As organizations look to leverage the mainframe within their service-oriented architecture (SOA), there always seems to be the question – can the mainframe and its developers “do” SOA? Well, in the case of one of the mainframes most tenured and proven transaction systems, IMS, the answer is a resounding yes. Technically, IMS is perfectly suited for SOA, and IMS skilled resources are ready to take on the task.


Before we dive into the reasons why IMS and SOA are a perfect combination, let’s get down to the basics and really build a healthy foundation of what SOA really is. One of the clearest definitions I’ve encountered lately at is, “A service is a unit of work done by a service provider to achieve desired end results for a service consumer. Both provider and consumer roles played by software agents on behalf of their owners.”


This is exactly what IMS does – and has been doing – for years now, providing the ability to construct applications from existing functions or services. By leveraging IMS transactions and data, services are be easily harvested from existing systems with minimal operational impact. Today, as companies are adopting mainframe SOA as a common accepted practice, there are other technologies that have caught on, and using this architecture to maximize existing infrastructure investments, which in turn is benefiting IMS shops.


For all practical purposes, SOA provides the level of flexibility that companies with IMS seek today. Their technical and business issues are quite similar. There is a vast amount of data that must be accessible across platforms and resource sharing that demands connectivity throughout the infrastructure.


The whole concept of application reuse isn’t such a novel idea. It’s been around a long time, and IMS developers have been building reusable services from the beginning. These IMS transactions can be orchestrated to accomplish scores of transactions and/or business processes. On top of that, there’s the learning curve to consider. IMS developers already know how to build services. So, there’s not a lot of training cost involved in the service definition process.


Scalability with regard to SOA is always a concern. Companies sometimes will choose to tip toe with a project and, once proven successful, deploy on a grander scale. This makes the pairing of IMS and SOA an even more perfect match, as IMS transactions are fully enterprise scalable services, spanning from the simplest to the most complex environments.


Typical IMS transactions run as stateless logical entities, a perfect match for SOA since services within an SOA are also supposed to be logical stateless entities. Even those IMS conversational transactions are easily included into services in an SOA. These IMS transactions can be included into composite services, because they were originally designed to accomplish a task in a business system. The grouping of these services (transactions) is rapidly deployed in an SOA.


Most IMS shops need to keep the systems they support running with optimal CPU utilization, high throughput rates and minimal elapsed times while maintaining flexibility and scalability. Typically this deters the use of other systems like an application server to help them construct IMS/SOA services. Currently, there are very few tools available to accomplish the exposing of IMS resources as services. The tools required by an IMS shop need to be easy to use, scalable, and high performing systems that are written with the mainframe IMS mentality in mind.


Without any doubt, IMS is well suited for SOA. With such extensive expertise, IMS developers are already seasoned and knowledgeable enough to take on any SOA project. Since its inception, IMS has remained a visible leader as a high-performance, mission-critical, enterprise-class transaction system and has resisted being sold out from its foundational purpose to deliver information to the user … IMS is SOA.


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