ARTech Nearly Done with ‘Rocha’ Rewrite of GeneXus 4GL
November 6, 2007 Alex Woodie
We’re still about three months away from seeing the general availability of “Rocha,” the codename for the 10th version of the fourth-generation language (4GL) development tool, GeneXus, from ARTech. But to hear company executives talk about it from last week’s North American user conference in Chicago, Rocha is ready for users to start using to develop next-generation Web 2.0-style applications, and even to put them into production on System i machines.
Since it was founded in 1988, GeneXus has been helping companies around the world develop business applications that run on the AS/400. Since the Uruguayan company rolled out its first generators for RPG and COBOL, it has followed that up with additional generators for Visual Basic, C, C++, Java, and C#, giving its customers the flexibility to deploy their GeneXus applications on the platform stack that best fits their needs.
For the last two years, ARTech has been focusing on a major rewrite of the 4GL, called GeneXus version 10, or simply Rocha. With Rocha, the company is making several big advances, including support for Web 2.0-style interfaces, the addition of a workflow process modeler in the IDE, support for pattern-based development, and the addition of Ruby and PHP generators.
Juan Nicolás Jodal, who co-founded ARTech with Breogán Gonda and is also a vice president, took time at the beginning of the company’s conference at the IBM Innovation Center in Chicago last week to explain the significance of Rocha to IT Jungle.
Users can create “unbelievably sophisticated Web application using the iSeries as the back end,” Jodal says. Since many GeneXus users are also iSeries shops, they automatically gain the capability to generate Web 2.0-style interfaces just by moving their older GeneXus material into the new Rocha repository, and regenerating the application.
Another improvement in the “look and feel” department relates to the introduction of pattern-based development in Rocha. By using patterns to generate user interfaces and other application components, developers can roll-out new applications much more quickly, without having to worry whether the screens look the same and flow well from one screen to another.
Patterns will make developers more productive, Jodal says. “The idea of the pattern, for example . . . is to have a kind of standardized user interface,” he says. “For example, the same button always means the same. In order to enforce that, in the past this use to require a set of guidelines, a book or something that developers must read. With this, we put the guidelines inside GeneXus, so no one needs to read anything more about the guidelines. The guidelines are active, so the developer has far more productivity, and there’s no need to worry about what this button means. And also the architect will be more safe [knowing] that all of the applications have the same look for everyone.”
Jodal also sees more business analysts creating applications within GeneXus, as opposed to programmers. “So in version 10 we decided to be more business analyst friendly in the user interface by, for example, having the business process modeler,” he says. “In the past, everything started with just developers. But right now, we have business analysts, we have Web designers, and technical writers” using the software.
Integrating the ARTech’s existing business process modeler, called GXFlow, directly into the GeneXus IDE will allow developers to add workflow functionality directly into their GeneXus-created applications, Jodal says. “We think, in the future, all business applications will need workflow embedded, so the best way to do that is to just embed all the workflow stuff inside GeneXus,” he says. “Right now it’s pretty easy to develop the workflow-enabled application inside GeneXus.”
Last but not least will be a new option to generate applications in the Ruby language, in addition to all the other optional languages. While the RPG and COBOL generators remain popular, Jodal is convinced Ruby could be the next big language on the platform–even bigger than PHP, which GeneXus will also support after Ruby is supported.
“We started with Ruby because we found Ruby, [while] it’s not so popular these days, [will] be more popular even than PHP,” Jodal says. “It’s the same kind of language, but it has a lot of momentum right now. Basically, you can generate the same application as PHP with fewer lines of Ruby. It’s more powerful.”
GeneXus version 10 is still in the beta stage, but it’s a “very strong beta,” says Dane Drotts, president of GeneXus USA, which is based in Chicago. “We’ve had thousands of customers working with the CTPs [community technology previews] for months and months.”
Indeed, Breogan Gonda, the president of the parent company in Montevideo, Uruguay, is telling users that GeneXus 10 is so stable that it’s ready to start writing applications today. The only work left to do is to finish up the documentation and a few other odds and ends, which should be cleaned up by March.