CICS Continuous Delivery, what’s all that about then?

Disruption? Never ending upgrade cycles? Not quite.

It would be fair to say that CICS is a pretty well established product, with a rich heritage of continued evolution and innovation. Traditionally, the time between CICS releases was around 24 months and for the most part, that worked. But a lot can change in 2 years… particularly in the IT industry. We’re in the age of digital transformation; the API economy; disrupt or be disrupted by emergent startups… oh, and make sure you’re cutting costs whilst meeting this increased demand.

Sound familiar?

In CICS we endeavour to help you with these opportunities. Part of this is through new capabilities and developments, and part around the strategies and mechanisms we employ to deliver CICS.

Getting new capability to you faster

As a CICS development team, we’ve adopted agile and DevOps practices, and embraced IBM Design Thinking. These enable us to work closer with clients; constantly gathering feedback on development progress to ensure the final result meets expectations. We also reduced the release cycle time from 24 months to around 18 months, and began to deliver new function on existing releases through quarterly continuous delivery. This means we can get better designed, new capabilities and features in the hands of users, faster than ever.

However, we understand that CICS doesn’t exist in isolation; that the applications it hosts are often mission-critical; and that pricing issues could emerge – particularly with multiple releases in production. So just having the new capability available would only be part of a solution…

Tackling costs

Java EE 7 Full Platform

One of the unique values in CICS is the ability to host applications made up of components written in a multitude of different programming languages. A language we’ve significantly enhanced our support for recently is Java. By making CICS a first class environment for hosting Java (inc. Java EE) applications, it allows customers to utilise a rich community of skilled developers to create new interfaces, extensions and enhancements to their existing CICS solutions, such as new RESTful web interfaces.

Java on IBM Z consistently demonstrates about a 1.5x performance advantage over alternative platforms, and zIIP offload eligibility can further help keep costs down.

Read more.

From Single Version Charging to Multi-Version Measurement

Previously, we would have 2 minor increments, i.e. 4.1, 4.2, before a major update. But this could result in customers incurring Single Version Charging (SVC) if they wanted to move to V5 and were unable to upgrade all regions within a time limit.

So you may have noticed that we’d become quite fond of V5.x, as we wanted all our customers to be able to enjoy the latest and greatest version of CICS.

Fortunately, in February 2017, IBM introduced Multi-Version Measurement (MVM) as a replacement for SVC to allow you more flexible control over your upgrade cycles.

Container Pricing

Recently, we’ve also announced and delivered Container Pricing for IBM Z https://www.ibm.com/it-infrastructure/z/software/pricing. At the time of writing, this has 3 solutions:

  • New Application Solution – to significantly lower the cost of deploying new applications to z/OS.
  • Application Development & Test Solution – to increase your entitlement for current z/OS-based development and test environment capacity by up to 3x, with no capacity-based increase in MLC software charges for that workload.
  • Payments Pricing Solution: ties operational cost directly to business value, basing the price of the solution on the number of production payments that are processed through IBM Financial Transaction Manager for z/OS (FTM), rather than capacity that is used to process them.

Minimising disruption when adopting new capabilities

Rather than undertaking a wholesale upgrade of your environment, it can be advantageous to adopt a multi-release strategy. This allows you to offer new capabilities to some parts of the business, whilst maintaining continuity in other parts.

For example:

Diagram showing new asynchronous api application in a 5.4 region, Java applications in a 5.3 region, and core applications in CICS regions 4.2 to 5.2
Fig1: Showing a sample CICS multi-release deployment

If you want to learn more about adoption this approach, see this section in the CICS Knowledge Center

Delivering capability in smaller, contained ‘chunks’ also gives you more flexibility in terms of choosing which functional updates you want to apply, and have a better understanding of the scope of the changes in your environment should you choose to apply the update. Its also meant that we’ve been able to deliver this new capability to you, without you needing to order a new version and upgrade your entire CICS installation.

If this delivery mechanism doesn’t suit your needs, again you can choose to wait for the more traditional minor version update. Which includes the cumulative continuous delivery updates and additional exclusive functions in the new version (such as the asynchronous API in V5.4).

New Continuous Delivery updates – January 9th 2018

Thanks for taking the time to read this far, now I can tell you what’s new!

CICS TS V5.4

CICS TS support for multi-factor authentication in CMCI and CICS Explorer – APAR PI87691

Security is a primary concern for any enterprise; new regulations such as PCI DSS 3.2 and GDPR, require higher levels of user authentication for some or all users. This enhancement allows for MFA when a user logs into CICS Explorer (alongside the existing choices of basic authentication or using a smartcard).

CICS TS V5.3

Java EE 7 Full Platform and JVMSERVER PURGE, KILL and RUNAWAY improvements – APAR PI77502

Support for Java EE 7 Full Platform in V5.3 is now available in both standard-mode and integrated-mode Liberty. This update also includes enhancements to the management of JVM servers and associated CICS tasks, allowing CICS to remove disruptive tasks.

More details on this improvement management can be found here.

CICS TS V5.1 or later

Policy system rules support – APAR PI83667

First introduced in CICS TS V5.4, these are the strategic replacement for the CICS system event technology. System rules allow you to automatically respond to changes in the state of system resources or the overall health of a CICS system.

For more information on system rules, click here.

System rules enhancements – static data – APAR PI88500

CICS policy support is enhanced to allow users to define items of static data to be emitted with a policy event, for both task and system rules. This means that policy system rules support is now functionally equivalent to the CICS system events technology it replaces.

A few final links

For more information on the recent updates and open beta announce, you can find the announcement letter – here.

For more information on CICS continuous delivery, check out the following:

For a summary of which features are available on which releases, click here.

Join The Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *