CICS Gets an Overhaul

Big Blue announces new offerings that retrofit CICS for new and emerging workloads—such as Web services and SOAs

Last week, IBM Corp. announced a new release of CICS Transaction Server as well as a revamped version of its CICS Transaction Gateway.

Both products help retrofit the venerable CICS transaction-processing environment—which notched its 35th birthday earlier this year—for new and emerging workloads, IBM officials say.

To that end, Big Blue says the enhancements it’s delivering in the 3.1 release of CICS Transaction Server bring CICS fully up to spec on Web services standards and make it possible for the seminal OLTP manager to fully participate in Service Oriented Architectures (SOA).

“For the previous version—actually, for version 2—we delivered to the marketplace a SOAP feature that was really an adjunct to the product, and what we’re really doing [with CICS 3.1] is bringing this into the base CICS Transaction Server,” explains Phil Hanson, CICS manager for applications and integration for IBM. “We can now deliver a Web services story that is very coherent based on the Web services standards. We now support WS Security [and] WS System Management, but what we’re delivering also relies on the native features we have in the CICS product, so you can get a really managed solution.”

Among other features, Hanson touts CICS 3.1’s enhanced application-transformation capabilities, including optimized CICS data exchange capabilities and the ability to exploit a single development environment, IBM’s Rational Application Developer (formerly WebSphere Studio Enterprise Developer), to integrate and transformation applications.

The new CICS 3.1 also boasts improved workload throughput, Hanson says, thanks to a new container-based API. “We recognize that much larger payloads are being delivered as far as Web services are concerned, so we made a change in the ability to pass data between programs in a more structured way,” he explains. “We designed a new container-based API for getting over a sort of structural problem with the common areas, which were limited to 32 KB in size, so there’s no size restriction.”

What this means, he continues, is that CICS is better able to address the sizeable payloads associated with XML-heavy Web services standards.

More than that, says Hanson, the new version of CICS enables IT organizations to more easily expose applications written in COBOL or PL1 as part of an SOA. “You can see that CICS is a key endpoint on that Enterprise Service Bus, so it enables these COBOL applications to be refactored into these Web services and play a part in this new technology going forward,” he explains. “Many of our customers are excited that CICS can be a Web services provider as well as a requestor in the Web services story.”

Other improvements in CICS 3.1 include improved performance and enhanced systems management through the extension of the CICSPlex System Manager Web User Interface.

Also last week, IBM announced a revamped version 6.0 release of CICS Transaction Gateway. Among other features, CICS Transaction Gateway 6.0 boasts improved performance and scalability, including performance optimization technology that Hanson says reduces CPU overhead and improves availability. Other improvements include better systems management and security via enhanced SSL support and improved integration with z/OS security.

Finally, IBM announced a new CICS Batch Application Control for z/OS V1.1, which it says improves the management of batch processes that share resources with one or more CICS online transaction systems.

CICS may be 35 years old, but IBM is by no means done with it. Hanson says customers should keep their eyes peeled for more CICS announcements in the new year—including updates designed to simplify the process of converting CICS business logic into reusable components.

“As customers look at having built Web services, they want to then take and aggregate them, so we see that as a next step as far as delivering them online, so you should see from IBM some things in 2005—some new things in delivering the tooling for that,” he concludes.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.