CA Solution Targets COBOL Application Performance

If your COBOL application isn't broken, it probably hasn't been Web-enabled.

Sometimes mainframe applications aren't as robust as you might think.

That's to be expected. After all, the same application that's operated for years -- perhaps decades -- without so much as a hiccough could become less cooperative (or more hiccup-y) when bent to a new purpose. This is particularly true when shops undertake to expose older COBOL applications to the Web. Apps can start to stutter or break down once they're expected to run continuously (instead of in prescribed batch windows) or once thousands -- or even tens of thousands -- of users are hammering away at them.

That's one reason CA Technologies Inc. has such high expectations for Mainframe Application Tuner, a new application that consolidates a pair of third-party offerings: TRILOGexpert TriTune and TRILOGexpert APC, both of which are developed by ASG Software Solutions. CA says it's signed a (non-exclusive) agreement to develop, market, and support both products.

This isn't just a re-bundling and rebadging, either, insists Mark Combs, distinguished senior vice president and general manager of mainframe products with CA. For one thing, he points out, Mainframe Application Tuner brings both products fully into CA's Mainframe Software Manager (MSM) ecosystem.

"There's the integration with MSM, which means [Mainframe Application Tuner is] installable and configurable from within MSM, but also there's integration with our other products in this area. We're delivering integration with [CA] Endevor, InterTest, and SysView, our real-time performance monitor," he explains. "So if you do identify ... an issue, it's very easy to move directly into performance analysis and debugging.

"On a pragmatic level, the set of tools that somebody uses to manage these [mainframe] applications goes all the way from source management [Endevor] to creating the product and testing it [InterTest] to keeping track of problems that occur and capture error information."

Is application performance really a problem in mainframe environments -- and with COBOL applications -- that have been running for decades? If anything, says Combs, it's a more pressing problem than ever.

COBOL apps aren't going away, and almost every mainframe shop is undertaking to expose COBOL applications running on the mainframe to Web applications running in non-mainframe environments. The upshot, he says, is that otherwise well-mannered applications can break.

"This isn't a rare occurrence at all. COBOL continues and there's such a gigantic amount of it that it's never going to go away in our lifetime," Combs argues.

"When someone writes an original COBOL program, inevitably they had in mind how it was going to be used, then as it got tuned for production, it would be tuned around that use case. However, what used to be a sequential process that happened over the course of 20 or 30 minutes on a single night, or was a process driven through CICS -- so you could predict the pattern [of how it would be used] -- now if you take that and expose that through a Web interface, it's being driven in a different fashion, and you're throwing more users at it."

It isn't just applications, either. "It's also in the database part," Combs continues. "You get database constructs that work fine when you're doing them in a certain way, but when you start driving them concurrently with hundreds of thousands of users, you get some behaviors that you didn't expect or that you couldn't predict."

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