LANSA Teaches BPI Tool New SQL, Web Services Tricks
June 3, 2014 Alex Woodie
IBM i is a wonder of automation. Many of the tasks that require manual effort on other systems are handled “autonomously,” to use a word from the last decade. The folks at LANSA have long been advocates for a higher state of automated being on the IBM i platform, and the company takes it to new heights with the latest release of Composer, its business process integration (BPI) tool for IBM i and Windows.
LANSA Composer is a chimera that combines a drag-and-drop development interface with a data integration engine to help automate manual processes. Examples of these processes include navigating enterprise applications, searching for the right files, and distributing files via various protocols. For IBM i and Windows shops that are light on programming staff, or whose programmers are slammed with other projects, LANSA Composer provides an alternative path to get stuff done.
With version 5, LANSA is adding a number of new features that will increase the power and productivity of Composer users. First and foremost is the capability to execute ad-hoc SQL statements against remote databases. Obviously, care must be taken when bypassing an application and accessing a database directly via SQL. But in some circumstances, it’s the best way to get results in the shortest amount of time.
LANSA product architect Hugh Vaughan says the new SQL functions will give Composer customers another way to get to the data. “Typically in LANSA Composer, most database activity is accomplished through the use of Transformation Maps,” Vaughan tells IT Jungle via email. “However, these new activities provide another option for performing limited database query and update operations on a SQL database. In addition, they provide a means of invoking SQL stored procedures in the target database.”
While these activities may not typically be used for bulk database query and extract, Vaughan believes they will often complete the last mile of integration–those small simple steps that otherwise might require the involvement of a developer to write program code. “That is to say, they provide the business analyst with more tools to complete all the aspects of a BPI task without programming,” he says.
There are many places where Composer’s new SQL capability will come in handy, according to Vaughan. For example, consider the case of a company that needs to send an order acknowledgement via email after receiving an order. “In order to send an email order acknowledgement, it needs to query the customer file in the database to get the designated sales order contact email address,” he says. “The SQL database activities will permit this simple query to be quickly and efficiently performed and the order acknowledgement to be sent without the need to write program code.”
In this scenario, the sales order process will use a traditional Transformation Map to write the in-coming sales order details to the received orders database. “But then, as the sales order progresses through various stages such as validation, inventory checking, credit checking, and so on,” Vaughan says, “there is a need to update a status flag in the received order database. The SQL database activities again provide the capability to perform this simple database update quickly and efficiently.”
LANSA added a total of 12 new pre-built database activities in addition to direct database access, including the capability to create a text file from query results (CSV); the capability to set parameters on queries; new commit and rollback features; and the (previously mentioned) capability to execute stored procedures associated with a database.
Version 5 also brings several new message-oriented activities that will help Composer users build long running processes where interactions are asynchronous. This includes new features that automatically monitor for the arrival of messages in message queues, or files or documents in a file system.
This release also includes “design recommendations that will help optimize the behavior of long-running processes.” This will be particularly useful when designing applications that move data among mobile, desktop, and server applications, the company says.
Composer also gets several new XML- and Web services-related functions with version 5. This includes a new SOAP Web service interface for invoking LANSA Composer BPI solutions from external sources (i.e. other Web services reaching into Composer). Previously, the product supported the capability to invoke SOAP Web services that were external to it (i.e. reaching out of Composer to other Web services).
Composer was also enhanced to selectively interrogate values contained in XML documents using XML Path Language (XPath) expressions. “The activity is intended for selective interrogation of a limited number of particular values from the XML document,” LANSA says. A new XML_VALIDATE activity verifies that the XML document is well-formed and conforms to a DTD or an XML schema, the company adds.
New options as part of its event notification service were also added. With this release, the system can be configured to kick off an email, send an SMS message, place a message on a data queue, run a processing sequence, or execute a function as a response to other events. Version 5 also brings new audit trail events to go along with persistent logging of export, import, and database housekeeping tasks. The user interface has also been spruced up and is more responsive, the company says.