With the latest version of its Tuxedo online transaction processing (OLTP) middleware, Oracle is hoping to lure IBM mainframe users over to the world of x86-based distributed computing, namely by promising that their applications will run just as quickly and will not need to be rewritten for the new environment.
Tuxedo 11G, the version of the software released Wednesday, includes Oracle Tuxedo Application Runtime for CICS, an application programming interface-based emulator for running IBM's Customer Information Control System transaction server software for mainframes.
"Mainframes continue to be the backbone of business computing, but these systems tend to be expensive, rigid, and really hard to maintain," said Ajay Patel, vice president of Oracle's Fusion line of middleware. With the CICS runtime, "You can take your existing business applications running on the mainframe and migrate them to open system," he said.
The software also includes Batch 11g, for taking on mainframe-based batch processing, and Oracle Tuxedo Application Rehosting Workbench 11g, which provides some automation tools for migrating the mainframe data and code over to a distributed x86 architecture.
The company claims that moving to a distributed x86 environment could save as much as 50 percent in operational costs, with little or no reduction in performance. Patel said, "You can take a pool of servers and pull them together to get any kind of workflow," up to "several thousand MIPS," or million instructions per second, a commonly used metric for evaluating mainframe performance.
The company promises that CICS applications that serve as many as 100,000 users, and execute 50,000 transactions per second, can perform equally well in a Tuxedo-based distributed environment. Once an application is running on Tuxedo, an organization can also expose some of the functionality as Web services, Patel said.
Oracle acquired Tuxedo as part of the BEA Systems acquisition in 2008. Much like Oracle's (formerly BEA's) WebLogic Server handles Java applications, Tuxedo acts as an application server for components written in COBOL, C, and C++, all widely used languages for mainframe applications. It also has a service bus to allow such components to interoperate over a network, via messaging. Tuxedo instances can be clustered to provide high availability for applications.
The company promises that this new software will make the migration process easier, albeit not totally automated. Since the application will run in an emulator, the code itself will not need to be reworked, which will be a big time- and aggravation-saver. Some work will still be required to redefine the new database and file calls, though the Workbench software was designed to automate at least the most obvious of changes.
Stefan Ried, a senior analyst for Forrester Research, notes even with these tools, migrating an application off a mainframe will still require some work. "One major challenge can't be neglected: A migration off the mainframe always involves manual steps and requires a deep understanding of the business logic," he wrote in a blog posting.
Oracle contends that this approach will still be far easier than other approaches. Currently, the task of migrating software from mainframes requires rewriting the software for the new environment. This tends to be a costly and error-prone approach, Patel contended.
In addition to these mainframe migration tools, Oracle has made a number of other changes to Tuxedo as well. Most notably the software can now run programs written in Ruby and Python.
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