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CICS V5.3 Focuses on Agility, Efficiency, Cloud and DevOps

There’s a new James Bond movie out so it must be time for a major release of CICS. While the James Bond franchise has been around just a little longer than CICS, there are many parallels that can be drawn between the evolution of the Bond storylines and the development of CICS. Both adopt appropriate technology to tackle a solution in innovative ways and both are remarkably agile considering their “experience.” As 2015 draws to a close, CICS Transaction Server for z/OS (CICS TS) V5.3 also premieres with a full supporting cast of tools to make the experience even better.

IBM has announced CICS TS V5.3 as continuing the themes that have been prevalent throughout version 5, so the focus is really in three key areas: service agility, operational efficiency and cloud with DevOps.

Service Agility

One way of viewing service agility is the ability to do more—to more rapidly deliver new and enhanced applications and services in CICS. This is aimed in particular at making life better and easier for developers.

A major area that IBM has invested in here is the Java infrastructure in CICS, and in particular the WebSphere Application Server Liberty profile running in a JVM server inside CICS (see Figure 1). Liberty is a lightweight, fast, composable, Java Enterprise Edition (JEE) profile, so it provides features such as servlets and JavaServer Pages (JSPs). Support for the Liberty profile as an integrated component of CICS was introduced in CICS TS V5.1, and IBM continues to increase the features that are available, with CICS TS V5.3 providing some really interesting capabilities in this area.

CICS V5.3 provides support for even more of the Liberty features (see Figure 2), including full support for the JEE 6 Web Profile of WebSphere Liberty V8.5.5. This enables Web application presentation logic to be ported into CICS from other JEE servers, allows existing CICS services to be accessed via new integration logic hosted in CICS, and supports Java business logic running in CICS, providing access to assets such as DB2 and VSAM data. Interoperability is enhanced by providing a locally optimized version of the JEE Connector Architecture ECI (external call interface) resource adapter, and by support for the z/OS Connect feature which provides JSON-based integration between mobile devices and CICS assets.

Liberty in CICS is supported by a number of standard monitoring APIs and tools, including the IBM Health Center, and provides simplified management with the Java Management Extensions API, so it should be good news for system programmers as well.

IBM has additionally made a Statement of Direction around support for Java applications that exploit Java EE 7 Full Platform features when running in the WebSphere Liberty profile that is integrated with CICS TS, which should make portability even easier.

CICS TS V5.3 also has good news for developers who are familiar with the Java Message Service (JMS) APIs, allowing OSGi Java programs in CICS to use the MQ classes for JMS to access IBM MQ for z/OS.

Operational Efficiency

While the service agility focus was about doing more, the operational efficiency area is about doing more with less, and being able to optimize resources. This should be great news for those who run and manage the CICS systems.

Again, CICS has been successful with a number of investments here, and has been able to find even more performance enhancements for CICS TS V5.3.

The focus has been on the regions where work arrives in CICS, and on general optimizations that apply to most types of workloads. Web services and other requests over HTTP are an increasingly important way of accessing CICS applications, and a number of optimizations to reduce CPU and memory overheads have been introduced that could benefit most types of HTTP requests. For example, many types of HTTP requests can now avoid the need to invoke an intermediate ‘CWXN’ CICS transaction (see Figure 3). It is also now possible for inbound HTTPS requests to use the Application Transparent Transport Layer Security (AT-TLS) support of z/OS Communications Server as an alternative to SSL, which takes advantage of more of these optimizations. Performance tuning for HTTP connections has been introduced to help protect CICS from unconstrained resource demand.

Many other internal performance improvements have been made in CICS TS V5.3, including some optimizations of particular benefit to those who use the CICS Monitoring facility. Using a standard IBM internal benchmark, a reduction in CPU per transaction of more than 11 percent in terminal-owning regions was measured (Figure 4).

In addition to all of that, enhancements to performance metrics help to better understand the behavior of the system, and there are a number of additional security options provided by this release.

As is the usual practice, we’re running measurements against the final level of code prior to publishing performance numbers, but early indications show some spectacular throughput and performance data. As a sneak preview to whet your appetites: Using an internal benchmark run on an IBM z13 with 26 central processors and using CICS TS V5.3, we achieved a transaction rate of over 220,000 transactions per second.

Cloud With DevOps

Earlier we spoke of the three themes evolving through V5 of CICS, and the cloud enablement area is a perfect example of this. In CICS TS V5.3 we have extended our theme of cloud enablement to include DevOps. Cloud enablement introduced the core CICS cloud capabilities: first-class CICS applications deployed to CICS platforms and managed by threshold policies. Feedback on this cloud enablement was that it’s a fantastic, very powerful technology, but that some of the process around it could be time consuming. We listened and have invested in DevOps capabilities to automate builds, automate deployments and orchestrate those deployments across different platforms (see Figure 5). This is specifically to speed cloud deployments, but is applicable to Java deployments and traditional CICS COBOL applications outside the cloud environment as well.

We have introduced the CICS Build Toolkit, which provides a command-line interface for automating the building of CICS projects, including those for CICS cloud applications, and the batch deployment utility DFHDPLOY that supports the automated provisioning of CICS bundles and applications (Figure 6). These can be leveraged in a continuous integration environment.

The IBM UrbanCode Deploy product provides orchestration and automated deployment of applications, middleware configurations and database changes, and a new CICS TS plug-in to UrbanCode Deploy supports the deployment of CICS applications as part of these orchestrations. The CICS plug-in will work with CICS TS V4.1 and later, so if you’re not ready to get to CICS TS V5.3, there’s still a lot of capability in this area to use immediately.

Other enhancements have been made to cloud enablement in CICS, not least by supporting yet more threshold policies in this release, helping control resource usage of the CICS platforms and applications.

To complete the picture, there are enhancements to CICS Explorer and to four of the foundational CICS tools in support of the CICS TS V5.3 capabilities around service agility, operational efficiency and Cloud with DevOps.

Something for Everyone

This release has something for everyone. The enhanced Java interoperability and Liberty features make CICS a first-class enterprise grade Java server, as a natural extension to its role as a mixed-language application server. But the focus hasn’t only been on Java.

Operational efficiencies and performance improvements allow users to do more with less, using a number of optimizations and tuning options. Support for automated builds and scripted deployments, combined with a plug-in to UrbanCode Deploy, provide full-lifecycle management and enhanced cloud and DevOps support. We have listened to customer needs and continued to implement RFE requests (more than 300 in V5 now) as well as provide a CICS TS V5.3 Developer Trial (a no cost, try before you buy option) and a CICS Value Unit Edition (VUE) for an alternative pricing option. And like the new James Bond movie, this is a release you’ll want to see as soon as you can.

Catherine Moxey is an IBM senior technical staff member in CICS technical strategy and planning, based at IBM Hursley. Her areas of focus include Performance and Optimization, event processing support and analytics.

Nick Garrod has held a number of positions in IBM, including finance, business planning and CICS marketing. In July next year, he and CICS will share a combined birthday of 110 years.

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