New web based system for CICS TS customer requirements!

November 11, 2011 4 comments

As of late yesterday, IBM is now using a considerably more open and transparent requirements system for CICS Transaction Server enhancement requests. Everybody can now submit and track their CICS TS requirements directly thorough this new web based system. The new system is called the “Request for Enhancement” system – or RFE – and is located on the developerWorks RFE site at the following link:

https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/rfe

RFE has a lot of new capability that should benefit everybody out there working with CICS TS, as well as everybody here in Hursley who spend our days working on it. Customers can now directly create new requirements, and view, comment and vote on other requirements. That information comes through directly to us in the lab, where we can respond straight back with comments and questions about those requirements.

The first CICS TS requirement that was raised in the new system was a no-charge ‘try before you buy’ edition of the latest CICS TS releases. If you want to learn more about that idea, why not test out this new requirements tool by going to the following link and looking at the submission. If you have any comments, or would like to vote for us to deliver it, please join in!

http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/rfe/execute?use_case=viewChangeRequest&CR_ID=14583

Don’t worry if you currently have open requirements in our existing FITS system, or if you have perhaps submitted them via a recent survey, etc. We are continually reviewing all those requirements. However, if you would like to be a bit more more pro-active, then please feel free to go in and resubmit them (or indeed, add any new requirements) into this new RFE tool. We can’t promise to deliver everything you ask for, but we can assure you that we will respond in a timely manner, and that you will be able to interact with us and track the progress of your requirements though this new tool.

This is an exiting opportunity for all of us, and we are looking forward to using this new technology to have some interesting conversations with you all.

Cheers, Andy (CICS TS Product Manager)

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Hursley Blue Graduate Opportunities

September 15, 2011 1 comment

The Hursley Blue Graduate Opportunities (HBGO) program gives new hires the chance to join a project that they are passionate about while learning new skills. A team of six graduates from across the Hursley Laboratory have been bought together for the CICS Product Showcase HBGO project. The project aims to enable the graduates to extend core CICS sample applications to showcase some of the many features and enhancements that have been made to CICS TS in recent releases. The graduates aim to deliver a series of innovative software demonstrations, videos, and rich media presentations over the next 6 months of the HBGO project, and beyond.

The initial micro-project in the series was designed to build up the core skills with CICS and a number of other technologies. Most of the team had little experience with CICS at the start of the project The micro-project, named by the graduates as “NextGENAPP”, was to take an insurance company’s existing COBOL terminal interface application and enhance it using some of the new features of CICS to create a new web user interface that surpassed the consumability of the terminal interface. The application they were given was GENAPP, a dummy application that enables users to access and edit information in a DB2 database on customers and their policies. The graduates had to use a number of technologies including CICS, Rational Developer for system z, Rational Team Concert, AJAX/DOJO, WebSphere sMash, Groovy, and many more to produce the new interface.

Existing 3270 GENAPP

New login page

Customer search panel

With the first micro project now complete, the graduates have shared their thoughts on how the project progressed for them, the CICS learning curve, and their view on why CICS will remain at the forefront of transaction processing in the years to come.

Michael Jones 

When I joined IBM in August 2010,I had never heard of CICS or worked with it. Within IBM I work for the CICS Transaction Gateway build team, in this role though I have interacted indirectly with CICS, I haven’t had any experience working with it.

Starting the project I had a lot to learn about what CICS actually did, let alone how to use it. Since I was leading the team I wanted to quickly get to speed with how CICS worked, so turned to the info-centres and online resources. In both cases I was presented with a great number of acronyms and a great deal of jargon.

For me this was the main barrier for working with CICS. When you first start, resource names like ‘pipeline’ don’t give you much of a hint as to what job it actually performs. It can also be quite difficult to find basic information about such things inside the info-centres. Though once you get working with parts of CICS it often becomes quite obvious what they, and you quickly realise how useful it is. Looking past all the terminology there really are a lot of handy and easy to use features in CICS.

One of the things that impressed me was the flexibility of CICS. As part of the first task we set up a web interface to a legacy application. Once we learnt the process it was very easy to repeat, and one of the great things about it was we didn’t have to learn any COBOL to do this.

Overall working with CICS so far has been an interesting experience. A lot of the concepts and ways are working are new to me, but I can quite easily see why they’re done the way they are, and look forward to learning more about CICS as we go along.

Mark Richards

I had a rude awakening when I started in May last year, straight into CICS Level 3 Service. University education doesn’t seem to cover z/OS, z/VM, COBOL, Green Screen terminals, mainframe assembler, or XEDIT. However, I guess they were right that Java works everywhere. Nine months later I find myself in this project and the only one with regular CICS experience. How could Mike and James catch up with what I’d learned and did I know enough? Turns out that you don’t need to know CICS to expose web services, just enough to do the task: A couple of RDz wizards, two CICS commands (CEMT INQUIRE and CEDA DISPLAY) and the RDz Remote Systems view seemed to be enough.

Looking back, I didn’t think it would be as simple as it ended up! I’d played with using DFHLS2WS in JCL to get web services running before and was a little shocked to find the ease with which we could do it in RDz (once we learned how!).

With RTC we could fire work items between the two teams to get web services defined, installed, modified, tested and added to the site. At full speed in the backend we could expose a new web service every 10-15 minutes and once done the client team found the auto-generated Java components pending to enter their development environments.
Seeing how this works demonstrated something I’d not really seen before; the ease with which you could develop a new frontend for an enterprise encapsulated application and not really know how the rest works. We didn’t need to know CICS APIs, Systems Programming, database structures or enterprise programming principles. However, we did have to customise the COBOL copybooks, but even that was easy.

James Bartlett

I started as a graduate at IBM in July of 2010. My degree was in Maths and Philosophy and my experience of computer science consists of an introductory course to z/OS and z architecture, followed by a year working in a role supporting a proprietary test system and various other resources used in CICS testing. My knowledge of the inner workings of CICS is cursory at best, or was, although I have a reasonable understanding of the mainframe. My role in the team was initially to assist Mike and Mark in exposing the programs constituting our legacy application as web services, and on that subject I don’t have much to say that they haven’t covered.

I also undertook the migration of our web front end from external hosting on WebSphere sMashash to hosting in CICS itself using the sMash implementation provided by the CICS Dynamic Scripting Feature Pack. The exercise was not without its challenges, but I was on the whole pleasantly surprised by how easy the process was. The installation of the feature cap is very straightforward, there being little more to it than copying the zipped up feature pack to Unix System Services, unpacking it and creating a couple of datasets to contain the resources to be used by CICS. The whole process is clearly and thoroughly documented on IBM’s Information Center, and this was little more than painting by numbers.

The installation in CICS was a little less straightforward, and as such a bit more interesting as an education. Again the documentation was good, but writing the JCL to update and then clone and expand our CSD (which filled up the first time I attempted the update, took a bit of trial and error. Updating our CICS region took a bit of effort also, but at least here I had the JCL written and just needed to add and edit as per instructions. This done, there was little more left to achieve other than to drop our application into USS, edit the dependencies and set it going.

Domanic Smith-Jones and Alexander Woodgate

We wrote the website that would consume the web services exposed by the back end team. We both joined IBM in September 2010 and started this project with little CICS experience between us. Now we are at the end of phase one, we still don’t have much CICS knowledge! The website uses a mixture of HTML, CSS and DOJO to provide a dynamic web application front end and Groovy to call the back end web services on CICS. The CICS program may have been written in COBOL but once they have been exposed as SOAP web services we don’t have to worry about how it all works in the back end. We simply needed to set relevant fields for the operation we were performing and then send the soap message off to CICS, we didn’t need to understand commareas or channels. The web application was all developed using a local sMash server that we ran on our laptops enabling us to run the site and make changes to it live to test the implementation of the calls we used and the forms that we created to use them.

The DOJO enabled us to create simple methods that allowed data verification before the data was sent to CICS. This again required little knowledge of CICS beyond the sizes and types of fields that were to be sent, which were all stated in the java classes created by the back end team.

The real power of web services was that we could consume them from a whole host of technologies, we may have hosted a website on CICS using the dynamic scripting feature pack but there was nothing that limited us to that. We can host our site on other platforms and web servers, or we can take a completely different approach and consume them from a native desktop or mobile application.

Amy Ferrell

I joined IBM Hursley in September 2010 as an information developer on CICS TS. Having an ID background meant that I understood much of the terminology of CICS, I have however never really used it. My main work on this project has been on the showcase and documentation, though I have completed a small amount of work on the web user interface. I worked closely with other members in the team to write the documentation for the new GENAPP application, and put together a short media clip to explain to non-technical users how the power of web services can be used to provide real business value.

To me, CICS is vast and seems incredibly daunting as a graduate when faced with building applications and using the mainframe. The project was a really good introduction to some of the technologies that the people who interact directly with CICS must use. I was really surprised when I learned that the WUI that we created in just 2 months of part time work (including our education) could connect hundreds of users with CICS and provide the capability to process tens of thousands of transactions per day. When I think of the capabilities of a typical website versus one similar to ours which is linked into CICS, it is easy to understand why IBM customers continue to rely on CICS for their day to day business functions, especially mission critical functions: it’s the incredible scalability and reliability of CICS TS coupled with the security and versatility that it offers our customers. In the next few micro-projects, I’m really looking forward to being more hands on with coding to see what we as a team are capable of even though we’re not the most experienced CICS users.

Categories: CICS TS, HBGO

CICS Development and Rational Tools

June 11, 2011 2 comments

The next few weeks and months will be a time of change to some hugely important aspects of life in CICS Development. We saying goodbye to our much-loved LCS (Library Control System) which has been the most important tool since way before I joined in 1987. LCS has held the vast majority of the CICS source code for every release since…. well, I don’t actually know when! (I just looked at one of the REXX execs implementing LCS and it has change history going back to 1982.)

Over the years we’ve had people come along approximately every 4 or 5 years with an offer to give us a new system to store our source code and provide a development environment. We’d look at who they are and what they were offering… and politely decline their offer. Having the luxury of a bespoke system is hard to beat!

However, it’s been getting harder to get the new folks on the team to be quite as enthusiastic about a VM/CMS command line and XEDIT.

So from now on all 18,000+ source files are entrusted to Jazz technology in Rational Team Concert (RTC) v3, and our development environment is Eclipse-based with a bang up to date build system based on Apache Ant on z/OS. And this is a hugely positive move – RTC, in contrast to the previous replacement candidates, allows us to maintain the most important aspects of how we’ve worked with LCS, but has the potential to re-energise our development habits. It’s going to be an exciting time!

We’ll all have to work out the best ways to configure our RTC clients. I prefer separate windows to alt-tab around so I’m going with a perspective with detached views – Eclipse is so flexible that I suspect I’ll be playing around with the options for a while. Here’s what my development desktop is looking like currently…

(click on the image for a better view)

That’s not an editor in a 3270 – I just find the black background more comfortable, honest!

Categories: programming

IBM Support Portal and CICS Explorer

May 9, 2011 9 comments

You probably know about the CICS Explorer and you probably know about the IBM Support Portal… how about making them play together?

I only recently discovered the Support Portal (via this blog entry and video) but when, erm, exploring it I found it supported RSS feeds. I’m a fan of feeds but hadn’t thought of integrating them with the CICS Explorer. I have wanted to think of the Explorer as being the centre of more than just CICS operation and admin tasks, and something aimed at service and support would be a good direction to look at. Hmm… so service and support news on the web, available via a feed, plus the Explorer… bingo! How about a feedreader in Explorer.

A quick look on Eclipse.org led me to RSSOwl, the feed reader for Eclipse, and its update site. A quick addition of http://boreal.rssowl.org/update/eclipse/ to the Eclipse with Explorer SDK and hey-presto, feeds for CICS Transaction Server from the Support Portal right in my CICS Explorer!

CICS Explorer with an integrated RSS feed reader

CICS Explorer with an integrated RSS feed reader

Apologies for not actually connecting up the Explorer, but I’ve not brought up my CICS for a while and it probably need some attention before I get it going in single-server mode. Update 25th May – I did this with the Explorer SDK installed in Eclipse, and it worked smoothly. It should install into the standalone RCP Explorer too, just like the CICS Tools plugins and the PD Tools plugins, but that’s not what I did.

Of course, you can add other feeds to your enhanced Explorer… you can see I’ve added the feed for Master Terminal into mine alongside the Support Portal feed.

Update 11th June…

Rational Team Concert has a very nice Feed Reader built in:

Resources

Categories: CICS Explorer, Web 2.0

CICS TS 4.2

April 6, 2011 Leave a comment

It has been a bit quiet here on the posting front lately…. No excuses really, but I’ll make one anyway…. We have all been working hard on CICS TS 4.2 which was announced yesterday. You can read the announcement letter here.

If you want to have a play with CICS TS 4.2, an Open Beta program is running, for details and to sign up go here.

Any questions on CICS TS 4.2, feel free to post them as comments to this append, and we can try our best to answer them for you.

Oh, and if you want to check out the Beta CICS TS 4.2 Information Center, check it out here.

Categories: Announcements, CICS, CICS TS Tags:

Calling all CICS customers – a request from Andrew and Ian

January 11, 2011 2 comments

Historically, we here in Hursley have delivered new releases of CICS TS to the marketplace approximately every two years or so. Given that our last major release – CICS Transaction Server for z/OS V4.1 – was made generally available in 2Q 2009, it might be safe to assume that based on historical delivery cycles, 2011 could be exciting year for CICS TS announcements…

So as a CICS TS customer, what does this mean for you? Well, in addition to potentially getting your hand on some new capability in 2011, another thing it could mean for you is that now might be a really good time to start talking to us (and perhaps reminding us) about all those features, functions and enhancements that you want us to put in a future version of CICS TS!

We do of course already have a well defined requirements management process, alongside many other methods of gathering and analysing customer requirements. However, this time round we wanted to do something more – and that is what this post is all about.

We have built a survey containing six questions that we hope will uncover some requirements that we in the lab might not have come across before. The overall theme of the survey is about how CICS TS can do more to make our customers lives easier – something that hopefully we all want – and so the requirements can be big or small, so long as they are something you or your colleagues would benefit from.

These are the three main questions we would like you to think about:

  1. If IBM were designing the next CICS TS specifically for your organisation, what content (features and functions) would you like it to contain?
  2. Are there any custom written CICS capabilities/utilities (Exits, URM’s, Scripts, etc.) that you would rather IBM implemented natively in CICS TS?
  3. Are there any other no-charge custom CICS capabilities/utilities (IBM SupportPacs, etc.) that augment your CICS TS environment with?

Here is a link to the full on-line survey: www.surveymonkey.com/s/CICSReqs2011

The survey also contains three additional open questions: what do you like about CICS TS; what do you dislike about CICS TS; and space for you to tell us anything else you would like us to know. All responses will be included in our planning process and each and every one of them will be looked at and considered.

Ian and I are appealing to all of our CICS TS customers to spend a little bit of time considering and submitting their responses. Perhaps you could even involving other departments with an interest in CICS TS (those AD guys that you SP folks do not always talk to perhaps?).

You never know, in the not too distant future, you might be very glad you did!

Cheers,

Andrew Bates, Product Manager, CICS Transaction Server for z/OS
Ian Mitchell, Chief Architect, CICS Transaction Server for z/OS

Some light reading: CICS DA, SIT parameters, blogging and z/Journal links

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

A very random collection of CICS links today.

A new tool has just been added to the CICS portfolio. The all shiny and new CICS Deployment Assistant. Congratulations to Grant and everyone else involved on releasing a great new tool!

CICS Deployment Assistant can discover, model, visualize, and deploy new and existing CICS regions, using automation and policy-driven advice built on your own and IBM’s knowledge and experience, giving you access to the latest IBM CICS technology faster and easier than ever before.

Two interesting new APAR (CICS APAR PM15583 and CICSPlex SM APAR PM15214) have also been released for CICS TS V4.1. When applied together, they provide access to the cold-start CICS SIT parameters via the CICSPlex SM API and the CICS Management Client Interface (CMCI). They will allow you to find out not only what value each regions SIT parameters were set to but also where they were set. Very handy for problem determination or just keeping track of your environment.

If you read z/Journal you may have spotted CICSPlex SM developer Dave Williams 3 excellent articles:

You might notice there are some new sharing options on the blog now as well. At the bottom of every post you should now be able to simply click a button to share the post to twitter or Facebook.

Finally, a new blog focussing on WebSphere and CICS support has also just been created over on developerWorks. I’ve also added the blog to our bookmarks below.

Categories: APAR, blog, CICS, CICS Tools, zJournal
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