Integration Stories: EAE, AB Suite, and ClearPath Servers
Contributors: Mark Eveleigh, Alan Hood, Wayne Oakley, Nigel Tunnicliffe, Unisys
Incorporating other applications, data resources, and access methods into an EAE or Agile Business Suite application is easier than you think. We recently polled a group of Unisys technical consultants to find out what customers are doing in the area of integration – and we had a tremendous response.
The following examples feature many applications that have been in production for years – and have been extended and refreshed using the integration capabilities of EAE/AB Suite and the ClearPath platform.
BizTalk, Web Services, and More
According to Unisys Senior Consultant Mark Eveleigh, there’s a strong demand for Microsoft® BizTalk® Server integration in the financial services industry. As a result, the Unisys Technical Consultancy team developed a custom BizTalk Adapter (based on Component Enabler) to make the job of interfacing easier. It exposes the traditional Ispec interfaces as XML message formats that can be consumed by BizTalk and also uses connection pooling through Component Enabler. Some transactions include calls to multiple Ispecs, and can involve complex XML maps implemented in BizTalk. But the BizTalk Adapter simplifies the job, which, in many cases, requires no change to core EAE applications running on ClearPath mainframes. Following are two examples:
- A bank in Latin America provides services integration using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006, accessing EAE transactions running on its ClearPath MCP operating environment through the custom BizTalk Adapter and connection pooling with Component Enabler.
- An insurance company in Puerto Rico interfaces its custom EAE insurance application to front-office and web-based insurance quoting applications using the BizTalk Adapter and connection pooling through Component Enabler.
The Technical Consultancy team has also replaced “ClearPath to Microsoft Windows®” interfaces, which were running on unsupported software, and extended them to include new functionality – while making minimal changes to back-end EAE applications. For example:
- For an insurer using the Unisys Unisure application, the team replaced a PowerClient GUI with a more modern custom .NET web application using Component Enabler ASP .NET WinForm Renderer. This project included updating interfaces to existing Windows applications by replicating the interface so that the existing application did not need to be changed or even recompiled.
- The team helped a bank develop a service that allows mobile phone users to “top up” their service (add funds) from its ATMs using Unisys Business Integrator with its existing EAE application running on ClearPath MCP, making it easy for the EAE application to call out to external services.
- With the help of Unisys Technical Consultancy staff, Heal and Son Ltd., a furniture retailer in the UK, introduced a point-of-sale system interfacing with its EAE back-office application using BizTalk. They also provided an interface to a web-based wedding gift registry. Further information on this project is available on Unisys.com.
Unisys Solutions Architect Wayne Oakley has worked extensively with Hertz New Zealand Limited, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Hertz
Corporation, which uses EAE to support its entire business – from front-counter operations to financials and reporting. Here are just a few of the interfaces the company has developed:
- To receive reservations from Hertz Corporation, they defined a custom ALGOL program that opens a Telnet port to a Windows server in the U.S. and writes incoming reservations to a dataset in the EAE application’s DMS II database running on their ClearPath mainframe. These updates are then processed by a sleeping report.
- Another interface handles real-time credit card authorizations. A transaction from the front counter triggers a HUB request. The request is sent to a program running on a separate Windows server operated by Hertz New Zealand Limited, which forwards the transaction via VPN for authorization by an outside service.
- A third interface automates updates to Hertz New Zealand’s data warehouse with information from its EAE application. EAE reports extract the changes and a WFL job copies the files to an IBM AS/400 server using secure FTP (FTPS in implicit mode).
- CSV files can be forwarded to selected Head Office staff via a disk share. For an approved user, Hertz New Zealand defines an MCP user code and an RU of his/her Windows login with a LOCALALIAS of the MCP user code. EAE reports produce the data in the correct format and a WFL job runs a privileged DCALGOL program, which copies or renames the data file from the user code of the EAE application to the user’s MCP user code. The user then maps his Z drive to the _HOME_ share of the ClearPath Libra 400 mainframe.
- Hertz New Zealand Limited also uses several FTP transfers, both GET and PUT, between PCs at its Head Office in Christchurch and the ClearPath Libra 400 server.
- Finally, the company uses *OBJECT/EMAIL (an MCP system library) to send CSV and TXT files as email attachments.
SharePoint, Email, and Enterprise Output Manager
Nigel Tunnicliffe, Unisys architect, describes a variety of interfaces implemented at the Isle of Man Government (IoMG) that provide electronic notification (e-Notices) of tax documents.
The e-Notice system is based on integration between IoMG’s EAE Tax system, Microsoft SharePoint®, and a custom web interface. The result is an electronic data store of all tax documents associated with a particular taxpayer. (The online returns part of the system that incorporates this interface won an award for excellence.) The process is as follows:
- As part of the overnight batch run, the Tax system generates taxpayer documents via standard EAE reports and Unisys Enterprise Output Manager. Each document is saved to disk and includes associated metadata, such as tax period and lists of other taxpayers who can legally view the document. The Tax system also generates an XML file defining the emails that inform taxpayers when there are new documents to view in their document libraries.
- A custom process loads the documents and associated metadata into a SharePoint repository and emails taxpayers, who can log in and view their documents.
- An IoMG tax officer can log into the Tax system and access the same list of electronic documents via a custom button on the
Presentation Client screen. This button invokes a “LINCHOOK” process that calls SharePoint to display the tax documents associated with a particular taxpayer.
- Online users can also submit documents to be saved in their electronic document store as part of an online tax return. The name and SharePoint location of each document is held in the EAE database, which allows a tax officer to view any documents associated with a tax return.
What About Your Environment?
The interfaces we’ve described in this article go well beyond typical client and GUI modernization activities – but they just scratch the surface when it comes to the number and type of external interfaces being used with EAE and AB Suite applications in production environments. For example, we also have customers who:
- Use third-party data access tools to extract data from their DMS II databases to populate data warehouses
- Use FTP and “flat file” interfaces to share volumes of data with applications on other platforms
- Develop custom interfaces to provide transaction-based access to non-traditional devices, such as weight scales and grain
So what about your organization? Do you have a unique interface you’d like to tell us about? Or do you have a business problem that requires you to connect to some unique application or device, and you’d like some help or guidance in that area?
Either way, we would love to hear from you. Please email us at ABSuite@unisys.com.