UPDATE: IBM bridges app generation gap with new products, services

IBM Corp. on Thursday introduced new services and software designed to help companies modernize decades-old software applications, particularly those for mainframes with new apps based on open-standards such as Web services.

These older systems have been dubbed “spaghetti code” by the computer industry because the code was made up of long sections that were made up of “go to” statements, unlike the current concept of structured programming where code is modular and “go to” statements are forbidden. As a result, these lengthy sections tended to branch out to each other and became entangled, much like spaghetti. These elderly systems run 70 per cent of the world’s major business transactions, IBM, based in White Plains, N.Y. said, and to cost to maintain them is sky-high.

“Businesses can’t afford to rip and replace older applications that run their daily operations, even though it costs (US) 80 cents of every dollar of the average software budget to maintain older legacy systems,” Kerrie Holley, distinguished engineer, IBM Global Services said in a statement.

Some of these apps were built as far back as 1964, when a good portion of Canada’s IT workforce were just babes in swaddling clothes. A Labour Force study done by the Software Human Resource Council in January showed about 44 per cent of Canada’s IT workforce is under the age 35.

In an effort to bridge the gap between these different generations, IBM is offering new WebSphere development tools based on Web services standards, which the company says will speed up development by simplifying the skills needed to create Web services-based apps for environments that include IBM zSeries mainframes.

Now, IBM says developers can create apps that integrate products such as CICS – Big Blue’s transaction processing software.

Also, IBM says thousands of apps with “green screen” interfaces running on its zSeries servers can be updated and delivered via a Web browser to a point-and-click interface in a single keystroke, complete with drop down menus.

IBM also released a new visual builder, which the company says helps customers design e-business Web applications for the IBM iSeries servers. These apps conform to open standards and require little programming skills in Java or Web services.

The consulting services include application portfolio services that help companies decide which older applications to keep, throw away or update, and the legacy transformation services that help customers to change, integrate, move or add applications to the Web.

Mark Langlois, application management services executive with IBM Canada in Toronto said these new services would be of great value to Big Blue’s Insurance Solution Centers – centres where IBM says it would help insurance companies from around the world transform and replace their legacy systems. IBM opened its first two centres in the Fall of 2002 in Toronto and Waterloo, Ont.

“It’s meant to create a shared service environment where companies with similar problems can outsource the management of their applications and IBM can bring reusable common systems tools, methods and processes to manage these software packages,” Langlois said.

He said in the insurance industry has its fair share of legacy applications and IBM will employ its new application portfolio services and legacy transformation services to help insurance companies gain better business value out of these systems by updating them with thing such as Web services.

Later this year will IBM open a Retail Solution Center in Montreal. For more information visit www.ibm.ca.