Web-Enabled Mainframe: Modernization for New Users

Web interfaces for the mainframe range from classic “green screen”-style for skilled power users to full-featured Web 2.0 composite applications that seamlessly incorporate mainframe application logic and data with Web and cloud feeds for the most advanced users.

Extending the Mainframe with Web Access
A state health services administration (HSA) serving more than one million Medicaid recipients uses CA Ideal applications and CA Datacom databases to manage its Medicaid system. Each day, one hundred staff work with these resources – retrieving policy information, updating records, executing client transactions – while fielding thousands of calls from recipients and insurance providers.

In response to increasing workloads and costs, HSA took staged approach to Web-enabling their health management application. Their first implementation gave Medicaid recipients Web access to mainframe applications to investigate plans, verify eligibility, enroll in or renew coverage, and update personal information. The next implementation allowed hospital personnel to access the application via the Web and register Medicaid-eligible newborns for immediate coverage.

Both user groups report higher satisfaction; they no longer wait in call cues, and with self-service access, they are more proactive and personally productive. Inside the call center, call volumes are down, response times are faster, productivity is up, and staff focus their energies on resolving the most important problems more quickly. From a technical perspective, choosing a modern, mainframe-resident Web-enablement product has allowed HSA to leverage its high-value legacy business logic with none of the high costs associated with changing the mainframe. For HSA, these user benefits mean more work completed at lower cost.

HSA is now planning a health information exchange – an information hub for hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, laboratories, other providers, and residents that will allow HSA to aggregate information and present it with various levels of control across the community.

Web 2.0 Enablement: An eHealth Community
A health insurer faced similar challenges – and has brought the hub concept to fruition. The insurer houses information on policyholders and policies on its mainframe and depends on complex application logic representing decades of investment to run its business operations. Yet until recently these resources were accessible only to employees and insurance agents via terminal emulation.

Like many service businesses, health insurance is people-driven. Millions of policyholders interact daily with thousands of insurance agents in offices across the country. The agents in turn work with thousands of insurance product specialists, claims administrators, and business managers, who in their turn work with administrative personnel at healthcare facilities and government agencies, and directly with the healthcare professionals who treat those policyholders as patients.

Understanding that all of these stakeholders would benefit from improved access and process, the insurer asked the pivotal question. What could we build that would really make a difference – that would give these users more of the information they value and improve their interactions?

In answer to these questions, the insurer designed and developed an eHealth Community Platform and Portal – a robust Web-oriented architecture (WOA) connecting everyone involved in healthcare – physicians, other medical professionals, emergency personnel, pharmacists, product and service suppliers, government agents, insurance representatives, and patients/policyholders. So long as they have an Internet or telecom connection, they have the full capabilities of the community portal and platform at their fingertips:

  • Health records and insurance records
  • Health and medical content
  • Web sites of hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, local pharmacies, and insurers
  • Authorized interaction with applications running on service provider systems
  • Unified communication – chat, IM, audio, and video

Physicians consult with colleagues, submit ePrescriptions, or share records with administrative personnel who then submit claims. Patients/policyholders make appointments, check prescriptions, access their health records and insurance policies, and communicate with care or insurance providers. On the backend, the eHealth platform also makes it easy for provider-partners to integrate existing resources – data, content, application functionality, etc. – into this unified community framework.

Modern Web Enablement Capabilities

HostBridge mainframe integration software and HostBridge WIRE, the Web Interface Rules Engine enable the rapid development and deployment of Web interfaces for IBM mainframe applications and data. WIRE leverages the object-oriented capabilities of the .NET framework to make it easy to integrate data, services, controls, and objects from any XML/Web services-capable asset – mainframe, midrange, distributed enterprise applications, or feeds from Web and cloud – and deliver them as dynamic Web 2.0 composites via the most advanced Web interfaces.

HostBridge products support all leading browsers – Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Android – Web enabling mainframe access from desktops and laptops to tablet PCs, Chrome notepads, iPads, iPhones, and Android phones. Empowering organizations to Web enable the mainframe, HostBridge opens the door to every user everywhere.


Run Web Services, SOA & Integration Workloads on the zIIP

Lower Costs/TCO, Improve Performance, Defer Upgrades
The value proposition of the System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) is compelling. Organizations that shift workloads from general purpose processors (GPs) to the less expensive and possibly faster zIIP can expand their use of certain workloads, reduce processing costs, and lower mainframe total cost of ownership (TCO). Many can also defer GP capacity upgrades, and those using all of their GP capacity may improve mainframe performance.

Of course, not all System z workloads are zIIP-eligible, as organizations reliant on CICS® know very well. Neither the CICS server nor traditional CICS applications are permitted to run on the zIIP. However, organizations that use software from licensed ISVs such as HostBridge for CICS integration – whether with other enterprise applications, SOAs, cloud architectures, or Web applications – can now zIIP-enable CICS Web services and integration/SOA workloads. And the larger their integration workloads, the greater the benefits they can realize with the zIIP.

zIIP-Enabled Integration: Two Use Cases
Two IBM and HostBridge customers provide cases in point. Like many organizations today, they continually seek ways to reduce operating costs while improving performance. Transferring CICS integration/Web services workloads from GPs to the zIIP has helped both achieve significant benefits.

A financial institution with five million customers, runs its business on a suite of CICS-based banking applications. While its GPs do not run at full capacity, the institution is interested in reducing its System z cost of ownership by shifting workloads to specialty engines. Its existing System z hardware has a zIIP installed but not utilized heavily. The institution’s customers live around the world and access the mainframe via the Internet from personal computers, tablet PCs, the latest smartphones, and ATMs in all twenty-four time zones. These millions of users execute very high volumes of transactions every day. These services-based transactions in turn represent a substantial percentage of all of the financial institution’s CICS-related processing. Today, all of it runs on the zIIP, and the institution has achieved considerable savings on processing cost and mainframe TCO.

A Department of Education in a major US city uses CICS applications to perform financial accounting. Their System z GPs run at 100% during peak processing times, and processing demand continues to grow. During peak periods, response times suffer for all workloads, and business units within the department battle over limited processing resources. The department’s Web services-based integration enables millions of educators, service providers, and parents to interact with the mainframe, so integration workloads represent a significant percentage of the total. By moving these workloads to the zIIP, the department reduced demand on its GPs and experienced performance improvements for all other System z processing, including dramatically faster response times. Equally important, the department postponed a capacity upgrade, saving even more.

HostBridge for zIIP
Both organization use HostBridge for zIIP to zIIP-enable their integration/SOA processing. Due to its unique architecture, HostBridge software and all integration/Web services workloads the run on HostBridge are 100% zIIP-eligible. This means that any XML/Web services-based CICS integration – with applications, SOAs, clouds, or Web infrastructures – can run 100% on the zIIP. With HostBridge for zIIP – which is simply HostBridge integration software with a set of specific technologies that allow it to run according to zIIP rules – organizations can shift workloads to the zIIP and do more with CICS at substantially lower cost.

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