PC Users Snag IBM i Data With iWebSrv
June 16, 2014 Dan Burger
Somewhere there’s an IBM midrange shop struggling with getting data to frustrated end users. That shop is not alone in its struggle. The end users are not the only frustrated ones. Data queries and the creation of useful reports should not be so painful, so IT labor intensive, so slow, and so expensive. It’s been a long-held belief that direct access to IBM i data from people outside the system is a horrible accident waiting to happen.
A couple of guys with a company called iWebSrv think there’s a solution to this problem.
“Getting IT people in midrange shops to hook laptops and PCs into their central computers is an effort,” Jim Wallace says pragmatically. “End users want to use the PC interface though, and we have a query and retrieval tool that is faster, more productive, and easier to use in PC-based environments than what these shops have been using. And it gives users the option to do this without the IT guys.”
When Wallace says “we,” he means himself and his partner, Matt Henderson. The two of them are the entire workforce at iWebSrv. Henderson is the founder, president, and chief architect of the software. Wallace is the vice president in charge of sales, marketing, and professional services.
The product, which Wallace describes as “at the proof of concept stage,” is designed for end users to get access to data in the DB2 for i database and easily sort it by placing the data into spreadsheets. Compared to working with DB2 data that’s in the green-screen fixed format of pre-defined columns, rows, and presentation, iWebSrv was designed to be much more convenient. “It’s a tool to get data out and then do with it what you need to do,” Wallace says.
Web services and service oriented architecture are the foundation for iWebSrv. IBM i APIs, wrappers, and service programs are used to retrieve Web requests and route them to the application.
AJAX allows Web pages to be updated asynchronously, which makes it is possible to update parts of a Web page without reloading the entire page. And JSON is used because it’s a lightweight text-data interchange format.
It’s available as a trial version and Wallace says product support is in place for those who download the trial copy and begin playing with iWebSrv.
“We need to sit down with some people considering it and map out a project that requires putting this on machines. And then talk with the users who will most benefit from this,” he says. “We just haven’t got that far yet.”
Wallace says he expects the product introduction to be a process that requires working with companies over an extended period to build trust and develop partnerships. We don’t expect this to be quickly accepted with a “load and go” attitude.
“Most IT departments are swamped,” he notes. “Users sometimes feel like they can’t get past the IT department with their requests. That’s an obstacle.”
Introducing new software that gains access to IBM i data is an obstacle, too. The red flags start waving almost immediately. Companies that have test environments separate from their production environments shouldn’t be worried. But for those who consider it risky, Wallace says there are plans to build a sandbox in the cloud where the product can be tested using dummy data. The iWebSrv website notes iDevCloud and iInTheCloud as hosting sites where product tests could be accomplished.
Pricing for iWebSrv is set at $7,500 on a per box (IBM i) basis. There is also a maintenance fee of $750 per year or 10 percent of the total license fee.