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Archive for July, 2009

Life begins at forty

CICS - I am 40!

CICS is 40 years old today!

Today is forty years since CICS was first released to the unsuspecting world, in the month that saw the first Moon landing, and just weeks after the first flight of Concorde. While those other technological triumphs have faded away, CICS remains at the centre of the software industry and continues to run the world’s business.

Followers of this blog already know of CICS’s strengths, but this anniversary is a useful time to review some of the innovative features introduced by CICS in those four decades. It’s hard to imagine now, but all of the following, which we now take for granted, were difficult new concepts at the leading edge of technology when they were first introduced:

  • Separately priced software, unbundled from hardware, effectively spawning the “software industry”
  • An application programming environment that isolates programmers from having to understand low-level details of telecommunication and data storage devices
  • Support for multiple high-level language applications running concurrently
  • Support for the 3270 terminal, which was brand new in 1972, originally in monochrome but later in full colour
  • Exploitation of virtual storage
  • Client-Server architecture, through APPC and MRO
  • Atomic transactional access to files and databases, using two-phase commit
  • User identity management and security control
  • Distributed systems on multiple hardware platforms
  • High availability and warm takeover, with XRF
  • Support for Java and Enterprise Java Beans
  • Access from Web browsers over HTTP
  • Support for SOAP, Web Services, and the Service-oriented architecture.

And of course CICS continues to introduce leading-edge features with Event processing, Atom feeds, and RESTful access just some of the facilities available in the all-new CICS Transaction Server Versions 4.1.

Not bad for a forty-year old!

Categories: CICS, nostalgia

CICSPlex SM Web User Interface and Browser Tabs

July 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Over on CICS-L is a recent post about the CICSPlex SM Web User Interface (WUI) and how confusing it is with its multiple windows and the experience you get trying to use it within a tabbed browser.

What I’m going to try and do in this post is to (hopefully) explain some of the reasons why the WUI behaves as it does.

History

Originally CICSPlex SM was never going to have a WUI at all. Circa CICSPlex SM 1.3 a GUI was being looked at. As this was the mid to late 1990’s the platform for this GUI was OS/2! Yes O.K. I’ll admit it, I am an OS/2 fanboy err old-bloke – I still use it every day (please don’t tell my manager), but this decision was nothing to do with me. Due to various issues, the OS/2 based GUI was never shipped and instead a Web Based Interface aka WUI was developed.

By the time the WUI was ready, it was shipped as a no-charge feature on CICSPlex SM 1.4 – An exclusive element of CICS TS 1.3.

The prereqs for the web browser were kept very low, e.g. HTML 3.2 with frames, tables and cookies. Talk to some web designers (or Chris) and they will probably give you a stern look for mentioning the frame or table words.

Questions

Why does the WUI open a new window on signon?

The WUI relies on every request from the web browser being sent back to the server. The WUI checks for this by using a sequence number in it’s interactions with the browser. If the sequence number is not what the WUI expects, you will receive a ‘Navigation error’ response in the WUI.

The easiest way to get one of these errors is to use a browser forward or back button. To discourage users from using these buttons, the signon process causes a new window to open, and on this request the WUI asks the browser not to include the browser navigation controls. Although this decision might be considered heresy today, and it does not stop users from using keyboard shortcuts, mouse operations, or putting the browser controls back, it was done to try and discourage users from using these controls.

So the reason the ‘Begin signon’ button opens a new window, is simply to get a window without browser navigation buttons. As this response to the original CICS-L question indicates, you can bypass the ‘Begin signon’ by tweaking the URL that you use. Note however although this works, it is not an intended ‘interface’, so it potentially could change in the future (not that I know of any plans to do so).

Why the strange tab behavior?

The WUI knows absolutely nothing about tabs. They weren’t around when the WUI was developed originally and no explicit support for tabs has ever been added to the WUI.

The only thing the WUI does when it opens a new window for Help or the InfoCenter is to use the target=’_blank’ HTML option on the anchor tag. How the browser interprets this in conjunction with the ‘Open in new Tab’ options you use to get it to go to a tab is completely up to the web browser.

Why do I get another ‘Begin Signon’ window?

So you already have a ‘Begin signon’ tab, why do you get another one if you refresh a WUI window after you have signed off? Well it is simply because you no longer have any valid credentials on the WUI server, so the WUI starts the signon dialog. The WUI has no idea of what windows/tabs your browser has open (once you have signed off).

Requirements are important

So none of this ‘fixes’ the weirdness, but I wasn’t trying to provide a fix, just explain why some of these things happen. Could the experience be better? Sure. If there are things that really bug you, get in those requirements, either via organisations such as SHARE, or talk to your IBM account team, who should be able to submit requirements on your behalf. Although it might be frustrating waiting for those requirements, if they aren’t on the potential ‘To-Do’ list within the Lab, that dramatically lowers the chances of getting things changed.

Categories: CICSPlex SM, WUI
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