
  3. A full view of the customer
  4. Customer- and business-focused IT
  5. Rapid building and deployment of apps
  6. Compliance with industry standards
  7. Integration between the mainframe and distributed systems
  8. Achieving common tools and skills
  9. Embracing of big data and business intelligence or business analytics
Why Now More Than Ever? IMS for Mobile and Cloud

Gartner estimates that 50 percent of mobile applications will be hybrid by 2016. This means using native hardware features, like location services versus a ‘find a location’ button. Imagine if the data driving this could come from an IMS database. Gartner also estimates that by 2016, 40 percent of mobile application development projects will feature cloud back ends. Knowing this, it becomes harder to ignore IMS, as it is clear the power and flexibility of the mainframe are ideal for embracing the cloud and mobile era.

As we’ve seen, the impact of BYOD on IT and business is undeniable. Both internal and external user demand has contributed to the rise of private app stores to help organizations retain customers, improve brand awareness, reduce costs and free resources. And this all ties to the cloud and web access, for a comprehensive experience. The beauty is that businesses today can use the mainframe to drive these initiatives by leveraging products that tie IMS data into these applications, the web interfaces and SQL.

IMS Modernization: Scenario Highlight

Now that we’ve covered the “why” of leveraging IMS for today’s newest technologies, I’ll highlight the “what”, in terms of what it looks like. Specifically, when we talk about modernizing IMS, we talk about the data IMS DB, the business logic IMS TM or DC and a handful of modernization scenarios, which can include using:

  1. IMS data via ODBC/JDBC/Web Services
  2. Existing IMS transactions
  3. Conventional IMS transactions
  4. Combinations of both
  5. IMS in conjunction with distributed systems
  6. IMS as a client
As you can see, IMS modernization can take place on many levels, depending on what matches the organization’s needs and its existing mainframe platform. But one thing is clear: IMS is more agile and flexible than most people realize.

The Mainframe Is Here to Stay

IMS isn’t going anywhere. Mobility, web interfaces and cloud platforms are likewise here to stay. As companies look to expand these offerings to keep up with market demand, it’s crucial not to overlook the mainframe. Modernizing IMS is not as daunting as you may think. There’s a reason it remains the system of record for the majority of industry verticals, and the time is now to make the most of this valuable asset.

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

Posted: 10/21/2014 5:12:58 AM by Dusty Rivers

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