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Can you imagine two teenagers on longboards as mainframe programmers? Meet Robin and Martijn van der Wal, 17-year-old students at ROC College Horizon in the Netherlands. Call them the “longboard twins” – their journey to the mainframe is an unusual one.

photo of Robin and Martijn van der Wal

Working with IBM and IBM Business Partner, ICU, to develop a proof-of-concept, the teenagers combined their love of longboarding and programming and came up with an interesting use case: Create a retail skateboard website prototype as a potential replacement for typical neither-secure-nor-fast solutions.

The longboard twins decided to use their programming skills to build an end-to-end solution that allows a mobile app to communicate with an existing CICS service on z/OS. They accomplished this by using IBM mainframes – LinuxONE and traditional IBM Z, z/OS Connect, and CICS.

The biggest challenge they faced was the lack of a contemporary language that spans mobile-to-mainframe and delivers on the promise of extreme agility they required.

Turns out that Apple’s open source Swift can be deployed for mobile, mid-tier, and the mainframe. So that’s exactly what the brothers did; they figured out a way to unlock and reuse critical application logic and data services that reside on a mainframe, all encoded in Swift. The result is a full-featured Swift client-side mobile application for ordering longboards on the web.

Turning a great idea into action, the brothers leveraged their knowledge of Swift server-side development and, together with their father Frank, they took the existing CICS application on z/OS and exposed it as a REST API with z/OS Connect. Then, they used IBM’s open source web framework, Kitura, which is written in Swift and runs natively on z/OS, to call the APIs. And finally, they leveraged PL/1 routines to store order information in a DB2 table.

ICU helped setup an IBM Cloud Private environment on LinuxONE for additional mid-tier scalability and added features. The mid-tier application also uses the Kitura/Swift combination. A NoSQL CouchDB database was added to enhance the data with product images as shown in the diagram below.

architecture diagram

If you think mainframes are old news and that modern-day developers don’t do mainframe programming, think again! Watch this video and see the longboard twins demo their fully integrated Swift app.

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