IBM Updates i Rational Tools, and HATS Too
October 13, 2008 Alex Woodie
IBM last week shuffled the alphabet soup that is its suite of development tools for the i OS platform, and delivered several updates that System i customers intent on staying on the latest tools will want to know about. This includes a new macro workflow editor for its Host Access Transformation Services (HATS) tool, and a statement of direction for its Eclipse-based Rational Developer tools that promises to bring new AJAX and Web 2.0-style capabilities with another release later in the fourth quarter.
Keeping track of IBM’s development tools has never been easy. Big Blue continuously changes the product names and tucks existing products inside of other products, resulting in a nearly impenetrable collection of hidden and overlapping products and capabilities closely resembling a set of nesting Russian dolls. With that said, there is one common theme running throughout last week’s development tool announcements. All of the products are now at the version 7.5 release level, an achievement for which IBM should be commended.
The fun starts with IBM Rational Developer for i version 7.5, the latest release of the WebSphere Developer Studio Client (WDSc) replacement that is commonly called RDi. IBM has tweaked RDi with this release to give users better performance when they start the program or perform certain tasks, such as expanding a library object. However, some of these performance gains are erased when RDi is hooked into another Rational product.
Project management has also been improved with RDi 7.5. A single project in RDi can now contain all of the RPG, COBOL, or CL source code, instead of just a small subset of the source code. This feature, along with the new capability to store a greater number of source code files, will help foster the creation of a single change management repository for all RDi development, according to IBM.
IBM also says it has “enabled” a series of wizards for creating service oriented architecture (SOA) wrappers around i OS applications or service programs in RDi 7.5.
While wizards bring new magical SOA properties to the plain vanilla RDi IDE with version 7.5, IBM isn’t resting on its laurels with a new release of the special edition of RDi created explicitly for constructing SOA, the aptly named Rational Developer for i for SOA Construction.
But before we get into the 7.5 enhancements, let’s take some time to open the Russian dolls a bit, and see where RDi for SOA fits into IBM’s Rational scheme of things. RDi for SOA is a superset of products that consists of Rational Business Developer, Rational Developer for i, and the Rational HATS Toolkit (although users still need to buy the full HATS product to deploy HATS-ized screens).
IBM says RDi is for modernizing RPG, COBOL, and EGL applications with the latest Web 2.0 user interfaces, as well as outfitting them for Web services and B2B integration. Most of the SOA capabilities in RDi for SOA are contained within the Rational Business Developer component of the suite, and most of this product’s service-enabling capabilities are the result of its heavy reliance on the EGL model of programming. IBM is heavily pushing System i and System z shops to begin coding in Enterprise Generation Language (EGL), the new high-level procedural language that generates Java and COBOL code and that is designed to insulate old-style AS/400 and S/390 programmers from the intricacies of today’s middleware.
The new features of RDi for SOA version 7.5 consist primarily of the new capabilities IBM has delivered with the version 7.5 releases of the other products in the suite. For example, as Rational Business Developer 7.5, which became available October 8, supports WebSphere Application Server 7.0, WebSphere Portal 6.1, and JavaServer Faces (JSF) 1.2, so now does RDi for SOA 7.5.
Big Blue also announced a new release of Rational Host Access Transformation Services (HATS) for Multiplatforms and 5250 Applications. HATS, you will remember, is used for tactical screen modernization projects for i OS- or Unix-based Power Systems (System i) and System z servers. The software (which also includes the IBM WebFacing Tool) enables organizations to quickly convert 5250, 3270, and VT data streams into Web or Windows graphical interfaces or to output an XML-based Web services feeds for SOA projects.
With Rational HATS for Multiplatforms and 5250 Applications version 7.5, IBM has provided a new visual editing tool, called the Visual Macro Editor, or VME, that will make script programming easier. Before the VME, it was difficult for developers to see the relationships of the screens that made up the macro, IBM said in its announcement. With the VME, developers now have a “visual canvas” upon which they can view the screens and the flow of macros from one screen to the next. The VME combines many of the features previously offered with the HATS Macro Editor, Host Terminal, and Advanced Macro Editor tools, although these tools are still available.
HATS 7.5 also brings support for other Rational version 7.5 products, including Rational Application Developer version 7.5, as well as WebSphere Application Server version 7, WebSphere Portal version 6.1, and the Eclipse Rich Client Platform version 3.4.
Also, for the first time, HATS applications will run within Mozilla‘s Firefox Web browser, which is used by roughly 20 percent of Web users across the world. No longer must users fire up Microsoft‘s Internet Explorer (IE) to partake of HATS applications.
The version 7.5 releases of HATS, RDi, and RDi for SOA become available November 26. For more information on HATS 7.5, see IBM U.S. Software Announcement 208-359. For more information on RDi 7.5, see IBM U.S. Software Announcement 208-290. For more information on RDi for SOA 7.5, see IBM U.S. Software Announcement 208-345. For more information on Rational Business Developer 7.5, see IBM U.S. Software Announcement 208-362.