This blog post is contributed by Bruce Armstrong, an IBM Portfolio Manager in Software Group for Application Infrastructure Middleware working on all aspects of mobile and System z.
There is one driving force behind mobile access to the mainframe using the z/OS operating system—it makes good business sense. You likely have millions of dollars and years of time invested in your company’s mainframe. It may store your customers’ names, addresses and transaction history, and it likely stores critical information about your company such as prices, schedules and inventory. Leveraging this data in your mobile applications enriches the customer experience and can provide your company unique differentiation to your customers. This data can also enhance the productivity of your mobile employees by giving them key information while they are on the go.
Several options exist today for mobile-to-mainframe communication. In this blog post, I will focus on one of the newest options, called z/OS Connect.
z/OS Connect is not a separate product. It is a software component that is downloadable as part of IBM WebSphere Application Server 8.5 for z/OS (WAS 8.5) and will be shipping with IBM CICS Transaction Server for z/OS 5.2 (CICS 5.2), and the IBM IMS Enterprise Suite for z/OS 3.1.1. The inclusion of z/OS Connect with these other products provides you with implementation consistency regardless of your environment.
z/OS Connect provides a RESTful (that is, Representational State Transfer technology) interface to traditional z/OS environments, thus allowing integration with mobile applications.
So what makes z/OS Connect special and valuable to your enterprise?
Standards-based access to the mainframe
z/OS Connect hides the complexities of connecting and interacting with z/OS applications and data, thereby reducing development time and cost. It makes the mainframe appear just like any other server in the network to the mobile application developer.
Integration with z/OS services
The mainframe has existing management functions for accounting, security and workload management. For example, many company accounting processes are based on z/OS System Management Facility (SMF). z/OS Connect supports the creation of data in this SMF format. z/OS Connect also leverages mainframe security access control and participates in the mainframe workload management process to maximize performance and throughput of mobile processing.
RESTful interfaces by their nature provide a mechanism to discover what application services are available for use. z/OS Connect supports this discovery capability but can also limit what mainframe services are exposed to the mobile world. This provides the flexibility to offer mobile access to some and limit access to others.
Fast and easy setup
z/OS Connect is based on the WebSphere Application Server Liberty Profile, which is a lightweight application server environment that is easy to install and configure.
To see an overview of z/OS Connect, please check out this z/OS Connect YouTube video and find more details here.
Some notes on using z/OS Connect
It is worth noting that your company needs to consider access security to your mainframe before you implement z/OS Connect. There are many ways to control access to mainframe-based applications. You might first use a firewall to control access to your enterprise and then a first layer of security checking (commonly called a DMZ, which is a firewall configuration for securing local area networks) that minimizes risk to your enterprise. z/OS Connect security is not a replacement for these common security practices.
Also, message transformation can occur at various stages in an enterprise environment. z/OS Connect is one option for JSON data formats. It has the advantage of using the mainframe processing power (and since it is written in Java, it leverages the mainframe special processors for Java workloads).
CICS clients please note: z/OS Connect uses the same underlying technology as CICS TS V5.2 and the previous Mobile Feature Pack, so think of z/OS Connect as the next step to what you may have today but now available for WAS and IMS environments.
So z/OS Connect is a new way to integrate your mainframe applications and data into your mobile applications. It is easy to configure and brings together various environments into a manageable, modern interface suitable for mobile applications. Consider using z/OS Connect in your mainframe environment with CICS 5.2, IMS Enterprise Suite 3.1.1 or WAS 8.5 and get your company “mobilized.”
Do you have other questions about z/OS Connect? Leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter @BarmstroN.