CICS and SecondLife

(Originally posted 2006-11-22.)

In Mainframe v-Business Boas Betzler threw out a challenge: “Demonstrate SecondLife talking to CICS”. I’ve picked this up on behalf of IBM. Now, why on earth would you want to do that, Martin?

To get beyond the “because it’s fun” answer (which is also true) let me tell you my view on SecondLife…

First, it is NOT a game. Emphatically not. Though it is a lot of fun. By way of analogy consider the graphics and sound cards that have crept into most PCs and are certainly built into most laptops. Those were originally for gamers. Now the analogy here is that things that look like fun now will probably become standard in a few years time…

Why shouldn’t we collaborate interactively in 3-D space in a way that’s far better than the current browser and application experiences can offer? Even with the collaborative aspects of things such as Web 2.0 and instant messengers like Sametime. Well maybe SecondLife isn’t there yet but it will be.

(And at this point I should reveal I’m “Timnar Mandelbrot” in SecondLife, in case you feel you want to befriend me.)

So, we have the “better UI” aspect. Maybe compelling, maybe not.

But we also have the “filthy lucre” element, and that could be more important:

I was talking to some friends in May in Washington about how people were making real money in SecondLife. The very next day I heard of an IBMer making real money selling photographs for people to use in SecondLife. That’s a simple example. A number of companies have set up shops in SecondLife: You pay for what they sell (whether for use “in game” or for delivery to your real doorstep) in Linden Dollars. These are directly exchangeable for US Dollars.

Which brings us almost to CICS. So, if a real company is trading in SecondLife, don’t you think they’d want to do it in a robust fashion? Well, this is where the ability to script objects in SecondLife. particularly linking to the outside world (via the llHttpRequest() script function), comes in handy.

Back to Boas’ challenge…

Wouldn’t it be nice to connect SecondLife transactions, requests for information, etc. to real business systems? With all the robustness and qualities of service that the mainframe, z/OS, CICS, DB2, Websphere, Websphere MQ etc bring. If real companies are trading for what is ultimately real money in SecondLife they need this stuff. So the link to CICS is actually quite important:

So, I’ve found a CICS system in Montpellier I can use. I’ve talked to an expert in the HTTP support in CICS – who is enthusiastic about this. I’ve talked to a number of people about SOAP (and it works well in CICS but rather less well in SecondLife). I’ve created a simple scriptable object on IBM’s private Hursley Island. And I think I’m all set.

So, I’m going to be putting all the pieces together over the coming weeks. Well enough to demonstrate that you can talk to CICS transactions from within SecondLife, using “Raw HTTP”. With that basic piece under my belt I’ll branch out and demonstrate some other z/OS-based products in the mix.

Yes, it should be fun. But it should also demonstrate that the mainframe has a role to play for organisations that are going to participate in SecondLife – whether to trade there or to provide a useful 3-D experience. Probably both in fact – if you recall how the web evolved from pretty browsing to business transactions.

In fact it went further than that with some of the Web 2.0 elements: providing interactive experiences and social networking. So next time (which may be the first time) someone invites you to a meeting or lecture or presentation in SecondLife, I’d take it if I were you.

Published by Martin Packer

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