CNX Looks Beyond RPG with Web Framework
September 23, 2015 Alex Woodie
CNX Corp. is putting the finishing touches on a new release of its Valence Web application development framework for IBM i. Among the compelling new features in version 4.2 is support for PHP, which will help its developers keep up with the rapidly changing times.
Up to this point, Valence has relied on RPG to power the back-end business logic behind the Web applications. After all, CNX was born out of the AS/400 community and the PRMS community (now owned by Infor), and so RPG was in its blood.
That is changing now with Valence 4.2, which is slated to ship next month. For the first time, the company has gone outside the well-worn RPG path and is allowing users to code business logic in Valence using PHP.
“Of all the feature requests we receive at CNX for the Valence Framework, support for additional back-end language options (beyond RPG) ranks among the top,” the company writes in a blog post last week. “So we’re happy to announce that effective with this 4.2 release Valence will begin supporting alternative server-side languages to work with the framework, with PHP being the first in what we expect to be a number of different language technologies.”
CNX will ship a number of PHP-based demonstration apps with the updated framework, which will help developers learn how to create PHP programs that serve data to Web pages and mobile apps. The company also adds that PHP programs running within the Valence Portal will leverage “special Valence procedures that make database connectivity much more intuitive for developers coming from the RPG world.”
JSON Web Services
Now, with version 4.2, CNX is extending its support for the JSON language into the realm of Web services. The new release will allow IBM i shops to expose server-side programs they’ve already developed using JSON, which has become the new lingua franca of the Web.
According to CNX, developers will be able to “create custom URLs for outside systems to call your Valence programs for information.” This will enable existing back-end RPG programs in Valence to serve a dual purpose, the company says, including “serving both your internal users as well as external Web services, with minimal coding changes. This makes it easy for an outside system to interact with your IBM i to, say, obtain status on a customer order or stock status on a particular inventory item,” the company says.
The new release will also feature a new way to present 5250 screens within a Valence program using technology from a third party.
While Valence has mostly been used for new Web development, CNX recently has been getting into the modernization business. For example, in Valence 4.0, CNX added the capability to use IBM’s Web-based 5250 emulator, called IBM i Access for Web, to display green-screen programs in the Valence portal.
However, Web-based 5250 emulators are not perfect, so CNX sought a better way. “In discussions with Valence customers–both current and prospective–it has become clear that a better tool was needed to facilitate companies supporting a sizable portfolio of green-screen programs who need an elegant way to simultaneously support new Valence apps alongside their legacy 5250 programs, at least until those programs can be redesigned to be true Web applications,” the company writes.
CNX thinks it has found the right solution with PKS Software GmbH, the German developer of the eXcite suite of IBM i modernization tools. CNX will include integration with PKS’ eXcite suite in Valence as a way of retrofitting customers’ green-screen programs to work as apps within the Valence Portal.
CNX says the integration with eXcite will provide developers a “convenient stepping-stone” for quickly retrofitting large collections of 5250 programs to work in the browser and within the Valence Portal. “The resulting apps can be easily adjusted to look and behave more like conventional Web apps and less like the original green screen,” CNX says.
CNX plans to show off Valence 4.2 at the upcoming COMMON Fall Conference and Expo, which is being held the first week in October in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The company will also show off the new software at the RPG/DB2 Fall Summit, which is taking place in Chicago between October 20 and 22.
Editor’s Note: This article was corrected. CNX is not distributing PKS’ eXcite suite as part of Valence, as the article originally stated. IT Jungle regrets the error.