Ezriel Gross from Circle Software Inc has been hosting training sessions at SHARE conferences since the early 90s, offering popular sessions on basic and advanced CICS concepts – he’s even won a few best session awards. This year, at SHARE Sacramento, he’s got a full plate: five total CICS sessions running the gamut from an introductory overview to in-depth, technical training with live demos.
We spoke to Ezriel to get a sneak peek at his session offerings, plus his thoughts on the state of mainframe education. If you haven’t already, register for SHARE Sacramento by visiting event.share.org/register.
- You’re leading several technical sessions on CICS this year – can you describe what you aim to cover?
There are many sessions in the CICS Stream. In my sessions, I will cover everything from intro to CICS, Java in CICS, tuning with the CICS Performance Analyzer, an introduction to CICS internals, and a session on profiling a CICS transaction using trace. In CICS, we’re hitting everything on the spectrum, from the basics to the advanced topics, so we hope to have something for everybody.
In my sessions, I tend to use live demos and focus on real examples. It’s not just a lecture where attendees have to do their own follow-up research. I’ll talk about a technology, and then show a real-life coding example and go through the steps to show the implementation process. I always share my email address so attendees can reach out and ask for the code I used in my presentation. That way, they can just cut and paste it to apply what they learned in real life. It’s about learning through practical examples.
- Why is CICS such an important topic to cover?
About 490 companies out of the Fortune 500 still run CICS on their mainframes. There are approximately 30 billion CICS transactions that run each day, and it’s installed on 85 percent of all IBM mainframes. It isn’t going away tomorrow. These core systems were developed over 30-40 years, they’re still used because they’re reliable and fast, and even if you wanted to replace them, it will take a long while to do that. And cost is another factor. Just the replacement costs of all COBOL code – around 200 billion lines of code – is around $20+ trillion. So, we have to keep supporting CICS, which means providing ways for the younger generation to learn about this technology and pick up some real-life experience.
- When we interviewed you before SHARE Atlanta two years ago, you mentioned that CICS education was lacking for young programmers. Is that still a challenge today?
We have the same problem that everybody else has—the user population in this industry is aging. There are a lot of retirements every year and the knowledge leaves with it. We’re seeing a lot of younger people in the courses offered at Circle Software Inc as companies try to fill that gap.
In terms of options, there are educational resources out there, including hands-on classroom training or virtual training. Virtual is nice because people can save money on travel, but it’s still not the same because you lose a lot of the educational experience. You’re not face-to-face with someone who can answer your questions. You can’t talk to your peers in class to compare experiences and get feedback. There’s also the potential for distraction with virtual training. I can’t tell you how many times I try to ask students attending virtually if they understand and can hear the crickets. YouTube-based training is even more challenging, because you have no feel for whether or not the student understands what they learned. And then there’s almost nowhere to go for help. That’s why I strongly prefer the in-person classroom training.
- What do you hope attendees walk away with?
I want attendees to get an overview and an introduction to CICS, an appreciation for what it can do on the mainframe and some practical knowledge that they can take back to work on Monday.
Heading to SHARE Sacramento? Ezriel, from Circle Software Inc, will be leading five CICS technical sessions from Monday, March 12 to Wednesday, March 14. Log in here to save those courses to your SHARE profile. You also still have time to register for SHARE Sacramento, March 11-16, if you haven’t already.