Thursday 14 May 2009

Jaw-Droppers - Blast from the Past

Just when you thought it was safe to forget that the 1970s ever existed... this gem shows up on the XML Daily Newslink, a mailing list I follow intermittently. (Actually, this was included in the XMLDN from Wed 11 Feb — an indication of how "closely" I've been following lately.)

Developing a CICS-Based Web Service
G. Subrahmanyam, G. Mokhasi, S. Kusumanchi; SOA World Magazine

Web services have opened opportunities to integrate the applications at an enterprise level irrespective of the technology they have been implemented in. IBM's CICS transaction server for z/OS v3.1 can support web services. It can help expose existing applications as web services or develop new functionality to invoke web services. One of the commonly used protocols for CICS web services is SOAP for CICS. It enables the communication of applications through XML. It supports as a service provider and service consumer independent of platform and language. SOAP for CICS enables CICS applications to be integrated with the enterprise via web services as part of lowering the cost of integration and retaining the value of the legacy application. SOAP for CICS also comes along with the implementation encoder and decoder.

"SOAP for CICS"? Give it a REST, guys. On the other hand.... preserving this by-now more-solid-than-most-rocks 1969-era technology IS a signal achievement; an example of engineering stability on par with Soyuz.

On the other hand... support for legacy technologies like this looks set to become increasingly expensive and risky over time, since apparently:

  1. Numerous surveys published in the last few years indicate that the sizable majority of "old mainframe" tech folk will have retired by 2010 (do the math on the years), and

  2. partly as a result of (1), users risk become increasingly dependent on outsourced Indian providers — hardly conducive to effective project control.

In my own professional view, technological preservation activities like this are mainly useful for one thing: they can serve as the pattern against which a re-implementation of the business process using more currently-supportable tech can be verified. And once an organization has done this for its most valuable legacy systems (which wouldn't have been preserved this long if they weren't so valuable), the actual and perceived risk of migrating to new technologies as conditions warrant drops dramatically. After all, if you (or your internal colleagues) have successfully brought your line-of-business systems from CICS via REST to, say, PHP or Java, you're a lot more comfortable with the idea of migrating to whatever the mid-to-trailing technology is in ten years' time — while the support costs of the (then) existing system are still manageable.

Are any of you actually involved in any technological archaeology like this? When I was younger, I used to brag that half the systems I'd worked with were older than I was, but that stopped being true about 1995. (AFAIK, I was one of the last guys to professionally touch a working IBM 360 mainframe, in about 1989.)

(Original article at this entry's title link, which is also here.)

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