The hidden transaction server that you use every day
MARTIN KEEN 1200007VU3 MKEEN@US.IBM.COM | | Tags:  java web-services enterprise cloud system-z cics martin_keen ejb transaction cloud-computing
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How many times did you use CICS Transaction Server this year? This week? Today? Unless you're already familiar with IBM's 43 year-old transaction server, you might be scratching your head and thinking “I've never used it!”.
Have you had lunch yet? If so, did you pay with a debit or credit card? Then you've used CICS. Did you pay for lunch with cash instead? CICS entered your life then too – when you went to the ATM to withdraw the money.
And you're not alone. CICS Transaction Server handles a dizzying number of transactions every day. More than 30 billion transactions a day in fact (and at least three CICS customers are exceeding one billion transactions a day each). In the course of a week, those transactions are valued at over $1,000,000,000,000 (that's one trillion dollars). Every single week.
Almost every commercial electronic transaction that you make is processed by CICS. Consider the transactions involved in taking a business trip by train. You'll search for available travel times, book a train ticket, purchase travel insurance, and check in to a hotel room. Each one of those transactions needs to be completed quickly, securely, and reliably, and it's CICS Transaction Server that's behind them all.
CICS and System z: perfect partners
So what is CICS, and how is it still so relevant after 43 years? It's a transaction server that runs primarily on the IBM System z mainframe. System z is well known for its high availability, averaging about 5 minutes of downtime per year (by combining System z mainframes, that downtime is reduced to almost zero). Of the world's 25 biggest banks, all 25 use System z. A single System z mainframe is highly scalable – it can comfortably run over a thousand virtual Linux images on a single box. CICS Transaction Server is designed to take full advantage of the System z platform, controlling the interactions between applications and users.
CICS provides applications with an extensive range of system services, such as security and transactional integrity. Application programs written for CICS use an application programming interface (API) to request these CICS services. The CICS API is provided in multiple languages, from COBOL to Java. There are APIs for presentation services (for user interfaces), data services (for retrieving and updating data), and business services (for manipulating data).
Out with the old, in with the new
The real beauty of CICS – and a reason it is still going strongly today – is the ability to separate and reuse business logic. CICS applications that were designed to work with a green screen 3270 terminal 20 years ago can be modernized to support web services today, without making changes to the original business logic of the application. CICS has remained current with changing middleware technologies: CICS has embraced HTTP web servers, Enterprise JavaBeans, Java adapters, and SOAP web services in recent years.
CICS and cloud computing
Today IBM announced a new version - CICS Transaction Server V5.1. This new release addresses over 100 customer requirements – a record for a new CICS release.
One of the improvements continues the CICS tradition of adopting emerging technologies with support for cloud computing. CICS provides operation efficiency and service agility with cloud enablement.
Adopting CICS into your architecture
Martin Keen is an IBM Redbooks Project Leader. He leads publications on many areas of IBM software, including WebSphere, Messaging, and Business Process Management. Follow Martin on Twitter at @MartinRTP.