IBM's Integration Machine

What does IBM's "enterprise modernization" push mean to the vendor's huge base of mainframe, midrange and large Unix sites?

Mention the phrase "enterprise modernization" and you might think of cars with long tail fins. The phrase is IBM's latest way of describing its tools and services for redeploying legacy applications into new e-business-type environments. Recently I talked with IBM executives about the meaning of modernization at IBM and its implications to the vendor's huge base of mainframe, midrange and large Unix sites.

Modernization can occur on many levels, says David Chew, director of WebSphere enterprise transactions systems at IBM. In its simplest form, Web-to-host integration is the conversion of 3270 or 5250 data streams to a browser display, he explains. Such capability is offered through WebSphere Host on Demand. WebSphere Host Publisher supports advanced GUI development. "As you go into more advanced forms of modernization, you get into ‘componentizing' your legacy assets [that] you want to bring forward into an e-business application."

IBM's vehicle for making this all happen, of course, is WebSphere. The next release of WebSphere Application Server, Version 5, is scheduled for release any day now, and has more extensive support for Web services standards. Just about every IBM product that deals with connectivity—including Host on Demand, MQSeries and Portal—now bears the brand, which runs on every IBM platform. WebSphere for the mainframe, for example, connects to back-end systems such as CICS, IMS and DB2 databases.

Of course, WebSphere isn't the only application server environment available on the market, nor the only one that supports mainframes. BEA's WebLogic is considered a highly scalable environment and incorporates mainframe-centric technologies from BEA Tuxedo. IBM's huge base of big iron, midrange, and Unix shops will likely give WebSphere a competitive boost in the large datacenter space for some time to come.

Recent market figures (being trumpeted by IBM, of course) show WebSphere performing impressively against its J2EE- compliant competitors, BEA Systems' WebLogic, Oracle's Application Server, and even Microsoft's various .NET initiatives (depending, of course, on how you categorize the data). A survey from AMR Research puts IBM's market share for this product category ahead of BEA, 31 percent to 28 percent.

IDC, which also closely tracks such numbers, says the gap between BEA and IBM has narrowed significantly.

Clearly, it's to IBM's advantage for customers to redeploy large systems through WebSphere. Can Big Blue deliver such a massive change? "We envision a world in the not-too-distant future that's very component-oriented," says Chew. "You'll be able to take a COBOL module and Java business logic, and bring together e-business applications with both your legacy assets and new assets. We think that's going to create a very return-on-investment-rich environment for e-business applications, particularly for enterprise accounts that have heavy mission-critical applications already on legacy systems."

This grand strategy, if it works, will provide new life to legacy applications for years to come, sparing companies from massive code rewrites or migrations.

About the Author

Joseph McKendrick is an independent consultant and author, specializing in surveys, technology research, and white papers.