IBM Modernizes, Consolidates Enterprise Modernization Tools

Big Blue consolidates Host Access Transformation Server and Host Publisher, offering a more customer-friendly and intelligently packaged solution

Last week, IBM Corp. overhauled its enterprise modernization product stack, consolidating and revamping several existing tools and introducing a new services component in tandem with IBM Global Services (IGS).

The upshot, analysts say, is a new offering—Host Access Transformation Server 5.0—which is more customer-friendly (not to mention more intelligently packaged), but which could nevertheless be improved.

Last September, Big Blue introduced HATS 4.0, a new rules-based product designed to quickly facilitate access to host applications by means of a Web browser (http://www.esj.com/news/article.asp?editorialsId=285). At the time, HATS was billed as a turnkey complement to Host Publisher, which—although more configurable—is not a rapid legacy application integration tool.

Last week, IBM announced that it had taken the logical step of consolidating HATS and Host Publisher into the new HATS 5.0 release. “This is accomplishing a couple of things: integrating HATS 4.0 and Host Publisher, putting in place a more comprehensive offering … so your options for taking a host application and externalizing it are more complete,” notes Mark Heid, program director for enterprise modernization at the company.

IBM positions HATS as a tool for enterprise environments that aren’t rich in IT talent—or that can’t spare valuable IT resources—but which want to expose traditional green screen host applications in new-fangled interfaces. HATS applies presentation rules to green screens as they are encountered in a 3270 or 5250 data flow, and can also skip through some green screens programmatically, bypassing extraneous screens. It also allows an organization to customize the presentation logic of host data by inserting corporate banners or other information into a flow. Finally, systems programmers can use HATS to consolidate several application green screens into a single Web view.

Now that the HATS and Host Publisher tools have been combined into a single product, says Heid, enterprise customers have a one-stop shop for their legacy application modernization needs. “If you’re buying HATS 5.0, you can set it up and install it, [and] within two hours you can provide the rules-based technology to the green screens and automatically convert them,” he explains. “And now you can also have the host publisher functions brought in and made available, so you can continue on from the customization scenario and begin to integrate other host back-ends and reconstitute how the data is shown.”

According to Mark Vanston, a program director with research firm META Group, this is a sound marketing move and should also benefit IBM’s customers.

“These products [HATS and Host Publisher] are pretty good and they do what they say, but the reality is that Host Publisher just didn’t get the response that IBM hoped. So in terms of value, from a marketing perspective, it’s good,” he observes. At the same time, Vanston notes, IBM isn’t introducing a great number of new features or functionality in the consolidated HATS 5.0: “In terms of added functionality and added benefit, things are pretty much the same as they were.”

Also last week, Big Blue introduced a bundle of new legacy host access tools. Included were version 4.0 of Host Access Client Package (which provides secure access to applications and data via a Java-enabled Web-browser) and version 3.1 of WebSphere Studio Asset Analyzer, which makes it possible for IT personnel perform impact analysis of, build connectors to, and better understand legacy applications and their interrelationships. Big Blue also unveiled version 2.1 of WebSphere Studio Application Monitor, which it describes as a tool to help customers find and correct defects in composite applications spanning WebSphere and CICS systems.

Not surprisingly—at least, for a company that derives almost half of its operating revenue from services—last week’s enterprise modernization announcements had an IGS angle to them as well. IBM announced new “Legacy Transformation Services” (LTS) and “Application Portfolio Management Services.” LTS proposes to help customers deal with what IGS director Kathy Hansan calls spaghetti code: Heavily customized software code that cost companies big bucks—up to 70 cents of each IT dollar in a company’s software application budget—to manage and maintain.

Hansan says that a lot of Legacy Transformation Services practices and methods were developed internally by IBM Research, and that Big Blue itself has already practiced what it’s now preaching. “With IBM, we had 25,000 applications, but using a lot of the techniques and methods that we’ve incorporated [from IBM Research] into this [IGS] practice, IBM took their portfolio of 25,000 applications down to about 5,000 applications,” she explains.

With Application Portfolio Management Services, Hansan says, IGS proposes to take over the actual management of an enterprise’s legacy application infrastructure for it. “We’re seeing a lot of customers do that. This way they can hand over the management of some of these selective applications and get anywhere from 40 to 60 percent savings from IGS in terms of taking over the management. Then they use those dollars to incrementally invest in modernizing,” she says, noting that the “40 to 60 percent savings” figure is not an assurance or a guarantee, but more of a “benchmark."

For his part, META Group’s Vanston says IBM’s host integration and transformation offerings are “certainly best of breed or definitely as good as any other single product out there.” At the same time, however, Vanston says that IBM will undoubtedly further improve these products over the next two years: “A more important iteration is going to be in the next 18 to 24 months, when they finally produce more of a componentized approach to doing integration. They’re going to start selling a more modular approach where you can buy just the [components] that you need.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.