IBM recently announced CICS Transaction Server (TS) 4.1. Two things are certain when we get a new version of CICS. First, there's a big leap in technology or a distinction that makes a logical break from the previous edition. Second, it's going to cost more.
Web 2.0 features in CICS
Web 2.0 seems to be a vague umbrella under which many new forms of Web-based applications fall. CICS TS 4.1 attempts to keep up with that. For instance, it internalizes SupportPac CA8K to enable Atom feeds off of CICS through RESTful application programmer interfaces (APIs) and PHP (Wikipedia says it originally stood for Personal Home Page) scripting. This enables easy access to CICS resources and application programs for Web pages, dashboards and mashups. If you want to see it in action, there's a fascinating demo on YouTube showing how easily a PHP programmer can get information in and out of an existing CICS application with just a communications area.
IBM now touts CICS Explorer as the "new face of CICS." Indeed, built on the Eclipse framework, it provides a fluid environment for CICS systems management and development tools. IBM also encourages customers and independent software vendors to add their own components with the supplied software development kit. Even without IBM CICS tools, Explorer's resource definition and management capabilities may make CICSPlex System Manager Web User Interface largely obsolete.
Business event processing
One of the more interesting additions to CICS TS 4.1 is the ability to detect business events without changing existing applications. This could be very useful, especially as the events may be published through MQ to allow for loose coupling between applications on different platforms, thus feeding dashboards or updating mashups. What remains to be seen is how these events will be processed without updating an application. My money is on global user exits, although Hursley may have created new hooks somewhere.
Enterprises in the throes of building a configuration management database should be pleased with version 4's Discovery Library Adapter (DLA). DLA creates XML that describes CICS configuration and relationship information, which may be consumed by a discovery library reader. In addition, version 4 includes resource tracking that involves signatures for governance and auditing. I hope to use it to figure out who overlaid the transaction definition that had been working until recently. Last, the CICS TS 4.1 has APIs for manipulating the CICS System Directory directly without transaction CEDA or batch program DFHCSDUP. It will be interesting to see if these APIs can be used from TSO for those of us who want to build our own resource definition online (RDO) workbenches.
There's also a paragraph in the announcement that mentions infrastructure for the deployment and management of application components based on a Service Component Architecture API. This may be good news for shops (such as ours) that want finer control over the creation and destruction of CICS resources other than bouncing with a cold start. Furthermore, version 4 includes the concept of "bundles," which I assume are a type of application resource collection in scope somewhere between RDO groups and lists.
More CICS TS 4.1 features
There are a few other line items that will be welcome too.
- The CICS MQ interface, first assimilated in version 3.2, will now be able to hook up to an MQ sharing group instead of a specific queue manager. This mimics the behavior of the DB2 interface and will simplify moving regions around during system maintenance or recovery.
- Support for Java v6 in 31-bit mode. I'm sure our application programmers will be glad for the new JVM level, but I have to wonder why CICS still isn't ready for the 64-bit version.
- CICSPlex System Manager (CPSM) may now use the Sysplex coupling facility for workload management. I think the biggest benefit may be accelerating CPSM's ability to report events between LPARs and make better routing decisions. I'm hoping that after this is in for a while, IBM may modify CPSM's preference for routing work to regions on the same LPAR as the routing regions.
- Speaking of transaction routing, v4 supports routing over IP connections as well as Start and Cancel commands. The new version will also natively support IP v6 if it's needed for your network.
IBM has provided an open beta starting March 31. Send an e-mail to CICSEP@uk.ibm.com if you want to participate. Also note that CICS TS 2.3 goes to end of service in September.
There is a wealth of free information out there about this new release, including videos on YouTube. Some of them are kind of odd but this CICS/TS PowerPoint is very informative and includes a link to the announcement letter.
In the past I've complained that IBM concentrates too much on chasing open technologies at the cost of support needed for older applications. However, I have to say I'm more impressed with this new release. Now when I'm in a roomful of application architects and hear the latest and greatest highfalutin' Web-based idea, I can honestly say, "We can do that." However, the proof is in the pudding and the meat will be in the documentation. We'll be able to see how this all really works when the CICS TS 4.1 Information Center comes out later this year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: For 24 years, Robert Crawford has worked off and on as a CICS systems programmer. He is experienced in debugging and tuning applications and has written in COBOL, Assembler and C++ using VSAM, DLI and DB2.
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