BCD Bringing PHP Generation to WebSmart IDE
May 3, 2007 Alex Woodie
System i development tool provider Business Computer Design Int’l this week unveiled plans to add PHP to its WebSmart integrated development environment (IDE). With WebSmart PHP, which is scheduled to go to beta in June, System i developers will be able to develop Web-based PHP applications that will run natively on i5/OS and DB2/400, in addition to other operating systems and databases.
The PHP scripting language is making strong headway as a Web development language on the System i. Since IBM announced its partnership with Zend Technologies last year and brought Zend Core for i5/OS to market, System i shops have started playing with PHP and deploying some PHP-based Web applications on their midrange servers. Zend provides products, such as Zend Core, and services for developing, deploying, and managing PHP applications. The momentum increased even more with last week’s announcement that IBM and open source database developer MySQL are forming a pact to enable thousands of older PHP applications to run on the System i by making DB2/400 an engine for the MySQL database.
Now BCD, a Chicago-based provider of System i development tools and i5/OS utilities, is getting the PHP and MySQL bug. The company, which got its start selling the ProGen fourth-generation language (4GL) environment and got an early jump on the Web-application paradigm with its WebSmart IDE, is taking the next logical step and positioning WebSmart as a tool for writing very flexible PHP applications that can run on practically any platform, including i5/OS, Linux, Unix, and Windows servers, and access multiple databases, including DB2/400 and MySQL, all from a single development effort.
While it brings multi-platform capabilities, WebSmart PHP’s real forte will be developing PHP applications for the System i. The new IDE will bring System i-specific features to support deployment on the platform, including libraries and library lists, and integration with RPG and other ILE applications.
The new IDE, which is based on Zend Core (and requires the developer to download Zend Core separately), will also include templates for using either DB2 SQL or record-level access to the DB2/400 database. For either method, WebSmart PHP will include more than 50 templates, which will guide the developers through the steps to perform a specific function, such as working with data or entering transactions.
Jim Dillard, the IBM alliance manager at Zend, gave his approval of WebSmart PHP. “We are pleased to have BCD support PHP in the System i marketplace with their WebSmart PHP solution,” he stated in a press release. “Those using PHP realize it is a fast, light, and scalable language and BCD’s decision to leverage these characteristics will only enhance BCD’s leading reputation.”
WebSmart PHP will include both text-based and Visual HTML design tools, BCD says. The Visual HTML design tool will make it easy to drag and drop HTML design elements on page layouts and intermingle PHP and HTML code. It also supports cascading style sheets (CSS), the company says.
One of the important things that BCD has done with this new product is making PHP more approachable to System i developers. Duncan Kenzie, president of BCD’s development partner, ExcelSystems of British Columbia, Canada, says the organization has invested several man-years describing and documenting more than 5,000 PHP functions, which are grouped into tabs on the WebSmart PHP IDE.
It will be easy for WebSmart users who are already proficient in designing CGI-based Web applications to make the move to WebSmart PHP, BCD says. But they won’t have to abandon their CGI development, as developers can move back and forth between writing and maintaining CGI applications and PHP applications. PHP and CGI applications can also co-exist on the same server at runtime, BCD says.
WebSmart’s repository-based methodology will allow developers to reuse much of their code. For example, if a developer chooses to associate a customer master file with a pop-up window to show the customer number in an orders file, WebSmart PHP will automatically include the appropriate logic to show the customer pop-up window when the developer writes an order entry application, BCD says.
In addition to PHP-specific interface design elements, the WebSmart PHP editor will bring real-time syntax checking of constructs, function names, and parameters; prompting; color-coding; and formatting. It also includes context-sensitive help for any function via links to Web sites documenting the function, and an FTP client.
During a press conference at the COMMON conference in Ahaheim, California, on Sunday, Eric Figura, director of sales and marketing for BCD, expressed his satisfaction with the way things are going with PHP. “We’re thrilled to be in this marketplace as an early adopter,” Figura said. “We’re going at this very aggressively. I don’t think we’re coming out at 1.0. We’re coming out at more like 3.0.”
Elaine Lennox, IBM’s vice president of marketing for the System i, applauded BCD’s “leading edge” support of PHP on System i at BCD’s press conference on Sunday. Lennox said there have been more than 5,000 downloads of the Zend Core for i5/OS product since it became available last year. “If anything, it’s beyond our expectations,” she said.
The first beta of WebSmart PHP is due next month, and the company will make this a free download. General availability is expected during the fourth quarter. Pricing is set at $4,250 for two development seats. Additional seats can be had for $1,950 each, or a site license can be purchased for an unlimited number developers for $13,500.
BCD also has a promotional bundle going that includes both versions of WebSmart (PHP and ILE development), the Clover Query and SmartCharts business intelligence tools, and the Catapult document management software. This package will be priced by tier, and range from $14,500 to $26,500. For more information, visit www.bcdsoftware.com.