BCD to Offer Java Deployment Option with WebSmart
by Alex Woodie
It's becoming a big, bad Java world, and Business
Computer Design Int'l is right there with it. BCD's ProGen WebSmart development environment has
helped programmers to create dynamic Web applications that run as ILE RPG-based CGI programs on
AS/400 and iSeries servers. Now BCD is adding Java-generation capabilities to WebSmart, which will
allow developers to take the same WebSmart applications they created as CGI scripts for OS/400 and
deploy them with Java to practically any platform.
BCD plans to deliver the new Java capability with a separate add-on component called WebSmart JSE
(Java Servlet Edition). WebSmart JSE is in beta tests and should be available in 30 to 45 days, BCD
WebSmart JSE will work with WebSmart IDE (interactive development environment), a Windows program
that loads onto a deskbound workstation or a laptop to take traveling. Developers interact with WebSmart
using BCD's drag-and-drop development language, called Program Macros Language, or PML, and the 70-
odd prebuilt templates that BCD and others have made available on the Web. The templates cover such
common Web functions as order entry and catalog design.
Previously, after writing the application with the WebSmart IDE and PML, developers would load the
generated CGI scripts onto a separate WebSmart component, called the ProGen WebSmart Web
Application Server. The WebSmart WAS ran on top of an OS/400 Web server (either HTTP Server or
Apache) and provided the record-level access to DB2/400.
Now, with the introduction of WebSmart JSE, users will have the choice of deploying their creations using
CGI (via WebSmart WAS) or Java (via WebSmart JSE). Since Java isn't tied to any specific operating
system (as RPG is basically tied to OS/400), users will have the option of running their WebSmart
applications on any server platform that can support Java, including OS/400, Unix, Linux, FreeBSD,
Windows, and many more.
As WebSmart WAS required an HTTP server beneath it, WebSmart JSE will require a Java-based Web
application server as well. Any of the popular ones on the market--such as IBM's WebSphere, BEA
Systems' WebLogic, or Apache Software
Foundation's Tomcat--will do the trick. For database access, WebSmart JSE will use JDBC, providing
support for DB2/400, Sybase, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and a range of others.
Besides making WebSmart cross-platform compatible, WebSmart JSE comes with another obvious benefit
for users: Developers will be able to design a Web application once, using PML, and then compile it to
either RPG or Java, depending on their preference. (BCD says its ILE RPG CGI scripts run very fast on the
iSeries, which means most OS/400 shops would probably choose to stick with that instead of incurring the
processing overhead that comes with running a Java Virtual Machine.)
This extensibility of languages is very similar to what users get with fourth-generation languages, which are
highly abstracted programming languages capable of generating compiled code for supported third-
generation languages, such as RPG, Java, and C++, basically "with the flip of a switch," as the people at LANSA, a popular 4GL vendor, like to say.
Although BCD's developers don't like to call WebSmart a 4GL, they are starting to use the lingo. "You will
be able to flip a switch from WebSmart's IDE and generate Java servlets," said Marc Hunter, a senior
WebSmart developer. "Now the only language programmers need to know to develop Web applications for
a multitude of mainstream platforms…is PML."
WebSmart JSE will require the next version of the WebSmart IDE, Version 3.0, which is in beta tests with
WebSmart JSE and will likely be released in mid-May or early in June. BCD estimates it will charge about
$6,500 for a license to use WebSmart JSE. The base ProGen WebSmart IDE starts at $6,000 and ranges up
to $9,500. Licenses for WebSmart WAS range from $4,500 to $9,500.