IBM has announced its latest version of CICS, V3.2, and the focus is definitely on making mainframe SOA better.
CICS is the mainframe transaction processing environment used by most of the Global Fortune 2000 companies, and it is estimated that trillions of dollars of investment are tied up in CICS applications. IBM started to deliver on its SOA promises with CICS Transaction Server V3.1, and now with V3.2 it has continued the process.
One clear attraction of IBM’s approach, for example, is the ability to have the mainframe play the role of both consumer and provider of SOA services. In other words, not only can CICS applications be turned into web services for external use, but they can also call other web services. This was delivered in CICS V3.1, and has been popular with a lot of CICS customers. The point is that, while being able to leverage CICS investments from outside increases the return on those investments, being able to utilize non-CICS services from CICS creates even more value and RoI. This bi-directional capability is something that many SOA tool suppliers ignore, seeing the mainframe as little more than a dinosaur, but it is in fact an extremely valuable function.
In CICS V3.2, IBM has improved its support for tools in an SOA environment, such as management, development and diagnostic tools, but at the same time it has tackled some knotty problems that have been hanging around annoying users for some time. The first is that IBM has finally acknowledged that IP is a key communications protocol, and it needs to be treated as such. So, V3.2 includes much better IP support. Another is the issue of CICS/MQ applications – CICS applications using the IBM WebSphereMQ messaging software, commonly used in SOA implementations where the mainframe is involved. In the past, the CICS /MQ adapter that enables CICS applications to use MQ has been owned by the WebSphereMQ product line. This has meant that MQ usage has always remained ‘outside’ the CICS environment, and support has suffered as a result. Now, this adapter has been brought into CICS. This has resulted in an immediate benefit of CICS making it thread-safe, improving its performance. Also, it can now be more closely integrated with CICS measurement and diagnostic tools.
Although users may greet V3.2 with cries of ‘About time!’, there is no doubt that the release does make mainframe SOA support even better. But what of all those users who cannot quickly get to CICS V3, and are stuck on V2 or earlier? Are they forced to wait for much-needed SOA benefits? Fortunately, IBM’s partner community has not neglected this opportunity – there are a number of SOA tools available from third parties to enable users to get started with mainframe SOA while they plan their eventual CICS V3 migrations.