Experia Touts SilverDev Tool for IBM i
August 17, 2010 Alex Woodie
System i pros who are looking to leverage their RPG skills to modernize their 5250 apps, but are frustrated with the slowness of Web-based applications may want to consider SilverDev, a integrated development environment (IDE) and application framework from the French company Experia. The vendor says SilverDev delivers all the benefits of a pure Windows client and an event-driven paradigm, and none of the slowness and frustration that often accompanies Web-based modernization efforts on the IBM i platform.
Experia, which attended the 2010 COMMON conference in Orlando, Florida, created SilverDev in 2003 after the company experimented with several Web technologies for System i modernization, with no luck.
“We had created some Web browser-based applications in CGI, Net.Data, and PHP, and each time, we found that the development time was too long. And Web browser-based solutions have a lot of issues,” Experia product manager Arnaud Duval says via e-mail. “We had a lot of customers who were telling us they had the same problems and they asked if we knew a better solution for graphic applications on System i. We never found the ideal solution. So we decided to create our own.”
SilverDev is unique in the IBM i world in that development starts from the point of view of the user, not the server or the business logic. A SilverDev programmer starts by sketching a GUI with the SilverDev designer, and then defining the events that each user interface component will take.
The developer decides what event will take place when a user clicks on a menu item, double-clicks on the grid, or performs a drag-and-drop operation, and then writes a piece of “handler” code, Duval says. The IDE then generates the program code based on the screen design and the handlers written by the developer.
“Developing with SilverDev is as easy and as quick as developing 5250 applications,” Duval says. “Once you are used to it, it’s even simpler than creating 5250 applications, thanks to the event-driven architecture.”
SilverDev developers can write their program handlers in any code editor, such as SEU, PDM, or Eclipse, Duval says. But many users choose to use the Windows editor provided with the SilverDev package, since it has handy time-saving features, such as code completion, color-coded syntax, a tree view of the application, bookmarks, and an online help system.
The SilverDev client supports a range of user interface components, including grids, charts, buttons, menus , tree views, list views, images, checkbox, radio buttons, and tab sheets. Printing is supported, as is export to Excel and PDF. Users can have multiple SilverDev clients open simultaneously, and spread them out or organize them using tabs.
Users access their SilverDev clients by clicking on the “MyDesk” icon that SilverDev places on their Windows desktops. The SilverDev client is alternately described by Experia as a virtual desktop and a 5250 emulator.
It’s worth noting that SilverDev does not require a Windows server in the mix. Everything is centrally stored on, and distributed from, the comfort and control of the System i server. This “i-ness” will undoubtedly be attractive to “i types” who have been frustrated with modernization solutions that spread out across their infrastructures.
The SilverDev IDE also includes extra goodies that are important in enterprise roll-outs, including a database viewer, a job log inspector, a spool file inspector, a debugger, and file searching features.
Experia was created in 1991 after the spin-off of the IT department of Fiduciaire Herbert Gengoux, a French accounting firm based in Grenoble, in southeastern France. In 1995, the company regrouped to expand sales around the world, and renamed itself Experia Europe. The company, which is based nearby in the city of Voiron, develops software and provides service for the IBM i platform.
SilverDev has seen use primarily in France, but also Switzerland, Luxemburg, and Canada. Experia is currently supporting its North American customers remotely from its headquarters in France, but is in the hunt for a partner to represent it here. The latest release, version 3, shipped a year ago.
Several SilverDev licensing options are available. A license for one development seat and five client seats starts at $1,995. An unlimited license on a P05 box costs $5,495. For more information and free trial downloads, visit the SilverDev product website at www.SilverDev.com.