IT Management

As the Internet and corporate intranets extend their reach, many companies are searching for ways to integrate the wealth of mission-critical information residing on their existing systems with World Wide Web technologies. At the same time, software vendors are scrambling to meet this need, each company touting its product(s) as a “complete solution.” Business executives trying to choose a clear direction are faced with many conflicting claims. The resultant confusion can lead to either a poor choice or no choice, with many companies putting off the problem awhile longer, waiting for the right solution to become obvious. However, with the rapid evolution of technology, businesses that choose to wait may also risk losing their competitive advantage.

MVS, OS/390 and z/OS users currently have a number of product choices, but for VSE users, very few are available. The products that will work in a VSE environment use client-side technology, which is widely viewed as an inefficient and shortsighted approach. As I will describe later in this article, client-side solutions will not easily scale up or adapt to new front-end technology.


The VSE operating system has always lagged behind MVS in acquiring new technical functionality. MVS (now z/OS) generates a much larger revenue base for IBM, so it receives new development first. VSE users must often wait several years before the same technical advances are available to them. IBM’s advice to VSE users is to migrate to z/OS, which makes sense from the IBM point of view. However, converting from VSE to z/OS is a monumental task, and the cost can be staggering.

Another concern is the future of VSE. Does IBM plan to continue to provide the same functionality in VSE as z/OS, even if it takes longer? If IBM does plan to keep VSE CICS in sync with z/OS CICS, how long after a z/OS release must VSE users wait? Is there a time when IBM will no longer support VSE?

These are all valid questions of concern to IS specialists using VSE. The following quote is from a top IBM executive (in 2000) in response to these same questions:

“ There is no IBM commitment to keeping CICS on VSE in step with CICS on MVS. CICS Transaction Server for VSE/ESA 1.1 went general availability (GA) in June 1999, based on the CICS for MVS/ESA 4.1 code base. This provides a massive injection of new function for the CICS/VSE customers, enables workload growth, and provides much closer parity with CICS on MVS. To bolster the e-business support, we will GA the CICS Web Interface and 3270 Bridge on CICS TS for VSE/ESA later this year (in beta now), but we have no committed plans beyond that for delivery of function. IBM has no plan to enable VSE as a Java execution platform; i.e., there will not be a JVM for VSE — so CICS on VSE will not be supporting EJB or Java as a programming language.”

This is an old quote and some things have changed since then, but if you are a VSE user, it should be clear that IBM does not plan to provide continued support at the level it does for z/OS. Perhaps this means you should seriously consider migrating to z/OS, but what about now? Your business needs to take advantage of today’s technology, providing Web access to legacy applications. This is where the action is today, and companies that can get there quickly have a significant leg up on the competition.

Defining the Problem

For the past 25 years or so, businesses have been developing and maintaining online application systems that operate on 3270 devices. The investment in these systems is enormous, often measured in millions or billions of dollars, and these systems are the lifeblood of the company’s operation. The 3270 “dumb” terminals were limited in their display capability, but were quite adequate for the time. Today, with the proliferation of PCs and powerful graphic software, technology provides many superior alternatives to 3270 processing. With the advent of the World Wide Web and other technical advances, profitable opportunities are making a daily appearance.

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