“Packing” tips for your next mobile application adventure

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Mobile applications, the mainframe and what to pack

When I was younger I took at 10-day hiking trip. I wasn’t an experienced hiker at the time and I packed a number of items I didn’t need. I was also hiking with three similarly inexperienced female hikers. In an effort to impress, I kept offering to help them by carrying more and more of their gear. By the end of the trip my pack was full of items that I didn’t need and that didn’t belong to me. What was fun had become a burden.

When packing for a vacation (or a business trip), you don’t always know exactly what to bring. If it’s a place that you’ve been to many times before you’ll be efficient and streamlined in what you pack. But, if it’s a place you haven’t been to before, there is a good bet you will overpack and still miss some necessities. Since you don’t know what to expect, you may end up with too many pairs of shoes with you or the wrong power conversion plug.

New technical projects are like this too. If it’s a familiar implementation, you are likely to pack everything into the plan that you will need. You’ll know who to hire for the project and which technology is best. With unfamiliar projects, however, it is very hard to be efficient and plan properly at the outset. Integration for mobile services is, for many in the IT world, a trip to a new location or an infrequent place to visit. When these projects are planned there is often overpacking to compensate for the unknowns and important things still get left behind.

This is especially true for mobile implementations when the data to be accessed is coming from legacy systems of record. Those new to this space typically pack in a replication of the data required for the mobile implementation. It can seem simplest to replicate the data and serve it from a new, second location. This is even true with known problems related to increased expense, byzantine maintenance and decreased app responsiveness of data duplication. However, this also includes a greatly underestimated increase in security risk as well.

It’s very difficult to maintain the same levels of security for customer data once it exists outside of the mainframe and mobile developers often don’t realize that they’ll have to extend the security of systems of record out to the mobile device. Those new to building and supporting mobile applications are typically unfamiliar with the APIs developed by IBM that simplify connecting directly to the existing systems of record (like CICS, IMS and DB2) and this causes them to plan inefficiently for their new project.

A direct connection to the systems of record solves several problems for a mobile application implementation. It decreases cost because there is no need to support another separate database, it limits maintenance complexity since there is no need to try to maintain the relevancy of the second set of data and it also makes it easier to support the responsiveness and scalability of the mobile app which will drive a much higher rate of server calls than a desktop (browser) application. Finally, connecting directly to the mainframe SOR data and applications means that data remain secure.

IBM offers a wide variety of options to connect and integrate mainframe systems with new mobile applications. These direct connectivity options include:

  • Message-based connectivity like IBM MQ
  • File-based connectivity like Sterling Connect
  • Standard-based connectivity like web services
  • Custom connectivity options like IBM CICS Transaction Gateway or IBM IMS Connect

The easiest way to connect and integrate with the Mainframe (SOR) is the use of common gateway for REST HTTP. This is called z/OS Connect. It’s offered today in two forms:

1. IBM WebSphere Liberty z/OS Connect
2. IBM z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition

Requests from businesses to create cooler and more personal mobile applications are only going to increase and become more dynamic. IT service providers who can keep up with the complexity and speed of the requests are going to help their enterprises lead in the cognitive era.

In a mobile environment, while there are always going to be new places to visit and new projects to execute, securely connecting directly to the systems of record is a fundamental start to making sure you have what you need, when and where you need it.

Before embarking on your next project make sure you know the best way to take your data with you. Designed specifically to provide support for mobile applications and integration on z Systems, you can get more information on the Centers for Competency by visiting us here.

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