Rapid adoption of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is altering the perception and role of the mainframe in modern business computing, making it much more capable of participation in loosely coupled, standards-based, cross-platform environments. To be more competitive and adaptable to change, organizations with enormous investments in legacy mainframe systems are turning to SOA to  provide more infrastructure flexibility with reduced development cycles and lower costs. However, there are right and wrong ways to go about mainframe SOA enablement.

In an ideal SOA implementation, leveraging assets is a bidirectional affair. That is, mainframe strengths—transactional processing and data storage— aren’t merely subsumed into the advantageous characteristics of a standards- based distributed platform, but the distributed platform also partakes in advantageous characteristics associated with the mainframe platform. Traditionally, mainframes’ advantages have included rock-solid stability and reliability, a high degree of security, and unsurpassable horsepower for processing high-volume transactions.

It isn’t uncommon today to find mainframe integration middleware that enables mainframe data sources to be virtually extended to support composite application development or provide SOAP wrappers for mainframe transactions to participate in a SOA. However, there’s a new generation of mainframe middleware emerging that cunningly exploits IBM’s latest System z architecture to provide significant performance enhancements for SOA, while simultaneously reducing hardware usage costs.

According to IBM, the new specialty engines are processors that can help users expand the use of the mainframe for new workloads, while helping lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). The new System z specialty engines are:

• System z9 Integrated Information Processor (zIIP): the zIIP’s execution environment that accepts eligible work from z/OS, which will manage and direct the work between the generalpurpose processor and the zIIP • System z Application Assist Processor (zAAP): specialized processing engines that provide a strategic z/OS Java execution environment • Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL): a processor dedicated to Linux workloads • Internal Coupling Facility (ICF): allows multiple z/OS Logical Partitions (LPArs) to share, cache, update, and balance data access.

This article focuses on the zIIP and zAAP specialty engines and explores the opportunities they provide for mainframe middleware. Unless thoroughly versed in the workings of IBM's System z and its latest advances, enterprise architects developing SOAs may overlook integration middleware that exploits these specialty engines, limiting the full potential for mainframe involvement, and saddling their organizations with less than optimal performance and value.

Evolution: Getting the Most Out of the CPU

Mainframe systems still have a reputation as being expensive; the common tendency is to attribute this to hardware pricing. However, most of us know that, today, it’s mainframe software costs that have the potential to break the bank, with the battle in most mainframe shops being managing the cascade of incremental software charges from their Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) tied to MSU increases. An organization might project doubling its mainframe MSUs in five years only to find the rate of business growth varied from expectations. If they pre-purchased the MSUs to handle projected growth, they’d immediately incur software maintenance charges from all the ISVs.

IBM first attempted to address this aspect of mainframe TCO by designing the means to electronically govern MSU capacity using microcode to “throttle” the actual full processing capacity of a mainframe computer. This approach let IBM sell a customer a CPU that can run at, say, 5,000 MSUs and set it to run at 224. That customer could later purchase upgrades at incremental rates on an asneeded basis as business growth required or budgetary constraints allowed. IBM received additional revenue, and its customers benefited from non-disruptive upgrades that let them keep a tight rein on software charges.

With the new architecture facilities available on the System z platform, IBM has provided another way to improve mainframe TCO. These specialized processing units—the zIIP and zAAP— partly arose out of the realization that certain types of workloads could be more effectively handled outside the General Purpose Processor (GPP). running Java on the mainframe is highly processor-intensive. Having a specialty engine dedicated to this type of workload is strategic to IBM and its ability to reinforce WebSphere, its Javabased enterprise platform suite. In a similar vein, the zIIP specialty engine plays a role in IBM’s DB2 strategy, making it easier, and considerably more cost-effective for data-intensive applications such as Enterprise resource Planning (ErP), Business Intelligence (BI), and Customer relationship Management (CrM) to have portions of their queries directed to the zIIP.

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