Monday, 12 January 2009

CICS Explorer

IBM introduced a SupportPac containing the new CICS Explorer Eclipse-based graphical tooling interface for CICS on the 5 November 2008. But what is it?

Basically, it’s a new Eclipse-based systems management environment for application programmers, system programmers, and other operational staff. The idea behind it, I guess from IBM’s point of view, is to provide a modern interface to CICS, which, as you know, as been around since 1969, and is currently at Version 3.2 (although second time around because it reached Version 6 then started again!).

CICS Explorer is highly-customizable, and can be used to integrate information from CICS and third-party tools, which means that users need have only one Master Terminal for all their software. IBM has made using it easier for beginners because it comes with integrated help, tutorials, and a direct connection to the CICS Information Center.

The IBM site at lists its features including:

  • Manage secure connections to CICS runtime and CICS Tools from a single panel.
  • Wide range of standard queries plus rich query editor so you can easily modify these or create your own.
  • Much easier to follow a sequence of resource relationships.
  • Data filtering helps to reduce the volume of data displayed.
  • CICS Explorer can run in a browser.
  • Etc.

Why are modern and easy-to-use such important features? Well it goes back to my blog the other week about the ageing mainframe work force. This particular tool helps to fix the ageing-workforce problem in two ways.

Firstly, you can replace experienced and skilled mature staff with less-experienced and skilled staff, because it’s easy for them to access help from CICS Explorer. So there’s no need to replace retiring experts with younger experts, you just need to replace them with standard IT people.

The second thing is that staff who are familiar with Java can make use of Explorer’s Eclipse interface, and before they know it, they are experts at CICS! And Eclipse-based plug-ins can be integrated in CICS. The old and the new combined, making working with CICS sound youthful and dynamic and appealing to the younger Java programmers.

And because it can run in a browser, it can be run from anywhere. I’m currently picturing a die-hard CICS programmer from 20 years ago, fixing a problem using the browser on his phone, while attending a family party. Work-life balance and all that!

Definitely a product we’re going to hear more of in 2009.