If asked to list the world’s bestselling software, it is unlikely that many people would be able to name IBM ® CICS ®
, the Customer Information Control System.
In fact, this revolutionary product ranks as one of the top 35 technologies that shaped the industry, according to Computerworld magazine.
It may well be IBM’s best kept secret.
At work billions of times every day
CICS applications are necessary for all kinds of businesses.
Many financial institutions conduct hundreds of millions of transactions every day using CICS; providing banking, investment, securities brokerage and other
services, not to mention ATMs communicating with banks.
CICS is at work when delivery drivers or warehouse employees scan a package and communicate tracking information to a customer or website.
Systems for online trading, electronic ticketing, payroll, order entry and processing, and retail distribution all rely on CICS.
CICS through the years
In 1968, Ben Riggins, an IBM systems engineer working with a Virginia utility company, wrote the original code that would become the first version of CICS—for
utility companies interested in implementing “online” systems for the IBM System/360® mainframe.
Since the first version of CICS was published in 1969, IBM engineers have continued to evolve it to adapt with the changing world, and it remains the market-leading
transaction processor today.
If you have ever withdrawn money from an ATM, taken out an insurance policy, paid a utility bill or shopped in a large retail store, then you have most likely used
In all likelihood, you probably use CICS every week.
And that’s really what CICS is all about—processing the world’s transactions.
Securely and reliably.
Day in and day out.
Phil Manchester’s quote in Personal Computer Magazine sums it up:
“CICS is probably the most successful piece of software of all time.
… It is the mainstay of business computing throughout the world.
… Millions of users unknowingly activate CICS every day, and if it were to disappear the world economy would grind to a halt.”
CICS was initially delivered around the time astronauts first landed on the moon.
It was rapidly adopted by many of the world’s largest banking, insurance, telecommunications, retail, manufacturing, utilities and government organizations to run
their core applications.
More than 40 years after CICS was first made generally available, IBM’s commitment to deliver innovative and reliable CICS-based technologies means the world’s
largest enterprises still trust CICS to run the applications that run their businesses today.
“Forty years young, with at least 40 more years to go, CICS is the backbone of so many companies around the world.
When I think of CICS, I think of industry-leading transaction processing.
I think of something that is really at the very core of IBM’s value proposition.
CICS is clearly one of IBM’s flagship products and a great part of our portfolio.”
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND GROUP EXECUTIVE, SOFTWARE AND SYSTEMS, IBM
“IBM’s Customer Information Control System, introduced in 1968, is the most important mainframe transaction-processing software in the world.”
“35 Technologies that shaped the industry,” Computerworld
September 30, 2002
“How do I pronounce CICS? It’s really up to you!
Here are a few of the pronunciations used around the world, as the home of CICS is Hursley, UK, we like to use the first one.
KICKS in the UK.
SEE EYE SEE ESS in the US.
SICKS in Spain.
CHICKS in Italy.
SAY EEE SAY ESS in France.”
CICS – An Introduction: Customer Information Control System – 35 Years of Reliable Transactions, IBM presentation
July 8, 2004
“CICS has been the most amazing and reliable software I’ve worked with, providing the University of Florida with a fast, secure, and extremely reliable application
server for our core business, student records.”
SYSTEMS COORDINATOR, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA COMPUTING AND NETWORKING SERVICES; STRATEGIC BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR, SHARE ORGANIZATION
Before CICS was invented, most application programs used batch processing, which originally involved physically loading batches of punched cards into computers for
Over time, this evolved into computer programs processing batches of digital data, usually overnight.
CICS provided the capability to process transactions instantaneously; in other words, real-time transactions.
CICS also provided a collection of standard general-purpose programs, which were delivered as functions that customers could include in their own applications.
With CICS providing capabilities such as security, recovery and scalability, IT programmers were free to focus on developing applications that advanced their
No longer did each and every programmer have to spend time developing common capabilities that made up the “middle” layer between their applications and the
computers on which they ran.
The value was immediate:
more powerful, more reliable applications, developed more quickly and more easily.
This radical concept rapidly became the multi-billion dollar software market segment that is now known as “middleware.”
And even today, CICS is a market leader.
The origins of CICS date back to the mid-1960s, when IBM’s Data Processing Division assembled a small team to figure out what needed to be done to improve telephone
Company employees at the time had to look up paper customer records in a filing cabinet to be able to process them.
Companies such as Michigan Bell Telephone, for example, wanted to see a customer’s telephone records on a screen while a company representative was talking to the
customer on the phone.
A feature like that would dramatically improve telephone service.
Ben Riggins, an IBM systems engineer, joined the IBM team with his ideas for a general online customer service application.
The news soon spread that IBM had a prototype solution, and queries poured in from nearly every type of industry including airlines, utilities and financial
Five years later, worldwide responsibility for CICS moved to the IBM development laboratory in Hursley, United Kingdom.
Under the direction of Malcolm Beaver, the manager of the Hursley Programming Center at the time, IBM Hursley soon became an increasingly important center of
innovation in the IT industry.
In July 1976, just two years after taking over the CICS mission, Ken Davies, a senior IBM programmer, led a team of developers in designing and implementing a major
new innovation in the CICS product:
the High Level Programming Interface (HLPI).
This elegant replacement for the more complex macro-based capabilities allowed programmers to access CICS services and resources more easily.
This new method of invoking CICS capabilities meant that writing and enhancing CICS applications, and upgrading the IT infrastructure that ran them, could all be
done in a fraction of the time it used to take.
Programmers who were untrained in CICS were becoming productive within weeks rather than months.
This was revolutionary in the complex software industry of the 1960s, and is still pretty impressive today.
HLPI technology remains at the heart of all CICS applications to this day.
Throughout the rapid economic development of the last 40 years, CICS has been the backbone of many of the world’s largest companies; continually evolving to enable
these companies to grow to their full potential.
Through the opening of the financial markets in the 1980s, the explosion of Internet commerce in the 1990s, and realizing the promise of service-oriented
architecture in the 2000s, CICS has led the way.
Back in 1969, the problem for business was how to securely process thousands of transactions per day.
Volume has grown exponentially, and the problem now is how to process thousands of transactions per second.
Each and every day, CICS secures tens of billions of online transactions.
So next time you go shopping, spare a thought for IBM’s best kept secret.
The expertise, technical skill, willingness to take risk and overall dedication of IBM employees have led to countless transformative innovations through the years.
Meet team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress.
Selected team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress:
- Ben Riggins Systems engineer who came up with the idea for the CICS transaction processing system
- Bob Yelavich Helped launch the first System/360 mainframe in 1964 and the first release of CICS in 1969
- Malcolm Beaver Programming Center manager at Hursley; moved development from US to UK
- Ken Davies Senior technical strategist and software engineer for CICS in UK
- Ian Mitchell Lead strategist since 2001; IBM distinguished engineer and chief architect for CICS today
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