In today's customer-centric enterprise, regulatory mandates, globalization and corporate mergers and acquisitions are accelerating the demand for real-time information. Yet the vast majority of enterprise information remains buried deep in legacy databases used by applications running on mainframe computers.Accessing these information-rich wells of mainframe-based legacy data has long been a challenge. Organizations are looking beyond traditional data access approaches to address the issues and potential benefits of legacy integration strategies that tap into mainframe performance, security and programming resources as well as valuable data to deliver real-time results.

First things first, let's consider the primary methods of accessing legacy data: screen data capture, process extension and direct data access. Screen data capture is a fast, easy way to define an interface to an existing mainframe application, by creating a "macro" that navigates the application, grabbing the desired data from the 3270 screen layer. For this reason, it is also a very brittle approach and may malfunction or produce unexpected results if there are subsequent changes to the flow or layout of the application screens.

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