New tools link legacy to Web

Attachmate Corp. is upgrading its mainframe connectivity product line with a pair of new tools designed to help software developers more easily tap into legacy data when building Web-based applications.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based vendor recently announced its Synapta Presentation Builder and Services Builder tools, which abstract mainframe data so developers can use it in new types of applications. Markus Nitschke, vice-president of corporate marketing at Attachmate, said the new tools “provide legacy access and put a layer of abstraction on top so you can create a Web service,” enabling mainframe applications to be incorporated into service-oriented architectures (SOA).

Harbor Federal Savings Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., has used the Synapta products to build access to customer account data housed on a Unisys Corp. mainframe into Web services that support online banking transactions and inquiries, said Annetta Smith, the bank’s vice-president of IT.

“We needed to . . . be able to go and hit the host and hit different parts of the host,” Smith said. With Synapta, the bank’s developers can direct the Web services to retrieve the mainframe data, she added.

Vendors such as Attachmate, WRQ Inc. and NetManage Inc. are trying to meet demand for tools that can help developers take internally facing applications and expose them to external users without having to touch the mainframe code, said Dale Vecchio, an analyst at Gartner Inc.

“Products like Synapta are generally noninvasive,” Vecchio said. “SOA is the saviour of the mainframe (because) it’s going to cause people to use the business logic in place and expose it as services.”

First American Default Technologies in Anaheim, Calif., has used WRQ’s Verastream host integration software to tie its mainframe data to an online loan-tracking application built around Microsoft Corp.’s .Net technology. With Verastream, the mortgage default servicing company was able to provide bankers and lawyers with Web-based access to loan information stored on its mainframe, said Glen Banta, First American’s director of client technology. Developers were also able to abstract and isolate the mainframe data in order to create a series of reusable services that can be combined with new business logic in Visual Studio .Net, Banta added.

“You just go through using their design tools and map out your screens,” he said. “Once we have these models to access the host system, it basically turns the mainframe into a SQL database so you can leverage all types of applications.”

The Synapta tools are due for release next month. Pricing starts at US$125,000 per runtime for Presentation Builder and US$65,000 per runtime for Services Builder.

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