CNX Offers Free Community Edition of Valence Web 2.0 App
March 2, 2010 Alex Woodie
CNX is now giving away copies of Valence, its design and run-time tool for creating Web 2.0 interfaces from RPG applications, the vendor announced yesterday. The new Community Edition license gives developers full use of the Ext JS-based toolkit, with some restrictions on production applications. The version 2.1 release also gains support for seven additional languages–and even has the capability to display different languages in the same field on the screen, in what may be a first for RPG.
Like many vendors, CNX offered free trial downloads for Valence as a way for potential customers to explore the product, play with its features, and see if it fits their needs. While the 90-day trial period offered by CNX was more generous than what many System i software vendors offer, it still proved too restrictive for many potential customers, says Richard Milone, chief technical officer at Chicago-based CNX.
“A lot of potential customers would say, ‘I’m looking at Valence, but I don’t want to download it now because I’m not ready to start the 90-day trial,'” Milone says. “That 90-day trial scared a lot of people.”
Those potential customers would be good candidates for the new “community developer” license, which gives them a full copy of Valence to play around with and prototype new applications for internal use. When customers are ready to move the Web application into production, they would have the option to continue using the community license, as long as they contributed their application source code back to the community as open source (required under the “quid pro quo” condition of the open source license, Milone says).
If a customer didn’t want to contribute the source code of their production Valence application, he or she would have the option to purchase a “professional developer” license, at the cost of $595 per developer. The professional license has no run-time restrictions and can be applied to an unlimited number of System i servers. Those are much more favorable terms than CNX’s previous licensing scheme, which required a $5,000 license fee for unlimited developers on a single System i server.
“The bottom line is we’re dramatically reducing the barrier to entry,” Milone says. “Most scenarios where people are looking at Valence, they’re trying to develop a prototype to show their boss. Now we’ve lifted all restrictions on that.”
CNX is also now providing the full source code for the Valence software with all licenses, including community, professional, and OEM licenses. “We had customers asking us, ‘What happens if CNX goes bankrupt? Can we get escrow on the source code?'” Milone says. “All those questions are eliminated completely because with every download you get the full source code. That should make life easier for customers.”
Valence version 2.1 changes the licensing economics, but there are also some notable new features in the product itself. For starters, Valence now supports Unicode, is DBCS-enabled, and is available in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Russian, and Japanese, in addition to English, thanks to translation services provided by Interpro.
In what may be a first for an RPG application, customers using the Valence Portal can select which language they want to use in the application, and a single portal application has the capability to display multiple languages simultaneously. Data entered by one user in one language can be viewed by another user in a different language, and characters from widely different character sets, such as Japanese and Russian Cyrillic, can even share space in the same field.
“That functionality is extremely difficult to do with RPG as a backend, normally, because whenever you’re translating between a Web page and RPG, you’re usually translating between CCSIDs. And normally your users can only be in one character set at a time,” Milone says.
However, this functionality was important to CNX customers that are multi-national corporations and want all of their customers from all over the world to be working in, and sharing data, using the same application. That functionality wouldn’t be difficult to offer if the application logic was coded in PHP or Java, but RPG makes it hard.
“The hard part was to make it easy for the developer,” continues Milone, who estimates more than 1,000 developer-hours were spent on this one feature. “We fool the Apache server into thinking it’s not a strange character . . . We did a lot of work to optimize it so it’s super fast. But the developer only has to do a few things to make it work. All the hard part is taken out.”
“This is a really big new feature for us because customers can go through and create all their file maintenance programs pretty quickly,” Milone says.
This release brings a number of other new features, including more administrative functions for maintaining server instances, new exit programs for logging in and out, and support for the latest Ext JS version 3.1.1 framework.
Milone and company are excited over the new release of Valence. In particular, the CNX folks–who earned their i/OS bona fides working in the BPCS and PRMS worlds over the last two decades–think Valence is positioned the strongest for customers who are done looking at screen-scraping tools and who want to begin doing true Web 2.0 development on the i/OS platform.
CNX is aware that Valence requires customers to learn how to use the Ext JS framework, requires them to put the Web browser in control of sessions, and relegates RPG to data-fetching tasks. But that is how Web 2.0 works on other platforms, and is the price of progress.
“We’re saying, if you want to stick with RPG, and you want to develop world-class Web 2.0 applications, then you’ve got to think outside of that box and develop with the Web 2.0 design methodology,” Milone says. “It’s not like old days, when RPG or COBOL was driving the green screens. [Other Web tools] are trying to shield the RPG programmers from the front-end as much as possible. I think that’s going to be difficult task. You can’t design a lot of this stuff without actually being in the front end.”
For more information and free downloads, visit www.cnxcorp.com.
This article was corrected. The previous license fee for Valence was $5,000 per System i server for an unlimited number of developers, not a single developer. IT Jungle regrets the error.