• December 3, 2021

IMS Ecosystem: Beyond Transaction Manager, Database and Tools

The mission-critical technology powering banking, airlines, insurance companies, the hospitality industry, delivery services, and more, IBM Information Management System, better known as “IMS,” processes an estimated 265 billion transactions today. In fact, if you live a modern life, it’s pretty much impossible not to interact with it. Despite that fact, most people aren’t aware of this technology, and even those who are, aren’t always fully aware of its capabilities. 

Most business leaders of organizations that leverage IMS (if they know about IMS at all) know it as a database… and that’s probably where their knowledge ends. But IMS’s capabilities extend far beyond functioning as a mere database or transaction manager. Many leaders have goals surrounding data analytics, AI, or the development of new UIs or systems of engagement, and see IMS, being a so-called “legacy” technology, an impediment to those goals. That understanding couldn’t be further from the truth. Through technical and organizational approaches such as hybridization, data virtualization and DevOps, IMS users can nearly always achieve all their business objectives for their IT at a relative bargain when compared to replatforming or other approaches that seek to be rid of the company’s mainframe. 

The problem is that following a distributed strategy to replace what IMS already does, and does well, costs more — a lot more. But that’s not to say that businesses can afford to limp on with their original mainframe strategy. Today’s competitive business environment demands a lot more from IT than stability and reducing costs (benefits which, to be sure, the mainframe provides in droves). The solution lies somewhere in the middle, with hybridization. A hybrid strategy keeps core data on the mainframe but creates a new hybrid DevOps environment where shiny new apps and features can be deployed seamlessly across multiple platforms, all while keeping costs under control. 

The vast capabilities of this new environment are enabled by technologies like APIs, which allow developers direct access to key transaction data to create new apps or user experiences. Meanwhile, virtualization of data allows for instantaneous access and combination with other heterogeneous sources of data for purposes of analytics or AI. Perhaps the best part about this new hybrid environment is that now developers need not even be IMS or mainframe experts in order to make programs that utilize IMS data (or, with ports of popular languages like Python, even program the mainframe directly). 

The technology required to enable this solution is not trivial. Thankfully, IBM (and other partners in the mainframe ecosystem, like Rocket Software) offer an array of technologies that can rapidly hasten these mainframe transformations, including everything from data virtualization tools to development environments that accelerate the creation of APIs and web UIs to application lifecycle management tools that enable DevOps to ready-made ports of popular open-source languages and tools. But it is important to stress that this solution is not purely technical. Realistically, to attain the kind of pace of innovation you need to transform the average mainframe environment, your IT organization will need to go all-in on a modern development approach like DevOps. 

Of course, none of this is free. However, it’s a whole lot cheaper than ditching your mainframe and adopting a fully distributed approach. Hybrid IT, as its name implies, truly is the best of both worlds, combining the raw power and efficiency and economy of the mainframe with the cutting-edge tools and paradigms that can help enable all your most pressing business technology objectives.

Jim Porell 9 Posts

I am a Solutions Architect at Rocket Software, focusing on pre and post sales technical assistance for Rocket developed products from IBM. Prior to joining Rocket, I was an independent consultant and retired IBM Distinguished Engineer. I held various roles as Chief Architect of IBM’s mainframe software and led Business Development and marketing of Security and Application Development for the mainframe. My last IBM role was Chief Business Architect for Federal Sales. I held a TS/SCI clearance for the US Government, was a member of the US Secret Service Electronic Crimes Taskforce in Chicago and co-authored several security books. I've done cybersecurity forensic work at a number of Retail, Financial and Government agencies and created a methodology for interviewing customers to avoid security breaches for large enterprises. I have over 40 years working with Information Technology.

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