Tech Guide: Five Ways To Modernize Your Mainframes

Your company can add new value to its big iron, while lowering operating costs
Making the end-user application more flexible, more customizable, and accessible for almost instantaneous improvements involves the user more directly in the application process. When the user is encouraged to embrace the application to the point where he's actually steering its development, not only is time to market improved, but training costs--for some companies, the largest single cost after software licenses--plummet substantially.

Portal-Based Logon Consolidation
Some Web-services development tools are being marketed for a different purpose: consolidating logons and application access for users. In typical mainframe environments, multiple third-party applications are used throughout the day, and in many call centers, employees spend valuable telephone time exiting some applications and re-entering others, just to complete a single, unanticipated customer task.

"The whole single-sign-on, user authority, common directory challenge is a growing problem [for which] there aren't any quick and easy answers," analyst Ulrich says.

David Holmes, executive VP of Jacada Ltd., a provider of Web-services-enablement software, says his company's Interface Server product can create front-end applications that interface directly with portals to create a single look and feel "to mimic the desktop application or the portal and, at the same time, change the workflow. So if, as a user, I used to have to traverse through 15 or 20 screens to accomplish a specific task, I can actually reengineer that workflow so that I only enter information in two or three screens."

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Holmes describes a typical customer environment, which involves an average of five and often seven core applications, all of which utilize separate IDs and password authorization, and many of which identify the same customers with different key numbers. In some situations, the user is even forced to manually correlate these customer key numbers, perhaps with the aid of a spreadsheet. A portal, such as the kind created with Jacada Integrator, "sticks a veneer on top of all of that," Holmes says. "As an employee, you fire up your desktop, you get one view into your world, you enter one ID and password, one menu of the applications you need to use, [for] opening up an account or checking the status of a check or payment."

For one call-center customer facing a 40% annual turnover rate, operators were spending up to 12 weeks to learn their application and eight weeks on top of that to achieve full productivity, Holmes says. An Integrator-based portal was able to slash that time and reduce training costs by 40%. Again, this positively impacts both the administration and operations elements of TCO reduction.

Managing the mainframe environment is no longer about migrating to a smaller platform and less and less about camouflaging a tired legacy investment. The new management framework for mainframe computing is adaptation. As mainframes become more flexible platforms, companies may find themselves leveraging their legacy investments in untraditional ways, adapting them to serve new purposes in a changing IT landscape.

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