z/OS Connect on IBM z Systems

September 1st, 2015
Marianne Eggett
z Systems Solutions Consultant

 

Connecting the Mainframe to the World

Most companies, with IBM Mainframes, have a robust network to move mainframe data to other locations in their enterprise for analysis. They also have the headaches to go along with that process. They are constantly faced with the challenge of defining the “system of record” for the data. Who’s updating what, and where is the current data?

Through the years, from client server days of the 90’s to recent enterprise bus technology, moving data and application functionality is complex to implement and maintain. With today’s smart phones, enters Mobile computing, which demands easy access by non-IT folks still expecting meaningful and accurate data. Therefore, the challenge has grown.

Letting the Mainframe loose

From a 2014 Forbes article, more than 70 percent of enterprise data resides on a mainframe, and 71 percent of all Fortune 500 companies have their core businesses located on a mainframe.* Combining the industry protocols and IBM’s ingenuity, IBM has made it easier to keep the business logic and data where it all started – on the mainframe z Systems. z/OS Connect fits in the evolution of connecting business processes and its data to clients requesting information. It understands the REST1 and JSON2 protocols, which are used to request information between applications. REST defines the request and JSON defines and includes the data. The protocols are easy to understand and universal in use with smart phones, tablets, laptops and yes, even mainframe programs. z/OS Connect either passes this request through to a target application, on the z/OS mainframe, or can perform the data translation for the target application’s processing. And, it’s easy to set up. This powerful product is also at the right price to be implemented in every z/OS customer – It’s free with CICS, IMS or WebSphere for z/OS. Does it get better than that?

How secure is it?

The remote client must have authority to access the target applications. The gate keeper to these business functions can be controlled by authentications and registries through IBM RACF or Computer Associate’s products, Top Secret or ACF-2. Security can also be implemented through LDAP protocols.

The gateway to the applications, such as CICS, is through API functions. When starting out, the inventory of the API functions may be manually maintained. But at some point, when the volume of API functions exceed manual manageability, there is an IBM product called IBM API Management. The API Management product is not a prerequisite for z/OS Connect.

How do we learn more?

IBM has an excellent z/OS Connect & Mobile Wildfire Workshop (ZCONN1) that is free to customers and business partners. This 1 and ½ day class provides an overview of basic terminology, protocols, and products for mobile computing, such as IBM MobileFirst Platform. It also touches on the API Management product. But, z/OS Connect is its focus. It includes three hands-on labs to set up communications with z/OS Connect to CICS application, and its security through RACF.

Who can help explain this product?

Mainline’s zBC12, located in our Tallahassee BPIC, will soon be set up to demonstrate these capabilities. Also, our mainframe services team will be able to help your customers set up z/OS Connect, as well as other associated products. Presentations on this topic can be provided by IBM’s Al Grega, who is entertaining, as well as informative.

If we need the nuts and bolts discussion, IBM’s ATS expert, Don Bagnell, is excellent at explaining the details.

Contact me, Marianne Eggett, from Mainline’s z Brand team, to coordinate the discussion on the value of IBM z/OS Connect.


 

*http://www.forbes.com/sites/ibm/2014/04/08/from-shopping-to-space-travel-how-the-mainframe-changed-our-world/

Terminology

  1. REST – the acronym stands for “Representational State Transfer,” and is a means of communicating requests via HTTP using URI patterns that the receiving application recognizes.
  2. JSON – the acronym stands for “JavaScript Object Notation,” and is a way of encapsulating data in name/value pairs that are serialized and sent back and forth on the HTTP requests and responses.

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