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Creating Modern Automation Strategies with the Mainframe, RPA, and More

by Micro Focus Employee in Application Modernization & Connectivity

Que Mangus, Product Marketing Manager for Application Modernization at Micro Focus, reminds us of the importance of leveraging the mainframe in automation initiatives as he walks us through the IDC whitepaper, “Creating Modern Automation Strategies with the Mainframe, RPA, and More.”

Don’t forget the mainframe

With so much focus around cloud-native technologies and the push to use SaaS for business needs, it can be easy to forget that the mainframe is still critical to many organizations. IDC reports that in 2020, 44 of the top 50 banks and all top-10 insurers worldwide continue to use IBM mainframes for core transaction processing workloads. And according to IBM, 67 of the Fortune 100 companies leverage IBM Z Series machines as their core platform today.

The mainframe remains strategic as it holds business critical data and because of its reliability, resilience, and performance under very demanding workload requirements. It still needs to be part of an organization’s overall business strategy. Yes, the mainframe has its challenges. But with the right strategy, the mainframe can shine. 

Automation is a key initiative

IDC found that business process automation was the number two investment priority, trailing only security and privacy. “Over 60 percent of organizations said they prioritized increased investment in automation and augmentation technologies to create adaptive business operations.” Automation is a key initiative for most organizations.

What is driving this interest? IDC reports that “the current wave of interest and investment in business automation has been largely catalyzed by the explosive adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) offered by vendors such as Automation Anywhere, SS&C Blue Prism, and UiPath.” RPA is driving a new wave of automation.

So, what does this mean to you? If the mainframe is critical to the operation of your business and you are not using RPA with your mainframe—you should be! Your organization is likely already using RPA in some form, and you could be optimizing value by including the mainframe in your organization’s RPA initiatives.

Connecting the dots—mainframe and RPA

With so much important business data housed on the mainframe, it is logical to leverage the mainframe in RPA initiatives. But accessing mainframe data can be more complicated. Since this data is business-critical, using RPA with the mainframe must be done right.

There are two main approaches to mainframe automation. First is traditional application programming interfaces that are UI-based, like HLLAPI or .NET (utilizing terminal emulation). Or you can use web services (also known as service enablement) that are API based.

Terminal emulation: UI-based RPA

IBM’s HLLAPI has been the green-screen data access standard for more than 30 years. With UI-based RPA, the RPA tool accesses host data by leveraging HLLAPI through a terminal emulator and corresponding mainframe green screen. All RPA solutions support this standard interface for mainframe data access. This data is included via a desktop-based terminal emulator. Because many organizations are HLLAPI-savvy, this can be a faster way to leverage mainframe data in an RPA-based automated process.

Service enablement: API-based RPA

The more scalable method requires developing distinct procedures for host-based applications that perform units of work as consumable web services. RPA tool calls on these web services as needed in an automated process. We refer to this approach as service-enabling the mainframe (or host).

From the IDC whitepaper, “For organizations that are building bridges between host-based systems and IPA [Intelligent Process Automation] initiatives, using specialized host integration software is an alternative approach to terminal emulation. Rather than creating a direct one-to-one connection between an instance of an automation platform and an instance of a terminal emulator and requiring individual automation scripts to directly specify detailed actions against specific host-based applications (individual keystrokes, etc.), host integration software acts as an ’insulation layer‘ that enables organizations to create more flexible relationships between host-based applications and automation platforms.”

Micro Focus Solutions

Micro Focus terminal emulation solutions, including Reflection Desktop, InfoConnect Desktop, Rumba+ Desktop, and Extra! X-treme integrate with any RPA solution to support UI-based RPA. Service-enabled RPA is offered through Micro Focus Verastream. This solution transforms host applications into web services and makes them accessible as standard APIs for robotic process automation. Both UI-based and API based RPA are offered in a single solution, Micro Focus Host Access for RPA for optimal flexibility. This solution allows you to integrate critical mainframe data into your RPA projects using a variety of approaches.

Summary

As you deliver automation initiatives, you must include mainframe data and systems. The mainframe is still critical to organizations, as it is reliable, resilient, and performs under very demanding workload requirements.

Learn more about utilizing RPA with the mainframe:

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