IBM Alleges Micro Focus Stole CICS Code
November 28, 2022 Alex Woodie
IBM last week sued Micro Focus over the alleged theft and reverse-engineering of its CICS software that runs on IBM’s mainframe systems. Micro Focus denied the claim, stating it believes it is “without merit.”
In IBM’s suit, which was filed November 21 in U.S. District Court in New York, Big Blue alleges that Micro Focus illegally copied its IBM CICS Transaction Server for z/OS software and reverse engineered it to create the Micro Focus Enterprise Server and Micro Focus Enterprise Developer products.
In its lawsuit, which you can read here, IBM says Micro Focus took advantage of a developer program, in which it gave business partners access to products at a discounted price. It then reverse-engineered the software and sold the derived work as its own.
“Micro Focus entered into contracts with IBM to benefit from IBM’s developer programs and get access to IBM’s technology, and then purposefully breached the terms of those agreements to suit Micro Focus’s own ends,” IBM stated in its suite.
What Is CICS?
CICS, which stands for Customer Information Control System, is a collection of middleware components designed to facilitate rapid processing of transactions in a high-volume setting. A characteristic of CICS applications is the capability to trigger multiple processes as a result of a single action, such as a customer initiating a travel reservation or kicking off a payroll process. CICS also helps to shield developers from the need to modify applications or write additional code, and also simplifies data and application integration.
CICS was initially created in 1966 by the IBM lab at Des Plaines, Illinois for the OS/360 mainframe operating system and bore the name Public Utility Customer Information Control System, according to the Wikipedia entry on CICS. IBM soon realized that CICS had applicability to other industries, and so it began offering it to customers in 1968.
Software was bundled with hardware for “free” during those early days of the mainframe, which meant customers were free to access and use the software on the System/360 mainframes. Among the companies accessing CICS was Standard Oil of Indiana, Amoco. According to the Wikipedia entry, Amoco did a substantial amount of work making CICS and OS/360 play well together, and then gave its work to IBM.
IBM also offers a CICS server for the IBM i operating system, as well as OS/2. But CICS on the mainframe is much more popular, and remains nearly synonymous with System z processing.
What Does IBM Allege?
IBM provided evidence of its allegations in its claim. Specifically, it says the code that Micro Focus created for its Web services binding component, called WSBIND, “contains near identical architecture and design to IBM’s CICS TS WSBIND file.” The Micro Focus WSBIND file also uses “IBM internal structures that are not outside of IBM,” it states in its claim.
When data is run through the Micro Focus WSBIND file, the resulting log file “exhibits the same configuration, program sequence, program elements, program optimizations, defects and missing features as the corresponding CICS TS utility programs,” IBM says.
The Micro Focus WSBIND file is also encoded in EBCDIC, just like IBM’s. “[Y]et, Micro Focus has no need for using that encoding as it uses an ASCII environment,” IBM says.
“There is no way such extensive similarity could arise through attempts to meet similar functional requirements, or as a result of coincidence,” IBM says in its lawsuit.
IBM terminated its Micro Focus’s membership in the developer program in May, and Micro Focus officially left the program in August.
“Micro Focus has brazenly stolen IBM software and we are going to protect IBM’s product development investment from Micro Focus’ illegal tactics,” Ross Mauri, the general manager of IBM z Systems and LinuxONE, wrote in a November 21 blog post. “We’ve made significant investments over many decades in research and development of our industry-leading IBM mainframe system technology, to the great benefit of our trusted partners, our customers and the global economy.”
IBM specifically accuses Micro Focus of copyright infringement and breach of contract. It seeks a permanent injunction against Micro Focus and monetary damages, as well as a jury trial.
Micro Focus responded to IBM’s accusations on November 23.
“We believe the claims contained in the complaint to be entirely without merit,” the company states in a press release. “For more than 40 years Micro Focus has been delivering innovation to customers, and we will robustly defend our intellectual property. We look forward to addressing what we consider to be baseless allegations through all available legal channels.”
Micro Focus, which is based in Newbury, United Kingdom, indicated the IBM allegation would not have any impact on its acquisition by OpenText, which is on track to be completed in the first calendar quarter of 2023.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. Micro Focus is being acquired by Open Text, not the other way around. IT Jungle regrets the error.