HostBridge and the State of Mainframe Integration 2020
Strategy| by Jerry Rackley

The start of a new year gives us all time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. HostBridge Technology is entering its third decade of helping enterprises modernize and make their CICS applications available via an API. I want to share my thoughts on mainframe integration with our customers, partners, prospects, and the IT community in general.

HostBridge just completed its most successful year in the history of the company. I’m grateful for the enterprises that trust us to solve difficult CICS integration and orchestration problems. We’ve heard for years the mainframe is going away. Perhaps someday it will. For now, however, it seems we’re in what analysts call the “long-tail” of the mainframe’s existence. Most of the easy applications enterprises could migrate are now on other platforms. What’s left is mission-critical, complex, and risky to migrate. Enterprises have concluded that the mainframe is the ideal platform for these applications. What they need is not a way to migrate them, but to easily and affordably let them fully participate in today’s hybrid IT environment.

The right integration technology enables the mainframe to fully participate in a hybrid IT strategy.

Principles of Mainframe Integration

That HostBridge is thriving in this environment is a testament to our ability to solve complex mainframe integration problems. Our commitment to global enterprises that rely on mainframe applications is built on a set of principles. These principles recognize integration is a means to an end that must create immediate business value while also facilitating future, strategic objectives:

  • The integration approach should exploit existing infrastructure and standards to provide an agnostic integration layer.
  • The integration layer design should emphasize performance, facilitate creation of high-fidelity integration, and have future extensibility.
  • The integration approach should exploit System z architecture to minimize cost and achieve high-performance with enterprise class scalability and reliability.
  • The integration layer must support all types of existing, high-value apps and data while being minimally disruptive to implement, requiring no changes to existing host applications.

These principles will continue to guide how we evolve our software and services as the industry’s most experienced and innovative CICS API company.

Teaching Old CICS Apps New Tricks

Even though many of the CICS applications that are targets of integration efforts haven’t changed much in years, the IT environment around them has changed significantly. Our clients continue to encounter new problems integrating CICS applications. Our corporate DNA is to help clients solve these problems and the solutions to them often form the basis of new HostBridge offerings.

One such offering is the HostBridge Transaction Analytics Connector (HTAC). The genesis of HTAC was as a very specific solution to something plaguing CICS customers: a lack of information in SMF 110 records to effect real end-to-end transaction tracking through Splunk or similar platforms. The enterprises now using HTAC are gaining insights, previously hidden, about how applications off of the mainframe are driving mainframe workload. These insights provide the data that allow IT groups to optimize the interaction in ways to lower costs while increasing utility and reducing response time.

Robotic Process Automation and the Mainframe

An area of focus in 2020 is helping enterprises understand the impact of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) on the mainframe. Through work with clients in 2019 who have seen RPA proliferate throughout their enterprises, we have observed:

  • RPA can provide tremendous end-user productivity advantages.
  • When RPA activity involves the mainframe, it often uses the least efficient methods (screen-scraping) to get mainframe data.
  • As RPA activity scales up in an enterprise, it can drive asymmetric increases in mainframe transaction volumes because of the inefficient methods RPA bots use to get data.
  • IT organizations suspect RPA activity is the root cause of disproportionate mainframe transaction volume increases, but don’t have tools to measure it.

This was the situation a client brought to us in late in 2019. We were able to use our software and expertise to analyze how RPA activity is impacting the mainframe. We now offer a mainframe RPA analysis service, ideal for any enterprise with RPA activity that reaches the mainframe. With the insights from this analysis, enterprises can optimize these interactions.

As we move through 2020, you can expect the HostBridge team to keep pushing the envelope on the technology to make CICS applications available as web services or via an API. Our decision to bring JavaScript to the mainframe over 15 years ago continues to deliver benefits. The HostBridge JavaScript Engine continues to provide the most reliable, high-performing technology for integration, orchestration, and modernization of CICS applications. It now also acts as a mainframe RPA engine that enterprises (and RPA platform vendors) can exploit to optimize RPA automation sequences. The future is bright for enterprises looking to exploit their mainframe applications as part of a hybrid IT strategy. We appreciate the trust our customers place in us, and welcome the opportunity to help any enterprise address complex CICS integration issues.

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