Thought Leadership: CICS for the Modern Age

By SHARE'd Intelligence Editor

Just six months ago in December 2015, CICS made its latest stable release debut (CICS V5.3), 47 years after its initial release. Despite its mature age, CICS, or the Customer Information Control System, is better than ever, according to Glenn Schneck, senior solutions engineer at GT Software who has been involved in the SHARE CICS Project since 1987.

SHARE’d Intelligence recently talked all things CICS with Schneck: Why you should choose it over the other environments an online application can run on, what makes it great and how it is about to shape the future of mainframe language systems.

“Although CICS is 47 years old, it’s definitely not a dinosaur. It’s a vibrant and evolving product that meets different needs for different organizations. There’s still some miscommunication about CICS since there are a bunch of misconceptions floating around that aren’t all 100 percent correct,” Schneck says.

“But there are a lot of reasons to choose CICS as your online application to run. First off, it is so well-established. CICS is a very reliable product that is simple and easy to use for any application programmer. With its ranging versatility, you can write in COBOL, Java, C, Assembler, PL/I or a few other lanuages you want to create your applications and run them on multiple platforms. CICS can run on the distributed platform using CICS TX series, iSeries as well as on the mainframe,” he adds.

Like CICS, COBOL is known for its stability and ease of use. You can write as much of it as you want on both the mainframe and on the distributed side, which makes it great for business applications. The problem is that many people don’t realize this versatility is available to them. “There’s this perception that COBOL is a dead language, but if companies took more time to train their incoming younger employees, they’d see that it is very much alive and well,” Schneck points out.

When it comes enticing younger generations of application programmers to be interested in CICS, and COBOL for that matter, the path isn’t always easy. “There simply aren’t enough colleges or programs that teach it. I would like to see some of the larger organizations accept the younger generation and keep them going on a mainframe path,” Schneck says. “Once I got out of high school, I went to a data center and worked my way up, so I am well-versed in CICS. Today, however, companies just don’t take advantage of it the way they used to. There’s this false notion that we are getting off the mainframe just because it’s cheaper, but that’s not always the case. CICS is really the next big thing and it’s already here.”

Over the years, CICS has been able to remain relevant because of both its reliability and its ability to handle a large amount of applications at once. “You can run quite a few applications on a single CICS region. It really depends on the environment or how many times your transactions are executed; for example, if you are a small bank with a small transaction rate, you might have a single CICS region; however, with a larger transaction rate, you may need multiple regions. The biggest CICS regions I’ve ever seen have had millions of transactions a day. It has taken time to get to this point, but CICS is always evolving and getting better. Mobile-friendly applications have affected and shaped CICS substantially. Whether you write native code or use a third-party product line Ivory Service Architect, CICS is able to handle a very high mobile workload very efficiently. You have all of the mobile aspects alongside reliability and security.”

While it’s very uncommon, a CICS region can come down, and Schneck hints that it’s a nasty process. Rest assured, however, unlike having to reboot your PC seven or eight times a day, your CICS region can weather the storm. “The biggest issue you’d come across is if one transaction would override another transaction's storage,” Schneck adds. “IBM has made that more stable, though, so there’s not a whole lot of ways to bring a region down anymore. Bringing it down is essentially shutting it down. CICS is constantly getting better with new products; I have never heard of a virus in CICS or in the mainframe.”

To sum it up, Schneck says, “CICS has had continuous progress and IBM has kept it on the leading edge. It’s not slowing down anytime soon.”

Glenn Schneck has been involved with CICS as a systems programmer for over 30 years, working across several industries for companies as diverse as Equitable Life & Casualty Insurance Company (now CIGNA), Guardian Life, The Walt Disney Company and SunTrust Bank. He currently is a senior solutions engineer with GT Software. He also has had extensive involvement with the CICS Project at SHARE since 1987, where he has served as project manager for the past five years. His expertise has been essential in shaping the group’s CICS strategy and education programs. Schneck has a Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Central Florida and a Master’s in Computer Science from the University of West Florida.   

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