WDSC vs. RDi
September 23, 2009 Susan Gantner
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of RSE (Remote System Explorer). When I’m talking to developers who still use SEU to edit their source code, I always nag them to give RSE a try. Assuming I manage to convince them to take a look at it, usually the next topic of discussion relates to whether that means they should load the RSE that’s in WDSC or the version that’s in RDi.
First, some background for any of you out there who may not be aware of what the quandary is about. RSE first appeared as one part WDSC several years ago. RSE was intended to be a replacement for PDM and SEU or, for those who, like me, had already replaced SEU, to replace the CODE toolset.
Technically, RSE is just one perspective, but most of us tend to use the term RSE in a broader sense–a term for the set of Eclipse-based tools that are oriented around traditional languages (i.e., RPG, COBOL, CL, DDS) for developing IBM i host-based applications. That set of tools includes not only the RSE perspective, but some closely related ones, such as the Debug and iSeries Projects perspectives and their related tools. Typically, tools or perspectives that are oriented toward Java and EGL and/or Web interfaces, including Webfacing and HATS are not considered part of RSE, even though they were packaged to some degree with WDSC.
When IBM i 6.1 (or V6R1, if you prefer) was announced, along with it came a significant change in the packaging of nearly all the IBM tools for developing applications, including the compilers, host-based tools such as PDM, SEU, etc., and the client-based tools such as RSE. WDSC disappeared and was replaced with a choice of two Eclipse-based products. RDi (Rational Developer for i) is the new home for the RSE toolset. For those who need Java and/or Web-oriented tools and languages as well as the traditional host-based languages of i, RDi SOA is a superset of RDi targeted to that audience.
So, back to the question of . It would appear from what I’ve said so far that the choice is pretty simple. WDSC was the old home for RSE, while RDi is its new home. Wouldn’t it make sense at this stage for everyone to move to RDi, especially since it works with V5R4 as well as 6.1 on the host?
It would, except for one detail I omitted in the description above: price. WDSC was included at no extra charge with the host-based tools package that included the RPG and COBOL compilers. So if you had (or have) an RPG compiler at V5R4, you also have WDSC. If you want to use the WDSC flavor of RSE, you only need to locate the disks and install it. It is supported by IBM until April 2010.
If you want to use the newer version of RSE in RDi, you need to purchase a license at an extra charge for each developer. If you need to use some of the Web tools that were part of WDSC in addition to the RSE tools, you need the larger, more expensive RDi SOA package instead.
So my advice to RSE neophytes asking me “WDSC or RDi” is this. RDi is newer, somewhat faster, and more up to date than WDSC, so if you (or your management) are willing and able to pay for RDi to get better productivity, then by all means start there. The price ($795 per seat in the U.S.) is reasonable to improve productivity as dramatically as RSE has improved mine and many fellow RSE fans. In some situations, you may be able to get a price break on RDi via a trade-in for an ADTS (i.e., PDM/SEU) license that you are entitled to. See your IBM representative or business partner for details on the trade-in offer because there doesn’t seem to be an IBM Web page that describes the program in detail.
Of course, the kicker there is that you need to be convinced that RSE really will result in significantly better productivity to accept that the cost of RDi is a good investment. How can you develop a level of confidence in the benefits before shelling out money or convincing management to do so?
You could try RSE for yourself. There are 2 ways to go about it. There is a 60-day free trial version of RDi that you can download here. But you should make sure you’ll have time over the next 60 days to learn enough about RSE to get comfortable and productive using it. You also want to make sure that you’ll be able to purchase the license before the end of the trial, because once you become hooked on RSE–trust me on this–going back to SEU will be a very painful experience.
Another way to try RSE out is to dig out those WDSC disks you probably already have around the shop somewhere and install the “RSE only” subset of WDSC. To do this, during the install process, take the selective install option and select only the “i5/OS Development Tools–Remote System Explorer & iSeries Projects.” Be sure to deselect the other options. You will get the debugger with that option even though it isn’t specified. I wouldn’t recommend that you load the entire WDSC package because the full package takes significantly more disk and memory and will slow down your work with RSE.
Now you can take your time to learn about taking advantage of RSE’s benefits without a 60-day clock ticking in the background. Remember that the RDi version has better performance and several nice features that the WDSC version doesn’t have. And if/when you move to 6.1 on the host, while you can still use your WDSC version of RSE, the editor won’t recognize any 6.1 language features.
What about those of you already using RSE in WDSC? Are there good reasons to invest in RDi? I think so, although it is a bit harder to quantify a productivity improvement over WDSC. It has many small, but very nice usability enhancements. Many of the old irritants are gone. (Yes, I’m a fan, but nothing’s perfect!) Performing communications with the host are a bit faster with RDi. Support for language enhancements in 6.1 in the editor and verifier is an obvious advantage. With the latest RDi release, 7.5, there are some nice usability enhancements that come from the move to Eclipse 3.4. And if you’re doing PHP development, Zend Studio can be plugged into RDi at 7.5.
There are two specific new tools in RDi that are obvious reasons to consider moving: an integrated Screen Designer; and an Application Diagram tool. The screen designer is still in Technology Preview and is still missing printer file support. Consequently, some folks are sticking with CODE Designer for screen design for now. Likewise, the Application Diagram tool is reminiscent of another CODE tool: Navigator. But the Application Diagram has many features that are not in Navigator. So if you installed CODE from the WDSC disks along with RSE, you have functions similar to both of these. I’ll take a look at the Application Diagram in an upcoming tip.
All in all, RDi does have some strong advantages over the WDSC version of RSE. By April when IBM support ends for WDSC, there will likely be another release of RDi that will probably make the move even more attractive. So if you’re still using WDSC, you may want to consider budgeting for an RDi license soon. Experienced RSE users can get a good idea of the differences by using the 60-day trial of RDi 7.5 mentioned above.
One way or the other, I believe the move to RDi is worth both the effort and the cost for many developers, whether you’re currently using SEU or WDSC. Try it and see for yourself.
Susan Gantner is one of the most respected System i gurus in the world and is one of the co-founders of System i Developer, an organization dedicated to RPG, DB2, and other relevant software technologies for the System i platform that hosts the new RPG & DB2 Summit conference. Gantner, who has worked in IBM’s Rochester and Toronto labs, left IBM to focus on training OS/400 and i5/OS shops on the latest programming technologies. She is also a regular speaker at COMMON and other user groups. Send your questions or comments for Susan to Ted Holt via the IT Jungle Contact page.