IBM has announced a new programming language and a range of tools. The company said they had been designed to help transform the System z mainframe into a core platform for service-oriented architecture (SOA).

The IBM Rational Cobol Generation tools are designed to allow developers familiar with Java, VisualBasic or Cobol to create SOA-enabled mainframe applications by using a platform-independent language - Enterprise Generation Language - that is then translated into Cobol.

"There is a perception that the [z] platform is not that accessible, that you have to have a lot of skills and do a long apprenticeship ... to create applications for the platform," said Jim Rhyne, IBM's chief architect for the enterprise software platform. "This is a combination of an [integrated development environment] and simplified programming language."

IBM also unveiled several new tools designed to help companies integrate mainframe data via an SOA. Many companies have used traditional "screen scraping" tools - including IBM's own Host Access Transformation Services - to expose business logic on a System z mainframe so it can be accessed within an SOA. However, they often find that this method requires navigating through several screens and multiple transactions, which can be a drain on computing resources, Rhyne said. As a result, companies are looking for new ways to expose System z data so it can be accessed with an SOA.

By re-engineering the mainframe interface to a messaging interface, only one transaction is required, Rhyne said. However, companies then need new tools to help orchestrate the movement of messages and automate business process management.

The new WebSphere Process Server for z, expected to be available in June, is designed to connect mainframe data to complex business processes via an SOA. The new WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus for IBM System z, also shipping next month, will provide transformation and routing of messages within the SOA.

WebSphere Portal for z.OS will combine different applications in an SOA, while DB2 Viper for z/OS dat/ server will link unstructured data with relational information in databases. Finally, Tivoli Federated Identity Manager for z/OS will help secure transactions across the mainframe and distributed computers using SOA technology.