In one form or another, CICS has been available since the mid-1960’s, just about as long as the IBM Mainframe server that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, released in 1964. From a deployment viewpoint, 90%+ of Fortune 500 companies deploy CICS, primarily for its robust and often unbeatable ability to deliver sub-second response times for numerous application transactions. Whether a large or small IBM Mainframe user, CICS delivers an enterprise class solution for a myriad of business types and arguably at one time or another, nearly every committed IBM Mainframe installation has implemented CICS.
In the past few decades I have encountered many failed IBM Mainframe migration projects and more often than not, the primary reason for platform migration failure was the inability of the target platform to deliver consistent sub-second transaction response times for a plethora of mission critical business applications. Similarly, it often follows that if a non-Mainframe environment has been heavily configured to handle the CICS transaction workload, it often fails with the subsequent batch processing, suffering from significantly elongated elapsed times.
CICS has its foundations as an enterprise class transaction server, capturing data input for subsequent storage and retrieval in Database Management Subsystems, but let’s not forget, CICS can do so much more…
Let’s not forget, in 2001 CICS Transaction Server (TS) 2.1 for z/OS introduced the foundation for web services support, and a capability for CICS transactions to be invoked via HTTP requests. There have been numerous enhancements since, too many to mention, which have evolved CICS into a fully-rounded family of solutions, allowing for cradle to grave application design and delivery. However, let’s just take some time to review what CICS TS Version 5 has delivered, and how this might benefit the 21st Century business.
Recognizing the IBM defined Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social & Security (CAMSS) initiative, CICS is integral to such a business facing initiative, primarily from a Cloud interoperability viewpoint.
The CICS V5.2 Application Server has a capability to host multiple applications and multiple versions of the same application, simultaneously, primarily due to the substantial increase of platform scalability. Similarly, a heterogeneous code environment offers application development personnel a single environment to work seamlessly with Java and other legacy languages, such as COBOL, C/C++, PL/I, et al.
Combining this heterogeneous code environment with Cloud enablement allows for new application version deployment, without a requirement to disable or remove the previous version from Production processing. Regardless of the underlying application source code base, end users can access an application without service interruption, as they transition to the new application version. Similarly, user workloads can be seamlessly redirected to a previous working version of application code, presuming new version errors.
The CICS V5.2 application server delivers a powerful hosting environment for all business applications, new or old. Application Development teams can provision applications for design and testing within a “real life working” infrastructure, removing the application when testing is complete, or promoting said application ASAP, for mission critical business usage. This delivers a significant business improvement in application availability, minimizing service downtime. Therefore, applications stay as current and relevant as possible, reducing the risk of business service outages, delivering better and consistent end user experiences.
As per the IBM zSeries Mainframe heritage, a standard resilience feature of the CICS V5.2 Application Server is an inherent capability to perform, even in the event of a problem scenario. Cloud enablement delivers a clustering capability, which handles both system and application level failure scenarios. Seamless and timely problem resolution dictates less down time, delivering more business availability, instilling a high sense of confidence in end users and consumers alike.
Noting the Security aspect of the IBM CAMSS initiative and the ever present cybersecurity risk to us all, CICS Application Server also delivers on this front. Safeguarding that application enhancements can be brought online ASAP and securely, CICS V5.2 Application Server seamlessly integrates with various security software and languages, including the latest WebSphere Application Server (WAS) Liberty Profile, allowing for the portability of Java Enterprise Edition Web applications. Enhanced security capabilities also include Java Naming and Directory Interface (JNDI), Bean Validation, JDBC Type 2 Data Sources and the Java Transaction API (JTAPI). SSL support incorporated within the Liberty JVM server HTTP listener is extended to support key certificates stored in System Authorization Facility (SAF) key rings, delivering SSL server authentication.
Like it or not, Cloud computing is a rapidly evolving technology, where the Cloud is integrating increasingly more applications and associated services, delivering cost savings and scalability accordingly. Of course, for true enterprise class scalability and cost efficiency, arguably the IBM zSeries Mainframe is an ideal platform for Cloud technologies. Therefore with some slightly modified thinking, organizations can deploy Cloud based solutions and benefit from application promotion benefits, especially with a technology such as CICS.
There is a great presentation named Five Compelling Reasons for Creating a CICS Cloud that provides robust working examples of how to increase application availability, with real-life application development scenarios.
In conclusion, CICS continues to evolve and not only is it the best Enterprise Class Transaction Server, the family of CICS products including its Application Server deliver a 21st Century Cloud computing compatible platform, for the most demanding of business requirements. Whether considering the IBM defined Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social & Security (CAMSS) initiative or the more traditional Reliability, Availability and Serviceability (RAS) attributes of the zSeries Mainframe server, the latest version of CICS facilitates:
- Rapid Application Development: Agile methodologies for rapid development, irrespective of programming language (E.g. Java, COBOL, C/C++, PL/I, et al).
- Seamless & Timely Application Deployment: More frequent application updates, minimizing downtime and associated cost, while leveraging from Cloud functionality, to deploy new applications, application enhancements or bug fixes, side-by-side with existing real-life Production workloads.