WDSC Is Out, Rational Developer for System i Is In
February 11, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
If it has not been made clear to you yet from our coverage of i5/OS V6R1, this is a big release. While prior releases have also been big in terms of bringing database clustering, integrated high availability plumbing, logical partitioning, an AIX runtime environment, support for Linux, or the WebSphere application server and development tools, just to name some big features from the past decade’s worth of OS/400 and i5/OS versions and releases, V6R1 is important in that it involves the rejiggering and repackaging of the application development toolset for the System i platform.
As part of the announcements last week, the System i platform is formally and finally being pulled in alongside IBM‘s other platforms–z/OS and AIX (and others that it supports, mainly Linux and Windows, but also HP-UX and Solaris)–over at its Rational software development division within Software Group. The executives in IBM’s Toronto software labs responsible for compilers and related development tools have been working for the Rational division for some time now, but with the launch of V6R1, IBM is making it all official and revamping the development tool products for the System i platform to map to what Rational does for other platforms while at the same time retaining the important tools that are key to the System i.
On the server side of the repackaging, the product that was formerly known as WebSphere Development Studio will be split into three pieces, which customers can order separately as they see fit. IBM is also combining its Host Access Transformation Server and WebFacing tools, which are used to modernize legacy applications, into a single product. IBM is also announcing a new version of its Rational development tools for the System i platform, including an extended product that brings the Rational Business Developer language–what we used to know as Enterprise Generation Language, or EGL–into the System i world.
The biggest change, perhaps, and one that is entirely expected, is that the System i platform is being drawn into the Rational Developer fold. According to George Farr, worldwide development product manager for tools and compilers for the System i platform at the Rational division, IBM is withdrawing WebSphere Development Studio Client 7.0 (WDSC) and WebSphere Development Studio Client Advanced Edition 7.0 (WDSC AE) from marketing, and more importantly, that IBM is getting ready to sunset product support for WDSC and WDSC AE in the March or April 2010 timeframe.
“The direction for the future is to invest in Rational Developer for System i,” explains Farr, adding that the official nickname for the client-side development tool will be RDi. (IBM seems to like lower case letters at the end of such tool names, which we have tried to ignore with WDSc, er WDSC. “We do not want to keep maintaining two product lines for the System i and keep funding development for two products.” With the end of marketing for WDSC and WDSC AE, IBM will stop making enhancements to the product, and from here on out, RDi is the tool that Big Blue will put its investments in.
As part of the announcement fiesta on January 29, IBM previewed Rational Developer for System i Version 7.1, which has the official designation of 5733-RDI in the IBM catalog. RDi V7.1 is an Eclipse-based development workstation that includes application diagram support for ILE RPG, ILE COBOL, and CL. The application diagramming function for RPG that was one of the features IBM charged for last year in WDSC AE is now part of the base RDi product, as are many other WDSC AE features such as support for i5/OS program calls through a J2C connector, single sign-on support using enterprise identity mapping, a technology preview of phase one of Screen Designer, and integration between IBM’s Rational ClearCase software change management system. The RDI tool also has a technology preview of the second phase of the Screen Designer tool, as well as enhanced debugging support. The latter includes support for multithreading in RPG, which will be significantly improved in i5/OS V6R1, support for RPG varying length variables, decimal floating point support in the ILE C compiler, and Occurs Depending On (ODO) support in ILE COBOL. RDi is also obviously where IBM wants System i shops to code their Java applications, too.
By the way, RDi is being sold on a per-workstation basis for $795. WDSC was bundled for “free” with the WebSphere Development Studio server-side tools, which cost $4,150. The RDi tool does not include compilers for the i5/OS platform, but is a program editing, verifying, syntax checking, and debugging environment that in turn can talk to the compilers installed on the System i server. This is akin to how WDS and WDSC were broken into two parts in the past.
If the RDi tool is designed for traditional RPG, COBOL, C, Java, and CL application development, then the Rational Developer for System i for SOA Construction V7.1 product and its related Rational Business Developer 7.1 tool is a superset of the RDi product that brings EGL to i5/OS shops and allows for the integration of legacy RPG and COBOL applications with the EGL means of creating Web applications. (For more on that, see EGL: The Future of Programming for the System i? from last September in this newsletter.) Farr says that IBM will be calling this toolset RBD for short. RDi for SOA will include the RDi tool as well as the RBD tool; pricing has not yet been announced for RDi for SOA, however.
The WDS split is a logical one, and one that presumably OS/400 and i5/OS shops have been angling for. The product will be broken up into the ILE Compiler set, the Heritage Compiler set, and the Advanced Development Tool Set (ADST). The ILE Compiler set will include ILE RPG, ILE COBOL, ILE C, ILE C++, and IXL C for C/C++; it also has the *PRV compilers for ILE RPG and ILE COBOL. The Heritage Compilers will include the System/36 compatible RPG and COBOL compilers, the System/38 compatible RPG II and COBOL compilers, RPG/400 (sometimes called RPG III and the first AS/400 native RPG compiler), OPM COBOL (the first AS/400 native COBOL compiler). ADTS will remain the same.
All three of these groups of programs will have their own separately priced features under WebSphere Development Studio. The wonder is why IBM didn’t rationalize its product line even further and call this collection the Rational Development Server products, and since they do not ship until March 21, there is still time to completely dump the WebSphere name, since RPG and COBOL applications have very little to do with WebSphere at most OS/400 and i5/OS shops today.
IBM has not yet announced pricing for the two compiler sets and ADTS, and it will be interesting to see if IBM slashed prices to make people want to move ahead or if it tries to use the stick of high prices on legacy compilers to nudge people ahead anyway. What I do know is that these compilers and ADTS will be priced based on the programmer seats using them, not based on server tiers. Existing WDS customers who are on Software Maintenance will be entitled to a specific number of seats as they move up to the RDi workstation and WDS compiler sets, but IBM has not yet said how that will work.
The merger of the HATS and WebFacing tools into one product, called Host Access Transformation Services for 5250 V7.1. IBM is promising to have simplified pricing and licensing options for the combined product, a new visual macro editor for creating HATS macros, support for creating screens on mobile devices from legacy applications, and various Web services improvements. IBM plans to make the toolkit for modernizing applications using HATS and WebFacing available for free, but will charge a licensing fee for the runtime environment.
The techies over at our Four Hundred Guru newsletter will be taking a hard look at the new packaging for the System i development tools and the many enhancements IBM has made to the ILE RPG compiler and CL language concurrent with the i5/OS V6R1 launch. Stay tuned.