DataDirect Brings Mainframe SOA to Large U.S. Utility
American Electric Power, one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., is using DataDirect Shadow and SOA to modernize its mainframe-based customer information system. Shadow's ability to leverage IBM's zIIP engine for SOA is bringing new levels of operational efficiency to AEP's project.
American Electric Power, one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., is using DataDirect Shadow and SOA to update its valuable mainframe-based customer information system.
Shadow's ability to leverage IBM's zIIP engine for SOA is bringing new levels of operational efficiency to AEP's project, a DataDirect official told IDN. AEP provides service to more than five million customers in 11 states.
AEP officials wanted to improve customer service, and so decided to upgrade its mainframe-based customer service applications for the web. AEP's applications, which use COBOL, DB2 data and CICS 3270 screens, now offer web GUIs and support web-to-legacy integration.
AEP found an SOA approach with DataDirect Shadow provided two key benefits:
1. An easy way to de-couple applications from underlying data, saving developers time and speeding application updates; and
2. A way to reduce the use of expensive mainframe CPU capacity required for mainframe SOA.
Using DataDirect Shadow, AEP is able to run SOA-to-legacy transformation and integration on IBM's System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) specialty engine, without using the mainframe's core general purpose processor (GPP). This makes mainframe SOA more efficient and cost-effective.
Inside zIIP's SOA-to-Legacy Benefits
The value of using zIIP to support SOA operations for mainframes is game-changing for mainframe SOA, Jeff Overton, DataDirect Shadow's senior product manager told IDN.
"The ability to dramatically reduce the cost of running web services on the mainframe, especially for such high-overhead operations as integration between services and mainframe assets is truly a big win for customers," Overton told IDN. Being able to take these workloads off expensive GPP cycles and move them to zIIP capacities means that SOA workloads cost much less to execute for the mainframe, he explained.
"Many SOA to mainframe projects required IT to assign resources from the GPP, and that was simply too much of a price to pay for many users who are looking to reduce - not increase - their mainframe operational expenses," Overton said."But now, being able to place those operations outside the GPP entirely makes the SOA-mainframe conversation much easier to have with customers"
At AEP, DataDirect Shadow's use of zIIP is helping the utility implement improvements in customer service . "When you are driving CICS screen, there is a lot of work to take a SOAP request back and forth to the mainframe," including decomposing, transforming, data access, securing and authentication the request and then implementing the CICS screens. DataDirect Shadow does all of this processing in the zIIP engine, and not the mainframe GPP.
It's not just customers that benefit from zIIP. Overton also explained the strategic importance of zIIP support to DataDirect Shadow.
'We have spent 18 months or more re-architecting Shadow to take strong advantage of the zIIP engine. Today, Shadow provides a single unified platform for SOA web services entirely on zIIP, and provide much more cost-effective orchestration, data access and even application access," he told IDN.
In the past, mainframe SOA projects could be stymied over concerns that marrying SOA and legacy directly on the mainframe consumed too much valuable mainframe CPU processing capacity from General Purpose Processors (GPPs), Overton explained. But because DataDirect Shadow now runs within the zIIP engine, all that costly overhead of mainframe SOA has been taken off the costly core mainframe processor.
"We look at zIIP as a virtual integration appliance for z/OS. At one instance we may be de-composing a SOAP message and transforming that into proper formats to access IMS or CICS. So," he said, "zIIP-plus-Shadow provides the integration processing mainframe SOA requires" for integration, data access and even transformation.
DataDirect Shadow also exploits other the IBM specialty engines, including System z Application Assist Processor (zAAP) and CA IDMS r17.