When all the hype surrounding on-demand computing and Service- Oriented Architectures (SOAs), it would be easy to believe most large businesses have tight, secure integration across their IT infrastructure. In truth, application integration remains a moving target in most enterprises, and most IT departments still lack a solid, reliable backbone to help them reduce the complexity of application integration.

It’s easy to see how this complexity emerged. The sheer diversity of hardware platforms, databases, and software packages in use in the average enterprise has inevitably led to information “silos,” while mergers and acquisitions have forced IT departments to cope with an increasingly heterogeneous infrastructure. The problem is that so many integration solutions are homegrown, designed in-house and built using components that lack sufficient technical resilience. According to research by IT analyst Software Strategies, such solutions take between two and four times the effort to build as those supported by mature middleware products—and the resulting code is invariably more fragile.

Seamless application integration is no longer required simply to improve system performance or to streamline service delivery. The need to comply with regulations—such as Sarbanes- Oxley, Basel II, the Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), International Safety Rating System (ISRS), and the COBIT Act—is placing intense pressure on IT departments to consistently track business processes end-to-end, to guarantee the integrity and security of data exchanges and transactions as they pass through multiple IT environments in the enterprise and between partners. That’s why middleware that supports this flow of information between dissimilar applications and databases needs to exhibit the highest levels of security and manageability.

The Problem With SOA Integration

For the large enterprise, SOA provides much in terms of application responsiveness and flexibility. Unencumbered by the heavyweight interfaces of established strategic IT systems, Web-based services offer a way of combining a large range of functional components, on the fly, to address specific needs as they arise. These standardized services, built around technologies such as Microsoft .NET, SOAP and Java Messaging Service (JMS), complement and enhance the traditional enterprise applications with which they interoperate. The problem is that, for services to remain flexible and lightweight, they can’t themselves embody the highly resilient and secure routing capabilities that we have come to expect in a top-tier IT infrastructure. The connectivity between existing applications and new services needs to be provided by the underlying middleware backbone, and needs to offer a simple, secure and highly resilient method of exchanging messages between all the enterprise’s IT assets.

WebSphere MQ: From the Mainframe Down

For years in the mainframe world, we’ve come to expect this level of middleware sophistication (a level rarely seen on other platforms); when building a backbone for application integration that crosses multiple operating system boundaries, it’s essential to retain the characteristics of mainframe manageability.

IBM’s WebSphere MQ family provides a strong solution for connecting diverse enterprise resources. Since its debut in 1993, WebSphere MQ has provided an asynchronous messaging mechanism for loosely coupling a vast range of application types where delivery of dispatched messages is guaranteed by the backbone—once and once only. Although there are versions available for numerous platforms, WebSphere MQ for z/OS is the flagship of the range. WebSphere MQ for z/OS plugs into MQ networks that support more than 40 platforms in more than 80 platform configurations.

WebSphere MQ offers a mature, resilient backbone for Web Services, supporting SOAP requests to connect Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and Microsoft .NET applications. Unlike many of the standards for supporting Web-oriented traffic, however, WebSphere MQ provides functionality and manageability that specifically address mainframe user needs.

WebSphere MQ has always been closely integrated with CICS, IMS, and batch services, but at the Version 6.0 level IMS/CICS connectivity functions have been greatly enhanced. It’s now possible to use WebSphere MQ bridges to give CICS/IMS access to messages from other z/OS regions and other non-z/OS platforms, bypassing the CICS/IMS Application Program Interfaces (APIs) (see Figure 1). WebSphere MQ for z/OS also brings some significant availability and performance benefits, including shared queue support, automated load balancing and isolation of server failures with automatic peer recovery of failing queue managers.

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