New Version of WebSphere Brings Tools to the Mainframe

CICS-to-Web-services Wizard

At its developerWorks Live! conference in San Francisco, IBM Corp. introduced version 5 of its WebSphere application server. The server includes tools for easily exposing mainframe applications and information as Web services.

IBM is promoting the new concept of "enterprise modernization"—updating time-tested systems and applications for the cutting edge of enterprise computing. Because so many enterprises have core applications running on classic platforms like the mainframe, many business will need to open these systems up to new technologies before enterprises will begin to deploy Web services and other new technology.

A core component of the enterprise modernization strategy is the Workflow Manager incorporated into the latest version of WebSphere. Workflow Manager is a graphical tool for setting up processes between a legacy application, WebSphere, and, perhaps, a Web service.

"It provides a number of extensions into z/OS to configure, build, and deploy sophisticated application workflows into legacy applications," says Stefan Van Overtveldt, director of technical marketing, IBM WebSphere. Van Overtveldt says the tool creates interfaces for CICS transactions that allow WebSphere to run an application then take the data and move it back out to users, a Web page or a Web service.

While this process may have taken a lot of developer work in the past, the graphical tool allows for point-and-click creation of workflows. Although some developer tools could be used by business analysts, Overtveldt says users will still need a high degree of familiarity with CICS, IMS, and other aspects of the mainframe in order to use the tool.

Version 5 of WebSphere is also the first version of the application server to truly support Web services. While there was limited functionality in version 4.1, this is the first version to be architected around Web services.

One new Web services feature IBM is particularly fond of talking about is its ability to create UDDI registries for internal deployment. The application server can create a list of all the Web services within an organization, so developers can harness them.

Van Overtveldt says Web services inside the firewall will be the point of entry for most enterprises. "The vast majority of Web services implementations we've seen are internal or in VPN-style configurations," he says. Most enterprises are waiting for more solid security standards before they're willing to open the applications to the general Internet.

Finally, WebSphere version 5 offers greater flexibility in deployment. Users can select which packages they want to install on their system and only pay for what they use. If more functionality is needed, they can pay for the package and install it.

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.