Volume 24, Number 12 -- April 7, 2014

Engage The Brain At Toronto IBM i Tech Conference

Published: April 7, 2014

by Dan Burger

There are IBM midrange companies that strategize and even prioritize plans for strengthening their IT workforces with the intention of improving business processes and solving business problems. If you attend an event like the Toronto User Group's annual two-day technical conference April 24 and 25, you find people who work for those companies learning to use IBM i and Power Systems like its 2014 instead of 1994. If you are sitting on the sidelines, 20 years of IT innovation is a long time to be out of the game.

We all recognize the challenges presented by budget cuts, diminished staff size, the gap between workforce skills and business requirements, and the misguided general impression outside the IBM i community that the platform is a relic.

The Technical Education Conference (TEC) is a pathway to gaining the IT advantages that only a small percentage of companies are implementing even though they see what modern IT can provide. Those who are getting things done through IT innovation are aware that skill sets need upgrading just like equipment. What they get from TEC is IT enablement from people who are re-energized, refocused, and better equipped to lead projects that have positive impacts on business objectives and advancements.

Like any level of education, much of the value comes from the instructors. This conference brings together top subject matter experts with excellent teaching skills. Not all experts are good teachers. This group, from top to bottom, is as good as it gets. Experience counts and when you go down the list, you'll find deep experience. Along with that experience, comes modern thinking. These people don't bring you yesterday's news. Keynote speaker is IBM's Tim Rowe, the business architect for IBM i application development. Rowe is going to emphasize a modernization strategy that goes well beyond the day-to-day effort of putting out fires. He knows the IBM i roadmap and the tools and options that companies can deploy. He's also putting the finishing touches on the IBM i Modernization Redbook, which is available now in draft form. It should be on everyone's recommended reading list.

The session agenda is divided into six educational tracks under the headings of performance management, Web and mobile development on i, IBM i application development with RPG, modernizing IBM i applications, accessing and optimizing IBM data, and IBM i administration and management. More than 50 sessions are available over the two-day schedule. A session list, sorted by instructors is available online as well as a session agenda noting times and locations.

The Technical Education Conference takes place at Seneca College @ York University Campus, which is located at 70 The Pond Road (Keele Street & Steeles Avenue West) in Toronto. Registration fees are $695 for TUG members and $795 for non-members.

The TUG membership roster consists of more than 350 corporations, representing more than 1,000 individual IT professionals.

For more information, see the Toronto User Group for Power Systems website.


IBM i Modernization Redbook A Must Read

Just Watching Or Making An IBM i Modernization Plan?

Toronto Tech Conference An Educational Achievement

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As an IBM i developer looking to start building IBM i-based web and mobile apps for your users, there are many possible paths to take. But which direction is best for you and your company?

On your quest to deliver applications with a modern GUI, you could simply "screen scrape" your way there, retaining those tried-and-true green screen underpinnings with a browser overlay. Results tend to be clunky, but it's relatively quick and easy.

Or you could take the CGIDEV2 API approach and hammer your way through an "old school" method for serving up web pages loaded with lots of HTML from the back-end.

Or you could pick one of many third party solutions that let you "wizard" your way to building an IBM i-based web or mobile app.

These are all indeed options (in fact, we've tried them ourselves). But at CNX we advocate taking a more conventional approach for web and mobile app development: Learn the inner workings of JavaScript and the modern browser. Learn how to create true Web 2.0-style asynchronous apps in a platform-agnostic fashion. Learn how to use components that are applied in world-class apps throughout the Internet. Learn Valence!

The Valence Framework brings to the IBM i platform the same modern development principles used to create millions of web and mobile apps around the world. It provides tools to elegantly pair the robust business logic of RPG with top-of-the-line JavaScript frameworks from Sencha, resulting in applications that will impress your users beyond compare. Your green screen users may never believe these new apps are actually running on your good ol' IBM i! And in the process of developing these phenomenal apps, you will have learned skills that vastly increase your personal worth in the IT market.

So to break it all down, here are the top five reasons why Valence is your best solution for developing web and mobile apps on IBM i:

1. State-of-the-art HTML5-based user interface
Valence uses the robust Ext JS framework for desktop web apps and the Sencha Touch framework for mobile apps. These tools give Valence apps a state-of-the-art, "rich" user interface, on par with the very best websites you can find on the Internet. When users see Valence apps running in their browsers they quickly come to love the modern look and feel. The rich interface isn't just for show either. The ability to dynamically sort columns, drag and drop elements, perform advanced search, show charts and graphs, etc., are highly useful and intuitive functions for your users. And as web technology continues to advance, these types of features are coming to be expected in any competitive company's internal and external websites.

2.Valence uses a true "Web 2.0" architecture
Many of our competitor systems encourage IBM i developers to create web pages built over a 5250 data stream, or take a conceptually similar direction using RPG OA. Does this approach represent a modern architecture for web development? At CNX we answer that question with an emphatic "No!" With Valence you apply a modern Web 2.0 paradigm that operates on the same underlying design structure as top applications from Google, Facebook,, etc. Advanced web applications like these use an asynchronous structure, calling the backend programs (in our case RPG) in chunks only when necessary, thereby optimizing application performance for the users. With Valence, multiple RPG programs can be running at once for the same user session, all performing simultaneous actions.

3. You can still program your business logic in RPG - there is no Voodoo!
Everything with Valence is understandable and in your control, and layers are minimized. When you're running a Valence app in your browser, that app is communicating with your RPG programs directly through the built-in Apache server on IBM i. There are no external servers and no "emulation" layers. It's just the browser with an advanced interface talking with RPG. Forget about the Voodoo-it doesn't get more native than this! Some competitor products generate "junk" RPG output that you can't maintain. With Valence you can utilize tools that generate clean, readable RPG output, or you can simply write it yourself. In either case you still have full access and control of all the code behind your programs.

4. Valence knowledge is a tremendous value in the IT marketplace
So when you've learned a competitor product that is proprietary to the IBM i, how much value has that gained you on your resume? In our opinion not much. But put JavaScript development using Ext JS and Sencha Touch on your resume and the value proposition is a whole different story. Experience with the user interface side of Valence is directly transferable to other platforms, and demand for such skills is huge. There is no wasted knowledge on proprietary design environments. Simply put, learning Valence sets you up for a career with much more security and many more opportunities for advancement.

5. Valence is the best value for web frameworks on IBM i
Valence comes with everything you need to develop elegant and highly functional web and mobile apps, including:
Valence RPG Toolkit
Ext JS
Sencha Touch
Desktop Portal
Touch Portal
RPG-Centric Examples
Nitro Tools and Utilities (Enterprise only)

Valence is completely IBM i-centric, and includes browser-based functionality that covers all the unique IBM i features we take for granted in green screen apps, such as a mechanism for logging in, a menuing system for organizing and launching apps, library list control, authentication, security and much more.

Also adding to the value of Valence is its unique licensing mechanism. Use the community edition for free to experiment and trial the functionality for as long as you like (with up to 5 concurrent users). When you are ready to deploy a production app, you can buy a license for unlimited usage. The pricing is very straightforward and listed right on our website - one simple price no matter how powerful your machine. There are no hidden costs or complex licensing schemes designed to extract the most from each customer.

Finally, to get your web and mobile initiatives rolling quickly with Valence, CNX offers IBM i-centric training for RPG programmers and a staff of seasoned developers providing custom app development on an hourly basis. Let us help you get started with creating the very best apps you and your users can dream up!

Valence: Envision it. Build it.

Download Free!

Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Victor Rozek,
Jenny Thomas, Hesh Wiener, Alex Woodie
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Contact the Editors: To contact anyone on the IT Jungle Team
Go to our contacts page and send us a message.

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