Volume 10, Number 9 -- March 2, 2010

Altova Adds DB2/400 Support to XML Development Tools

Corrected: March 2, 2010

by Alex Woodie

Altova is now supporting the System i server and its integrated DB2/400 database with its MissionKit, a suite of popular XML, data conversion, and UML modeling tools for developers and database administrators. Altova's CEO expects System i shops to get the most use out of two of the suite's tools, including a data conversion tool for XML, EDI, and other formats, and a stylesheet designer that provides another way to get DB2/400 data on the Web.

In the last 10 years, Altova has leveraged the commercial success of its first product, XML Spy, to create a range of XML development and data manipulation tools and to carve a comfortable niche for itself as XML went mainstream. Today, the Massachusetts company boasts more than 3 million users at more than 100,000 companies around the world, and is the proud owner of dozens of industry product awards.

With the mid-February launch of Altova MissionKit 2010 Release 2, the company added support for DB2/400 on i/OS V6R1 at the database connectivity layer. This enabled all database-driven tools in the suite to support DB2/400 as a data source and a target for the first time.

Alexander Falk, the founder and CEO of Altova, tells IT Jungle that he expects System i shops to be most interested in two of the MissionKit products in particular. These include MapForce, a data mapping, conversion, and integration tool, and StyleVision, a stylesheet designer for XML and databases.

MapForce is a graphical tool that allows developers to perform sophisticated data transformations involving data stored in a variety of formats, including major relational databases (DB2/400, DB2 for LUW, SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL PostgreSQL, and MS Access); XML; EDI (X12 and EDIFACT); HL7; XBRL; flat files; Excel; and Web services. The tool also will automatically generate code for file transformation applications in major languages (Java, C++, etc) to execute on Windows servers and desktops.

DB2/400 is supported as a source and a target for transformations developed in MapForce, Falk says. "Our MapForce tool gives you a visual design surface where you can create data connections from data sources and a target," he says. "The iSeries 6.1 is supported as both a target and a source. It can take data and extract it from a database and also capture data through a Web service, for example, and then store it back into the database."

Users can create file transformation routines involving DB2/400 data using simple drag-and-drop motions in the MapForce interface.

StyleVision, meanwhile, provides a drag-and-drop palette for developers to create stylesheets for publishing data in a variety of ways. The software generates compliant XSLT and XSL:FO stylesheets that automatically transform data from a variety of sources (major databases including DB2/400, and XML, XBRL, and DTD) into a number of formats, including HTML Web pages; RTF, PDF, and Word documents; and electronic forms compliant with Altova's free Authentic forms editor.

Falk says he expects a warm reception from System i shops. "Once we started our partnership with IBM a few years back, and we announced support for DB2, we immediately started getting calls from people saying 'What's next? When will it support iSeries?'" he says. "There was a lot of interest, because we make it easy for people to take the data and convert it into XML, XBRL, HL7, EDI, or any of these other formats. People who have existing deployments in their infrastructure are very interested in moving the data and getting the data involved in information exchanges with other organizations or other departments, and they can now do that much more easily within MapForce, for example."

While StyleVision and MapForce may garner the most attention from System i shops, users of this server also gain DB2/400 access to three other products in the MissionKit suite, including DatabaseSpy, XMLSpy, and DiffDog.

DatabaseSpy is a database query and design tool designed to be used by database developers and administrators working with major relational databases (including now DB2/400). The software provides a graphical interface for various tasks, including editing and formatting SQL; designing database structures; editing database content; comparing database schemas and content; and converting or merging databases tables and content. The software features SQL auto-complete functions, and also supports the editing of stored procedures.

Support for DB2/400 may also give System i shops a reason to look at Altova's flagship product, XMLSpy, if they haven't already. From either a text view or a graphical view, XMLSpy provides an extremely diverse range of XML-related capabilities, including: generation of many XML document types (XSD, XSLT, XQuery, XBRL, etc); XML debugging and validation; automatic code generation of class files (Java, C++, and C# for Windows, and C++ for Linux) from XML schemas; generation of WSDL and SOAP for creating Web services; and a lot more.

DiffDog, Altova's comparison and merge tool for files, directories, databases, schemas, and tables, also gains support for DB2/400 with this release. With its graphical interface, DiffDog excels at quickly highlighting the differences between two large sets of data, enabling the developers to make better use of time.

Altova supports DB2/400 (officially called DB2 for i by IBM) in two versions of i/OS, including i5/OS V5R4, and IBM i 6.l.

Altova offers System i shops a choice for connecting to DB2/400, including native file-level access or ODBC. "When you open a connection to a data source, we actually present a dialog box to the user to let them choose the native connection or the ODBC way," Falk says. "The native connection supports a lot more functionality, in various ways, but some people just prefer a pure ODBC API.

System i shops involved in generating or consuming XML may find uses for the other members of the MissionKit family (even if they do not support databases like DB2/400 directly). These include: UModel, a UML modeling and code generation tool for high-level, visual application development; SchemaAgent, a utility for analyzing and managing relationships among XML schemas, XML documents, XSLT files, and WSDL files; SemanticWorks, a graphical editor used to create and edit OWL (Web Ontology Language) ontologies (for more intuitive, or "semantic," Web apps); and Authentic, the forms editor used for publishing data from XML and databases.

Free 30-day trial downloads and full pricing information are available on Altova's Web site at www.altova.com.

This article was corrected. Alexander Falk's name was misspelled, as was the name of the product DiffDog. IT Jungle regrets the errors.

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