Using a Shortest Path Algorithm for CICS Integration
How To | Letters form the Trenches| by Jerry Rackley

One of the challenges of integrating 3270 screen-based CICS applications is the complexity of screen navigations. These applications were originally developed for human operators at a terminal. Completing a business process often required an operator to step through a complex sequence of screens. The HostBridge technical team has seen CICS applications that require extensive user training. Using these applications could involve navigating dozens of screens to complete a business transaction. Developing integrations for such applications seems daunting. Using a shortest path algorithm for CICS integration is an elegant solution for simplifying the task.

The challenge to integrating these applications is understanding the navigation. 3270 application navigation occurs through PF keys or other keyboard entry. Successful integration requires capturing the screen flow for every business process. This requires getting input from an experienced application operator. As any experienced operator can share, the navigation through an application isn’t always linear. While you can’t always jump straight to any screen, there are usually multiple navigation paths and shortcuts for a transaction sequence. When a CICS application has multiple branches, integrating it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to navigate the typical, multi-screen sequence to complete a business process. With HostBridge, the integration script you develop can incorporate a shortest path algorithm to navigate from any screen to any other screen using the most efficient path. The efficiency of this approach comes in two forms: a shorter navigation path from one screen to another (good). It also improves the efficiency of developing web services for integration (better).

How a Shortest Path Algorithm Works

A shortest path algorithm isn’t new, but applying it to CICS integration may be. Using a shortest path algorithm for CICS integration makes possible creating new services without coding the screen path into the service. Instead, a reusable screen object is created for each application screen. Each object encodes which other application screens the screen object can navigate to.  In this way, the integration developer doesn’t need to code the complete screen navigation sequence into the integration script. Instead, the developer simply specifies the starting screen, and the ending screen in the sequence. The algorithm then finds the shortest paths to accomplish the necessary navigation. It is often a path an operator wouldn’t take to get to a screen. 

Using a shortest path algorithm for CICS Integration simplifies and speeds up the task.

The HostBridge JavaScript Engine (HB.js) makes leveraging this approach that exploits shortest path logic simple. JavaScript is one of the most widely used programming languages in the world. HB.js integration scripts or APIs can therefore incorporate any programmable function or algorithm. This capability makes possible including a wide range of logic or functions that make integrations more efficient. The addition of any of this new logic or functionality doesn’t require CICS application changes. In fact, the presence of the HB.js script is completely transparent to the application.

For a recent CICS integration project, the HostBridge technical team saw an opportunity to exploit a shortest path algorithm. The target CICS application required operators to navigate a myriad of 39 discrete screens. The HB.js script with the algorithm found ways to get from “Point A” to “Point B” far more efficiently. For about one-third of the navigation sequences, a shorter path through the application was available. More importantly, developing all the integrations for this project was simpler and quicker by creating reusable screen objects and using a shortest path algorithm.

Try a Shortest Path Algorithm with Your HB.js Integration Scripts

Do you need to integrate screen-based CICS applications that have lengthy or complex sequences of screen navigations? If so, a shortest path algorithm can speed up and simplify the task. Using HB.js makes it easy to incorporate shortest path or any other logic into an integration script. Current HostBridge customers can contact the technical services team to learn more about exploiting a shortest path algorithm in their CICS integration scripts. Prospective HostBridge customers can run a prototype project with free support and software from HostBridge to test the approach. Reach out to us using the contact information found at the bottom of this page to start a conversation about prototyping HB.js for CICS integration.

I agree to receive commercial messages from Broadcom. I understand my personal data is processed according to Broadcom's Privacy Policy and I may unsubscribe from emailed communications at any time.