SOA is going to need mainframe skills and disciplines

One of my tenets on SOA is: "Screw the S, screw the O, its about Architecture."

The mainframe's shared resource model means it is naturally somewhat service oriented. Shared resources, shared services... same difference. Of course most mainframe apps weren't constructed with flexibility in mind, but that doesn't mean they aren't going to play a huge role in SOA deployments at the great majority of Fortune 500 firms.

What does this mean? SOA is a huge opportunity for people with experience of developing to, and running, large scale data center environments. That means the zEcosystem. Sure you'll need to learn some new jargon, and rethink a few things, but that's why its called an opportunity, rather than a certainty.

Joe McKendrick over at ZDNet is writing a blog on service oriented architecture that any mainframe-savvy architect should be reading, because Joe understands that SOA involves governance, and tensions between different takes on the subject, and brings these tensions out in his blog.

The last few years have not been about SOA, but JBOWS (just a bunch of web services). The distributed folks may have standardised the interfaces, but they haven't yet stepped up to the plate on quality of service, governance and architectural discipline.

In Joe's latest piece, a rundown of a SOA Insitute event, he argues: "The same deliberate methodologies and processes that go into managing mission-critical mainframe or data center applications need to be applied to SOA".

It does sound like an opportunity doesn't it?

Its always good to disagree with your competitors in public so I let me take this opportunity to push back against Ron Schmelzer at ZapThink. According to McKendrick he said: "Focus on the smallest problem you can and apply the SOA approach."

Focus is good but I disagree with the reductionism- in my opinion that is the way to create "lunchbox services" (see the article), not SOA. How granular to make the service is an absolutely key question, which imho can't be reduced to make it small. Make the granularity of the service and you may end up doing something stupid, illustrated by this great story from Service Oriented Enterprise.

SOA requires discipline and architectural rationalisation, with some data and process modeling, and certainly with some knocking together of heads, both internal and external. Don't take my word for it - check out this case study from Sprint. Ed Vasquez, leading Sprint's SOA efforts, is a great guy, very helpful, with plenty of experience of the macro-issues in SOA governance. I quote from the Infoworld article here: One of the nice things about SOA adoption is that adoption, implementation, and deployments can be incremental as long as you keep your eye on the bigger picture.”

Vendors in the mix at Sprint include Attachmate, GT Software and Infravio. But Ed's SOA governance approach is more important than any software. 

The granularity of mainframe services being orchestrated and managed is a gating factor for success in SOA. That is why people with mainframe skills should be thinking about it.

Its about architecture, right, and who understands that best but those with mainframe experience?

So how about a call to action to close, after my little bomb the other day: It would be interesting to see IBM create a zSeries SOA forum, comprised of a number of mainframe integration and performance management vendors, and ideally customer architects too.

by James Governor November 4, 2005 in Future


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference SOA is going to need mainframe skills and disciplines:

» On Adobe, SOA D'OH! and Several Things To Fire An Architect For from James Governor's MonkChips
The Redmonkers are big fans of Adobe's Duane Nickull and his "cosmic genius", so its pleasing to know that he has finally joined the conversation, here. [For those of you that don't know already,Adobe also has some pretty nifty developer... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 7, 2005 12:07:45 PM


I just blogged about how there are "S" people and "A" people, and that there's a greater need for some "A" people...

Posted by: Miko Matsumura | Nov 4, 2005 10:24:42 AM

The secret of SOA is that in order to really reap the promised business benefits the architecture must be established at the enterprise level – not by individual business units – and backed by a disciplined system of governance. You’ve exposed this secret and rightly identified the mainframe ecosystem as a great opportunity for the efficient hosting of SOA infrastructure.

Of course I’m biased since I’ve been working on mainframe software for IBM 21 years now, but in my current position as the zSeries / z9 brand strategist for on demand business integration I’ve had plenty of opportunities to talk about SOA with clients. Too many organizations tend to approach SOA by picking off a small piece of their business to evaluate for SOA outside the context of the needs of the organization as a whole. They take one J2EE application, benchmark it on a few systems, and deploy wherever they get the best price/performance. They do the same for the next app, and so on, until in the end they have an unmanageable, ungovernable and expensive mess.

Then there’s the example of a client I spoke with a few weeks ago. They have taken an enterprise view towards SOA and look at deployment across their entire set of business processes. Their z9-based WebSphere infrastructure has all the appropriate controls and governance in place to support SOA for the enterprise. In addition to providing the discipline required they find that the mainframe is an economical choice due to its ability to share resources across a diverse set of applications. And the infrastructure is totally flexible: they can provide a new hosting environment (complete with controls and governance, full 24x7x365 availability and support) to any business unit within 48 hrs.

Alex Cullen of Forrester put out a short paper pointing out that “To be effective, the IT organization must develop an orientation around end-to-end business processes ... the IT organizational structure itself should change to ... deliver service-oriented IT (SO-IT).” (SOA Will Change How IT Works, by Alex Cullen with Laurie M. Orlov, Forrester Trends, May 31, 2005). The technology to build out an SOA hosting infrastructure on z is there; the zEcosystem is there. When an organization takes an enterprise view of SOA the role that the mainframe can play in this space becomes very clear.

Posted by: Paul DiMarzio | Nov 15, 2005 12:01:51 PM

James, I don't think anyone reading this site is going to argue that mainframe shops are well equipped with a long history of very sophisticated “governance” procedures that will lend themselves directly in the application of SOA. The importance of governance and SOA success is documented now in many, many analysts’ musings on SOA.

While SOA is merely an evolution of best practices, most of which were forged on mainframe metal; I am not as quick to dismiss the importance of services or service orientation, however. The discipline of decomposing monolithic applications into well-defined, loosely-coupled, coarse-grained services connected by open interoperable protocols is in fact a very important aspect of SOA for us mainframe folks; whether that decomposition come in the form of a service façade or reengineered implementation.

Service orientation allows us vendors to build products that can understand both interface definitions and semantics, regardless of the underlying service implementation technology, whether that be .NET, COBOL DLL, EJB, or SCA. This will allow sophisticated visual composition tooling, common monitoring plug-points, a common understanding of the service topology of a completely heterogeneous SOA.

While I think I would also disagree with the specific words “focus with the smallest problem you can” you quote in your blog entry, I would say that for some slower, very conservative shops, having a small proof of concept success which demonstrates a reasonable return on investment while demonstrating SOA values is key to making the next step in SOA adoption. Here are 5 ideas that may fit the bill:

I heartily agree with you however on the importance of the architecture, as it has always been important – SOA does not change that; however I think the focus moves towards building a real synergy between the business and IT which is different from past initiatives.

Being an architect in IBM’s SOA Foundation, and a 17-year mainframe veteran, I would like nothing more than to see our customer’s SOA initiatives thrive on the mainframe. I will also take a look at what can be done about hosting a SOA forum where customers and IBMers alike can banter back and forth about the hype and reality.

Posted by: Steve Kinder | Jan 25, 2006 10:38:38 PM

As posted by James Governor on this thread. The Founders of "Infravio" are currently the CEO and CTO for Photon Infotech. So if you need any assistance we can get the same done for you.

Posted by: Ritwik Bose | Jan 11, 2008 12:30:19 PM

We have enormous expertise in SOA and web services. We provide technology solutions for 3-tier Web application development, Transactional e-Business applications and SOA solutions based on XML technologies.

To give you an overview we floated a company out of Photon called as Infravio, which offered the SOA governance framework where we wrote the playbooks for the several emerging standards in the SOA space.

The flagship UDDI based SOA registry repository product was ranked the best web services registry in the world by several thirty party press and analysts such as InfoWorld.

We sold the company to a NASDAQ listed company for 40 MN $ in cash. Out of the three companies in the world that specialized in SOA and that made money we are one of them.

The CEO and CTO of Infravio are currently the CEO and the CTO of Photon and the key team executives of Infravio are with us. We know SOA business like the back of our hand and Photon is currently doing several projects in high end SOA consulting with few F500 companies.

Feel free to let us know if any need arises

Posted by: Ritwik Bose | Jan 11, 2008 12:48:44 PM


Posted by: ISHMAel back | Feb 20, 2008 5:06:44 AM

Ø I found out that SOA or service oriented architecture (if I’m not mistaken) is a methodology for systems development and integration. It also describes IT infrastructure, which allows different applications to exchange data with one another as they participate in business processes. Their concepts are often seen as built upon, and evolving from older concepts of distributed computing and modular programming. The aim of SOA is a loose coupling of services that uses operating systems (OS), programming languages and other technologies that underlie applications. This information’s are according to my research.

Posted by: David | Sep 13, 2008 5:02:51 AM

Software-only solutions use ISDN messaging, or a CTI link to provide call progress analysis for calls made. . . .

Posted by: virtual call center | Jul 10, 2009 7:45:00 AM

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

Posted by: Tourism Dissertation | Jan 8, 2010 2:33:39 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

The postings on this site are our own and don’t necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of our employers.
© Copyright 2005 the respective authors of the Mainframe Weblog.