StructuredJ: The Perk of Java, Without Learning J2EE
by Alex Woodie
Software startup StructuredSoft launched a new Java-based Web development environment, called StructuredSoft Developer, at the Northeast iSeries User Group Conference yesterday. The new software, which is based on open-source Eclipse tools and includes its StructuredJ Java scripting language, will appeal to OS/400 shops that are looking for an easy onramp to Java programming but can't justify the time, expense, and complexity of learning to write Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), the company says.
StructuredSoft, a young company headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, aims to shoot the gap between procedural programming languages, such as RPG and COBOL, and the opportunities that exist in the J2EE world beyond. The company says its StructuredJ Java scripting engine, which has been around for a while, has been readily adopted by AS/400 programmers who are used to procedural techniques.
With the new StructuredSoft Developer kit, the company is looking to build on is core StructuredJ language by adding open-source tooling, including Eclipse, the JTOpen Java toolbox for AS/400 and iSeries, and the Jetty servlet container, a 100% Pure Java HTTP server and servlet container that does not require a separate Web server. These core components are included in the new StructuredSoft Developer kit, which the company is providing, free of charge, in the open-source ethos, although there is a subscription fee for technical support and maintenance services, and a runtime fee on certain platforms. (More on StructuredSoft pricing later.)
So what do you do with StructuredSoft Developer? For one, you can write Java-based Web applications that access your OS/400 data and programs. StructuredSoft officials say the software is particularly adept at developing database and forms-driven applications that live on the Web. StructuredJ applications integrate with any JDBC-compliant database, such as DB2/400.
Matt Puccini, chief executive of StructuredSoft, says there's a particular need in the OS/400 marketplace for easier-to-use Java development tools. "IBM's 'roadmap for developers' has failed to resonate," he says. OS/400 shops "have failed to widely embrace J2EE, choosing to wait for a more practical path to Web application development that is less disruptive to their businesses."
With StructuredSoft Developer, Puccini says, OS/400 shops have, for the first time, a pre-assembled and comprehensive stack of tools, so developers can become productive more quickly. "First, we offer a radically simpler procedural Java programming environment that is familiar to AS/400 developers," he says. "We believe they wanted somebody to make the technology decisions for them, and put it in box. . . . Unlike those folks at the enterprise level, we're focused on providing an integrated, vertical stack."
Companies won't need a beefy new iSeries Model 825 or bigger machine to run their new Java applications. Because StructuredSoft uses the Jetty servlet container, even older AS/400 iron can be used to serve the Java applications, Puccini says. But in the end, this is open source, and companies can use any application server--WebSphere, WebLogic, Tomcat, JBoss--that they want.
StructuredSoft was incorporated in November 2003. Puccini, who had a 10-year career at IBM, where he sold OS/400 servers, launched the company with his partner, Nate Chadwick, StructuredSoft's chief technology officer and the chief architect of StructuredSoft Developer. So far, the company has several OS/400 shops from the Northeast using its software.
Karl Doane, president of the Massachusetts-based iSeries consulting firm Doane Consulting, says that, as an RPG/SQL developer, "I found StructuredSoft Developer easy to learn and very effective for connecting Web applications to AS/400 data and RPG programs." Another early adopter providing feedback on StructuredJ is Shawn Hainsworth of the New York City J2EE consulting firm Infinite Cloud, who says, "StructuredJ helps us to develop J2EE applications more rapidly and allows us to train our developers in significantly less time."
StructuredSoft's business model is largely based on services. The StructuredSoft Developer development kit itself is free. However, if you want continuous updates and access to StructuredSoft technical support via e-mail, it will cost $245 per year per developer and $20 per quarterly CD. For larger shops, a 10-pack is available for $1,995, which includes the quarterly CD update. If you want tech support over the phone, there is a five-incident support pack available for $995.
StructuredSoft charges a runtime fee for StructuredJ scripts, if the scripts are run on a proprietary Web application server (a model similar to the MySQL licensing scheme, Puccini says). This means that if you run your StructuredJ scripts on an iSeries, running an application server that is approved by the Open Source Initiative, such as Tomcat, JBoss, or the included Jetty application server, then you don't have to pay a runtime license fee.
However, if you want to run the scripts on an application server not approved by the Open Source Initiative, such as the WebSphere application server, you're going to pay a fee, no matter what server platform you're using. StructuredSoft provided the following runtime pricing for WebSphere: WebSphere Express is $5,000, WebSphere Standard is $25,000, WebSphere Enterprise is $50,000, and WebSphere Z/os is $100,000. As you can see, there is a considerable penalty for using WebSphere with StructuredSoft, especially if you're running a mainframe.
More pricing for support packages will be available on the StructuredSoft Web site, at www.structuredsoft.com.