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The Latest CICS and IMS Updates Place z Systems at the Center of the API Economy


Twenty years ago, people needing banking services would go to a brick-and-mortar location. Today, they’re just as likely to use a smartphone ( They can apply for a mortgage by tapping their tablet and may very well skip driving to a physical store in favor of scrolling down a mobile device to buy everything from clothing and cars to music and mocha lattes. The way we navigate the world has changed, and the economy has changed with it.

Previously, those transactions probably would have gone through a mainframe running IBM’s CICS* or IMS* middleware. Today, those organizations are still likely to use a mainframe running CICS or IMS—23 of the world’s top 25 banks run IBM z Systems*, as do the 10 largest insurance companies and 18 of the top 25 retailers. Over the past two decades, the mainframe has vaulted ahead performance-wise, with recent benchmarks for CICS and IMS at well over 100,000 transactions per second (see “Transaction Benchmarks,”). That kind of performance is important, given that analysts predict anywhere from 20 billion to over 50 billion connected devices by 2020.

“With z/OS Connect and the changes we’ve made to CICS and IMS, a customer running z Systems can absolutely participate as a first-class citizen in the API economy.”
—Fraser Bohm, chief architect for CICS

CICS and IMS have changed in other ways as well. While boosting performance in the traditional usage areas, CICS Transaction Server (TS) for z/OS* V5.3 and IMS 14 also continue the strategic push to target functionality demanded by customers. They leverage z/OS Connect to provide a secure channel to the mainframe for external and internal apps. As a result, a company can just as easily create a mobile portal to sell consumers the smartphones it manufactures as it can build a mobile warehouse-monitoring system that enables its employees to manage that inventory.

Competing in a Mobile World

In 2014, mobile payments hit a tipping point, exceeding visits on desktops and laptops for the first time, according to the Branding Brand Mobile Commerce Index ( Analysts expect mobile payments to reach $620 billion worldwide in 2016, according to TrendForce ( That’s a lot of mobile apps with many companies and developers trying to build and deploy them in a hurry. Fortunately, the web hasn’t just changed how we buy; it’s changed how we program.

In the past, developers writing mobile shopping applications, for example, would also be responsible for building the payment system that captured customer credit card data and interfaced with the banks. Today, they only must worry about creating a product and UI that engage customers and deliver valuable new services. They can build their payment system in a snap by leveraging pre-existing applications, or microservices, hosted on the web by an application server. The developer calls those APIs from his app, and the application server hosts the rest of the transaction. He only must know the rules of the API and the few lines of code required to call the application.

Here is where things get interesting: Anyone can develop an application server and API. A bank wanting to build an ecosystem of merchant partners could offer APIs for payment systems, loan applications, etc. A hotel partner might leverage the payment API for a mobile check-in app, while a car-shopping app could enable users to apply for a loan while they’re standing on the lot. APIs and the application servers that host them streamline the job of developers.

“We see a move to provisioning things in a microservices or cloud style,” says Fraser Bohm, chief architect for CICS. “With z/OS Connect and the changes we’ve made to CICS and IMS, a customer running z Systems* can absolutely participate as a first-class citizen in the API economy.”

Kristin Lewotsky is a freelance technology writer based in Amherst, N.H.



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