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Composite services next step for mainframe SOA?

Composite services, which include mainframe transactions, data, application logic, as well as outside Web services, can make mainframers players in the SOA world, says a SHARE speaker.

Composite services encompassing mainframe transactions, data and application logic is the future of integrating big iron into service-oriented architecture (SOA), says Robert Morris, chief strategy officer, GT Software Inc.

I really encourage people to see what systems they need to bring together.
Robert Morris
Chief Strategy OfficerSoftware Inc.

Those who have not heard of composite services for mainframe SOA are not alone as Morris appears to be the only one advocating them, which was what he was doing this week at the annual SHARE mainframe users group conference in Orlando FL. He has an axe to grind because his company markets Ivory Service Architect, a product for creating and deploying mainframe-based Web services. But beyond doing an "Ivory commercial" as he calls it, he was advocating the larger composite services concept.

"I did an educational session this morning at SHARE on what you should consider when evaluating products to support Web services and SOA," he said in a phone interview from the show. "It's funny how many people start considering products before they've checked their requirements. I really encourage people to see what systems they need to bring together. What are the types of services you need? If you have requirements for composite services you better get something that helps you do that or your going to be left holding the bag."

His bottom line message to the mainframers at the conference was if you don't clue in to the importance of composite services, the hipper SOA architects and developers on the Java and .NET serverside of the shop are going to say: "You don't get it."

Asked if the mainframers need to get data services, Morris replied, "We talk about data services, but I think it's more interesting to talk about composite services. That would include one piece of data, one piece of transaction, one piece of application and maybe even additional Web services that don't run on the mainframe. Those are the kinds of things people are creating in Ivory, more than single-line services, if you will. We can do single services, but we can also do composite services."

The composite service approach is why Lockheed Martin Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. bought Ivory from GT Software, a 25-year-old company based in Atlanta GA, he said.

Morris said those companies bought into the composite services concept, "Because what it allows you to do from the mainframe perspective is build the right services, not just build little bits and pieces that happen to be Web service enabled. So there is no second tier citizen with the mainframe. We're doing services on the mainframe just like you do it anywhere else."

Asked for an example of how composite services might work in an SOA application, Morris started by explaining where mainframers frequently get it wrong.

"What people on the mainframe side do is say I have these five transactions so I'll wrap them as Web services and throw them over the wall and see if people use them," he said. "We suggest a much different approach, which is start with the requirement. What am I trying to do? For example, let's say I'm putting up a portal where people retrieve their financial details, their credit history for example."

The mainframe developer needs to create a service that might be called "get customer details" and in most enterprises with legacy systems a composite service would be the best way to go, Morris argues.

"So perhaps your details are located in two transactions," he explained. "And I need to go through 10 green screens, make three database calls and send a Web services off to the credit bureau to get your rating. All of that can be done with a single service call to Ivory and we can string all that together. If you don't do that, you'll have eight Web services then have to orchestrate it all to get that end result."

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Besides carry the flag for composite services, Morris was also touting a partnership announced this week with Layer 7 Technologies Inc., which has produced Layer 7's latest product, SecureSpan Mainframe SOA Gateway. It is a mainframe SOA appliance that uses the Ivory product to expose mission-critical mainframe applications, business logic and data as a composite business service.

Within that appliance, Morris said, "I can orchestrate the true composite service, and I can secure it. I can provision it, I can set the service levels, I can put all of that together."

Toufic Boubez, Layer 7's CTO, said the partnership was driven by increasing customer demand to bring mainframes into the SOA world.

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