CNX Ups the Ante in Mobile App Development for IBM i
Published: March 18, 2014
by Alex Woodie
CNX Corp. yesterday unveiled a major new release of its flagship Web and mobile development tool for IBM i, the Valence Framework version 4.0. The new version is based on Sencha Architect 3, which CNX says allows IBM i shops to develop Web and mobile apps almost completely in a drag-and-drop manner. The updated portal also has a place for accessing 5250 apps that haven't yet been rewritten or modernized for the new HTML5 world.
CNX has been beating the drum around Valence 4.0 for some time now, with promises of a major new release delivering many new features. "This is without a doubt the biggest release of Valence Framework since version 1.0 was first announced nearly six years ago," Richard Milone, the company's CTO, says.
The new "launchpad" in Valence 4.0 is designed to be easier to use than the old navigation-tree style interface.
CNX says the output of RPG applications can be imported as a data model into Sencha Architect, thereby shortening the amount of coding required to set up components like grids and charts. According to Milone, Valence developers can actually watch the live data from the RPG application stream into the Sencha Architect development canvas, thereby enabling them to visually set component properties like column widths.
"Sencha Architect is a one-of-a-kind tool for modern HTML5 development," Milone states in a press release. "It significantly shortens the learning curve and makes it possible to create the front-end of a Web or mobile app much faster than before. It's quite fun to use, too, as it abstracts you from much of the mundane coding process that is typical in Web app development."
CNX has been firmly in the Sencha and EXT JS camp for some time, and has utilized those libraries with its Valence framework. Valence is primarily designed to be used for new IBM i development, but with version 4.0, the company is offering a "stepping stone" to help modernize existing 5250 applications. It's doing this by integrating with IBM i Access for Web, the Web-based 5250 emulator from IBM.
Valence 4.0 includes a copy of this help desk application that CNX developed with the product.
"Even the most ambitious development team can't elegantly re-engineer the hundreds of 5250 programs in use at a typical IBM i shop overnight into true, modern browser apps," CNX Senior partner Robert Swanson says. "So with IBM i Access for Web integrated into the Valence Portal, businesses can gradually transition their applications from green screen to Web one app at a time, without forcing their users to constantly flip between Client Access and the browser."
Before embarking on building Valence 4.0, CNX hired a human-computer interaction specialist to examine the CNX Web portal structure. As a result, the company completely rethought its UX approach.
With version 4, Valence now includes a "launch pad" menu system for starting applications. This replaces the "navigation tree" menu system. "The look and feel of the new Valence Portal is far superior to what was used in prior releases," Milone says. "The early feedback we've received from beta testers has been overwhelmingly positive."
As we previously reported, Valence 4.0 also comes with a rather steep price increase. The runtime for a single partition on IBM i is now $9,995, up from $4,995. Extra partitions on the same box can be purchased for an additional fee. The development tool itself remains free, via the Community Developer license.
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