As companies prepare for the retirement of tens of thousands of highly experienced CICS mainframe support staff in the coming years, new support staff are discovering mainframe technology and CICS for the first time. Some are recent college graduates with degrees in Information Science. Others enter the mainframe CICS fold from the distributed computing world. Still others come from the applications development world. Since mainframe technology and CICS are no longer widely taught at most schools due to the mistaken belief that mainframe technology is obsolete, mainframe-centric organizations have been scrambling for help to bring new staff up to speed rapidly and cost-effectively.
This ongoing series of articles is intended to help new CICS support people understand the basics of the product and how it has evolved into strong, robust software. It’s intended to help with basic concepts, underlying components that may not be intuitively obvious, and day-to-day issues that may help everyone support the product. It’s intended to target those familiar with distributed systems (UNIX, etc.), recent college graduates who have no or limited z/OS experience, and applications developers who are moving into the systems arena.
Even though these articles cover basic concepts to help bring readers up to speed quickly and efficiently, it’s important to first review several concepts that should already be understood:
z/OS Job Control Language (JCL). All installations and support activities occur with jobs submitted to update CICS facilities. Basic knowledge of JCL is required to understand the examples used.
Time Sharing Option (TSO)/Interactive System Productivity Facility (ISPF). This is the default z/OS facility used to edit CICS data sets. While some installations may purchase additional facilities to enhance ISPF, this facility is shipped with the operating system and therefore can be found at all sites. It’s the default for all examples used.
TSO/System Display and Search Facility (SDSF). This is the default facility of z/OS used to review the output of jobs submitted to maintain CICS. It’s required to review the output of the JCL submitted and also the shutdown logs for all CICS regions.
Hexadecimal awareness. All z/OS products, including CICS, use base 16 (or hex) for abend codes, message contents, and problem determination. Knowing this numerical system is critical in analyzing output of these sources.
CICS Information Center and Redbooks. This is the source for all CICS product documentation. Manuals are no longer published, and this online source is critical for product support. A complete explanation of this Website and how to maneuver through it will be covered in one of the early articles. Specific manuals will be referenced as they relate to specific topics.
Getting the Region Up and Running in z/OS
Building and starting a region is basic to all systems. Once the region is up and running, tasks can be started and workload is created. This used to be a difficult, perilous task because so many things could go wrong. The evolution of z/OS and many enhancements to CICS have made this easier.