ABL Unveils Strategi SOA
May 8, 2007 Alex Woodie
ADVANCED BusinessLink officially launched a new product called Strategi SOA last week at the COMMON conference in Anaheim, California. While the majority of development and runtime tools aimed at helping users create service oriented architectures (SOAs) involve a heavy dose of non-System i technology, ABL promises Strategi SOA will be a groundbreaking product that helps midrange customers develop an SOA of native System i assets, by System i programmers, and for the benefit of System i shops.
Many System i, iSeries, and AS/400 shops have dug themselves into holes when it comes to the choices they’ve made about the programmers and programming languages they bring in house, says Chris Lategan, chief executive officer of ABL, which is based in Kirkland, Washington.
The problems start when management decides the company needs some type of new application–usually with a graphical interface, and often involving the Web. The company’s System i programmers, proficient in RPG or COBOL, say they don’t have the skills to do it, so management hires around the problem and taps Java or .NET programmers to do the job.
However, this System i shop now has two development camps–one programming business logic in RPG or COBOL, and the other designing more modern-looking applications in Java and .NET. “The problem, of course, is the moment you do that, you create two silos of code–one block of code in RPG, and another block in Java,” Lategan says. “So I went to fix a problem–contemporary consumptions–and created new problems.”
Lategan suggests that, with the proper SOA strategy and tools, System i shops shouldn’t have to compromise by bringing in expensive Java and .NET developers who aren’t familiar with the company’s business logic. “A lot of people went to build .NET and Java applications not because they had productivity problems with the iSeries. They had a problem with how iSeries applications look and integrate,” Lategan says. “And if you can solve the way they look and integrate, and offer a choice on how they look, then there’s nothing wrong with the iSeries team.”
This is where ABL’s new Strategi SOA product comes into play. By implementing the most important part of an SOA–the enterprise service bus (ESB)–on the System i itself, Lategan says System i shops can reap the integration benefits of an SOA without breaking the bank or sacrificing forward compatibility by coding business logic in two different languages. It also keeps business application and data on the System i, instead of implementing an SOA that is there to harvest data and logic off the i5/OS platform and pave the way for a migration off the platform down the line.
“The productivity on an RPG team is extremely high. That’s why we’re so excited about Strategi SOA. It empowers RPG programmers to develop SOA applications natively on the iSeries,” Lategan says. “You can build applications in RPG or COBOL or CL for that matter, and it runs your code as an SOA.”
But, you may ask, RPG, COBOL, and CL are not Web development languages and do not readily integrate with other standards-based Web services. Strategi SOA accomplishes this little feat of magic using a series of templates and a C-based ESB that make everything else appear native to the System i applications. Translators in Strategi SOA turn incoming Web service description language (WDSL) objects into System i applications and incoming XML into flat structures with hooks into RPG. When a response is issued, the RPG and System i code is turned back into native XML and WDSLs. “So it means the RPG programmer really doesn’t need to know how it works,” Lategan says.
Obviously, RPG and COBOL are not the best languages for developing modern graphical user interfaces (GUIs), so Strategi SOA defers to tools best suited for writing screens for thick-client, Web, kiosk, or mobile devices. “Many companies want to use Visual Studio or Eclipse for painting screens. They want to make the presentation layer Eclipse or Visual Studio.Net, but their business rules in RPG. This does that beautifully,” Lategan says. “So instead of having a proprietary IDE [integrated development environment], we decided not to do that. We chose to use the SOA model.”
Just as Strategi SOA paves the way to a separation of business logic and presentation, ABL recommends a tiered-approach to service-enabling existing monolithic applications. “If you want to build a catalog or pricing function, what you do is, take the pricing routine, compile it in a normal way, then register it in SOA and call it, and what you have is service number one. Then you would go and do that for the next thing and the next thing,” Lategan says. “So you break it out into services, and the program is consuming its own services.”
Strategi SOA is slated to available by the end of June. Pricing ranges from $15,000 up. For more information, visit www.businesslink.com.