Like most 40 year-olds, CICS is wiser and smarter than it was in its younger years, but doesn’t look quite as good from the outside as it did as a teenager. System administration or development typically involves interacting with green-screen programs being run inside a 3270 emulation program launched from a PC desktop. However, surrounding the emulated green screen are likely to be any number of other applications such as email clients, a Web browser, and other graphical applications. Users will interact with these using the mouse, metaphors such as drag and drop, copy and paste, and expect features such as integrated help, wizards, support for undo, and other items that make them productive.
In addition to old-style CICS development with C*** transactions or batch compiles, there are many modern desktop programs that also interact with CICS, including monitoring tools that show graphs of CPU and storage over time, or Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) that allow authoring of COBOL programs for CICS deployment.
This mixed landscape has led to two significant concerns:
• Relevance. The green-screen image of CICS leads some to incorrectly assume that it is no longer relevant for new applications, or to shy away from it because its usability is mismatched with the fit and finish of other runtime tools. While the current generation of systems programmers might be comfortable with ISPF and Time Sharing Option (TSO), they’re likely to have grey, if any, hair, and a collection of vinyl records in their loft. It’s important that CICS also be attractive and intuitive to the next generation of System z champions in their organizations so the skills don’t disappear as the baby boomers approach retirement age.
• Interoperability. Many CICS add-on tools involve doing either real-time or historic analysis of data to identify issues such as poorly performing transactions, programs with affinities, or candidate resources for group or repository cleanup. Some of these are written in ISPF, while others have their own proprietary interfaces which might be rich desktop clients or browser applications. In each case, when the tool must present CICS data, it has had to invent its own interface and underlying technology to access CICS. This means users must learn and maintain a plethora of different ways to visualize and manipulate CICS, shifting back and forth between the various tools to complete a particular scenario, losing consistency and productivity each time a context switch occurs.
IBM, in collaboration with customers and business partners, launched the CICS Explorer project to tackle both issues. To succeed, the CICS Explorer must be pervasive, provide a compelling solution to customers, and be extensible so tools tailored to particular scenarios can extend and embrace it as a desktop information hub for CICS, the transaction server, tools, and the other environments with which it interacts.
Available at no cost from www.ibm.com/cics/explorer for either a Windows or Linux client, the CICS Explorer requires CICS Transaction Server (TS) Version 3.1 or more recent versions.
CICS Explorer is intended to offer a modern, intuitive systems management experience. Figure 1 shows a typical systems management perspective in the CICS Explorer: two CICSPlexes together with their active regions and resource groups, and scoped views of defined and installed files. All operational resources—such as files, programs, or tasks—can be viewed either for a specific region or across an entire CICSPlex. If a specific view isn’t present, it can be opened from the operations or administration pull-down menu and positioned freely in the workbench, allowing creation of customized perspectives. The user can configure which attributes he wants columns for, in which order, how large the columns should be, and any filter criteria. The filtering is powerful and extensive. As shown in Figure 1, users can drill down to see all files that are open, start with the letter F, and use Local Shared Resource (LSR) pool 1, where the filter values have been entered in the top toolbar of the files view.