New BVS Tools Hook IBM i to Google Apps
January 22, 2013 Alex Woodie
BVS Tools has rolled out a collection of new software called GreenTools for Google Apps (G4G) that enable users to connect various Google Apps with data and applications residing on IBM i servers. Two G4G apps, including G4GGCP and G4GGCAL, connect IBM i data with Google Cloud Print and Google Calendars through Google’s APIs, and more apps are on the way.
Today’s IT environments have become extremely heterogeneous, and demand extreme flexibility on the part of IT experts and users. In the old days, IT pros may have felt a sense of accomplishment at having hooked an IBM i application into a Microsoft Office application sitting on a Windows desktop. Those good old days are long gone, and today IT pros are tasked with hooking IBM i apps with a growing array of mobile devices and Web services.
As the PC declines in use, Web services such as Google Apps have gained traction among businesses of all sizes. The good news is Google’s Apps are accessible from a range of devices. The bad news is they require some degree of programmer sophistication to make full use of the API.
Brad Stone has endeavored to do the API dirty work with his suite of IBM i-enablement tools for Google Apps. He currently offers two G4G apps, which cost $149 each.
With G4GGCP, IBM i users gain the capability to print reports residing on the IBM i server to any printer that’s connected to Google Cloud Print. For example, users could utilize the software to print a PDF report that’s sitting on the IFS driver of their IBM i servers using their home printers, eliminating the need to drive into the office to get a hard copy.
The G4GGCP services are accessed by entering a command from a 5250 command line interface, referencing a file on the IFS or a URL containing that file. Documents must first be converted into PC formats, such as PDF, HTML, DOC, and RTF, to use the service (easily accomplished using spool file conversion tools, such as Stone’s popular SPLTOOL). G4GGCP also enables users to send documents to Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) instead of the printer.
Google introduced its Cloud Print Web service as a feature of its Chrome Web browser in 2010, and widened the service’s availability when it hit beta status in early 2011. To get started, users simply register their printers with Google Cloud Print. Then, they can submit print jobs through the service from any device (Web browser, Windows desktop, or mobile device). This approach eliminates the need to install print drivers on devices that users want to print from.
Brad Stone’s second new application, G4GGCAL, allows users to retrieve entries from any Google Calendar into the IBM i database. Once the connection is established, a user could then write short programs around the G4GGCAL entries to do things, such as run scheduled reports, trigger other programs, or send reminders via green-screen alerts. “This app doesn’t yet allow you to manipulate a Google Calendar, but if requested this could be added,” Stone says via email.
Stone intends to write more G4G apps that let IBM i users access Google Apps APIs. Users must have BVS’ Get URI (GETURI) application, which enables IBM i applications to communicate with Web services, running on their IBM i servers. Data is returned from the Google Apps to G4G in the JSON format, which is then parsed and interpreted by the G4G app, Stone says.
Stone says most of the work that went into G4G revolved around writing his own JSON parser and learning to work with OAuth 2.0, the new authentication method used by Google Apps and others, such as Facebook and soon Twitter. “This type of security is used to give your IBM i access to items such as your Google Cloud Printers or Calendars without the need to share your userid or password,” Stone says.
For more information on the G4G apps, as well as downloads, visit www.bvstools.com.