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Benefit From Non-Disruptive Modernization With IBM API Connect

This is the third article in a series about modernization of enterprise applications. The first article, Modernize Legacy Systems to Enable Full Potential, gives an overview of legacy systems, modernization tactics, benefits, strategies, risk and cost as well as challenges and areas of focus like updating the user interface and data modernization. The second article, Easily Modernize Applications to Stay Competitive, explores specific suggestions regarding the user interface, data, function, process and middleware modernization.

Modernization is about making change for a purpose. It could be catching up to changes in technology—like embracing database systems when you currently have indexed files—or using a mobile device for display when you have a desktop PC running a 3270 emulator. These can be big changes. However, change can also be smaller in the form of additional functionality that’s delivered within a new release of COBOL or CICS. These changes are perhaps less consequential on a large scale but nevertheless have to be discovered, planned and implemented.

Another important idea with modernization relates to timing (i.e., ongoing versus occasional, one-time changes). Ongoing change is achieved when organizations integrate modernization along with routine application fixes and enhancements. Occasional, one-time changes occur when after years of neglect, applications change to catch up to IT innovations that have “changed the game.”

How Is Non-Disruptive Different?

When you have a stable application that delivers business value, it can be modernized without disruption. All modernization needs can’t be met in a non-disruptive way, but a surprising variety of changes are nevertheless possible. When you achieve non-disruptive change, you experience advantages that include parallelism, coexistence and low risk. Parallelism happens when the team implementing modernization works parallel to or independent of the application development and maintenance team.

Coexistence occurs when the legacy function runs at the same time as the modernized version of the application functionality. The functionality, in its old and new form, operates using the same base. Business and technical risk is low with non-disruptive modernization because few, if any, changes are required to the running application. By comparison, replacing or upgrading the application, provides a much greater threat of disturbance to day-to-day operations. This low-risk approach is a selling feature for a number of non-disruptive integration software products. How is this achieved? IBM API Connect is a useful product model to examine as it is a API Management leader according to both Forrester and Gartner research.

Non-Disruptive Modernization

IBM API Connect is a software product and a medium for application modernization. It’s also is a kind of integration middleware used to create data applications that are sometimes called microservices. Like other applications, these micro APIs need to be developed and tested, but there’s more to it than that. After installation, they also have to be sized for their environment and managed throughout their lifecycle.

An important feature of IBM API Connect is the automated creation of APIs working with enterprise back ends like WebSphere, IBM Integration Bus, IBM z and other systems and assets. IT departments, as well as lines of business, can make available enterprise applications and data in their systems of record; unbridling the creativity of developers without surrendering security and governance. So how is this done? What components are used?

Modernization Components

IBM API Connect has components that support the creation of API programs. In order to use API Connect, you need to deploy the Cloud Management Console, Management Server and at least one API Gateway. Use of the Developer Portal is a great asset for new APIs as is the API Designer.

The Cloud Management Console is the administrator interface to monitor and manage servers and register the components that will be used at runtime. The Management Server is the API developer’s tool to manage and secure their existing API programs. This tool is also used to run analytics reports on API usage. The API Gateway is used to enforce API security and functional policies. All registered API applications send their requests to the API Gateway to access the APIs. The API Gateway can be a DataPower virtual or physical appliance or a Microgateway that can be run under Linux on z Systems.

The Developer Portal is where application developers locate, describe and test their APIs. The API Designer is an API developer toolkit installed on workstations to create and secure Node.js applications that use specific connectors to access host resources.

IBM API Connect and z/OS Connect

IBM API technology provides a compelling lifecycle solution for the API economy—it can create, compose, publish and run APIs in an environment where they can be securely managed. In 2015, IBM announced z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition, a strategic API gateway into z/OS. This gateway is a configurable, high throughput interface into CICS, IMS, DB2 and WebSphere Application Server. This product made APIs that could utilize data from CICS and IMS applications while requiring no changes to the application’s underlying COBOL or PL/1 code.

A Modernization Example

API programs can be created from a CICS application using the z/OS Connect gateway. To create an API with z/OS Connect:

  1. Generate bindings for your application using supplied JCL. Bindings involve the use of a language structures like a COBOL copybook definition of data fields like those found in a CICS COMMAREA. The generated bindings are captured in a service archive file that allows z/OS Connect to call your CICS application.
  2. Import the SAR file into a new z/OS Connect project making it possible to display the fields that are part of your application interface.
  3. Define the Universal Resource Identifiers (URI) that make up your API. You can then map fields from the URIs to the fields within the application interface.
  4. Once your API is ready, deploy it. The z/OS Connect EE tool has the ability to deploy your API directly to CICS.

Is That It?

There’s an art to non-disruptive modernization. There are new skills to grow after grasping the innovative ideas about exposing data and applications from CICS, IMS, DB2 and WebSphere Application Server. Once you master the technology, your biggest challenge will be organizing and prioritizing the work because the pent-up demand for inventive access to these systems of record is deep.