IBM this week invited journalists to the bowels of IBM Hursley Park to make the acquaintance of the CICS family. The invitation followed a series of CICS announcements made in the previous six weeks to which IBM alludes as its strategic system software offerings. At the Hursley site 550 IBMers are employed on various CICS […]
IBM this week invited journalists to the bowels of IBM Hursley Park to make the acquaintance of the CICS family. The invitation followed a series of CICS announcements made in the previous six weeks to which IBM alludes as its strategic system software offerings. At the Hursley site 550 IBMers are employed on various CICS projects, and over the past three years the company has increased its investment in this area by around 35%. Marcia Gillespie, CICS Products Manager at Hursley, kicked off the proceedings by outlining the 20-year development of CICS products from their initial place as back office programs, through 1970s front office terminal applications, to the push in the last decade into direct service applications like cash-points and video shopping. Family breadwinner She claimed that the future of CICS lay in applications for new services in inter-company communications through networked intelligent workstations, stressing that CICS products were designed to secure the user’s investment in software and hardware. At present the company has sold 30,000 CICS licences, with 1,000 of those held in the UK. Ms Gillespie finished her presentation by stressing that each CICS product was targeted at a particular market sector. Indeed, the strength of the message throughout the day that positioning was not a problem led to the inevitable conclusion that positioning is an IBM anxiety. However, this is probably least true for CICS/MVS 2.1, the flagship CICS product and overall family breadwinner, presented by Guy Smales of the Hursley CICS User Support Group. He was keen to promote the Data Tables Feature, an enhancement for CICS/MVS 2.1 announced last month and available in the UK from April 10. This function augmentation is designed to improve the performance of applications accessing frequently-used data, such as a car manufacturer’s parts list. Those files used most often are extracted from datasets on disk and then held in CICS controlled storage above the 16Mb line, thereby providing quicker access to them. The Feature uses the standard CICS File Control Interface so no changes have to be made to the application and the Table is transparent to existing application programs. Programmers can build the Data Table from multiple sources such as VSAM, IMS, or DB2. It can be CICS-maintained or User maintained, and there are advantages in some cases for it being user controlled. For example, a stolen card file kept on a Data Table completely disassociated from the main table would provide faster access than a CICS-maintained Table, which would go on to search the entire main table for the stolen number if it did not find it in the Data Table stolen card file! Another enhancement to CICS/MVS 2.1 announced last month was the MVS/ESA Virtual Storage Exploitation through the Data Tables Feature and VSAM Hiperspace support which offer CICS storage areas and VSAM control blocks and strings above the traditional 16Mb constraint. Furthermore, as from last month there are host servers for CICS/VM Release 2 and CICS OS/2 enabling the CICS family to talk to one another. Moving to these two, newer additions to the CICS family, (in many ways the poorer relations of the family, operating in integrated transaction processing rather than in the more powerful dedicated environment of CICS/MVS and CICS/DOS) it was up to Dave Chapman, the Manager of CICS Intermediate Systems to make a case for CICS/VM Release 2. He began by arguing that users of VM/CMS wanted CICS to get at data for activities like stock control, order status, and receiving account information. The positioning of the product is with users of both CICS and non-CICS applications who want to switch between applications within CMS, and who are probably part of a departmental system using 3270 data streams. It is specifically designed for the distributed environment with the management, problem determination and maintenance of the service carried out at the central mainframe site, with no need for data processing skills at the distributed end of the system. If the application fa
ils then the end user gets a message to phone the central site, while the support group at the centre gets diagnostic information. Within this distributed environment, the department keeps control of local data and corporate applications access remote data. Finally, as Tom Baldwin, also of the CICS User Support Group, explained, CICS OS/2 is the baby of the family (having been available for only three weeks) and is an extension of host CICS to the PS/2 which can operate independently of the mainframe. It runs on IBM PS/2 Models 60 and above as it requires at least 5Mb of RAM, and its main benefit to users is that they can download data from the mainframe at the end of prime shift, work on the data and upload the changed data at the start of prime shift the following day. Positioning this product against CICS/VM Release 2 was obviously a tricky problem and IBM’s solutions are not convincing. For example, any sector such as retail mail-order where the mainframe needs continuous updating seems an unlikely market for a system that features off-line off-peak data change. Farming co-operative Similarly, IBM’s foray into farming co-operatives looks a wee bit forced. After all, members of a co-operative, although they might welcome the cost-effectiveness of CICS OS/2, are surely unlikely to want to use a single user system which (in a rather uncooperative manner) does not allow them to share data off prime shift. Indeed, IBM came clean under questioning and admitted that initially the primary market for CICS OS/2 would be existing CICS mainframe customers who would then move it on to individual PS/2s for a licence fee of UKP474 per PS/2 machine. In other words, despite the anticipations of colleagues from PC journals, CICS OS/2 written in Cobol is largely a tool for application developers in the distributed environment; but there are plans afoot for developing a CICS OS/2 local area network version. Now that might be a CICS baby to make an expectant PC journalist’s day!