Evangelizing Mainframe
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CICS: The Next Big Thing?

I have been in data processing for quite a few years. My first main role was to support an online IBM system called CICS. I later went on to build management products for CICS and to design some of the management of CICS itself in a joint effort with IBM—CICSPlex System Manager.

While I was doing this, I saw CICS in action many times. I would go into a store and the representative would check inventory by logging on to a “green screen” CICS application. When I went to the doctor, staff would look up my history by logging into a CICS application. My insurance agent and my travel agent both used CICS applications.

Of course, from their viewpoint, they had no idea of what was running under the covers—nor did they need to know. They knew how to run the application: enter the request to start, fill the fields with content and interpret the results, but they had little desire to understand more. You can really lose someone’s interest when you start explaining that the applications they are using are running on a mainframe using COBOL applications and BMS maps.

CICS has been around for more than 40 years and has undergone a handful of changes, including a name change to CICS Transaction Server (CTS). Although it can still run green-screen applications, when I go to the store, doctor, travel agent or insurance office, I don’t see the familiar green screen anymore. They have been replaced by Web applications that are modern, easy to use and visually light years ahead of the green screens.

Over the years, CICS has evolved; however, some things haven’t changed. Many of the applications running on CICS are still using those same COBOL applications. Even though nearly everyone has, at some point, used a CICS application (for instance, when filling out a form online), users still have little desire to know what‘s running under the covers.

Another aspect that hasn’t changed is CICS is still critical to businesses. If it’s not able to respond to a request in a timely manner, end users will be unhappy. CICS has to be available and responsive. So if problems arise, they need to be resolved as soon as possible. This means CICS applications and transactions monitoring is essential.

Over the years, CICS has evolved and been combined with other technologies. These leverage mainframe and open systems, including messaging, application servers, brokers and databases. It’s not unusual for a business transaction to execute components in WebLogic application server, WebSphere MQ, CICS, DB2, .NET frameworks and MSSQL. In order to provide timely responses to the customer, all of these systems must be available and deliver high performance. These applications are considerably more complex than the traditional, old-school CICS transactions. Clearly, after 40 years, CICS has come a long way.

Richard Nikula is vice president of development at Nastel Technologies. He has more than 30 years of experience in IT.

Posted: 9/29/2011 2:37:18 PM by Richard Nikula

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