IBM buys EZSource to help transform your mainframe apps for the digital world

'I’m surprised IBM didn’t make this acquisition sooner,' one analyst says

20151027 ibm sign
Credit: Stephen Lawson

The digital transformation train may have already left the station, but for companies with legacy mainframe applications, it's not always clear how to get on board. On Wednesday, IBM announced an acquisition that could help.

The PC giant will acquire Israel-based EZSource, it said, in the hopes of helping developers "quickly and easily understand and change mainframe code."

EZSource offers a visual dashboard that's designed to ease the process of modernizing applications. Essentially, it exposes application programming interfaces (APIs) so that developers can focus their efforts accordingly.

Developers must often manually check thousands or millions of lines of code, but EZSource's software instead alerts them to the number of sections of code that access a particular entity, such as a database table, so they can check them to see if updates are needed.

IBM's purchase is expected to close in the second quarter of 2016. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sixty-eight percent of the world’s production IT workloads run on mainframes, IBM said, amounting to roughly 30 billion business transactions processed each day.

“The mainframe is the backbone of today’s businesses,” said Ross Mauri, general manager for IBM z Systems. "As clients drive their digital transformation, they are seeking the innovation and business value from new applications while leveraging their existing assets and processes."

EZSource will bring an important capability to the IBM ecosystem, said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy.

"While IBM takes advantage of a legacy architecture with z Systems, it’s important that the software modernizes, and that’s exactly what EZSource does," Moorhead said.

Large organizations still run a lot of mainframe systems, particularly within the financial-services sector, noted analyst Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics.

"As these organizations roll out new mobile, social and other digital business experiences, they have no choice but to expose these mainframe systems via APIs," Scavo said.

But in many large organizations, skilled mainframe developers are in short supply -- especially those who really understand these legacy systems, he added.

"Anything to increase the productivity of these developers will go a long way to ensuring the success of their digital business initiatives," Scavo said. "Automation tools to discover, expose and analyze the inner workings of these legacy apps are really needed."

It's a smart move for IBM, he added.

"With the vast majority of these mainframe applications running on IBM hardware, IBM has a vested interest in ensuring that customers continue to get the value from these systems," Scavo explained. "IBM’s services arm needs tools like this to enable their modernization offerings. I’m surprised IBM didn’t make this acquisition sooner."

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