PHP Developer Chooses WebSmart to Build His ‘Scaffold’
April 22, 2014 Dan Burger
Central Semiconductor needed Web applications that its customers could access from desktops and mobile devices. The customers were engineers searching for semiconductor devices and the search needed to be fast and easy and the navigation smooth. “My goal is to give people a tool to find what they’re looking for quickly. If customers can find the product they’re looking for, hopefully they’ll order a sample and be happy with the product,” says Web developer Rob Binetti.
Binetti was hired by Central Semiconductor to lead the Web development efforts. He was an experienced PHP Web developer who had worked with RPG-based business applications before, but was not an RPG programmer. His background in mechanical engineering comes in handy for planning how the pieces need to come together to make a smooth-operating system.
Not only did Binetti come to Central with PHP experience and a familiarity with RPG, he was also was familiar with BCD Software, an IBM i independent software vendor (ISV) with an application development product called WebSmart PHP. In his previous job, Binetti was involved with modernizing green-screen applications. And it was there that he learned about PHP and WebSmart after working with a BCD professional services person for a week.
“The BCD tools gave me a really good head start,” Binetti says. “I can do some very sophisticated reports and pop them out really fast with filtering, pagination, and sorting order using WebSmart.”
He’s also used WebSmart PHP to build a stout and quick “scaffolding,” as he calls it, for creating dashboards and sophisticated apps. At Central, he’s used the BCD tools to create his own templates and get exactly what he wants for Web applications that are accessed by users on desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
The capability to easily search Central’s product catalog was critically important to this project. The key quality to this is called a parametric search, which allows multiple criteria (the parameters of the search) to be simultaneously input into the pursuit of information. In this case, engineers would be coming to Central’s website, through a portal, and searching for discrete semiconductor devices based on specific electrical characteristics. The objective of the search is to order product samples.
Previously, engineers navigated multiple Web pages that led to a PDF document, which they would have to visually scan for the information.
The capabilities of Central’s parametric search include:
Binetti has also developed WebSmart PHP applications for the supply chain and the sales department. The supply chain app is used to confirm ship dates for Central’s products. It also allows updates to Central’s IBM i server after the materials department approves them. The materials department can also alter the proposed ship dates if they need to be expedited.
Referencing his ability to work with RPG, Binetti says, “I am able to see the business logic in RPG and understand what’s going on, but when I get confused, I have some good RPG programmers to help me out.” Central has two RPG programmers and Binetti is the main PHP programmer. One of the RPG programmers provides some PHP programming as well.
Binetti describes the Web-based sales app he created as a “home-grown sales CRM tool,” an opportunity-tracking solution that is built on the jQuery Mobile framework. The application allows Central’s sales team and external representatives’ network to collaborate on business opportunities, from inception to conversion. The application integrates with Central Semiconductor’s DB2 database and green-screen RPG applications. He estimates the CRM tool accesses 30 to 40 DB2 tables.
“Here at Central, we are using PHP to consume data. A lot of the time, we are building new stored procedures and functions on the DB2 side of the fence. I’m using a lot of the XML Toolkit and calls to DB2, and then displaying that information to users in a fashion that will work with whatever device they are using to connect and interact with the data. PHP is really good at displaying data and creating dynamic Web pages, but we still lean on RPG for business logic. You don’t want to be coding business logic in PHP. That’s not what it’s good at,” he says.
Central has all the latest and greatest updates in WebSmart PHP, Zend Server, and IBM i 7.1, which is running on a Power 720. The company has also integrated five Windows server into this system via iSCSI.
“The Windows server integration works very nice with our Web services,” Binetti says. “We don’t have to make backups on the Windows servers because the back up of the i takes care of that.”
In addition to the support he receives from BCD, Binetti also has good things to say about Zend Technologies and Alan Seiden, who heads up a PHP on an IBM i community forum. “It’s a great community and it responds very fast,” Binetti says.