IBM Seeks More CODE/400 Converts with WDSc 7.0
March 7, 2007 Alex Woodie
IBM tomorrow is expected to announce the Version 7.0 of its WebSphere Developer Studio Client (WDSc) for the i5/OS and OS/400 platform, including the new scaled-down version of WDSc that was previewed last year, a new modeling view in the Advanced Edition of the tool to help RPG and COBOL programmers visualize their code constructs, and the capability to develop and deploy modernized applications that simultaneously use WebFacing and HATS techniques.
IBM is planning three main announcements regarding the Version 7.0 family of tools. The first is the new lightweight WDSc for iSeries 7.0 IDE and the changes IBM has made to this comprehensive code editor. The second concerns the Advanced Edition of WDSc for iSeries 7.0 and the new capabilities that product brings. The last involves WebFacing Deployment with HATS Technology (WDHT).
WDSc Version 7.0
If you’re an RPG or COBOL programmer and you haven’t yet made the switch from SEU, PDM, and the CODE/400-era development tools, you will want to make the switch to WDSc for iSeries after seeing what Version 7.0 has to offer, predicts Kou-Mei Lui, world wide marketing manager for System i application development and modernization tools in IBM’s Toronto software lab.
For starters, many programmers looking to do simple green-screen development were stumped on how to begin using WDSc, which is something that IBM addressed with WDSc 7.0, Lui says. “If they just want to use RPG and COBOL programs, there’s a few things we’ve added to make it easier to get started,” she says.
The biggest change is the availability of the scaled down version of WDSc that just does RPG and COBOL development. This capability, which was called WDSc “Lite” when it was first unveiled last year as technology preview, requires only 256 MB of memory to function, as opposed to 1 GB required for the full WDSc. “With this release, you can selectively install only the portions you want to use,” Lui says.
Developers accustomed to Source Entry Utility (SEU), Program Development Manager (PGM), and CODE/400 tools will also find a handy welcome page when they fire up WDSc 7.0. The welcome page and a collection of handy links, called “First Steps,” should help WDSc newbies get started with less fuss and confusion than with previous versions of WDSc. “It helps them with the things they used to do in SEU and PDM and shows them how to do them now,” Lui says.
The Remote Systems Explorer (RSE) component of WDSc 7.0 provides a new iSeries Data Table view that allows users to see the contents of data physical file members. Perhaps even more significant is support for SQL in the LPEX editor. “We know for a fact that people aren’t using WDSc because we lack SQL support,” says George Farr, the technical development manager for System i in IBM’s Toronto lab.
IBM hopes to lure more System i developers to the comprehensive WDSc suite, which is the go-to IDE for everything from editing RPG source to generating sophisticated Enterprise JavaBeans. It’s difficult to know exactly how many WDSc users are out there, because the product is included with nearly every System i server sold. However, by some informal estimates, about a quarter of i5/OS and OS/400 developers have adopted WDSc.
The uptake of WDSc is about where Farr would expect. “Typically in this market, when something new comes up, just like an [operating system] release, they’ll wait a year to see if someone gets in trouble with it,” he says. “Customers won’t jump ship until you give them something equal, if not better.”
Now, with WDSc 7.0–the third major release of the product since it was introduced in 2001–IBM has replicated in WDSc every feature developers were used to having in PDM and SEU, Farr says. In most cases, the WDSc version of the feature is superior than the PDM/SEU versions of the feature, he adds.
IBM didn’t have the resources to do everything it wanted in WDSc with the first two releases of the tool, Farr says. But at least now there’s no reason for a developer not to move to WDSc because a feature is not supported. And there’s more to come. “It’s not completed,” he says. “We’ve moved the most important functionality customers love in SEU and PDM into WDSc. But there’s a lot more we’re working on for WDSc.”
WDSc Advanced Edition
While the standard edition of WDSc is for basic RPG and COBOL development, WDSc Advanced Edition provides developers with a richer toolset for developing more sophisticated Web applications, portals, and Java applications deployed on IBM’s WebSphere Application Server. Both versions of WDSc are based on IBM’s Rational Application Developer 7.0 and the Eclipse 3.2.1 framework.
One of the major enhancements with WDSc Advanced Edition is the new Application Diagram Component, which shows the structure of RPG and COBOL source code. The feature enables developers to view procedure calls and other elements of source code, and to right click on various nodes and pointers to see calls to different programs. If developers want to work on a certain area, they can easily get to the source to edit or debug a particular area. It’s similar to the visualization support that CODE/400 had, but it’s much better, Farr says.
This release also brings support for IBM’s Enterprise Identity Mapping (EIM) technology, a key i5/OS-based enabler of single sign-on (SSO) support, Lui says. With support for EIM, developers can build SSO support into the applications they build with WDSc Advanced Edition.
The new release also brings a new log and trace analyzer for debugging applications. It let’s users see the message logs generated on the System i, for end-to-end problem determination.
WDSc Advanced Edition also provides more cross-platform development capabilities, and closer integration with other IBM tools. For example, developers can write applications that execute in the System i’s Linux or AIX environments with Advanced Edition. The Advanced Edition also provides integration with IBM’s ClearCase LT, a software configuration management tool that doesn’t run natively on i5/OS but does support i5/OS native source code with System i and iSeries projects.
WDHT: Not New, But Improved
IBM also made some changes to its System i WebFacing deployment software, which goes by the awkward name of IBM WebFacing Deployment Tool for WebSphere Development Studio with HATS Technology (and which IBM simply refers to as WDHT). This piece of software is required for deploying applications whose screens have been modernized using either the WebFacing Tool or Host Access Transformation Services (HATS).
WebFacing and HATS have similar goals. They both transform green-screen interfaces into graphical Java Server Pages (JSP) components. The biggest difference between them is WebFacing is an invasive tool that requires users to have the DDS source code that the 5250 screens are based on, which it then uses to generate JSPs in batch. HATS, on the other hand, is a non-invasive technology that doesn’t require one to have DDS source available and it works in real-time (although it doesn’t eliminate the need for 5250 OLTP processing, unless you’re on i5/OS V5R4, in which case it does). Both products support the transformation of i5/OS system screens; WebFacing just got that capability recently.
With WDSc Version 7.0, IBM is working to bring these two related technologies even closer together. IBM previously bundled HATS and WebFacing with the same tool (developers can access either using WDSc or WDSc Advanced Edition). What’s different now is that both products can be deployed simultaneously on the same instance of WDHT (that’s the runtime component).
“For the first time, we married them together. Not only do you have a choice, you can combine them, and you’ll have the best of both worlds,” Lui says. “You can do user interface modernization based on DDS, and also transform 5250 to HATS.”
Since both products generate JSPs, end users won’t notice any difference between the two tools. But developers will notice the difference, and will benefit from the flexibility to simultaneously employ both technologies in a modernization project. System architects will also appreciate the difference, considering the different ways the two products consume System i processing capacity.
WDHT 7.0 also brings new “rich client platform” capabilities, in the guise of the SWT-capability in the Eclipse IDE. “A developer builds once, then Eclipse paints the interface to look like Windows or Linux or AIX,” Lui says. With this release, WDHT supports 5250 as a source for creating rich clients.
i5/OS developers will also benefit from a new “cheat sheet” in WDHT 7.0 that should help users get their first Web application up and running in under two hours. “WebFacing is a wonderful tool, but users tend to get in there and say, ‘Where do I start?'” Lui says. “The cheat sheet that ties it all together for you.”
IBM plans to announce the new products tomorrow. The products will be available for download March 2.
This article has been corrected. HATS has always supported the transformation of i5/OS system screens into GUIs, while WebFacing just recently got that capability. The Classic Tools component of WDSc refers to CODE and VARPG, not the new lightweight version of WDSc. IT Jungle regrets the errors.