How APIs put the mainframe back in the game

Accelerate innovation by building on what already works; the mainframe is an integral part of your digital enterprise if with the help of APIs.

Nicole Ritchie Nicole Ritchie

The pressures on IT in 2020 were exceptional—and nowhere was it as acute as at the intersection of mainframe and digital worlds.

From the crushing volume of online transactions using COBOL applications – for unemployment or economic relief services – to the need for ubiquitous scalable access to the mainframe for employees working from home, there were never enough skilled programmers to go around. It soon became clear that the key to prevent being left flat-footed in the future is reusable services and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

Being an agile digital enterprise lies in your ability to quickly and easily reuse what already works and build from there. Your mainframe’s core applications, their tailored business logic and the data you store on the IBM® Z platform already differentiate you from your competitors and act as a reliable backbone for your business operation. By making applications on IBM Z more broadly accessible, and easily integrated with other platforms, you can respond to changing market conditions faster.

Tap into the mainframe

Using integration to tap into the mainframe for the value it holds is not a new concept. Since the mainframe helped put a man into orbit in 1969, it’s been the center of the technical universe. As the technical universe began to grow, programmers always found a way to get data in and out of the mainframe. New applications built on Linux, UNIX® and Windows® were reached with FTP, .NET® and Java® interfaces.

In the 1990s, packaged ERP applications pulled common functions off the mainframe. Then, at the corner of a new century, the next generation of these applications started moving to the cloud demanding support for hybrid cloud environments. The next evolution is where information is no longer just with apps but published and using menus of services.

It is no longer practical to meet the volume of the new demands and diversity of integration points with traditional point-to-point integrations. Integration that must be re-written every time a new tech standard comes along just isn’t scalable with the limited resources and skills available. APIs provide a solution—they are independent of standards and reusable.

APIs let you expose the business logic and data of applications as reusable services—build it once and use it over and over again. Why is this important? Standards are constantly changing, but the concept of APIs stays the same.

Consider this: RPC was first used with the IBM communication protocol LU 6.2. The emergence of the web drove adoption of SOAP as the messaging protocol for accessing web services. And mobile app development brought us REST—an architectural style where data and function are treated as resources accessed with identifiers which gives us a lightweight communications approach. With APIs, you can use a standard of your choice and still simplify application interoperability.

Perks of APIs

Another perk of using APIs is that you can extend the capabilities of your mainframe application by consuming services provided by others—internal or external to your organization. This means you can add capabilities or information to your mainframe without having to code it on your own. APIs save you the risk and expense of replacing or redeveloping your core applications.

The best part of using APIs to connect your IBM Z applications to the digital enterprise is that the mainframe can be treated the same as all the other assets in your organization which require integration. All are tied together across a common integration layer and overlaid with an API governance structure that secures, protects and manages accessibility to your APIs. Using this common integration layer all the data you need, regardless of where it comes from, can fluidly flow to wherever it is needed.

You can accelerate innovation by building on what already works. There is no reason the mainframe can’t be an integral part of your digital enterprise. Click below to discover three ways to connect your IBM Z to digital and cross the chasm between the known and the new!