It's a cliché that SOA planning should focus on the big picture, but Hewlett-Packard is offering new graphical tools that actually create pictures for doing that planning.
Using the new Visual Intelligence Tools, which debuted this month, HP consultants can show business users where inclusion in an SOA environment could help boost performance of legacy applications, said Paul Evans, HP's worldwide director of application modernization. The tools employing technology originally developed for social networking analysis are an attempt to bridge the communications gap between IT and business people.
The tools produce graphics that show the potential of SOA with red, yellow and green bar charts and without the technical jargon that often leaves business managers and executives dazed and confused, Evans said.
"The whole point of using the graphic tools is we're trying to have a discussion with the customer about the complexity of their applications and it's quite difficult because it gets quite technical when you start talking about function points and program volume," Evans said. "Most customers will switch off at that point."
He characterized the typical business person's reaction to a technical discussion of SOA as ending with the business person saying: "Yeah right. Thanks a lot."
The visualization tools analyze an organization's current legacy applications and produce bar charts showing high-volume, but poor performing applications as tall red columns in a quadrant indicating potential for SOA to improve production.
"We're trying to simplify it," Evans said. "We're not trying to dumb it down. We use visualization as a tool to explain to people the structure of the application and it's something they've never seen before."
The graphics also show the business executives how those applications would perform better in an SOA environment.
The tools provide a graphical view of application performance designed to help them focus on which applications could benefit from the SOA approach, he explained. Often these applications are legacy COBOL that can be made to run more efficiently in an SOA environment, Evans added.
"You can't exclude the legacy because those are the applications that invariably run the company, make the money, and count the money," he said.
Evans said business people are not necessarily looking for SOA to provide a miracle cure for legacy application performance. They are simply wanting the old business processes to run as fast as they originally did. The graphics produced by the new tools help show where productivity may have been lost over the decades because of reliance on outmoded processes and the proliferation of spaghetti code when updates were done through the years.
The graphic tools support HP's global consulting practice aimed at helping customers include legacy COBOL applications running on mainframes in SOA initiatives without having to re-write all the code.
Evans said that sometimes efficiencies can be gained by taking a process such as extract, transform, load (ETL) that was written in COBOL 20 years ago and updating it with the latest ETL tool available for the organization's current operating system such as Linux or Windows.
The new HP Clone Set Analyzer also provides a graphic that shows where duplicate COBOL code, developed during decades of updating, is resulting in inefficiencies. In developing a strategy for SOA, the clones can be eliminated to improve the productivity of the original business application, Evans said.
The new HP Legacy Application Transformation and Visual Intelligence Tools include:
- HP Modernization Profile - Analyzes an application's composition to assist in the selection of areas that may be the key contributors to high cost and low levels of flexibility.
- HP Clone Set Analyzer - Identifies duplicate code to avoid repetition of modernization efforts and provide economies of scale to reduce costs.
- HP Clone Pattern Analyzer - Reveals hidden patterns of code reuse to help group together similar applications and ensure tasks are not duplicated.