When most people hear mainframe they think of massive refrigerator-sized boxes sitting in some laser-guarded underground vault, lying in wait for Tom Cruise to rappel down the ventilation shaft and hack its coveted data. IBM’s enterprise customers who are actually using the IBM System z platform, however, understand the complete fallacy of such Tom-foolery (granted though, they can get rather hefty, and it does make for a sweet action sequence).
In contrast, when most people hear mobile they think of snazzy new smartphones, tablets, watches, glasses and any other hip gadgets or gizmos for conveniently accessing information and media. Mobile has become the cultural standard for consumers and employees alike to exchange content with their favorite social networks and businesses.
What common ground could these two platforms possibly have? Much more than meets the LED-strained eye, my friend. IBM has labored over the years to not only revitalize the System z platform from its archaic image but also to enhance its (already impressive) underpinnings to effectively host and manage the latest cloud, analytics, big data and mobile platforms.
Specifically, I would like to demonstrate how we can take an old 3270 (green-screen) application running on System z and transform it to be accessible from mobile devices by using IBM enterprise modernization solutions. For this example we will take a basic Customer Information Control System (CICS) transaction called EGUI (or CICS Catalog Manager) that is shipped with IBM CICS Transaction Server and give our users a new mobile interface to use. There is no source code we need to change on the original application, and it can then be accessed from multiple interfaces, based on the preference of the user. (But who wouldn’t want to use the fancy new mobile version?)
Here’s the high-level steps overview:
1. Build, test and deploy web services for the host application.
- We need some way to access the application and data from outside the standard 3270 interface. Web services play a key role in this area.
- In this case, we’re using a CICS transaction as an example so we will enable CICS web services using the development/test/debug tool IBM Rational Developer for System z (RDz).
- With RDz we can use a set of graphical wizard-guided steps to build, test and deploy the web services for this transaction in the CICS region. We can also edit the application’s COBOL source code with a modern graphical interface and enhanced development.
- This can similarly be done for Information Management System (IMS) applications.
2. Build, test and deploy mobile application front end.
- Since we’re talking about mobile transformation, naturally we will need a mobile interface for our users to interact with. We built this mobile application using IBM Worklight, which gives us the ability to write hybrid applications (standard web code housed in a native application shell) that works cross-platform.
- With IBM Worklight we can (and do, in this case) add native mobile device feature capabilities like using a camera, GPS, compass and so on to allow users to further enhance their experience with the business application—and the business, in turn, can use this data for better customizing the user experience.
3. Connect the host and mobile applications.
- We need some way to tap into the host CICS application through the web services we enabled. We used the built-in HTTP Worklight adapter to connect to our host mainframe environment by plugging in the host address, port number and path to the application being hosted on a live System z environment (used for demonstrations).
And voila! We have a jazzy new mobile interface that can do everything the old green-screen version could and much, much more.
For a detailed write-up including all the nitty-gritty details on how we did it, see this developerWorks article authored by my esteemed colleague and mentor, Regi Barosa, who has extensive experience in the enterprise modernization arena.
Also, here is the YouTube video of Regi walking through the process step-by-step: Mobilize the Mainframe walkthrough. Pardon his Boston accent, as he would say!
Finally, here is a video I recorded specifically focused on the interface transformation from green-screen to mobile: Mainframe to mobile transformation.
For more on the beautiful coupling between IBM System z and mobility, read here.
Please comment below with your thoughts, questions and how you can see this working within your own organization!