Rest4i Eyes Digital Transformation Via API
March 21, 2018 Alex Woodie
A new company headed by IBM i software veterans is beginning to turn some heads with a new product aimed at helping IBM i shops with digital transformation strategies. Rest4i, as the outfit is called, says its LXR framework turns IBM i into a lean, mean REST API-serving machine.
Stuart Milligan, who headed the UK software firm Databorough before it was sold to Fresche Legacy (now Fresche Solutions) way back in 2013, says LXR (pronounced “Lexer”) is the result of four years of investment and development in a “pure IBM i REST API solution.”
Milligan describes LXR as “a pure RPG coding framework for simplifying REST API and REST consumer development.” The suite includes automation tools for productivity, security tools for authentication, API documentation, and industry-standard API cataloging.
The software “turns the IBM i into a complete REST API server and the RPG developers into the most modern workforce, who happen to use RPG,” Milligan tells IT Jungle.
“LXR is an RPGLE framework for REST API development and security that runs natively on IBM i,” he says in a video on the www.rest4i.com website. “It has automation to accelerate development and deployment of REST services. Because it’s RPGLE, it integrates with existing skills and development methodologies. As an IBM i native technology, it also harnesses the full capability of the platform.
“LXR handles all the complicated API logic, so it simplifies the development of even the most complex and sophisticated REST APIs,” he continues. “Native means that IBM i jobs and process controls can be used to truly scale — a common hindrance in common IBM i integration solutions.”
The LXR software is designed to make it easy to develop REST-based Web services on the platform that adhere to Swagger, which is an open source software framework that has become the defacto standard for how REST APIs are developed, consumed, and documented. The software will automatically document APIs developed with the LXR framework according to Swagger definitions.
In addition to code-generation capabilities, LXR has pre-built modules and templates to help users with the development of new APIs, including the modern REST variety and older SOAP methods. It also includes SAX (Simple API for XML) parsers implemented in RPG, for both JSON and XML.
The software’s LXR iSign component includes native IBM i support for JSON Web Tokens (JWT) and OAuth 2.0 interfaces to ensure that authentication is handled seamlessly across other systems. There’s also full CRUD (create, read, update, and delete) support for IFS data and objects.
The LXR iScan component utilizes IBM‘s QRadar and Guardium security and privacy tools to identify protected pieces of data, while its LXR Digital Security Patterns component provides a set of “pre-defined . . . . integration infrastructure patterns” for digital integration use cases, including support for Microsoft Active Directory, LDAP, Kerberos, SSL/TLS encryption, etc.
The software hooks into other third-party IBM i software vendor offerings, including TD/OMS, the application lifecycle management software developed by Remain Software. Remain has developed an Eclipse-based plug-in for LXR and has also integrated its workflow management product called Gravity, Remain is also working on a data governance solution that could integrate with LXR, Milligan says.
Milligan tells IT Jungle that the LXR software has been beta tested at several IBM i clients over the past 16 months. Beta testers include Mediscor, a South African pharmaceutical benefits management organization; JP Colonna, an insurance company based in France; and ABC, a roofing supply company based in Wisconsin, among other companies that didn’t want their names used (mostly banks).
LXR is by no means the first piece of software created to automate and streamline the development of Web services on the IBM i platform, Mulligan concedes. However, many of the other approaches lack something in the scalability department, he says.
“Why did I invest in something that you can already do with built in IBM i tools,” he asks. “The answer to that is a longer one that is covered in my research chronicle . . . . But here is the short answer:
“These solutions are either overly simplified and rigid design, or too granular, and you have to code everything,” he continues. “They expect too much from an RPG coder or they allow no fine-grained control by the RPG coder. It is so cool to market and do very basic stuff, but [not so cool] when it gets complex, and it always does, quickly. They are also missing critical parts for governance and security built in.”
It’s always good to see new companies taking a gamble on developing solutions for the IBM i platform. There hasn’t been a lot of that lately, so it’s refreshing to see some experienced IBM i hands making a go of it.