With all the recent clamor and fuss about Microsoft's Midrange Alliance iSeries Roadmap, one would think that IBM just pulled the plug on the iSeries and i5/OS operating system.
In fact, just the opposite seems to be happening, as IBM continues to expand the ranks of tool vendors within its iSeries Developer Roadmap. One of the most important new additions--and one that we at MC Press have long been waiting for--is the addition of the BCD WebSmart development platform as a sanctioned member of the iSeries Developer Roadmap.
IBM Approves WebSmart
On January 17, 2005, BCD announced that its WebSmart platform has finally been approved by IBM for inclusion into the iSeries Developer Roadmap in the categories of Better Tools and Better Portability. IBM finally "gets" WebSmart, and it was about time, too!
For quite some time, BCD has been successfully marketing its tools to nearly 1,000 iSeries installations. BCD offers a powerful application generation tool that lets developers quickly create new Web apps while enabling them to extend existing RPG apps to the Web. It's a good alternative for iSeries shops that need to get their applications onto the Web but don't have the time or the bandwidth to embrace IBM's larger WebSphere strategy. (It's also considerably less confusing than trying to port RPG applications to Microsoft's .NET environment.)
Can't Get No Respect
However, because BCD's WebSmart was not a part of IBM's WebSphere strategy, it often did not get the attention that it deserved in the past. The reasons for this historic slight were multifarious, and we must acknowledge that there are always problems for a third-party solution when IBM is beating loudly on one of its strategic marketing drums. Nonetheless, the inclusion of WebSmart into IBM's iSeries Developer Roadmap is long overdue, and it will help clarify for customers the value that IBM itself now sees for this important suite of Web development tools.
What Customers Saw That IBM Couldn't See
Of course, the advantages to using WebSmart have been very easy for most iSeries shops to identify from the start, simply because WebSmart includes so many productivity features for rapidly developing iSeries Web applications.
For instance, with WebSmart you can create an application within just a few minutes by using the templates and wizards in the IDE--and all without having to know anything about HTML or CGI programming. WebSmart includes a powerful scripting language with a real-time code editor that speeds the process of developing Web applications. At the same time, its HTML editing tools seamlessly interface to professional editors such as Dreamweaver and FrontPage for WYSIWIG editing.
Finally, you don't need to learn Java or delve deeply into the well of WebSphere tools to become productive quickly. An RPG programmer or a Web programmer can hit the ground running and become productive with iSeries data very rapidly.
Web Development for the Rest of Us
In other words, WebSmart is the Web development environment for those of us who aren't planning a career path of studying IBM Web development strategies. It's a great suite of tools for organizations that plan to stay and grow with the iSeries i5 product line but do not plan to build large software development infrastructures to support e-biz.
A Different Yellow Brick Road
Now, compare this strategy--using an IBM iSeries-sanctioned Web development environment--to Microsoft's latest Midrange Alliance Program (MAP) for developing Web solutions. In one scenario, you follow a yellow brick road to IBM's continued vision of midrange application development, building new programs with the skills you have to meet your current and future business needs. In the other scenario, you're following the Microsoft yellow brick road to Windows 2003 Server.
Don't get me wrong: There are many good tool vendors participating in the MAP, including ASNA and LANSA--vendors that have appropriately serviced the iSeries community for years. Some, like LANSA, are also included in IBM's iSeries Developer Roadmap.
However, unlike IBM's Roadmap, one of the purposes of Microsoft's MAP is to help dissatisfied iSeries customers move off the iSeries platform and onto Windows 2003 Server. It's a yellow brick road that leads to a completely different sort of wizard at the end.
The IBM Roadmap
If that's the direction that the management of your company wants to go, OK! But that direction is significantly different--with different learning requirements--than IBM's iSeries Developer Roadmap. With IBM's Roadmap, the basic premise is that your management wants to stay with the iSeries/i5.
So that's what makes the inclusion of BCD's WebSmart so important to IBM's Roadmap. It provides a way for customers to obtain the Web productivity that they require without forcing them to move to either Microsoft's .NET strategy or IBM's WebSphere strategy.
If your company is looking at Web development tools but wants to keep on the iSeries--without being forced down a long WebSphere development pathway--it's time to look at WebSmart. IBM finally got it! Maybe you should, too!
Thomas M. Stockwell is Editor in Chief of MC Press Online, LP.