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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Systems of Record and Systems of Engagement

As the mainframe moves into its 50th year and its 'death' predictions fade into folklore then the role of the mainframe evolves. A lexicon I have heard that perfectly describes the mainframe in 2013 is the System of Record. This is opposed to Systems of Engagement whose role is to provide access.

This Forbes article expands on the terms:

Increasingly CIO's have to focus development effort on getting apps out to the marketplace; be that the internal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) driven internal customer of the IT department or external customers. Whilst this form of development is becoming 'table stakes' rather than optional, the challenges this type of 24x7x365 access creates for back end systems cannot be over exaggerated.  Let me expand. I met with a client last week who has their back-end logistics and stock management systems running on the mainframe, and whilst this is the crown jewels of their IT operation and is continually being developed they face key architectural challenges moving forward into a world of increased access.  Their requirement is for customers and internal users to access the back-end systems via mobile apps.  Whilst this on the surface sounds simple, just develop and app and hook it up to the mainframe right!! The reality is somewhat different, the back end data is in a system which is batch orientated and is brought down between 4-5 days a year for application maintenance and also is not tuned for random SQl queries at any time of the day...

So as you can see how you architect mainframe systems to handle these new systems of engagement is key.  Also don't let this challenge be met with the standard - just ETL it off the mainframe and do it there - as this approach also has its challenges:

  • Data currency
  • Managing and Backing up yet another system
  • Often ETL load is as bad as keeping the system on the mainframe
  • Multiple copies of data to manage

So lets look at technologies that may be able to help:

  • Running the app serving and web layer as close to the data as possible, i.e. on a Linux partition on the mainframe.
  • Accelerate and optimise the DB2 query using the DB2 Analytics Accelerator
  • Re-architecting your IMS and DB2 databases to facilitate better 24x7 access
  • Leverage the web services layer in CICS

If you need more help get in touch via Twitter - @StevenDickens3, but don't let mobile apps that access mainframe data become just another distributed platform, engage the brave new world...

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