Enabling Agile Processes With IBM BPM For z/OS

Dave Marquard, Janet Wall and Eric Herness from the IBM BPM team gave an analyst briefing today on BPM on the z/OS platform. At Impact earlier this year, we saw a merging of the Lombardi acquisition and WebSphere Process Server into a unified IBM BPM product, and this month, they released BPM on z/OS. This is intended to unify across the historic divide between z (mainframe) and non-z assets, and allow the benefits of BPM for agility and visibility to be combined more easily with the z/OS applications and data.

The presentation highlighted a typical process problem in a System z environment: account opening in financial institution, where paper-based manual processes at the front end are combined with multiple repositories of customer information, a variety of systems for risk assessment and customer care, and legacy account management systems. In their new vision, this can be replaced with explicit process management and better orchestration between the components; this, of course, is not unique to this platform, but is a general benefit of BPM. Deploying BPM on z/OS, however, leverages co-location for better performance and access to data, as well as the scalability that you would expect on this larger platform.

From an IBM BPM architecture standpoint, the Process Server components can now be hosted on z/OS, while the Process Center and its repository stay on Windows, AIX or Linux. Process Server Advanced for z/OS is more than just a simple port: it leverages native z/OS data structures, supports languages such as COBOL, provides local adapters to other z/OS applications, and allows reusable services to be created more easily. Since the process and services are both running on z/OS, WebSphere z/OS does optimization for cross-memory local communications to improve performance and resource utilization, providing the most benefit when the processes frequently interact with DB2, CICS and IMS on the same platform, and also providing seamless integration with other facilities such as RACF.

This plugs into Business Monitor for z/OS that monitors the processes, other z/OS applications and events, and provides user-customizable dashboards for overall monitoring and some KPI-based predictive analytics. Other process-related offerings that are already on z/OS include business rules, ESB and message broker, so the migration of BPM to this platform provides a pretty robust set of tools for those companies who rely on z/OS for their primary operations. This is now providing a much more model-driven, process-oriented platform, allowing the underlying DB2 and CICS applications to be abstracted and orchestrated more easily.

They talked about a couple of case studies (without naming the clients), highlighting scalability, performance and resilience as the key differentiators of running BPM on z/OS for existing z/OS clients.

A few additional references provided in the briefing notes:

Since most of my customers are in financial services and insurance, many of them are on IBM mainframe platforms. Although not all will choose to deploy BPM on z/OS, this does provide an option for those who want to more fully integrate their mission-critical processes with their existing z/OS applications.