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IBM fuses Java, mainframes

Big Blue is bringing cutting-edge Java technology and 30-year-old mainframe systems together to simplify new system development.

IBM (IBM) is bringing cutting-edge Java technology and 30-year-old mainframe systems together to simplify new system development.

The company today announced the Component Broker Connector, a middleware tool that lets Java, Visual Basic, and C++ developers write new applications that integrate existing mainframe and other legacy system transaction processing systems.

The middleware, which includes an object request broker and a development toolkit, amounts to a single API (application programming interface) that lets developers write applications that work with IBM's CICS, IMS, Encina, and MQSeries middleware. Client applications can be written in Java, C++, or in Microsoft's Visual Basic.

The Component Broker "glues together disparate systems," said Patti Dock, IBM's director of object technology middleware, at a morning press briefing.

The new software "masks the hundreds and hundreds of APIs an applications programmer usually deals with and lets programmers deal with business application development," she added.

Analysts said the tools are vital to IBM, since most Fortune 500 firms use the company's transactional middleware for their most important applications.

"IBM is feeling like they are well behind the curve in growing the use of these systems," said Stan Dolberg, an analyst with Forrester Research. "So they have rounded up some classes that make #&91;the systems#&93; easier to get to."

Company executives said the tools are critical to their plan to move their products onto the Web. "It's as important as anything we've rolled out," said Steve Mills, general manager of IBM's software solutions division.

IBM said Component Broker will enter beta testing by month's end, with customer shipments slated for the third quarter of this year. The first shipping release will support development in Java or C++.

A release next year will add Cobol and Smalltalk language support. The middleware runs on Windows NT and IBM's AIX operating systems.

Pricing has not been announced. Mills said the tools are priced to complement database systems and may be priced between $1,000 and $3,000 per client.