App Development Gains Speed, Visual Characteristics with WebSphere Tools
July 20, 2004 Dan Burger
The July 16 release of WebSphere Development Studio client (WDSc) is a reasonable gauge of how far the WebSphere product line has developed over the past two and a half years. It’s also an indicator of how far it still has to go. Comparing then and now, the cost of converting legacy applications to Web applications and the cost of the server have dropped considerably. And the new IBM Power5-based i5 models provide the horsepower to run this feature-rich software.
Start with the i5 Model 520 Express bundle, which significantly changes the footprint required to run WebSphere Application Server (WAS). A new 520 Express arrives with WAS Express as a component to i5/OS (OS/400). This package also includes WebSphere Development Studio (WDS), which has the WebFacing Tool and other components to support iSeries application development. The horsepower required to run WebSphere has always been a big issue, requiring an iSeries box that could easily exceed $60,000. In addition, there were cost issues related to the interactive load requirements and the cost of WAS. The 520 Express is equipped with the power and the memory to support the applications, two disk arms for rapid access to data, and components to run the e-business applications, at a price that starts at under $15,000. WebSphere insiders are estimating that a 500 CPW machine, running “fairly significant” applications, can support 200 users and provide subsecond response times.
Two years ago the Web enablement of applications cost approximately 25 cents per line. That meant it would cost about $1 million to convert a 5 million line ERP application for the Web. It also had to run in interactive mode. But such a major Web enablement job can be accomplished for approximately $10,000 today, according to Dave Slater, IBM’s market manager for iSeries application development.
WDSC FOR ISERIES
The latest edition of WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries, Version 5.1.2 (the integrated development environment that replaces Application Development ToolSet as the default tools for developing iSeries applications) became generally available Friday. In its base form, it is built on WebSphere Studio Site Developer (WSSD) Version 5.1.2 and is designed to deliver an integrated development environment and tools for developing Java, Web, Web services, client/server, and iSeries server applications. It also is available as an Advanced Edition, which is built on WebSphere Studio Application Developer (WSAD), a platform that offers all the features of the standard edition and adds the important development enhancements such as J2EE capabilities and Enterprise JavaBean (EJB) technology that uses a component model to simplify the development of middleware applications by providing automatic support for services, such as transactions, security, and database connectivity.
WSSD 5.1.2 is an integrated development environment for visually constructing, testing, and deploying dynamic Web sites, Web services, and Java applications. Site Developer simplifies Java development with an improved variety of tools, templates, and wizards.
Java Server Facing is the first thing people will note when reviewing WDSc. It is a new and more efficient method of building applications that access iSeries data in a construction environment. Java Server Facing has little to do with writing code, and lots to do with putting parts together. The idea is to build Web applications to access data without getting bogged down writing code. It’s the latest iteration of a Java visual development environment and is based on a standard that allows users, as well as independent software vendors, to build their own Java Server Facing custom components, to be used with the tooling. Slater describes it as “an emerging technology” and realistically predicts that it won’t take off right away. “But it’s got legs,” he says.
WSSD and WSAD introduced Java Server Facing as the new standard for assembling dynamic Web interfaces in May. “The point was to reduce the learning curve for coding in Java, particularly for developers who don’t have an OO [object-oriented] background,” says John Ward, rational product market manager for IBM Software Group.
A key element in the Developer Studio Client Advanced Edition is the expanded capabilities of the WebFacing Tool, which generates Web interfaces to 5250 applications that run in batch mode. In the past an obstacle was created during the Web enablement process whenever a system screen was encountered. To get around the obstacle, custom programming was required, and that ran up costs associated with development and testing. Version 5.1.2 has eliminated this bottleneck by creating system screen interfaces on the fly. The WebFacing Tool has also been enhanced so that it will run in a portal. Instead of creating servlets and JavaServer Pages, it generates portlets, a feature that is important for those who don’t want an application to run on the Web, but in a portal instead.
Another feature of note in the WDSc Advanced Edition is the Remote System Explorer, which provides a more productive environment for developing iSeries applications. Among the most useful enhancements are the editor functions for RPG, COBOL, CL, and DDS language support for syntax checking, and SQL syntax checking for RPG IV. Remote System Explorer can also be used for accessing remote Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems.
When using WDSc Advanced Edition to create a Web interface to a 5250 application using the WebFacing Tool, understand that the interface looks like a green screen running in a browser. In other words, the navigation behavior is “select and enter,” rather than “point and click.” The functionality of the GUI does not come into play until the Web-enabled application is customized. The tools provided can be used for most, but not all, customizations.
V5R1 and newer operating systems are requirements for WebSphere Development Studio, and the hardware requirements begin with the iSeries Model 170 and continue with the 250, 270, 7XX, 8XX, i520, and i570. The minimum workstation requirements are an Intel Pentium II processor with 512 MB RAM, and 2,200 MB hard drive space. A better recommendation is a Pentium III processor with at least 500 MHz. Additional disk space is required for development resources. An additional 700 MB of hard drive space is needed during installation. The Portal Toolkit requires 3 GB of hard disk space, plus storage for development projects, and 1 GB of memory. Additional requirements include Windows VGA graphics card, CD/DVD drive, and a mouse or pointing device.
For additional information on WDSc, refer to the IBM software announcement (in PDF format).