E-commerce and the web have given online transaction processing systems a new lease of life. Earlier this month BEA launched its Iceberg Object Transaction Monitor (CI No 3,423), and now IBM’s venerable customer information control system (CICS) is getting a Java makeover to help it pull the ponytailed e-commerce crowd. CICS underpins transaction systems for […]
E-commerce and the web have given online transaction processing systems a new lease of life. Earlier this month BEA launched its Iceberg Object Transaction Monitor (CI No 3,423), and now IBM’s venerable customer information control system (CICS) is getting a Java makeover to help it pull the ponytailed e-commerce crowd. CICS underpins transaction systems for 475 of the Fortune 500 companies. By IBM’s reckoning, half the people on earth have interacted with the software, if only by paying tax into a CICS- supported system. CICS business manager Rob Lamb is touring the US to sell customers on a four-step roadmap to keep CICS relevant in the internet age. Step one is the ability to put HTML or Java interfaces on existing CICS programs. Software to do just that is now available for download from http://www.software.ibm.com/ts/cics/. Step two addresses the cultural divide between CICS’ traditional demographic of procedural programmers and what Lamb calls the ponytailed desktop brigade – the object-oriented Java and C++ developers working for deployment on the web. Here my little roadmap says we take the existing Cobol code and put it in a Java wrapper, Lamb says. This added layer of complexity exacts a performance toll, but Lamb downplays it, saying the bulk of the code is procedural COBOL with just a few lines in Java. Step three tackles those performance issues head-on by giving developers the option to develop pure Java applications for deployment on CICS. This is not just a case of supporting interpreted Java through the Java development kit (JDK) for MVS, Lamb explains. Instead, an inhouse compiler gives compile-time speeds for Java applications. Step four builds on this capability by supporting full Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs) on CICS 390. Lamb denies that retrofitting CICS as an e-commerce platform is a measure to prevent IS shops from throwing out their COBOL code in sweeping Y2K upgrades. Our strategy is to give people choice, he says. We love Cobol, we love 3270 and we love Java. That love translates to continued support for the older technologies as well as new Java functionality. It’s not an either/or situation, Lamb says. Already, Walker Interactive and the Texas Workforce Commission have web-enabled CICS applications in beta, but the system at Charles Schwab is clearly Lamb’s pride and joy. Since launching its Java web trading application nine months ago, Schwab says it has won more new customers than in its previous 11 years of doing business. Transactions are increasing by 50% per month and the company says it is doing more business through the web than through its traditional call centers. CICS and Java kept most of their promises for Schwab, but, Lamb reveals, they did break one – speed of deployment. The eponymous Charles Schwab asked his CIO to have the web application up in three months. It took four, says Lamb rather sheepishly.