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SOA vs. mainframe: Oracle, HP and Intel target legacy

Oracle, HP and Intel have banded together to build SOA implementations aimed at replacing legacy mainframe applications.

To kick off the Oracle OpenWorld conference, Hewlett-Packard Corp. today announced a joint initiative with Oracle Corp. and Intel Corp. to convince CIOs to transition from COBOL programs running on mainframes to a service-oriented architecture environment.

 We're not saying that mainframes are dead.
Paul Evans
Worldwide Director of Application ModernizationHewlett-Packard Corp.

During the past six months, the three companies have developed an SOA reference architecture based on the Oracle Grid Computing Platform, including Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle 10g database with application clusters technology and Oracle Enterprise Manager/Grid Control running on HP servers with Intel Itanium processors. Dubbed the Application Modernization Initiative by the three computing giants, the joint effort also features a consulting services component, said Paul Evans, worldwide director of application modernization for HP services.

Consultants from the companies will use the reference architecture model to demonstrate to CIO and IT executives that an SOA implementation could meet or exceed the performance of existing mainframe business applications and do it at a lower cost, the HP executive said. But he was careful to say that this is not a frontal assault on the mainframe.

"We're not saying that mainframes are dead," he said. "We're not saying that mainframes aren't good at certain things. In many instances we even advise customers for certain operations in the short term that there's no sense just chucking it [the mainframe] in the bin. But now with the newer hardware and software technologies that are out there, there is significant opportunity for people to start creating a new software environment that has this inherent agility and lower cost associated with SOA."

Oracle, HP and Intel had been working together on marketing their technologies for SOA in a less official way, when six months ago the three hit on the idea of integrating their products and creating a reference architecture to demonstrate what the combined technology could do, Evans said. The architecture can be used to model what an SOA system would look like in the customer's application environment. Providing the model based on the reference architecture, he said, CIOs and IT executives can see the value of phasing out legacy mainframe applications and replacing them with SOA implementations.

"We came upon this notion that we had to generate a reference architecture," he explained. "We had to take the hardware systems, the software from Oracle, put it together and be able to demonstrate it works."

John Pickett, worldwide manager for mainframe alternative programs at HP, said the model based on the reference architecture gives IT executives a demonstration of what SOA could do for them. It also shows the viability of SOA as a replacement for tried-and-true legacy mainframe systems, he said.

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The model based on the reference architecture is a sophisticated product demo based on what Pickett calls the "HP virtual server environment."

"We've been able to integrate and pre-test a basic configuration, that not only achieves mainframe levels of quality of service, but also reduces the time to deployment," Pickett explained. "Not only is it achieving mainframe levels of quality of service, but in many cases it exceeds what you see on the mainframe.

As an example, he said, the three companies can demonstrate that an SOA environment not only provides transaction processing equal to or greater than a mainframe, but virtually cuts to zero the time usually lost in disaster recovery. While it can typically take 30 minutes for a transaction to be recovered in a mainframe backup after a failure, an SOA system can run a transaction on multiple processors so that if one fails the others continue uninterrupted and no time is lost, Pickett said.

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