Why use CICS Web services IBM-CICS

A great many large commercial institutions, particularly in the financial sector have been using CICS Transaction Server for decades now. The reasons are many: robustness, performance, scalability, security, and so forth. The basic transaction processing heart of CICS is still the same at the API interface, but under the covers, many new features and performance improvements are introduced. The choice to use these new features is left entirely as a business decision.

IBM introduced support for a number of new interfaces for technologies that did not exist when CICS was developed. The CICS Web Interface with TCP/IP support is one such interface. More recently, support for CICS Web services has become formally available with CICS TS V3.1. This is a very significant development for heritage CICS sites as it potentially puts their CICS applications on an equal footing with the most recently developed and distributed Web applications. This is because Web Services are a standard, platform-independent method of invoking a remote function. The caller has no need to know the implementation details of the target service.

However new facilities in CICS are not always keenly embraced by these long-term CICS users. The basic CICS functionality remains the same. Indeed there are many applications, typically CICS COBOL, that have been running largely unchanged for 20 years or more. As time moves on and applications support skills move on, there is understandable apprehension to change working code to employ new functionality unless there are significant justifications to do so. With Web Services, there is ample justification to take the plunge and if the application is well designed, minimal changes are required to the heritage base code.

The following sections summarize the reasons that a long term CICS site should seriously consider adapting a large, working CICS application to enable CICS Web Services.

Competitive advantage

By having parts of existing corporate applications available outside the internal company intranet, clients and suppliers are enabled for electronic commerce. This is certainly not a new concept, but EDI solutions have always required intermediate bridging software to transform and route requests and responses. Such software was usually proprietary and required at both ends of the connection as well as being expensive for smaller sites.

Using a standard interface

By using the Web services approach, a standard interface is published enabling clients and suppliers to develop their Web service clients in their own time, using their own tooling, independently of the target software or platform. The quicker and easier it is for clients and suppliers to connect to the corporate Web service, the more likely they will use the Web service.

Cost advantage

There are still a great many heritage applications running on mainframes notably using CICS (3270, Client-Server, Web, Bridge, and so on). The cost and scale of redevelopment of these systems is overwhelming to many organizations. Enabling these established systems for Web services is highly desirable for these sites.

Employing a service oriented approach does not necessarily mean a huge outlay for new hardware and software. Indeed the aim of this book is to demonstrate how new and existing CICS applications can be adapted as Web services without major outlays. CICS provides utilities that enable existing CICS applications to be adapted as Web services. At the simplest level, this is all that is required to enable a CICS program to become a Web service. In practice however, issues such as complex data types and security must be taken into consideration.

Centralized infrastructure

Keeping the Web services infrastructure on the mainframe has a number of important features that will appeal to sites with a long and rich association with CICS. From those sites, issues such as centralized security, backup, and administration are fundamentally important to their business requirements.

Typically business resumption strategies are in place, tested, and they have no desire to change these for the sake of a few application niceties. None of these key features need be affected by employing CICS Web services.

A modern approach to e-commerce

From the view of many businesses, it is highly desirable to use modern application development approaches. This not only allows them to take advantage of new technologies but can relieve their mainframe of some the development processing burden. It is also important as these businesses need to be able to attract quality graduate programming staff. Potential new recruits will be much more interested working for a business that uses modern techniques as they frequently view roles, such as application maintenance, (rightly or wrongly), as being minimal-interest jobs.

Long term staff also need to keep their skills up-to-date. They will not fall behind as a result of the modern mainframe infrastructure. Indeed the interconnection of heritage and new technology can be a very interesting challenge.

Corporate image

The use of new technology is also very much part of a corporate image. Companies who are slow to react to IT trends can be viewed as being slow off the mark. This may or may not be correct, but perception is important. At the most superficial level, use of CICS Web Services can provide a modern make-over to heritage application functions for limited investment.

Timely response to business needs

There is an increasing desire to be positioned for quick response to business needs. By using standard, secure, and well accepted interfaces, requirements such as EDI, or even business integrations (see below) become significantly easier. This can be done using applications infrastructure such as messaging, but there are many, possible incompatible messaging systems available. While this might be practical within an organization, cross organizational messaging can become a problem. Web services are transport independent. The most widely used invocation method for Web services is SOAP over HTTP, but it is just as valid to use SOAP over WebSphere MQ links or JMS.

Corporate acquisition driven integration

Just about every corporation undergoes acquisitions or restructuring at some point these days. This usually has significant implications for the IT infrastructure of both organizations. By using a standard CICS Web Services interface, the pain of integrating such systems can be reduced. The difficulty of such integrations can never be entirely removed, which is why there is a whole industry dedicated to software integration platforms.

Software such as WMQ, WBI Adapters, and WebSphere Message Broker are significant parts of the IBM software integration portfolio. However, with some forethought, employing standard interfaces such as CICS Web Services, transitions between corporate states becomes much more manageable.

Desire to retain mainframe infrastructure

The benefits of centralized security, databases, and general administration are clear to long-term mainframe users. Some corporations have long histories (decades) with IBM mainframes. Financial and government institutions typically fall into this category, as well as those organizations where very high levels of security have always been required, such as defence or R&D. For these types of organizations, the benefits of centralized mainframe security are well established. By introducing CICS Web Services, centralized security can be 6 Developing Web Services Using CICS, WMQ, and WMB retained on the mainframe. Web services allow for the inclusion of security information for authentication and authorization purposes.


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