NetManage Eases Web Development, Tightens Security
Published: October 3, 2006
by Alex Woodie
Users of iSeries and mainframe servers will find it easier to build Web interfaces to host applications thanks to a new wizard NetManage has included in its OnWeb development and integration software. OnWeb for iSeries version 7.2.4, announced two weeks ago, also sports a new Eclipse plug-in for Java development, as well a new "separation of duties" security model that puts a divider between development and run-time on the iSeries. The company also updated its RUMBA and Librados product line.
OnWeb is NetManage's strategic environment for opening green-screen applications through the development and delivery of browser interfaces and Web services utilizing the user's preference of .NET, Java, and XML technologies. The software addresses a variety of needs, ranging from the simple (such as serving a 5250 emulator in a browser) to the complex (say, developing a composite application that touches DB2/400-based ERP, Unix-based CRM, and mainframe CICS). On these higher-end jobs, OnWeb may be paired with NetManage's collection of application and database connectors, called Librados, which was also updated two weeks ago.
But before organizations can develop slick Web service apps as part of a service-orientated architecture (SOA), they need to start small, like Web facing a tired old green screen with a sparkly new look and feel. This is the purpose of OnWeb App Express, a new wizard-driven configuration tool that ships with OnWeb 7.2.4.
OnWeb App Express eliminates all manual coding and enables users to get their new Web-faced applications up and running in a matter of minutes, as long as they know the IP address of the iSeries or mainframe, according to Archie Roboostoff, senior manager of product management at NetManage. Users can pick a look and feel from five or six preconfigured templates, and still be free to customize the screens later with their own graphics, fonts, or controls, he says.
OnWeb users doing more advanced host integration work will appreciate the new capability in version 7.2.4 to access OnWeb's Object Builder module from Eclipse Java development environments. This feature will enable developers to capture business transactions as Java objects, and to do so from the comfort of their favorite Eclipse IDE, such as IBM's WebSphere Development Studio, which is gaining considerable presence in the AS/400-iSeries-System i community. For those of the Windows persuasion, Object Builder can also be accessed from Microsoft Visual Studio IDE.
The new release of OnWeb also gains a new "separation of duties" security model for iSeries deployments. NetManage says the model implements a boundary between the control of development and run-time deployment, and also provides greater transparency of those who traverse the boundary, which is important for meeting Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.
The new iSeries security model was needed because OnWeb users are now running the OnWeb server directly on the iSeries, albeit in PASE mode, instead of on a separate Windows box. This PASE capability was added last year with the delivery of OnWeb for iSeries version 1.3. Since then, the company has also dropped the separate OnWeb for iSeries versioning convention and now uses the OnWeb server's version number for the iSeries bundle, too.
The last of the major new OnWeb for iSeries features is support for i5/OS V5R4.
NetManage also announced a new release of Librados, its collection of adapters for automating the process of integrating with popular ERP and CRM systems, messaging infrastructures, and sundry protocols and technology standards. The company sells about 70 adapters, split evenly between those written in J2EE Connector Architecture (JCA) and designed to run on Java application servers, and those written in C# and designed to run on Microsoft's BizTalk Server 2004 integration server.
With this release (which NetManage didn't specify), the company has boosted the interoperability, security, and ease-of-use of the products.
On the ease-of-use front, Librados now sports a visual interface for the processing of browsing APIs. The company also has simplified the process of "wrapping" transactions and publishing them as standard Web services.
Security has been bolstered by increasing the encryption level for each connection parameter, including user names, passwords, server locations, and client parameters, NetManage says. This release also brings support for "security pass-thru," which enables security credentials to be passed on from one application to another through Librados connectors.
Tightening security and accountability in Web service deployments has been a top priority at NetManage, says Roboostoff.
"That's the number one hurdle that we, and our competitors, have in getting to customers wanting to do SOA," he says. "We can create a [Web] service for anything. But it's a bigger picture thing. How do I map all these log-ins. If I want to create a log-in for an AS/400, SAP, and PeopleSoft, how do we connect the dots? It's a huge problem."
Other new features added to Librados include: a new Eclipse plug-in; support for Java Development Kit (JDK) and Java Runtime Environment (JRE) versions 1.5; support for the latest versions of Siebel, SAP, and Oracle E-Business applications; and local support for SAP to minimize the load on the server.
NetManage also updated its range of thick- and thin-client emulators on September 18, the same day it announced new releases of OnWeb and Librados. The announcements covered new releases of RUMBA, OnWeb Web-to-Host, and ViewNow X Server.
On the RUMBA front, the company unveiled version 7.5, which brought support for Windows XP Professional X64 Edition, ease-of-use enhancements for system administrators using UNIX and 3270 emulation, and better security, connectivity, and administration features for iSeries users.
With ViewNow X Server version 9.6, NetManage has simplified the installation process when using Citrix to push Unix applications to Windows clients via WinFrame or MetaFrame. It also made usability, performance, and security enhancements.
NetManage also released OnWeb Web-to-Host version 5.3. With this release, the company has added some of the more popular features from the thick client version of RUMBA, including the AS/400 File Transfer utility with support for RTO files and the capability to turn screen text into 3D buttons that automate user input or execute macros. This release also brings a simplified deployment and new connection monitoring capabilities.
In other NetManage news, two California investment firms recently made a joint offer to buy NetManage. Riley Investment Management and Zeff Capital Partners, which together already own about 15 percent of NetManage's outstanding stock, asked NetManage's board in late August to consider its proposal to buy all the remaining shares for $5.25 each, which was a 17 percent premium over the company's stock at the time (it has since gone up to just under that level). NetManage's stock is traded on the NASDAQ National Market.
NetManage has not yet made a public statement regarding the offer. The company, which has suffered losses the last couple of quarters, ended its most recent quarter September 30 and will report its earnings soon, at which point it may address the offer. Riley Investment Management also owns about 5 percent of Quovadx, which competes with NetManage and has been in acquisition mode recently.
NetManage Cuts Complexity and Cost of iSeries Product