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SOLA update gives COBOL apps more Web services features

Service-Oriented Legacy Architecture (SOLA) -- designed to bring mainframe legacy applications into the Web services world -- received an update from SOA Software. The company has added the ability to conform to virtually any set of Web services standards.

SOA Software Inc. announced the latest update of its Service-Oriented Legacy Architecture (SOLA) product at today's opening of the SHARE Inc. IBM user conference in Baltimore.

Most large companies are struggling with the way to bridge the gap between their databases and applications sitting on legacy mainframe systems and their customer and employee-facing systems.
Ron Schmelzer
Senior AnalystZapThink LLC

Designed for "publishing existing mainframe applications as Web services," SOLA 5.1 is aimed at the estimated more than 400 members of the Fortune 500 still running major business applications on mainframes, said James Crew, vice president for the SOLA product.

SOLA is "built for the large enterprise," he said, and it aims to bridge the gap between COBOL programs accessing old flat file databases dating back to the 1970s. Fortune 500 companies have billions of dollars invested in those applications and are seeking a way to bring them into the 21st Century SOA world without rewriting them. While the programs may seem like ancient history to today's Java and C coders, the applications have been running in more or less bulletproof fashion for decades and companies are loath to discard them. That's where SOLA, originally developed by one such company, Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., comes in, Crew said

"Enterprises can publish their mainframe applications into a service-oriented architecture using SOLA," the SOA Software executive explained. He said Merrill estimates that it has save $45 million during the past three years by employing SOLA.

Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, agrees that SOLA fills a need for enterprises where the mainframe is still not dead.

"Most large companies are struggling with the way to bridge the gap between their databases and applications sitting on legacy mainframe systems and their customer and employee-facing systems," Schmelzer said. The analyst said SOLA, which is field proven in three years of deployment at Merrill, bridges that gap. It moves legacy programs into SOA implementation quickly without rewriting applications, and without requiring investment in new hardware, software, or middleware, he added.

Flexibility to fit into a company's enterprise architecture standards is the main focus of the latest SOLA release from SOA Software, which acquired the product from Merrill last September, Crew said. Crew worked on SOLA at the financial company prior to the acquisition.

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"What we saw originally when we first started doing this was that customers were building Web services and then sort of throwing them on the network," Crew recalled. "As the Web services market matures, what we're seeing is that people are starting corporate-wide projects and coming up with standards and definitions of how Web services should work in a service-oriented architecture across the enterprise. They come up with architectural standards, and that work is going to be done first. Then what they're going to try to do is get all of their Web services to conform to those standards. What we've added to the product is the ability to conform to virtually any set of standards."

Other features in the new version of SOLA include the following:

  • Support for a global dictionary for translation of COBOL field names -- centralizes translation services minimizing duplication of effort for developers
  • WSDL first development -- allows developers to create services that comply with an existing WSDL as well as create a service from scratch that generates its own definition
  • LDAP support for development site authorization and authentication -- provides single login services for developers, reducing maintenance cost and complexity
  • Publishing services to an external UDDI 3.0 registry -- ensures that services exposed by SOLA are visible and useable within the enterprise
  • Outbound services support for SSL and proxy -- ensure that SOLA can consume external services that are protected using SSL and proxy services
  • Published customization APIs -- allows developers to add capabilities beyond the SOLA's current feature set.

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