The Mainframe Isn’t Dead, but It Still Needs Protection

IMS applications: how to make the mainframe and the web dialog in real time?

Operating as a transactional system and a hierarchical database, the IMS platform has been chosen by many companies to host numerous strategic applications and data. Running on System z mainframes, IMS applications have worked for a long time in a vacuum, albeit at the heart of IT systems, and have rarely needed to interact with external systems… But things are different now.

When IMS applications master the web

Along with the development of web services, Cloud-hosted solutions and mobile applications, IMS systems are led to communicate more and more often with different environments. Indeed, as a result of their dual applicative-platform-and-database role, IMS applications are both consumers and producers of data and services.

Recently enough, external applications were “calling” IMS through incoming web services in one-way exchanges. In these models, where communications were managed by external systems, the evolution of IMS applications remained frozen.

Scripts in need of a two-way integration

Today, more and more companies consider upgrading their mainframe to exploit new technologies, resulting in new communication paradigms based on a two-way integration. These developments have challenged IMS applications, as they now may need to recover some data stocked in CRM or HR tools hosted in the Cloud. To meet these new demands, we need a more sophisticated integration between mainframe and web environments, like converting web data in ASCII format in order to integrate them into IMS.

Since the ICAL function (IMS call, for IMS V.10 and beyond) and the TCP/IP IMS Connect gateway were implemented, IMS applications can now accept internal and external calls in synchronous mode.

New solutions to simplify integration between mainframe and web environments

Running on the mainframe, these solutions help smooth out issues related to the development of outgoing web services (XML, HTML, etc.), managing all the dialogue constraints (network calls, failure management, data conversion, clear parallels, etc.). From the IMS side, the web services’ external call is seen as a simple ICAL function. In turn, the transiting data can be manipulated in the application’s original language, which greatly simplifies the task for the developers: they simply need to describe the calling service and set the associated script. The solution then takes care of the entire process. The integration is thereby accelerated and maintenance is lightened.

Thanks to these solutions, companies can now make their IMS applications communicate with the web without any need of a thorough expertise of various protocols and formats. IT teams can now concentrate on developing new services based on this two-way mainframe-web integration in order to exploit the full potential of both worlds.