Profound Delivers First RPG Open Access ‘Handler’
April 20, 2010 Alex Woodie
Profound Logic, one of three ISVs committed to delivering “handler” solutions that enable i/OS shops to take advantage of the new Open Access for RPG technology IBM is shipping with i/OS version 7.1, tomorrow will begin delivery of the industry’s first handler solution with a new product called Profound UI.
Now that Open Access for RPG is officially out of the bag, the System i community can begin discussing its merits. If the early comments are any indication, IBM has scored major points with anybody who is committed to writing business applications in RPG. Considering that RPG is by far the most popular 3GL on the i/OS platform, the boys in Rochester will be receiving kudos for months, if not years to come.
One unequivocal supporter of RPG OA is Alex Roytman, the CEO of Profound. “This is perhaps one of the most important IBM i-related announcements in the last decade,” Roytman states in a press release. “It’s the exact type of functionality IBM i developers have been asking for. Finally, developers can use native RPG operations to talk directly to rich browser interfaces.”
Roytman, who is one of the smartest RPG developers in the business, wasted no time in vaulting his company to the front of the pack with the delivery of Profound UI tomorrow, even before RPG OA becomes officially available with i/OS 7.1 on Friday. The company is holding a Webinar to mark the availability of Profound UI.
As an RPG OA handler solution, Profound UI will take care of the nitty-gritty grunt work required to map an RPG application’s I/O into the constructs mandated by the Web’s architecture. Without a handler solution from Profound or another vendor–application modernization competitor looksoftware and ERP developer VAI so far are the only other two ISVs to commit to delivering handlers–RPG developers will face a very steep learning curve to develop their own handlers.
Profound UI will bundle a drag-and-drop interface design tool that the company says will be simple enough for anybody to use. The design tool will ship with a collection of 150 pre-defined widgets, such as drop-down lists or a radio dial, which people can use to design their new Web browser interface for their RPG applications.
According to Profound, the collection of widgets and their properties together will compose a native IBM i object called a Rich Display File. Rich Display Files are similar to traditional DDS display files (indeed, DDS plays a big role in the RPG OA scheme of things), and support standard RPG operations–such as execute format and write and read–just like traditional DDS display files served over 5250.
The difference is data from the Rich Display Files are translated into standard Web formats through the Profound UI handler, thereby bypassing the need for 5250 while keeping the business logic in RPG and eliminating the need to use a proprietary API.
“We are relying on the object-based architecture of the i here, and just like with green-screen apps, the integrity and reliability of programs is maintained through an object-based architecture,” Roytman writes in an e-mail. “Traditional green-screen apps use display files, and so does Profound UI. But Profound UI display files are Rich Display Files with metadata to represent rich user interface output rather than 5250 output.”
The native support for “statefull” connections is one of the most important benefits that RPG OA will bring to System i shops that want to modernize their applications, according to Roytman. Getting that statefulness has always been a challenge given the constraints of the 5250 datastream and Web access techniques, such as CGI.
“Without such a system, the developer has to do a lot of manual work to ensure relevant data is accessible as users navigate throughout the application,” Roytman writes in an e-mail. “For RPG developers, an ideal system is one that allows the typical ‘execute format’ (ExFmt) style of a top-down business application. And this is what Profound UI provides by tapping into RPG Open Access.”
In addition to statefulness, Profound UI’s backend server will provide call stack support, error handling, subfile processing, session handling, overlays, library lists, “and virtually all other features that RPG programmers are already familiar with from traditional concepts,” Roytman says.
Profound Logic is hosting a Webinar tomorrow, April 21, to introduce Profound UI. The Webinar, titled “It has arrived! A Native GUI for RPG,” starts at 1 p.m. EDT. For more product information or to register for the Webinar, visit the company’s Web site: www.profoundlogic.com.