CICS Explorer 5.1 - Extending the easy way
JoeWinchester 110000DQA0 Comments (5) Visits (3648)
On December 14th 2012 - just before a well earned holiday break - we launched CICS Transaction Server 5.1. Loads of good new stuff in the release, not all of which came from great ideas that smart folks like us had in IBM, but more than 100 customer requirements coming from FITS - or its replacement RFE - were in the release content. And it was done in 18 months, rather then usual 2 years between CICS releases. Like I said - the holiday break was well earned.
Each time we release a new version of CICS we also deliver a new version of the CICS Explorer. Previously the release numbering of the CICS Explorer was out of sync with the numbering of the CICS release, so to make life simpler they are now the same. CICS Explorer 5.1 was launched with CICS T 5.1. A lot of new content in CICS TS 5.1 is surfaced through the CICS Explorer 5.1, such as support for the Liberty profile or the Cloud perpective to let you work with applications and platforms (more about those in another blog later), but as with every release of the CICS Explorer, it will connect not only to the latest release of CICS TS (in this case 5.1) but to all in-service releases of CICS as well. This means the CICS Explorer 5.1 will connect to CICS TS 4.2 and 4.1 cicsplexes and regions, and also to 3.2 and 3.1 cicsplexes.
Along with CICS TS 5.1, we also release all of our CICS tools. On the same date ! And also, with the same number. CICS Performance Analyzer released on December 14th is version 5, release 1. Same with CICS Deployment Assistant, and CICS Interdepedency Analyzer. They're all 5.1. The idea behind this is to simplify life for everyone involved - coordinated releases of the runtime and the tool means you don't have to wait until after the runtime is released to have a tool avaliable that adopts or exploits its features, and you don't need to have a cross reference matrix to see which tool work with which release. Similar to our CICS Explorer 5.1 working with older releases of CICS TS, our CICS Tools 5.1 work with older releases of CICS TS.
Now here's the cool thing I was saving up for last. We totally changed the way we deliver our plugins for the CICS Explorer. Previously to add plugins to the CICS Explorer you had to download a .zip file from an IBM web site - choosing the right one for your operating system - choosing which download method you wanted to use - entering a user ID and password and most probably having to use the "forgot my password" option to slow you down - answering some rather annoying questions about how much of your company's budget you controlled and how you would/wouldn't like to receive spam - and then once you have the .zip file on your PC - you had to deal with the fact that some of them were archive files within the .zip file, some weren't, and some were uncategorized and appeared empty on the Install dialog. I wrote a blog entry a while back trying to explain how to make this work, and all the time I was writing it a little voice in my head kept reminding me of the quote "if you're having to document an apology for how your software product works, you should hang your head in shame that you didn't create it properly in the beginning".
So.... what we've done for CICS Explorer 5.1 is change everything for the better. I'm going to show a picture now because it hopefully it avoids me writing 1000 words to explain what we did.
Ta da !!!!!!
Everything is on our update site. To see the screen shot above select the menu Help>Install New Software... which will open the Availble Software dialog. The combo box at the top is a list of update sites - and if you select it you'll see one called "IBM Tools - CICS Explorer 5.1.0". If you want to get the plugin for a CICS tool, or one of the Problem Determination Tools, then you just click the check box next to the thing you want to install - press next a couple of times - watch a progress bar - restart - and you're ready to go.
For those of you with eagle eyes (hi there eagle eye guys and girls) there is a new plugin for CICS VSAM Transparency. It says "support pac" next to it, which means that the license is slightly different for how you get support from IBM for it - but if you're a CICS VSAM Transparency user then please install it and let us know what you think.
One thing I love about the name of our update site, is that it is called IBM Tools - CICS Explorer 5.1.0 - http
Update sites are not only ways to add new content to the CICS Explorer, but they are also how we publish updated content. The way you update your CICS Explorer is to take the menu option Help>Check for updates.
What this will do is contact the updates sites you have defined - check what you've got installed against what features those sites have - and find any newer versions (if there are any) available on the update site URL. You will get prompted for whether you want to accept them or not, or if there are none - a dialog letting you know that the software you've got is all up to date and fine and dandy.
If you're feeling a bit bolder - then you can actually configure the CICS Exporer to do the checking for updates automatically - either every time you start the CICS Explorer - or at a particular time. The dialog to let you configure this in the Window>Preferences under Inst
Now I'm going to cover what kind of content we put on our update site. Unfortunately I don't have an easy picture to save me here, so I'm going to write words.
By default - with a CICS Explorer - we only put fixes on the update site. We don't put new function or content. There's a reason for that, which is that if you - the user - have taken 5.1.0 CICS Explorer - you've made a statement that you like the content is has, maybe doing your own testing, and if we slipped new function into it that you hadn't necessarily tested or signed off on, you might get upset. Making you upset is not what we want to do, so all we'll deliver is fixes.
The way we do this is by having the URL for our update site ends 5.1/5.1.0/ What this means, is that it stops at 5.1.0. If we - IBM - release any updates then the numbering system we use is important - 5.1.0 is version 5, release 1, modification zero. If we release a fix because we, or worse a user, finds a bug that needs fixing, then this is what we call a fix release. Our first fix release would be 126.96.36.199. Our second, which would include the fix for the first (we do them from the same code stream) would be 188.8.131.52
We do however have another URL which is where we release mod release. This is
I wish I had been able to include a picture to explain what I just wrote because it would have been easier - so I'll just recap.
When we release fixes we update the fourth digit of our number - so 184.108.40.206 goes to 220.127.116.11 and all the way up to 18.104.22.1689 (which would not be a great day for me as it'd mean we had to ship 999 defects fixes - but we're prepared for the worst case scenario just in case it happens).
Will only publish fixes on the the update site we include with a default CICS Explorer download. This site includes the first 3 digits of the release, so for 5.1 CICS Explorer it ends 5.1/5.1.0
We also have another update site for each release, which is where we put new content. We call this a mod release - not in the mods and rockers sense - but in the way that mod is short for modification. This update site ends 5.1/latest
If you want to get mod release to CICS Explorer 5.1 - then you need to add in the update site ending /latest, or else edit the location of the one we include by default which ended 5.1.0. To add an update site to the list you can just type the URL into the combo box at the top of the Available Software dialog and press Enter. To edit an update site location, select the hyperlink "Available Software Sites" on the dialog, and then you can select and edit the location the dialog that opens next which also lets you remove, disable, import and export sites.
I may have made things more confusing with that attempt to summarize - apologies if I did.
If you are fortunate enough to already have ou previous CICS Explorer 1.1 which we released in May 2012, this will be pointing to the 1.1 update site. We couldn't have pointed it to 5.1 because this didn't exist in May (although we already were planning it) because that would pre-announcing, and also because by default we only include the fix release update site. However if you want to get our December 5.1 content, all you have to do is add the 5.1 update site, press check for updates, and after pressing next a few times and restarting it should all work.
As well as revamping our update sites to include all of the plugins, the folks who create the download page also gave it a make