CTO Tuesdays #21: Building business processes with mainframe inclusion

April 28th, 2010 by Alex

IBM 3420 tape drives in "Lost"

Well, I’ve been waiting a very long time to write a blog post that mentions that in the ABC TV series “Lost” the famous hatch where the button had to be pushed every 108 minutes had some very retro, old-school tech in it.

After searching and searching, I finally found a still on a fan website from the show’s second season that clearly shows a pair of IBM 3420 mainframe tape drives. Say what?

The Dharma Initiative was using IBM mainframe technology on the island in 1974? What did they need data storage for? Why are the tape drives always empty? What do those cool lights shining up from the bottom of the unit mean? (There were no lights there on the original 3420s.) How come I am the only person to have noticed these antiques in the hatch? (OK, not the only one. But a lot more people are wondering about the meaning of the smoke monster, or whether the Island is Hell — and all I want to know is what OS they were running on these things..MVS, VSE or the progenitor of all things virtual, VM/370.)

Lemme tell ya, these babies could store up to 150MB per 10″ tape reel! And to speed access, the drive “sucked” the tape down into the vacuum columns you can see on either side of the lighted area on the bottom of the tape drive. And, believe it or not, these things “burped” when you unloaded them — which depending on the version of the operating system the mainframe was running, sometimes had to be done manually.

So, what’s all this have to do with the content of CTO Tuesdays #21? Easy: for all the jokes about outdated mainframe(rs) and their never-very-cool reputation compared to the then-nascent PC, mainframes matter. They mattered then…and, to the surprise of no one who’s ever worked on them, they matter today.

On this episode of CTO Tuesdays, Michael Rowley turns the con over to Rob Morris and Dusty Rivers of GT Software, who describe an elegant and practical way of linking everything on a mainframe — CICS transactions, IMS queues, VSAM keyed datasets, raw 3270 data streams…you name it — to a modern BPMS like ActiveVOS. This is done via standard web services, using WSDLs to define available mainframe services.

Simply, if you have mainframe technology in your organization (and, frankly if you are in financial services, telecommunications and/or entertainment & media, we’d bet you do) and you want to write business processes that live up to the promise of flexibly integrating both people and systems, you gotta watch this podcast.

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One Response to “CTO Tuesdays #21: Building business processes with mainframe inclusion”

  1. BPM | Mainframe technology with a BPMS | VOSibilities Says:

    [...] or not you think mainframe technology is cool or not (I happen to admire it, but that’s another story). The chances are overwhelming that you will have to include mainframe systems in your deployed [...]

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