Rocket Lifts Off with New Mobile Focus
February 5, 2013 Alex Woodie
Organizations that want to deliver mobile access to their IBM i applications now have another option from Rocket Software. Last month, the Massachusetts company unveiled LegaSuite version 7.1, which can transform 5250 screens into mobile interfaces for smartphones and tablets, using HTML5 and PhoneGap technologies. Rocket says the new LegaSuite Mobile component will deliver a modern mobile experience with the same amount of work required to create Web apps of old.
The LegaSuite product line, which Rocket obtained with its acquisition of Seagull Software in 2006, has been asked to do a lot over the last dozen years. Whether it’s re-purposing old JWalk and WinJa screens into new Web interfaces, exposing 5250 and 3270 screens via Web services, creating new composite applications, or generating service oriented architecture (SOA)-enabled products, it has been baked into LegaSuite. This trip has taken LegaSuite down the Microsoft .NET and Java technology paths at varying (and sometimes simultaneous) points. For Rocket’s big LegaSuite customers, the investment resides more in the LegaSuite products than in any one technology.
LegaSuite Mobile enables users to generate Web interfaces that deliver IBM i and mainframe access via smartphones and tablet devices. The interfaces are created using Mobile Builder, a drag and drop design tool that Rocket says is intuitive and easy to use. Mobile apps built with Rocket’s software can utilize device services, such as the camera, GPS chip, and storage.
Rocket says its Mobile Builder software automatically generates “mobile browser skins” for supported mobile platforms, including Apple iOS, Google Android, and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. Developers don’t have to worry about target devices’ screen size or orientation, because Mobile Builder and its integrated PhoneGap framework handle that stuff automatically. PhoneGap also helps facilitate the deployment of the apps via the Apple App Store, the Windows Store, and Google Play.
In terms of security, apps created with Mobile Builder utilize the same authentication mechanism used on the host server. This means users can log onto their LegaSuite Mobile apps using their IBM i user IDs and passwords. Data is encrypted as it travels between the device and the server, and also as it sits on the device, Rocket says.
Speed of development and broad mobile device support are the goals with LegaSuite Mobile, says Sam Elias, vice president and general manager of the application development, integration, and modernization business unit at Rocket Software. “Customers can create mobile user experiences that feature designs and controls that today’s mobile-savvy users expect. They also can connect and integrate their mobile applications with their mission-critical enterprise resources in a way that takes minimal time and effort and is unique in the marketplace,” Elias says in a press release.
An early adopter of LegaSuite’s new mobile capabilities was PVH Corp., the $5.7 billion clothing giant, and the owner of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, IZOD, ARROW, Bass, and G.H. Bass & Co. brands. PVH used an early version of LegaSuite Mobile to create iPad interfaces to its IBM i-based merchandise management system from Island Pacific.
The new iPad app provides access to real-time sales data for about 100 district and regional managers and executives, and took off “like wildfire,” says Jeff Lombardi, director of merchandising systems at PVH. “You look at the app and you can’t tell that it’s from the back-end IBM i system,” Lombardi says in a case study.
LegaSuite 7.1 also introduces support for RESTful Web services, which is central to the delivery of mobile interfaces. REST provides an alternative integration method to heavier, SOAP-based methods that require processor-intensive XML document parsing. Many of the Web’s most popular apps utilize REST-based Web services, and now developers can use LegaSuite to create stateless REST connections between them and their host systems.
LegaSuite 7.1 and LegaSuite Mobile are available now. Customers can license LegaSuite Mobile separately from the entire LegaSuite suite if they just want mobile functionality. The software is available for end-user organizations, as well as ISVs that want to mobile-enable their business applications. Rocket is offering incentive pricing to ISVs, the company says. Costs depend on the number of users and the sophistication of the back-office integration, Rocket says. Exact pricing was not disclosed. For more information see www.rocketsoftware.com.