Mobile computing is without doubt the biggest growth area in computing at the moment, so it makes sense to make sure that those tried and trusted powerhouses of computing, such as CICS, are able to communicate with mobile devices.
Huge amounts of shopping/commerce now occur using mobile devices. In addition, other market sectors, such as health and financial services, make a big use of mobile computing. That creates an IT challenge to cost-effectively integrate CICS into new technologies like this and create Web applications and cloud-based opportunities.
On top of the business drivers, CICS sites are finding that there is a demand to enable their applications for mobile devices from users, who are looking to use their own devices (Bring Your Own Device), and with that comes the requirement for things like private app stores.
With service oriented architecture (SOA), CICS users can use Simple Object Access Protocol Web services and Axis2 Web services. With resource oriented architecture (ROA), CICS users can use Atom services. For mobile solutions, there are two main choices: Representational State Transfer (REST) Architectural designs and JSON data format. REST is great for ROA requests, but it’s a design principle, not a protocol. JSON is easy to generate and parse and provides lightweight data interchange. REST architectural designs are resource oriented, not service oriented. JSON is not as verbose as XML, it’s easy to read and parse, it uses Name-Value pairs, it has a simple structure and it creates a lightweight data package.
The CICS Transaction Server Feature Pack for Mobile Extensions V1.0
is available at no extra cost, and extends existing CICS Web services technology to support mobile working. There is a CICS LINKable interface for JSON to/from high-level language conversion. Using this software makes linking mainframe CICS to mobile computing into a five-stage process.
The first stage, at the mobile end, is to declare a new Worklight project. The second stage, at the mainframe end, is to write a (or utilize an existing) COBOL application. Stage three is to communicate from the mainframe to Worklight.
You’ll need to install (if you haven’t already) TCPIPSERV, JVMSERV and PIPELINE (Axis2 is configured with WSBINDIR pointing to WSBIND from JCL). The PIPELINE install automatically creates the WERBSERV and URIMAP resources required to make JSON Web service requests to your CICS applications. PIPELINE_CONFIG points to the pipeline configuration file on zFS.
PIPELINE_WSBINDIR points to the WSBIND path specified in the JCL. JVMSERVER is required with a name matching <jvmserver> in the PIPELINE configuration.
Stage four lets Worklight do most of the work. And stage five connects all this to the mobile device. Now you can run the application from the mobile device and the results will come back to the mobile device.
Connecting mobile devices to mainframe systems can enhance a business through the use of self-service applications, internal service applications and agent-based applications. It makes highly secure applications available on devices that users have with them most of the time and which they prefer to use rather than more old-fashioned methods, such as 3270 screens or even using a browser on their laptop.
Clearly, techniques are available to make this linking of CICS applications and mobile devices possible, and IBM has provided CICS Transaction Server Feature Pack for Mobile Extensions V1.0 along with a fairly straightforward methodology. It seems worthwhile giving it a go.
Trevor Eddolls is CEO at iTech-Ed Ltd, an IT consultancy. A popular speaker and blogger, he currently chairs the Virtual IMS and Virtual CICS user groups. He’s editorial director for the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook, and for many years edited Xephon’s