BCD Ships WebSmart 5.1 as IBM Eases Off on WebSphere
March 22, 2005 Alex Woodie
Now that IBM has backed off its WebSphere push and started to include tools from BCD Software Int’l and other partners on its iSeries Developer Roadmap, there is expected to be a surge of interest in third-party Web enablement tools for the iSeries platform. BCD is ready to serve any new business that comes its way with a new release of its OS/400 Web application server, WebSmart version 5.1, which it unveiled at the COMMON conference in Chicago last week.
It would be difficult to imagine Eric Figura, BCD’s director of sales and marketing, being any happier these days. For years, Figura has been one of the most consistently outspoken critics of IBM’s WebSphere strategy and how it fails to address the Web-enablement needs of most small and medium-sized (as well as some pretty big) OS/400 shops. Not that he minded the sales opportunities that opened up for WebSmart, but continuously going up against Big Blue, especially for a software company with modest means, can be disheartening at best, and at worst, detrimental to one’s health.
So when IBM’s suddenly flipped a 180, ended its unhealthy obsession with WebSphere, and began sanctioning tools like WebSmart and others that are more closely aligned with RPG development and easier than Java for RPG programmers to learn, Figura probably had to pinch himself, to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Figura hasn’t changed his WebSphere and Java opinions one iota, but, he demonstrated his support for iSeries by rebuffing Microsoft‘s Midrange Alliance Program advances, and now IBM is providing some serious air cover for WebSmart, and iSeries advertising, to boot. Has vindication ever been so sweet?
“I’ve talked with Rochester more in the last four weeks than in the previous 25 years,” Figura said at a press conference in BCD’s hometown of Chicago last week. Figura says Peter Bingaman, IBM’s new vice president of marketing for iSeries, describes himself as Figura’s “biggest fan.” BCD’s revenues for January and February set new records, according to Figura. Life is good.
To make things even better, BCD is looking to share the wealth with iSeries consultants, and is basically now giving away its complete toolset, provided they buy maintenance, which has been capped at $7,500 per year per business partner for the entire suite. This new business partner strategy, which BCD first announced three weeks ago (see “BCD to Aggressively Build Out Its Business Partner Base”), can be worth up to $50,000 per business partner, the company said last week. This matches the average value that IBM is offering nearly 3,000 of its business partners as part of its iSeries Initiative for Innovation.
The WebSmart 5.1 development environment is one of the tools BCD business partners can get at a steep discount. This release, which is now generally available, includes several new capabilities geared toward Web-enabling existing OS/400 applications.
WebSmart 5.1 includes a new tool for converting RPG and DDS code to more Web-friendly languages. This converter, which BCD calls its RPG/DDS to Web conversion tool, or RDW, converts DDS display files to HTML, and converts RPG code to WebSmart’s native development language, ProGen Macro Language (PML). This code converter, which BCD first announced five months ago at the fall COMMON in Toronto (see “BCD Announces RPG Code Converter, Outlines Web App Enhancements”) is now ready to go. Normally a RDW license would cost $10,000, but that fee has been waived provided customers or business partners buy maintenance, which is $1,835 per year.
Several other capabilities debut with WebSmart 5.1, including a client-side code generator, HTML wizards, SQL wizards, vertical views of source code, change management improvements, and enhancements to PML.
With the client-side code generator, WebSmart developers can now do their programming and code generation work directly on a PC, and then compile the code to the iSeries. BCD says this will reduce iSeries workloads, as previously the WebSmart code had to be generated directly on the iSeries.
The new HTML wizards make it easier for newbie Web developers to write HTML code for constructs such as tables, forms, input boxes, and dropdown boxes, and create cleaner code that’s easier for others to understand, BCD says.
A new SQL wizard in WebSmart will benefit developers who are using SQL to access data (WebSmart also supports native record-level I/O), by enabling them to test SQL statements directly in the IDE before writing or testing a line of WebSmart code, BCD says. In addition to validating the SQL logic and syntax before incorporating them into WebSmart programs, the SQL wizard allows developers to review the actual contents of their database files directly within the IDE.
Another timesaver in WebSmart 5.1 is the new vertical view of HTML. Previously, WebSmart developers could only design HTML in segments, which was similar to DDS concepts, but lacked integration. With the new vertical view, developers can combine several segments, which provides a more logical representation of the HTML code and makes it easier for developers to work with the program flow and logic, BCD says.
BCD also improved WebSmart’s change management capability, which BCD first introduced a year ago (see “WebSmart 4.0 Is Cornerstone of BCD’s Web Application Stack”). In WebSmart 5.1, BCD enhanced the change management interface with a new nested folder-tree design for program lists, and made several other changes it says streamlines use of the change management facility.
Finally, PML itself has been enhanced with this release, and includes new support for complex functions, which enables developers to nest functions. BCD includes syntax checkers for these complex functions. PML and WebSmart also now support free-format RPG, BCD says.
BCD also announced the end of beta testing and the beginning of general availability for version 4.0 of Spool-Explorer/400, its product for viewing and converting OS/400 spool files. BCD first announced Spool-Explorer/400 five months ago at the fall COMMON in Toronto. For more information on enhancements in Spool-Explorer/400 4.0, see our previous coverage of the product.