BCD Bolsters Nexus Portal with Authentication and CMS Functions
November 19, 2013 Alex Woodie
IBM i shops looking for a quick way to communicate with customers and partners over the Web might be interested in the latest release of Nexus, Business Computer Design Int’l.‘s IBM i-based Web portal. With the updated release of Nexus, BCD adopted the OpenLDAP authentication software, and added support for a new visual document designer called TinyMCE.
The Nexus portal was initially created years ago as a side project that came out WebSmart, BCD’s Web application development and runtime environment for IBM i servers. One of the very first things that IBM i shops need upon creating a Web application is a menu and authentication system, which provide a framework for navigation and controls access. BCD built these items for one of its first WebSmart customers, and then decided to productize it as the Nexus portal.
The software has always given organizations the option of authenticating incoming users with their IBM i user IDs and password. This makes sense, since the product runs directly on the IBM i server, and some of the employees will already have credentials to access the IBM i server.
With the launch of Nexus version 4 in 2011, the company added support for standard lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) and Microsoft Active Directory. This enabled a Nexus implementation to piggyback on existing authentication systems built on LDAP, with Active Directory being the most prevalent.
But just supporting Active Directory wasn’t enough, so with Nexus version 4.07, BCD added support for OpenLDAP, which is a suite of open source applications and tools that are based on the LDAP protocol and that are developed by the OpenLDAP Project. This will give Nexus users options beyond the proprietary Active Directory, which is still widely deployed but perhaps starting to lose its grip as the primary enterprise authentication system.
BCD was surprised at the number of requests from customers to support OpenLDAP, says Marcel Sarrasin, a product development manager with BCD. “We’ve seen more LDAP requests lately,” he says. “It’s an option others have been asking for.”
It makes sense that Nexus users would want alternative authentication methods, he says. “That’s a good thing for our users because, the reality is, for people coming in via the Web, they may not have IBM i user IDs,” Sarrasin says. “That is an option in Nexus, to authenticate against an IBM i profile. But in most cases, you’re talking about an intranet or extranet, and a lot of people may not have them.”
Once users are logged into Nexus, they can do more stuff, now that BCD has incorporated TinyMCE into the product. TinyMCE is a lightweight, Web-based text editor designed to make it very quick and easy for users to write simple HTML documents. The software was initially designed by Moxiecode Systems AB, and is available as a free and open source download at www.tinymce.com.
The TinyMCE plug-in isn’t designed to create big fancy websites, a task that is more well-suited to CMSes like Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal (all of which are PHP-based and therefore will run on the IBM i server). Rather, TinyMCE is better used for smaller tasks, such as documenting a company’s policies and procedures and other internal documents.
BCD uses TinyMCE to generate release notes that are published in its customer portal. Compared to what BCD used before, TinyMCE generates much cleaner HTML code, and works better across all the Web browsers, Sarrasin says.
Nexus version 4.07 features several other basic housekeeping updates, such as better-looking icons to represent options on the menu screens, which will make the product easier to use. This release also allows users to customize their log-in screens with a certain skin. The product has allowed users to customize their main Nexus screens once they’re signed in, but previously there was no way to customize the sign-in screen.
The Nexus portal is often sold as a bundle with other BCD products, including the WebSmart IDE, the Clover reporting tool, and the Catapult spool-file conversion tool. When purchased in a bundle, BCD will often waive the license fee for Nexus, and only charge for maintenance. For more information, see www.bcdsoftware.com.