Bowstreet Brings ‘Portlet Factory’ to iSeries
June 15, 2004 Alex Woodie
Java tools maker Bowstreet last week announced OS/400 support in its Portlet Factory for WebSphere, a rapid application development tool for creating Web-based portal applications. As its name suggests, Portlet Factory for WebSphere works with IBM‘s WebSphere Portal Server Express software, running on an iSeries or other server platforms, and enables the rapid development and delivery of customizable portal applications, all without Java programming.
OS/400 shops don’t need Bowstreet’s Portlet Factory to develop the various applications that make up a portal, which are also called portlets. They can use IBM’s standard WebSphere Studio tools to do that. But in the absence of a skilled (and pricey) Java 2, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) programmer working with IBM’s Java development tools, Bowstreet says, the Portlet Factory can help companies roll out sophisticated portals that give users one-point access to all of their business applications, even back-end ERP systems, Domino, and a range of databases.
Bowstreet says its Factory software eliminates the difficulty and drudgery of J2EE coding by generating the necessary Java programs. But, unlike traditional RAD tools, which churn out Java that’s inflexible and hard to adapt, Bowstreet says, programs generated with its Factory are extensible and readily adaptable to new uses, which cuts down on the time and expense of Java development.
Core to the company’s Factory toolset are reusable components called “Builders,” which are pre-built and customizable Java programs that people can string together in various sequences to develop their applications or portlets. The Builder development process works in much the same way that people snap formulas together to build spreadsheet models, the company says. Bowstreet’s Builders are used across its entire product set, which spans from the flagship Bowstreet Factory development set to the Framework Factory (designed for independent software vendors), the Portlet Factory for WebSphere, the Portlet Factory (which supports WebLogic, Sun ONE, and Tomcat) and the Syndication Factory (which is used for propagating Java applications into partners’ Web sites).
Builders perform many different tasks in the Factory scheme of things, including buttons and other on-screen controls, generating HTML, making Web service calls, and executing application logic and workflow. Factory programs are built by linking together a series of Builders into something that Bowstreet calls a “Model,” which is executed at runtime to create Java ServerPages, Java classes, XML documents, and everything else needed to run a portlet application.
Bowstreet provides more than 100 pre-built Builders with its Factory toolset, and users are encouraged to build their own and to continually modify existing ones, using the “Customizer” component, which allows people to tailor Models to fit their specific needs by applying “Profiles” against them. The capability to rapidly create new programs from a prototypical Builder is central to Bowstreet’s claim that its tools accelerate application development times by a factor of five on the first go-around, to as much as 20 times on subsequent tries.
By varying the input to Builders, Bowstreet says, users can create any type of application, supporting a range of existing applications and data stores. The company has already done the integration work for two applications with its pre-built Dynamic Profiling Extensions for SAP ERP applications and Domino database applications. Portlets created with Bowstreet’s software have the advantage that they can also run as stand-alone applications in the absence of a portal framework. Bowstreet’s development tools also support JSR 168, the standard portlet specification created by the Java Community Process that ensures interoperability between portlets and portals.
Bowstreet officials are keen to leverage IBM’s global footprint with the iSeries, a sturdy yet low-profile server that nevertheless has attracted more than 240,000 users across 100 countries since it debuted in 1988 as the AS/400. “Expanding our reach to include the iSeries customer base will increase our value to the WebSphere Portal community exponentially,” says Steve Ricketts, Bowstreet’s vice president of marketing. “Our relationship with IBM has been a great contributor to our success, and our support of the iSeries platform is another way for Bowstreet to leverage IBM’s global footprint.”
That spiffy new eServer i5 or updated iSeries server you just ordered comes pre-loaded with a copy of WebSphere Portal Express Plus for Multiplatform Version 5.02, the one that IBM brought to the iSeries last fall (see “WebSphere Portal Express Comes to OS/400”). The i5 Model 520 Enterprise Edition comes with a 20-user license for WebSphere Portal Express Plus, while the i5 Model 570 Enterprise Edition features a 60-user license of the same. What’s more, IBM also updated its Enterprise Edition pack for older iSeries hardware, and customers will get a 20-user license for the WebSphere Portal software with orders of new iSeries Models 825, 870, and 890.
The main difference between WebSphere Portal-Express for Multiplatforms 5.0.2 and WebSphere Portal-Express Plus for Multiplatforms 5.0.2 is that you get a little more with “Plus,” including enhanced collaboration, a team calendar, additional project tracking, and a little display that says whether other users are logged on and are available for an instant message chat, which you can do by simply right-clicking the user’s name. Users of Plus also gain access to a series of additional portlets for collaborating among the portal users, which probably doesn’t help users who choose Bowstreet’s Portal Factory for portlet development.
The Bowstreet Portlets Factory for WebSphere development software runs on Windows workstations and costs $9,000 per user. The SAP and Domino extensions cost $20,000 per CPU. For more information, go to www.bowstreet.com.