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Merrill Lynch

A mainframe isn't the most conventional platform for a service-oriented architecture (SOA), but since investment bank Merrill Lynch looks to save around $40 million annually with it, no one's quibbling.

SOA treats applications software as a collection of autonomous, reusable business services. That way, users can run these applications across different platforms, including the Web.

But, for many firms, standards issues and vendor hyperbole are major hurdles in the path of the technology. (See SOAs: Approach With Caution, SOS for SOAs, Users Send SOA SOS, and Wall Street Eyes SOAs.)

Not Merrill, which started work on its SOA back in 2001, prompted by a need to ease the strain on its storage systems. Jim Crew, former director of infrastructure and data services at the bank, tells Byte and Switch that prior to deploying the SOA, Merrill was forced to replicate data from its eight IBM z/Series mainframes onto Oracle, SQL Server, and Sybase databases running on multiple EMC Symmetrix boxes. This data, in turn, was used by applications supporting, for example, online statement services.

The applications in question knew how to write against a Sybase application, they didn’t know how to write against a mainframe application,” explained Crew, highlighting the challenge of working with a technology regarded as outdated by some vendors. “We were copying Tbytes of data on a daily basis. We took a really hard look at this and realized this is a place where we’re spending an awful lot of money." (See Mainframe Skills Shortage Looms and IBM Celebrates a Birthday.)

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