by Cara Hogan

CICS V 5.1 gives customers new features that affect the bottom line

Published October 04, 2012


IBM officially announced the newest release of the CICS Transaction Server for z/OS, V 5.1, on October 3, and is touting this latest version’s increased performance and agility. This upgraded version of CICS—a mainframe transaction processor used by many financial, banking and insurance companies—includes a slew of new features aimed at helping customers save resources, and ultimately, money.

“What this version offers is both greater operational efficiency and increased service agility,” says Catherine Moxey, CICS Transaction Server Architect at IBM. “We put in a lot of features that will help people save money and allow them to more rapidly deliver capabilities in support of their business. For example, we have conducted some internal benchmarks that show the scalability enhancements allow CICS to now run some workloads with lower overheads— enabling consolidation that can lead to a two-thirds reduction in manual administration and CPU saving of around 10 percent. This is very impressive for what many people already consider to be the world’s most scalable transaction processor.”

“We put in a lot of features that will help people save money and allow them to more rapidly deliver capabilities in support of their business.”

Catherine Moxey, CICS Transaction Server Architect, IBM

A more agile business
New features in the release include greater capacity per CICS region, Java 7 support, faster deployment of applications, and an embedded web container that allows for back-end applications to work better with front-end interfaces. According to Nick Garrod, CICS Market Enablement Manager at IBM, these new features have created a more agile server, which will allow businesses to more rapidly deploy applications, complete projects, meet industry standards, and adopt new technologies.

“The increased service agility… will enable [customers] to take advantage of market opportunities and react quickly to changes,” Garrod says. “[They will] have a faster time to market [and] reduced development lifecycles— code, test, debug, test, test, and test again, deploy. [This] will enable new and extended projects to realize value in a shorter space of time.”

The shortened development time will also help keep costs down, with fewer hours needed to manage and process new applications and fewer people working to manage the server. “The ability to confidently control costs and resources, whilst maintaining service level agreements, will please IT managers with constrained budgets,” he says. Version 5 also helps companies keep up with technology advancements, such as cloud computing. According to Garrod, this is the first version of CICS to be enabled for the cloud, with all the major new capabilities delivered in a way that positions users of CICS for this next era in technology.

“With the rise of cloud and private clouds, more people [are] able to access many more applications, [and] the whole mobile device arena, it means CICS will be able to support and offer customers a more complete service,” he says. “There’s cloud thought going on in the background always, a cloud computing design principle. But really that’s not what we’re sailing on. We’re sailing on our core competencies that we’re improving, and the policies and platforms and servers. We are doing this in such a way that moves CICS towards a service delivery platform for cloud computing.”

Three changes to CICS that drive ROI>>


CICS V5.1 solves more than 100 customer requirements, but Moxey says there are three that will really save customers time and money.

1. Processing capacity. One of the most notable changes is its increased processing capacity, allowing more applications to run at the same time.

“Having greater capacity within a single CICS system… will allow people to get more through an individual CICS region,” Moxey says. “That reduces the complexity they need to manage and it also gives them some performance savings in terms of not having to run so many individual systems. We also have enhanced support for multi-processing that again, [which] allows more processing to run concurrently.”

2. Policies. Another new feature is policies, which are rules that control how and when resources are used within the server. The IT user can set up the policies and then step back, without worrying about managing CICS constantly.

“They can specify policies around the thresholds that they want to ensure aren’t exceeded,” Moxey says. “That might be a threshold about how much computing power you’re using, how much storage is being used, about how many particular commands have been issued. Then you specify with the policy the action to be taken if those thresholds are exceeded.”

The policies can tell the application team using CICS when a threshold has been exceeded and the business can make decisions from there. Or the system can be automated to immediately terminate a task that’s using too many resources and remove the problem from the system.

3. Region consolidation. The third feature that makes the administrator’s life easier is the consolidation of regions in the new CICS platform.

“The platform [allows] people to get away from needing to be concerned about individual CICS regions,” Moxey says. “Many of our customers have thousands of these individual regions or systems they run. By grouping those different types of regions into a construct [that] we call a region type allows you to abstract the characteristics of those regions into something you can then form into a platform. The applications can then be deployed across those different region types, across the platform, in a much easier way.”

Other advantages include easier migration from testing to production, better control of critical systems resources, and reduced administrative complexity.

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A release for everyone
In addition to improvements to the main transaction server, this release also includes updates to five supporting CICS tools, which can be purchased along with the new server:

  • CICS Interdependency Analyzer
  • CICS Performance Analyzer
  • CICS Deployment Assistant
  • CICS VSAM Recovery
  • CICS Configuration Manager

The tools integrate with the server to provide data analysis, reporting and lifecycle management, as well as features to help keep the server running smoothly.

“It’s fully integrated products that work together,” Moxey says. “The CICS Interdependency Analyzer looks at how CICS applications are processing while they’re running. The CICS Performance Analyzer helps people analyze the performance of CICS systems and fine tune and do capacity planning. They’ll all have a new version, 5.1, at the same time.”

“[This release was on] an 18-month development cycle. It represents a 25 percent reduction in development cycle time, so it’s significant. We’re eating our own cooking in effect here with our agile development practices.”

Nick Garrod, CICS Market Enablement Manager, IBM

In addition to these CICS tools, there will also be an upgraded version of the CICS Transaction Gateway V9, which is a major connector between CICS and WebSphere products. The new release builds on the greater scalability from the run-time and introduces 64-bit Java and extended interoperability. The CICS Explorer is also being upgraded to V5.1. and has new capability added to it.

With all of these new features, CICS hopes to appeal to the system programmers, application architects, developers, and administrators who all use the product in different ways, Garrod explains.

“There are different aspects within what we’re enhancing and improving within CICS version 5.1 that will appeal to a greater extent to one of those roles than to the other,” he says. “I think we try to provide a balanced release that will satisfy all of those people. If performance is their thing, we’ve got support for Java 7, which they should see performance increases. If deployment or application development is important, then agility and operational development will help.”

A faster software update
This update of CICS is its most rapid software update release ever, according to Garrod, thanks to the new capabilities in agile development.

“Traditionally, CICS releases in the past have been on a 24-month cycle,” he says. “Version 4.2 was in June 2011, V4.1 was June 2009, V3.2 was June 2007. [This release was on] an 18-month development cycle. It represents a 25 percent reduction in development cycle time, so it’s significant. We’re eating our own cooking in effect here with our agile development practices.”

During the development, the program was in beta testing with both customers and partners. Garrod says the response to CICS V5.1 has been positive. In addition, many customers report that it feels completely different than the previous version.

“The feedback from these beta programs has been [that] this is so much easier to do than what we used to do before,” he says. “One customer said they gave it to one of their new people who, after about half an hour says, ‘so when do I get to see the mainframe?’ [They were] quite unaware that they’d been using the mainframe for the past 30 minutes. It was a completely new experience.”

CICS Transaction Server for z/OS V5.1 is slated for general availability on December 14, 2012.

Read more about the new user interface features of the server. In the blog, “CICS V 5.1 has a new user interface for app development,” on Global WebSphere Community.



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