Visual LANSA Gets Expanded Interoperability, Developer Convenience
Published: February 23, 2010
by Dan Burger
Application development goals aim to continually improve business efficiency, drive increased revenue, integrate silos of information, and speed the roll-out of programs that can do all of the above. So it is with LANSA and its Visual LANSA product, which has just reached version 12. The key to the latest Visual LANSA is its diligence to database interoperability and heterogeneous platforms, while still being attentive to the IBM i customers.
Less duplication of the business logic stored in the LANSA data repository is at the top of the list of Visual LANSA enhancements. This is important when multiple development languages are hitting on the IBM i DB2 database, because it's more efficient when business rules get enforced regardless of the development language. It adds control by centralizing business logic across the entire development environment and eliminates many opportunities for database corruption by validating data before it's accepted into the system.
This extension of business rules to other development languages was previously limited to the LANSA development environment. Extending the feature to other development environments is indicative of what's happening as many organizations seek interoperability.
For those not familiar with the LANSA environment, it uses a central data repository to store system-wide validation rules and business logic. That logic can now be applied regardless of platform and development language to green-screen, Web, Windows, or wireless applications. The result is less duplication of common business logic across programs written in RDML, RPG, PHP, C#, VB.NET, Java, COBOL, Synon, and other languages.
Visual LANSA is an application development platform that underpins other LANSA offerings like iFusion.net, RAMP, LANSA Commerce Edition, and LANSA Composer.
"We have taken the rules and the logic that it stored in the repository and put them into stored procedures," explains Don Nelson, LANSA's vice president of technical services. "Now when the database is accessed, a DB2 trigger verifies whether the information provided is correct via the rules. If there is an issue, messages are sent back to the calling program. It is a security blanket. You can always check those rules whenever you do anything to the database.
"Interoperability with other databases is a big enhancement. There are lots of islands of information that have to be connected," Nelson notes.
Although the majority of work in IBM i shops gets done using the DB2 database, SQL is making great inroads into the IBM i shops.
Version 12 of Visual LANSA is the first to allow developers to create SQL files rather than DDS files. Previously those file definitions were allowed to be imported into LANSA. Now they can originate in LANSA.
"When you run a program on IBM i," Nelson points out, "you can pull data from a Windows or Linux server that may have an Oracle database or a MySQLdatabase or SQL Server database.
"As an example, when the main ERP system is running on i, but the CRM is running on a Windows server, this allows real-time data to be utilized freely among those servers with two or three commands."
Real-time access to data stored on Windows and Linux servers directly from IBM i applications is expected to become increasingly popular, so Visual LANSA gets it now.
Visual LANSA Version 12 also includes capabilities that provide native access to MySQL databases and Unicode support.
A wide selection of open source, PHP, and Java applications are written to the MySQL interface and many commercial packages are written for MySQL as well.
Unicode support is a feature that could be adopted by international companies with suppliers or vendors in countries using languages other than English. It simplifies the development process for writing in multiple languages. For example, the creation of a product description table could be coded once because the information presented in that one field would be the same, regardless of whether it was presented in English, Chinese, German, Italian, or any other language.
Pre-built modules also factor into the business application framework in version 12, which Nelson describes as a business framework to distinguish it from a communications framework like Microsoft .NET.
"This is a framework that allows users to organize applications. It provides things like the details based on the product orders a company receives," Nelson says. "It includes things like specifications, product pictures, and that kind of thing."
The details become a tab in the application as it is being written. For example, they could be attached documents that record conversations or contracts with a specific customer. These capabilities extend applications beyond what they currently provide in most instances. Some of the features found in document management, spool file generation, and report generation have been added.
The pre-built modules offer this type of functionality increase without writing code.
LANSA has provided developers one other convenience item with this release. It's another wizard. This one called CRUD for Web. Although CRUD sounds like something that's stuck to the bottom of your shoe, its purpose here is to bring "create, read, update and delete" functionality to Intranet, B2B and B2C Web sites. Adding the capability to access and update data typically adds a pile of complexity to app development.
The CRUD wizard, Nelson says, generates a Web application after taking the developer through a series of questions that identify which files and fields the app is expected to work against, search, and maintain. The Web app will contain drill-down capabilities that link as many levels as a user desires. For instance, the program that's created might drill down beginning with a company name, then to that company's customers, then to a specific order, then to individual item pricing and inventory details.
"In the RPG world a person might be able to do three or four of these types of programs in a day," Nelson estimates. This process could easily take hours and the CRUD wizard makes it into something that can e accomplished in minutes, if you had your work laid out by knowing which files you were going after and you knew the database well. It does not require knowledge of Visual LANSA beyond finding the toolbar on the browser."
Visual LANSA version 12 has been available since February 1. It can be downloaded or obtained via a DVD. LANSA does not make pricing information available unless it is requested from a company considering purchase.
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