Surround Tech Generates .NET Interfaces for i OS Apps
May 12, 2009 Alex Woodie
Surround Technologies introduced a new development tool at the recent COMMON conference in Reno, Nevada, that delivers Windows, Web, or mobile interfaces for applications that run on the IBM i platform. Called Accelerator for .NET, the software generates Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Silverlight code, giving i OS shops with Windows development skills another way to modernize their 5250 green-screen interfaces.
Surround Technologies is a software development and consulting firm that has worked largely within the LANSA community for its 16-year history. In addition to LANSA consulting work, the New Jersey-based company has built a collection of programmer productivity tools over the years, including Accelerator for Visual LANSA, Accelerator for LANSA Reporting, some 5250 utilities, some connectors for Microsoft Office apps, and a collection of hundreds of icons to spruce up LANSA apps.
The new Accelerator for .NET is the latest in the line of productivity tools. The software was developed specifically to allow developers to quickly generate Windows, Web, or mobile interfaces, in Microsoft’s .NET language, for applications written in Visual LANSA IDE (which generates to Windows and i OS) or other .NET applications written in Microsoft’s Visual Studio IDE. Soon, the software will be able to support any i OS applications, not just Visual LANSA.
Surround says it developed Accelerator for .NET to handle the low-level grunt work that goes into writing sophisticated applications and interfaces, thereby enabling the developer (who still needs to have a basic understanding of Visual LANSA or Visual Studio) to concentrate on solving business problems.
“Accelerator will handle all the mundane underlying non-productive development effort, all the ‘glueware’ and core system functionality, and all the really advanced development stuff,” says Lee Paul, CEO of Surround Tech, in an e-mail. “With Accelerator, you will be able to develop amazing professional software with only basic skill sets.”
A wizard guides the user through the development process with Accelerator for .NET, which functions as a plug-in to Surround’s suite of Accelerator development tools. The tool automatically populates the pre-built snap-ins for the various target devices (Windows desktops, Web browsers, or mobile devices) and helps connect to the back-end data. When the development work is done, the tool generates CLR (common language runtime)-compliant C# or Visual Basic code.
Accelerator for .NET generates clients using WPF and Silverlight technology. WPF is Microsoft’s new API for building feature-rich Windows desktop interfaces that feature nifty things like complex images, 3D graphics, opaque windows, and integration of video and audio. Silverlight delivers an advanced, WPF-like interface components, but in a Web browser instead of a thick client. The Silverlight plug-in works with Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari Web browsers, and at least initially, in 2007, was referred to as the “Flash-killer.”
Currently, Accelerator for .NET requires Visual LANSA for IBM i OS integration. (Users may also be able to tap into System i data using looksoftware interfaces.) That requirement will cease to exist in about six months; it will be able to tap into native System i Data sources using SQL, Client Access, and direct TCP/IP, Paul says.
System i shops will definitely benefit from the new interfaces that Accelerator for .NET can help deliver, says Derek Maciak, Surround’s chief technology officer. “We are extremely excited over the potential the new Microsoft technologies offer the IBM midrange world,” Maciak says in a press release. “They are truly transformational technologies and we think they will change a lot of people’s minds when they come to know what we know.”
Accelerator for .NET is available now. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at www.surroundtech.com.