The Batch Applications for the Java Platform (JSR-352) standard is now supported for CICS TS V5.3 with Liberty as announced in October 2016. This article introduces the concepts of batch processing and looks at how the WebSphere Liberty support for JSR 352 can allow online and batch to co-exist to support true 24×7 operations within CICS.

What is batch processing?

In general there are two types of transaction processing workload: Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) and batch processing. OLTP is characterized as interactive with data access scoped by fine-grained requests, and typically needs to complete within a response time measured in milliseconds. In comparison, batch processing is non-interactive, background execution of data or compute intensive work and is frequently long-running. Batch processing can be executed sequentially or in parallel, and is initiated through various invocation models including ad-hoc, scheduled, and on-demand.

Batch processing has been widely used for decades in disciplines such as payroll, payment processing, claims processing, inventory management, credit card processing, credit risk analysis, and report generation. It is closely associated with a centralized server providing powerful I/O capability – unquestionably the territory of the mainframe! Programs run in batch are often written in high-performance compiled languages like COBOL, PL/I and C.

The majority of work in CICS today is OLTP, although batch applications do sometimes call CICS programs to use facilities and data not available in the batch environment.

Why write batch applications in Java?

Java has become a popular language with developers, constantly improving, and critical business applications across many industries are now written using it. To better serve batch requirements, the Java community consolidated the experience of numerous batch experts and developed an industry-wide standard known as JSR-352. This Java specification establishes a standard batch programming model and fits well with the broader Java EE 7 Full Platform. Batch processing by its nature is iterative, which means Java classes are highly likely to be Just-In-Time (JIT) compiled into well-performing native routines. Additionally for z/OS customers, Java batch applications are eligible for zIIP offload in the same manner as other Java applications on z/OS providing the potential to significantly reduce software license charging.

The evolution of Java batch can be summarized as:

  • Roll your own – This is a design built around the launcher concept, and the BPXBATCH USS utility or the JZOS Batch Toolkit for Java launcher can be used to run the main method of a Java class. This Java class can then use the JZOS toolkit to access z/OS operating system services and data, including VSAM data.
  • Competing batch frameworks – such as Spring Batch, and IBM Compute Grid. CICS provided the Feature Pack for Modern Batch that is based on IBM Compute Grid and allows batch applications to be executed in a batch container inside the CICS JVM server and run in parallel with OLTP applications.
  • The open standard JSR 352: Batch Applications for the Java Platform – This is based on the existing patterns and experiences of batch implementations, so experienced JCL and COBOL developers are likely to be comfortable with the concepts.

Java batch is now ready for broad adoption.

Why run Java batch in CICS?

Firstly, OLTP has become a 24×7 operation in response to increasing global availability. People from different time zones require access at all times of day and night. Although there are times when online processing volumes fluctuate, in a global economy it rarely ceases. This means that batch and online processing are required to operate simultaneously in a co-operative manner. To that extent, batch in CICS is a very viable proposition as it provides containers and controls for both.

Secondly, JSR 352 applies to both Java Standard Edition (SE) and Java Enterprise Edition (EE) environments and thus a large proportion of batch APIs can be served by a single Java SE/EE application server such as CICS. CICS is well positioned as a first class mixed-language application server. By partnering with WebSphere Liberty, and with CICS TS V5.3 plus the latest service, JSR 352 is now supported in both integrated and standard modes of the Liberty JVM server. For a more detailed introduction and comparison of integrated and standard modes I suggest reading CICS is now arriving at the Java EE 7 Full Platform.

Further, for data intensive batch processing CICS has access to critical data in VSAM, DB2 and IMS. CICS can act as a data connector for batch applications for example by using the JDBC and JCICS APIs, or linking to and reusing CICS programs that are tried and tested. In terms of transaction management, batch is designed to checkpoint regularly thereby dividing the whole batch into a series of more manageable, recoverable, resilient chunks. Each chunk is managed by an implicit XA transaction which is coordinated by the Liberty transaction manager with CICS acting as an XA participant. Using XA transactions also means you can update non-CICS managed data within a transaction, for instance data in a remote data base such as DB2 or Derby accessed using a type 4 database driver.

To conclude, the combination of CICS and Liberty are an excellent choice for batch applications on the mainframe.

Liberty features for Java batch

Liberty implements JSR-352 and provides additional unique features and qualities that make it ready for the enterprise:

  • WebSphere Developer Tools (WDT)

The WebSphere Developer Tools help you get started developing batch applications. They enable you to create applications and compose jobs using the Job Specification Language (JSL). You can then use the tools to deploy and test your application on a local or remote Liberty server.

  • Role-based security

You can secure the Liberty batch environment using role-based security. Users can be a part of one or more batch roles: batchAdmin, batchSubmitter, and batchMonitor. By configuring a user registry and authorization roles, an administrator can restrict access to batch operations and job instance data through the batch REST API or JobOperator interface. Security is included as part of batch right out of the box and it is easy to configure using Liberty’s basic registry. As your batch users grow you can switch to use an LDAP user registry or a SAF registry on z/OS.

  • Batch REST API

The batch REST API provides a complete set of operations to manage your batch environment. The REST interface gives you the flexibility to use your favourite REST clients and scripting languages to remotely manage jobs. It provides start/submit, stop, and restart functions along with the ability to view the job execution status, data, and logs.

  • Job logging

Use job logging to audit your batch jobs and debug potential problems in your batch applications. As your applications progress from development to production you can fine-tune the level of logging to suit your auditing needs.

  • Multi-server support

Adding the batch management feature enables multi-server batch functionality. This provides a way to build a robust, highly available, and highly scalable batch topology.

  • Batch manager command line interface

The batchManager command line utility is a convenient mechanism for calling the remote management API. The batch manager is a natural integration point with your existing business process work flows and external schedulers since it is able to wait for job completion and to return completion codes back to your existing workload automation. For example, you can run batchManager from standard JCL and Tivoli automation products, and the utility allows for discovery of job log information, and to retrieve the job log for archiving if desired.

The Liberty support for Java batch provides a standards-based approach to developing batch applications that can be securely managed and scaled into a highly available topology. Whether you are generating internal reports or processing loan applications, Java batch can be a powerful tool.

Topology considerations

The simplest topology is to handle everything within a single Liberty server as shown below. Job requests are submitted to a server, where the batch application is executed. However, Java batch can also split the workload over multiple batch containers to build a robust, highly available, and highly scalable solution.

Single server batch topology

Similar to TOR and AOR roles in CICS for OLTP workload, there are two roles in a batch topology

  1. Batch dispatcher to receive requests and to route requests like a TOR
  2. Batch executor to execute batch applications like an AOR

You can scale the numbers of batch dispatchers and batch executors according to your requirements. Having more than one batch dispatcher provides for better availability. It is a good practice to architect multiple batch executors to split workload across different application hosts and to allow the batch to run in parallel. More executors means better isolation, higher availability, increased scalability and in many cases more throughput.

To enable a multiple server topology, bear in mind the following two requirements.

  • Firstly, a REST interface must be used to submit jobs. If you have an application calling the JSR-352 defined JobOperator API then those jobs will always run in the server where the JobOperator was called, regardless of your topology.
  • Secondly, a shared persistent database called the Job Repository is created and used by Liberty to keep track of the progress of batch jobs. It knows which jobs have been submitted, where they are running, what state they are in, and for completed jobs if they were successful or encountered failures. To ease development, you can choose to use the default in-memory Job Repository, however job information will be lost if the server restarts and job information cannot be shared among batch servers. So for production you need to set up a shared persistent Job Repository such as a Derby or DB2 database. At the time of writing only the DB2 JDBC type 4 driver is supported for batch persistence. Under the covers, the batch feature uses JPA (Java Persistence API) to persist information.

So how does the batch dispatcher communicate with the batch executor? With a persistent messaging service of course, such as provided by the Liberty embedded messaging provider. Configure the batch dispatcher and executor to use the same JMS queue. Then configure the dispatcher to dispatch workload to the batch executor, and place the queue in the same server as the dispatcher. If you want to set up multiple dispatchers and provide a highly available configuration, then configure an independent server as a messaging engine. An example multiple server topology is shown below:

Multiple server batch topology
Multi server topology

For a more detailed introduction and comparison of Liberty batch topologies I suggest reading WebSphere Liberty Batch Topologies.

Summary

In summary, this article has presented reasons to use Java for batch workloads, and why you might choose to run those workloads in a CICS Liberty JVM server. We’ve introduced the key functions and covered various topology designs. If you wish to try this for yourself, why not follow my guide to developing and testing a batch application – Java batch in CICS tutorial.

 


 

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