IBM Ends WebFacing in Host Integration Suite, Adds EGL
July 15, 2008 Alex Woodie
Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected. WebFacing, in fact, continues its role as screen modernization technology within IBM’s HIS. Please see “Correction: WebFacing Lives On, in HIS and HATS” for more details about the error.
Developers will no longer be able to use the IBM WebFacing Tool to modernize their 5250 applications, if they obtained WebFacing through the Host Integration Solution (HIS) suite. As part of the delivery of Rational HIS for 5250 Applications version 7.1, IBM announced that HIS customers will be restricted to modernizing their applications using the Host Access Transformation Services (HATS), which converts legacy green-screen traffic to HTML at runtime. They will, however, gain access to Enterprise Generation Language (EGL), IBM’s new high-level language.
In the grand scheme of things, IBM’s naming conventions for its development tools–and in particular, its modernization tools for the IBM i OS platform–have gotten so complicated that it takes a Visio flowchart just to graph the origination, functionality, name changes, and eventual resting place for the plethora of products that have plowed these rich, blue waters.
Many of these Web enablement and modernization tools have been part of the HIS suite, at one point or another. Around the turn of the century, IBM’s go-to products for accessing 5250 screens in a browser were Host On-Demand, which provided little more than a green screen in a browser, and Host Publisher, a Java-based tool for creating composite applications.
In the 2001-2002 timeframe, IBM introduced a pair of competing green-screen modernization products. Developed by IBM was the WebFacing Tool, which was an invasive tool that required developers to modify source code by converting DDS traffic into HTML. Obtained from a French company was a technology eventually called Host Access Transformation Services (HATS), formerly called the Crys@lid Server, a less invasive tool that converts 5250 traffic into HTML at runtime.
WebFacing suffered from some serious limitations, and so in February 2006, IBM combined HATS and the WebFacing Tool into a single offering, called WebFacing Development Tool with HATS Technology, or WDHT, and sold it as part of the WebSphere Development Studio Client (WDSc) software (which has since been replaced by the Rational Developer for System i tool, or RDi, which shipped earlier this year as part of IBM’s i OS version 6.1 release).
Since that time, IBM has been shifting its Web enablement strategy away from WebFacing and toward HATS, while maintaining support for WebFacing and providing WebFacing customers with a way forward. To that end, IBM has spent the last few months upgrading its HATS-WebFacing strategy with the new crop of development tools that shipped as part of the i 6.1 release.
HIS for 5250 Applications 7.1 includes the latest releases of each of its component products. These include HATS 7.1; Rational Developer for System i for SOA Construction (RDi for SOA) 7.1; Personal Communications 5.9; WebSphere Host On-Demand 10.0; WebSphere Application Server–Express 6.1; and the latest version 6 releases of Communications Server for Windows, AIX, and Linux.
While HIS customers previously had a choice of using HATS or WebFacing to modernize their 5250 applications, they now must use HATS. “Starting in IBM Rational HIS 7.1, IBM Rational Developer for System z and IBM Rational Developer for System i for SOA Construction are restricted to HATS-related development activities only,” IBM writes in Software Announcement 208-178. “Customers looking to further extend, rewrite, or enhance their existing applications or develop new, non-HATS applications should purchase the stand-alone versions of these products separately.”
While WebFacing is out, a new addition to HIS for 5250 is RDi for SOA, the new collection of development tools designed for building next-generation Web applications. RDi for SOA is based on Rational Business Developer (RBD), IBM’s new Eclipse-based development environment that uses Enterprise Generation Language (EGL), a new high level language that generates Java code for execution on a variety of platforms, including i 6.1 and earlier releases of the i5/OS operating system.
RDi for SOA, which shipped April 11, also includes a copy of RBD (as well as HATS, just to make it complicated), and is being positioned by IBM as the go-to tool for organizations that need to develop new Web-based applications and connect them, using SOA techniques, to older RPG and COBOL apps. In many ways, HIS offers these capabilities as well, but HIS gives the customer more application integration and deployment flexibility.
Other new features in HIS for 5250 Applications 7.1, which was announced last week, are largely based on the stuff that’s been available in HATS for 5250 for the last three months. This includes support for mobile devices and PDAs; support for generating JSR-168 portlets; a new visual macro editor; the integration of the WebFacing Tool in the HATS Toolkit; and a WebFacing Bridge for exchanging data between applications that have been WebFaced and other Web apps.
IBM supports two types of users with HIS for 5250, including authorized users and concurrent users. Customers who purchase the concurrent-user version of the product do not get access to the Personal Communications terminal emulator.