Visual LANSA Goes Low-Code With High Tech Update
August 15, 2018 Alex Woodie
As one of the original advocates of fourth-generation language (4GLs), LANSA knows a thing or two about the value of abstraction layers. While the hype around 4GLs has long since passed, LANSA continues to build on its foundation with new features aimed at keeping customers ahead of the technology curve. That work is on display with the recent update to its “low-code” environment, Visual LANSA version 14 SP2.
Visual LANSA is LANSA‘s flagship integrated development environment (IDE) for creating modern graphical applications. The IDE employs numerous techniques to minimize the amount of Rapid Development and Maintenance Language (RDML, its 4GL) code that must be written, including the use of a centralized repository for storing data definitions, validation rules, and logic; pre-built application frameworks; automatic generation of database constraints and triggers; and simplified deployment to IBM i, Windows, and cloud runtimes.
So-called “low code” environments — where applications are more-or-less configured from pre-built blocks rather than built from the ground up — are all the rage on the Web today, so it should come as no surprise that LANSA is touting its own low-code bona fides with Visual LANSA. To that end, the new release of Visual LANSA brings a variety of enhancements aimed at keeping customers applications modern and up-to-date and its developers red-lining on the productivity meter.
For starters, LANSA is leveraging Google‘s Material Design technology for user interface design. According to LANSA, Google spent $2 billion researching best practices for UI design and delivered guidelines that are consistent across all devices, in terms aesthetics, animation and motion.
“Visual LANSA includes a full set of Google Material Design controls, which means developers are able to create a stunning mobile and Web interfaces without having any front-end design skills,” said David Brault, LANSA’s product marketing manager said. What’s more, support for Google Material Design in the Visual LANSA Framework also lets customers deliver completely different user interfaces for desktop and mobile from the same set of source code, the spokesperson said.
Prototyping new applications within the Visual LANSA Framework also gets better with version 14 SP2. “The Visual LANSA prototype is a ‘living prototype,’ meaning not only is it a usable, working example that can be shared with others to garner feedback, but it will evolve into the finished application,” Brault told IT Jungle via email. “Rather than throw the prototype away, like what happens with traditional prototypes, developers replace the mocked-up parts of the prototype with real components. This gradual evolution supports a continuous end-user feedback loop, ensuring that what users want, and were promised, is what gets delivered.”
Moving a Visual LANSA application from a prototype to a working application to full production should also be easier thanks to integration with Git and GitHub version control. “Leveraging the new one-click deployment feature, developers don’t have to worry packaging up all the pieces of the application or know how to deploy to AWS or Azure,” Brault said. “Visual LANSA handles all of this for them.”
LANSA says it has re-engineered its collection of wizards and pre-built templates included in Visual LANSA to further speed up the development and deployment processes. The company says there are nearly a dozen sample applications, such as expense systems, a task tracker, and an accident assessment application, that they can use as the basis for their own applications.
RDML has also been spiffed up a bit to help things in the speed department. “We continue to make improvements to our unique language that enables developers to develop client-side apps, server-side and all the integration to wire them up from a single language, instead of five or 10,” Brault said. “Our customers suggest that they are anywhere five to 10 times more productive than developing with traditional languages like RPG, PHP, NET, etc.”
No application is an island unto itself these days, not even apps running on backoffice IBM i servers. To that end, LANSA has improved its application integration story with this release of Visual LANSA by improving its support for RESTful Web services as well as microservices.
The software already supported a REST API for consuming outside services, but now LANSA has made that interface easier to use. It also offers a REST Web service for publishing Visual LANSA content, and supports other integration technologies, including Swagger and Open API.
The idea is to ensure Visual LANSA applications are fully versed in modern B2B communication protocols and can fully participate with other applications in a services-oriented microservices architecture, Brault said.
“When you combine Visual LANSA’s business rules engine with our services-based architecture, LANSA customers can now quickly expose their business logic as RESTful services, often without writing a single line of code,” he said. “For example, companies can now open up pricing routines, stock availability, or order processing capabilities to its trading partners knowing that all of the same business rules and validation logic utilized by their core ERP system will be leveraged by their RESTful APIs as well.”
The Chicago, Illinois-based company has also released a new Visual LANSA Developer Center, located at http://developer.lansa.com, where they can access new tools, as well as examples, sample applications, and supporting documentation.
It’s all about keeping Visual LANSA customers on the technological cutting edge, says Steve Gapp, president of LANSA.
“LANSA focused on helping customers address the ‘difficult to do’ things,” Gapp said in a press release. “This release makes major improvements to each of the five key areas: development, integration, deployment, maintenance, and DevOps. We believe these changes will help organizations build the applications they need to transform their business, faster than ever before.”