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Empowering Developers With IBM CICS Transaction Server V5.6

Alongside our mixed language support, and our core development in the foundation of our offering, development experience has been the linchpin of CICS TS V5.6.

Blue and black architectural beams overlapping one another. Perspective is from below.

Penicillin, commercial radio, sliced bread and the advent of the convertible. These were all scientific and technological innovations that helped characterize the revolution that was the roaring ‘20s. As we return to the ‘20s, a century on, all of these early conceptions are still viable and, in fact, integral to our everyday existence—a testament to the great design and modernization of those innovations. Today, our innovations enter the world of cloud and hybrid multicloud. Businesses strive for the latest and greatest invention that will return on the investment, and it all comes down to a simple solution—modernization. To any architect or programmer however, modernization is anything but simple. Enterprises have to manage an ever-expanding plethora of applications and data built at every avenue and era of the software revolution. To modernize for cloud is to understand each and every one of those mission-critical applications and the risk versus reward to rewrite, rehost, replace or even rationalize.

Architecting for the Future

From the Cadillac to the Tesla Roadster, IBM CICS® has metamorphosed from CICS OS/VS version 1 to today’s CICS TS V5.6, and like the great innovations of the 1920s, CICS TS continues to sit as an essential platform for the success of enterprise applications. CICS TS V5 has large part to play in this. Six major releases in a single version is somewhat unusual for CICS, and indeed most products for the IBM Z® platform, but the number of releases represent our recognition that the industry has a fundamental need to architect for the future.

In CICS TS V5, the focus has laid on our unparalleled mixed language capabilities, particularly around Liberty and Node.js support. In CICS TS V5.6, we look further, understanding the challenges that IT leaders face modernizing for cloud. Alongside our mixed language support, and our core development in the foundation of our offering, development experience has been the linchpin of V5.6. Through empowering developers, enterprises lay the foundations for a future to their mission-critical applications.

Empowering Developers

Developers sit at the crux of every organizations’ modernization strategy, any “modern” company that adopts this idea will have development empowerment driven throughout their IT strategy. By successfully empowering developers, we innovate more, solve more and create more. Empowered developers are the leaders of the next technological revolution, and any enterprise striving to remain competitive within this industry will want to be at the forefront of this. It is this reason that in CICS TS V5.6, developer empowerment has been a focal point of our strategy. As we deliver our latest function and features, customers can look forward to Spring Boot, Maven and Gradle—a plethora of developer tools to empower developers on CICS TS.

Keeping up to date with dependent software levels is always a priority for CICS, so CICS TS V5.6 supports the latest Liberty and fix pack levels as well as latest JEE specifications and the move to Jakarta. With the newest functions, CICS TS now supports the Spring Boot programming model inside Liberty. Developers can develop a stand-alone and production-grade Spring application that they can simply run without the complex configuration, lengthy development time, and start up time—and can run in CICS without modification. Further, CICS now provides plugins for Maven and Gradle build systems, to make it much easier to put Java applications inside bundles deployed to CICS. CICS is also growing RESTful APIs to deploy those bundles, as well as a Java API, that will allow remoting and mocking of a subset of the kind of functions developers prefer to do in Java. In particular, developers can harness this for building channels and containers and linking between programs. Node support was introduced in CICS TS V5.5 and over the CICS TS V5.6 timeframe Node support has been upgraded to version 12, meaning developers can now exploit the latest active Long Term Support version of Node.js. Also introduced in CICS TS V5.6 is additional bundle deployment support in the Zowe™ CLI improving and extending the support available for CICS in Zowe.

Foundational Areas of CICS

There remains a strong focus on the foundational areas of CICS. A large part of this is in response to customer requests for enhancements at the base of the product, but also CICS TS V5.6. In particular, the CICS team has focused on items that improve the resilience of the system, security, as well as extensions to policy.

On the topic of resilience, there is now support in CICS’ storage manager for detecting short, on-storage conditions in storage owned by z/OS®. The team has now developed a short on storage in CICS to detect when storage is running out, and CICS itself can stop requests for more storage from z/OS now that it can recognize the constraint.

In a similar way, CICS TS has also addressed system management and made improvements to the way data spaces are managed to prevent exhaustion and recover efficiently once customers run out of data space technology. In another area, CICS now supports greater than 24K on Dynamic Program Links (DPLs) on the COMMAREA. Since the introduction of DPL in CICS/ESA V3 more “metadata” (such as the transaction channel DFHTRANSACTION) has been added to the transaction that has caused the COMMAREA limit to be exceeded.  The solution is important since it means any program can be DPLed (as far as the COMMAREA is concerned). However, the suggested approach to avoiding this eventuality is to move to channels and containers technology. 

The development team continually looks for enhancements that go beyond security patches. There are three main security areas in this release. CICS TS now supports the use of Server Name Indication (SNI), when CICS acts as a web client, it can use Transport Level Security (TLS) to a virtual host where the server supports multiple virtual hosts using a single IP address. Therefore, if applications call a cloud service from, for example Amazon Web Services, CICS can identify the reseller below that host. CICS uses a feature from COM Server to manage this, which allows simpler security configuration and thus simplifies CICS management. This requirement was one of the highest voted Request for Enhancements (RFEs) in the release.

CICS TS also has support for the Java security API JSR 375, which allows the health security in Liberty part of the JEE 8 support. Moreover, as enterprises look toward a hybrid cloud future, and harnessing RESTful APIs, CICS TS now has verify token support for Java Web Tokens. With CICS TS V5, customers can monitor the state of DB control connections and MQ connections as well as web services pipeline status. These all help build probes for automation inside the CICS region that can detect anomalies as soon as they happen and then start automation to correct them or issue an alert.

The Next Generation of CICS Transaction Server

So, with 2020 marking the advent of our latest release of CICS TS, we see a shift in alignment to what the industry sees as a decade of changes. CICS TS V5.6 harnesses the vitality of the developer community as a key driver of these changes, and developments around Spring Boot, Maven and Gradle, address the beginning of a decade of enabling enterprise modernization in a way customers have never seen before. Like the convertible, CICS prides itself on evolving with the times, but the fundamental needs of the industry—the removable roof, the ever-enticing open air experience, or in the case of CICS, our foundation development—remains timeless and essential.

For more detailed information about all of the new features in CICS TS V5.6, please read the announcement letter.
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