IBM Touts CICS Relevance 40 Years On

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It’s as old as the moon landings, but IBM’s real-time transaction system, CICS, is still in use on the majority of all mainframes

While most anniversary celebrations this month have centred around man’s first steps on the moon, IBM is celebrating another 40th birthday – that of its Customer Information Control System (CICS).

CICS, released by IBM on 8 July 1969, was one of the first three products for which it levied a software licence charge. The transaction management system was designed for rapid, high-volume online processing, and now runs on 90 percent of the world’s mainframes, handling in excess of 30 billion transactions per day.

With an installed base made up mostly of financial services Fortune 500 firms, CICS is used in banking and insurance applications, ATM systems and many other types of interactive or industrial production control systems running on IBM z/OS and z/VSE (Virtual Storage Extended) mainframe operating systems (OS).

Nick Garrod, IBM CICS Transaction Server worldwide marketing manager told eWEEK Europe another reason for marking the product’s fourth decade is its UK heritage, having been developed at IBM Hursley in Hampshire, Europe’s largest Software Development lab.

“All of the main development for CICS still takes place in Hursley,” he said. “We have continued to develop the product by adopting appropriate technologies as they have evolved, moving forward into 32 and 64-bit architectures, web services and events processing with the most recent releases.”

John Knutson, IBM CICS Transaction Server Tools marketing manager added: “Hursley is not only its spiritual home, but it is still also very much the home of its development. So many of those IT directors whose businesses rely on it have grown up with it.”

Garrod said that the product’s development lifecycle has seen it release new versions every four years, with a major release update every two years. The CICS v4 release of 1994 was the last that saw it provide just runtime server functionality.

“In 1997, the release of CICS Transaction Server version 1 was in line with the OS, which was by now part of a full stack, delivered several other things: Java connectors, an internet gateway and commands conversion tooling,” he said.

Since then, Knutson said Hursley developers had worked to keep CICS relevant: “We are trying to remove any inhibitors that make it only usable by specialists, and so have been recasting the user interface in a form that is more familiar and intuitive to J2EE developers. CICS Explorer gives us the [Eclipse-based] framework to carry out this simplification process to make life easier for IT.”

But at the same time, he added that recent enhancements, which include support for web services and Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs) also focused on turning CICS transactional data into key business information, as part of IBM’s “compete, comply, control” mantra in today’s tough times.

“The ability to generate events in business applications in a non-invasive manner allows the IT people to more rapidly push key business transaction information – like the number of products sold, or the numbers of authorisations over $5,000 for example – through to more line-of-business people,” Knutson said.

IBM began shipping the latest release, CICS Transaction Server version 4.1, which contains support for event processing, Atom feeds, and systems that follow representational state transfer (REST) principles and therefore use RESTful interfaces, in June 2009.