LANSA Unveils Major Update to aXes Modernization Tool
July 13, 2010 Alex Woodie
A new Web browser engine in the latest release of LANSA‘s aXes screen modernization tool will enable users to display i/OS application screens on practically any Web browser, including those running on mobile devices. aXes version 1.35, which was a major rewrite of the product, also contains something called aXes eXtensions, which will allow customers to integrate Microsoft .NET components directly into the Web interfaces of their RPG or COBOL applications, or integrate aXes screens into SharePoint portals.
aXes is an on-the-fly screen modernization tool for IBM i/OS applications that was originally created by Arterial Software of Australia. In a nutshell, the product works by capturing 5250 screen data directly from the program I/O and transforming it into XML and HTML, which is compressed and sent to a Web browser, where it’s uncompressed and rendered as a GUI. The product had previously been distributed by Linoma Software before LANSA acquired the rights to the product directly from Arterial in April 2009.
These enhancements accomplish several related goals, one of which is supporting multiple Web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari running on Windows, Linux, or Max OS/X, right out of the box. Previously, aXes was restricted to the IE Web browser.
The greater flexibility in Web browser deployments (the software will automatically detect and adapt to particular browsers) also makes it easier to display aXes-ized 5250 apps on the limited screen sizes of mobile devices like the ever-popular iPhone and the upstart Android platform. This is a major enhancement considering the fact that the majority of large customers are either developing mobile applications, or considering it.
LANSA gives customers the choice of running the older Web browser engine or the newer jQuery-based engine, or running both of them side by side (the engines actually sit on the customized HTTP server that comes with aXes; the product requires nothing to be installed on the Web browser). The older engine is useful in situations where precise 5250 emulations are required, LANSA says.
eXtending the Application
“When we bought aXes, it was purely an emulator. What you see is what you get,” he says. Customers who needed to do anything more advanced than changing the color of the screen would need to use other technology, such as LANSA’s own Web development tools, WebSphere, or Microsoft’s ActiveX, Best says.
“Since then, we’ve intruded a new workbench, new aXes eXtensions, and a multi-browser engine,” he says. “It really shows the commitment we have to the product.”
One of the aXes eXtensions in version 1.35, called aXFrame, enables customers to insert whole Web pages, PDF documents, Flash components, or Silverlight components, directly into their customized screens. In this situation, the new aXFrame content will sit next to the 5250 content.
Similarly, the External Hosting eXtension allows users to put their 5250 aXes content into other Web applications or .NET applications, such as the Microsoft SharePoint portal. The capability to embed aXes i/OS screens inside of Windows applications written with C# will enable customers to get the same look and feel with their i/OS applications as they natively have with the C#-based Windows applications.
LANSA says both aXes eXtentions will expand the options for manipulating user interfaces, and allow customers to create mashups, or GUIs that contain data from multiple screens, which users previously had to access separately. The capability to support multiple channels–including fat-client Windows, multiple Web browsers, mobile devices, and even stationary kiosk screens–also buoys LANSA’s bid to avoid IBM’s new Rational Open Access: RPG Edition technology, which requires separate I/O handlers to support modern interfaces and devices.
LANSA came out against the new RPG:OA technology when IBM announced it with i/OS 7.1 earlier this year. “We’re still trying to figure it out,” Best says. “If I want to write a new application for a mobile device [IBM says] ‘write a handler for the iPhone.’ We can do that. In some ways, we have own handlers already written.”
LANSA is also working at further integrating aXes into its own development tools, as well as its i/OS modernization solution framework, called RAMP.
aXes version 1.35 is available now. Pricing is tier-based and ranges from $6,000 to $30,000 for unlimited licenses. LANSA is also putting together some workshops on aXes. For more information, visit the product website at www.axeslive.com.