Tuesday, 25 September 2007


I’ve mentioned both CICS and AJAX before in these blogs and it seems to be a marriage made in heaven to bring them together. On the one hand you have all the advantages of transaction processing on the mainframe – speed, reliability, security, etc – and on the other you have the fastest way of allowing users to work from a browser. AJAX, for those of you just returned from the planet Tharg, allows users to update pages on their screen without necessarily having to send the whole of that screen to the server and receive a complete new screen back from the server. It basically allows users to work as if the application they were using was running locally on their computer – it can make things that quick. No more press the button, go an get a coffee, sit down again and hope the response has arrived!

HostBridge has recently produced a newsletter about CICS and AJAX. They suggest that AJAX enables true two-tier access to CICS (rather than three-tier). They say that AJAX allows the browser to contain the application logic and make calls directly to CICS. The newsletter goes on to say that “AJAX applications also allow you to retrieve data from CICS, maintain the data in memory, and repurpose the data as needed”. What this means in effect is that it takes only on call to CICS in order to provide the information necessary for more than one (ie two or more) views from the browser. This has the immediate impact of reducing network traffic and speeding up the response the user sees.
The newsletter also has some recommendations for the design of the AJAX interface. Their three suggestions are to use AJAX frameworks, add server-side processing, and design based on patterns. The third one really says look at what users like to do and try to design things that way. Otherwise the users just might not want to use it.

HostBridge isn’t alone in looking at CICS and AJAX combinations, back in August, NetManage introduced NetManage OnWeb for CICS, its software that transforms CICS data into standard XML. Once you’ve got XML, you’re half-way towards being able to use AJAX on the end-user interface. Illustro has its z/XML-Host product for XML conversion (see “Putting it all together…”). And FireXML has FireXML for CICS to integrate their ObjectStar system with Web server applications. And a search on Google will probably find lots of others.

The great thing about CICS is that it is a consumer and a provider of Web services, which means that it can be used with all these “new-fangled” Web 2.0 applications. Combining it with AJAX just makes a perfect combination.

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