Start using the CICS Explorer today!
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I have to admit that I put off installing the CICS Explorer for a long time because I was so busy. I finally took the time to install the CICS Explorer last year and was surprised at how quickly I was using it. I really like it and I think you will too. If you haven't already started using the CICS Explorer, I hope this post encourages you to start soon. See my other blog post "Getting the latest CICS Explorer version" for details on downloading or updating your CICS Explorer.
What is the CICS Explorer?
As you probably already know, the CICS Explorer is known as the "New Face of CICS". The CICS Explorer continues to evolve, becoming more and more powerful with each new release. IBM made the initial capability of the CICS Explorer available 3 years ago, on 5 November 2008, as a SupportPac for CICS Transaction Server for z/OS (CICS TS) 3.1 and 3.2. With the general availability of CICS TS 4.1 on 26 June 2009, a fully supported version (1.0) of CICS Explorer became available for CICS TS 3.1, 3.2, and 4.1. With the general availability of CICS TS 4.2 on 24 June 2011, the most current release (1.1) of CICS Explorer became available for CICS TS 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, and 4.2.
There are many things I could say about the CICS Explorer, but following are just a few of the main highlights:
The CICS Explorer connects to either a CICSPlex SM (CPSM) Web User Interface (WUI) server or a single CICS region. When connected to a CPSM WUI server, CICS Explorer operations views provide a single-system image of all the CICS resources within a CICSplex. When the CICS Explorer is connected to a CICS TS 3.1 or 3.2 region, the CICS resources can only be browsed. However, you have update capability when using the operations views and CICS TS 4.1 and 4.2.
Here is a view of the CICS Explorer with no tools connected to CICS and z/OS:
CICS Explorer with no tools (click image to enlarge)
Here is a view of the CICS Explorer with a number of tools showing the power of the Eclipse framework to aggregate and integrate across different scenarios:
CICS Explorer with tools (click image to enlarge)
See Overview of the CICS Explorer within the CICS TS 4.2 information center for more details.
Why use the CICS Explorer?
The main reason you should start using the Explorer is because it is easier to use than CEDA, CEMT, and other C* transactions. This might not be true if you are already familiar and comfortable with the CICS transactions and ISPF. However, if you are managing many CICS regions, CICS Explorer simplifies things by giving you access to all the regions from one place. A survey done in 2010 by Andrew Bates (CICS TS Product Manager, Hursley) shows that of 118 companies who responded, more than half have 20 or more CICS regions. About 20 of those who responded have between 100 and 1000 regions. So, even if you are experienced with CICS, if you are managing many regions then you can benefit from an increase in productivity.
Because the CICS Explorer is easier to use than CICS base functionality, it decreases the learning curve for new CICS users. The integrated help also lowers the skill required as you learn about the CICS Explorer and CICS. So, if you are new to CICS, you shouldn't need many years of z/OS experience to manage large configurations. Also, since the CICS Explorer is included with the Rational Eclipse tooling product Rational Developer for System z (RDz), there's no need to learn a new interface for that.
A nice advantage of the CICS Explorer is that it allows you to manage CICS definitions and CICS installed resources through a single user interface (UI) instead of using CEDA, CEMT, the CPSM WUI, and CICS Configuration Manager. The integration with tools, such as CICS Interdependency Analyzer and CICS Performance Analyzer, can also help you experience productivity gains.
I think it is worth mentioning that for programming resources, like events or the Open Services Gateway initiative (OSGi), CICS is generally moving more towards a model where these are included in CICS bundles and it is only possible to work with the bundles using the CICS Explorer. CICS TS V4.1 includes Event binding files and Atom service definitions in bundles. With CICS TS V4.1 Event adapters, OSGi bundle directives are also included in bundles. CICS TS V4.2 adds support for new types of resources for OSGi and extends event binding support for system events, both of which are only possible with the CICS Explorer. In the future, I would expect CICS bundles will continue to get more attention.
One amusing story that came from a real client that works at a large company was about a graduate that was working at the company who had asked to join the IT department's CICS project. After a couple of days, he complained to his manager "I'm bored, when do I get to use the mainframe?", to which the reply was "you have been - that's what the CICS Explorer connects to". The perception the graduate had was that he would be working on an olde world green screen, rather than a modern GUI.
Don't put it off any longer. Start taking advantage of the CICS Explorer and all of it's functionality!
Getting the latest CICS Explorer version (Part 2 of this blog)
CICS Explorer home page
YouTube videos highlighting some of the CICS Explorer and plug-in capabilities
CICS Explorer technical exchanges
FAQs on the CICS Explorer forum
IBM CICS Explorer - an IBM Redbooks publication