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Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

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  • #31
    Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

    What levels of integration with current systems? High - otherwise we'll end up duplicating our complex RPG business logic (Order Entry & Inventory) into the front-end web site. Would any of the many 'catalog/shopping cart' merchant sites that you can outsource to fit the bill, or is your order entry system highly unique? I'd recommend against being too unique, because 99.9%+ of the sites that a surfer visits are NOT your site. Therefore, it doesn't make a lot of sense to try to get them to do something unique for your site... Do a search on your favorite site for "+web +shopping +cart". See if you can find a reputable one that offers what you need. See if it allows you to customize the look and feel, if it's secure, if it offers features you want, and how easily it can integrate with your existing systems. Given your budgets and staffing, you may want to concentrate on integration rather than roll-your-own. If those won't meet your requirements, the next level up might be to purchase and customize a package. Like I said, it depends upon your requirements, but if possible, you should leverage work that's already done to make it easier. Regards, Brian Singleton Midrange Computing

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    • #32
      Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

      Thanks, Terry. I'll check it out... Ralph

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      • #33
        Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

        Fyi, here's an article we sent out in last week's MNE Alert email. At this late date, we're not sure if the beta program is still going or not. Joe Hertvik Editor-Midrange Network Expert Alert (free sub at http://www.midrangecomputing.com/mne...subscribe.cfm) mailto:jhertvik@midrangecomputing.com ************************ 1. Uncovering IBM's quiet 5250 WebFacing tool beta; it's all about the JavaBeans, isn't it? Plus, how you can join the program by Joe Hertvik In our March 8, 2001 issue, I discussed some information I found on a Client Access Web site about IBM's new WebFacing Tool. The WebFacing Tool is a new capability coming to OS/400 that allows you to convert a 5250 host application screen into a Web GUI application with only a few minor changes (at least, that's what IBM says). At that time, I hadn't found too much else about the tool, but-in perusing the IBM Redpapers Web site this week (http://publib-b.boulder.ibm.com/Redbooks.nsf/Redpapers/ )-I discovered one site with a lot of information about the new tool. Through this site, I discovered the WebFacing Tool is currently in a closed beta and that IBM is soliciting people to join the program. Here's what I found out about the WebFacing Tool and how you can join the beta program, if you qualify. The Redpaper in question is called "IBM WebSphere Development Tools for AS/400: An Introduction (REDP0503)" and Chapter 4 in that Redpaper, "Leverage and Extend 5250 Applications to the Web" is exclusively devoted to the new WebFacing Tool. According to this Redpaper, the WebFacing Tool does the following: "It provides a simple mechanism for facing existing 5250 applications with HTML user-interfaces. This allows users to interact with the same application from a Web browser. The WebFacing Tool consists of two parts: - A Display File (DSPF) to JavaServer Pages (JSP) conversion tool - A runtime intercept to enable the iSeries application to be run as a Web-enabled application or as a 5250 display device application The WebFacing Tool allows users to convert their existing 5250 display file source (DDS) to corresponding JSP and associated JavaBeans. The user interface is converted to JSPs only once (at development time). The WebFacing Tool is not a 5250 emulation or screen-scraper product. This approach provides significant performance improvements over the 'screen-scraping' approach that attempts to convert a 5250 data stream to HTML on the fly." The Redpaper then goes on to say that JavaBeans are used to communicate between the JSPs and the original green-screen application, and the JSPs and the JavaBeans are both deployed to a WebSphere Application Server running on your iSeries. At runtime, then, the application can be invoked from either a browser or a 5250 device, and the iSeries server knows whether to exchange program data with a Web browser or with the 5250 display device. So, what we have is a development environment (for converting DDS to JSPs and JavaBeans) as well as a runtime environment that delivers data in the appropriate format for the user (Web or 5250). This involves a runtime switching function that translates I/O from 5250 to Web publishing, when necessary. The Redpaper also provides an abbreviated WebFacing sample that shows you how the product will work. In addition, IBM has introduced a WebFacing Tool Early Adopter program for selected application solutions providers. This program is basically a closed beta. IBM is working with the solution providers to work out the DDS keyword support required to make WebFacing happen and, in turn, the solution providers are creating Web-enabled applications for the iSeries-AS/400 (that IBM can use as advertising; more on this in a few paragraphs). In addition, there is an application form on the WebSphere Development Tools Web site at http://www-4.ibm.com/software/ad/wdt400/news.html so that other solution providers can apply to participate in the Early Adopter Program. There is a catch, however, to joining the program. To participate in the beta, you need to fulfill the following three requirements: - You must file a customer success story with IBM about how you used the WebFacing Tool to help your business - You must agree to be a reference account so IBM can tell people about your experiences using the WebFacing Tool - You must participate in a joint IBM/solution provider press release If you don't agree to these three items, you can't participate in the beta. However, it might be a small price to pay for getting in on the ground floor of a new OS/400 technology that is just now starting to become visible. The final point about the WebFacing Tool is that-according to the Redpaper-it **will** be part of WebSphere Development Tools for AS/400, which is currently priced at $300 a seat. You also need to be running the WebSphere Application Server for iSeries 400 V3.5 or above to use the tool. And, as I speculated in the March 8, 2001 version of this newsletter, IBM is stating in its Redpaper that: "This tool is designed to take existing iSeries programs and convert them to run on the Web. This is in contrast to WebSphere Studio for AS/400 that is designed to enable new applications on the Web." Given this, it's possible that IBM will position the WebFacing Tool as an interim measure. Something to port your existing applications over to the Web until you can get to their preferred Web development tools, Java-based applications running on the WebSphere Application Server. IBM has a big stake in Java and its WebSphere-oriented solutions and it may not want to make you too comfortable continuing to program in RPG or any of the other old-line OS/400 native programming languages for the Web. So one might expect that IBM will pitch WebFacing as an interim measure--the same way e-RPG (RPG CGI)is sometimes pitched as an interim measure--and then encourage you to move to Java-based development for new apps. However, if WebFacing works well, many existing shops may not move too quickly to Java if they find out they can take existing (and new) RPG code and easily move it to the Web. This will be an interesting scenario to watch play out. The key here is going to be performance and ease of use. If the WebFacing tool is a dog, is difficult to use, or has limited functionality, there won't be much of an issue. But if it has acceptable performance, good graphical capabilities for HTML screen creation, and application extension capabilities, there's going to be a lot of people who'll be tempted to program in RPG for the Web rather than move to the Web-enabling strategies IBM would like them to use. Stay tuned. This could get interesting. And by all means, get into the beta program, if you can. This new WebFacing Tool could shake things up.

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        • #34
          Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

          Brian - Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts! I will be reviewing them with the entire newly created Internet team where I work. Thanks again!

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          • #35
            Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

            I contacted IBM, the closed beta is closed, they are accepting no more participants, however, they will still accept the DDS survey results....

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            • #36
              Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

              From the redpaper mentioned yesterday by Terry and Joe, an answer to one of your questions as pertains to Webfacing: "There are cases where the application logic requires that one of several different pages be used for output. This changes the normal flow of input and output pages as defined by WebSphere Studio. These exceptions can be handled by a feature called flow control, which can be accessed by the Web Interaction Wizard. While this gives the developer some control over the application, you should remember that this is a browser-based application rather than a 5250 application. It provides different functions than a 5250 application, which has the ability to output multiple formats to one screen." In other words, good luck... Ralph

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              • #37
                Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

                well, we're going downhill. The screen shot in the redpaper only has one field instead of two. my hat's off to the webheads for not making things too complicated for me.... Ralph

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                • #38
                  Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

                  In other words, good luck...

                  Yea, Ralph. The Redpaper is carefully worded to minimize the incongruities between 5250 and browser interfaces. The reality seems to be that multiple record formats in screen files is something that has a bite. The browser model doesn't precisely fit. It apparently requires another contrived workaround.

                  Thanks to those who posted links to the Redpapers.

                  Nathan.

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                  • #39
                    Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

                    With all that has bewen said in this thread, it should be kept in mind that this is still alpha. Beta testing is only now beginning. By the time the product is released, , , , , if it is released, , we may see a polished product. After all this is not MS, where the public are the beta testers. OTOH................... Dave

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                    • #40
                      Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

                      OTOH, M$ expands their testing programs as time goes on, not shuts them down. To shut testing down indicates the testing is not going well, doesn't it? Oh. No more testing needed because it's ready for GA. Right.... Consider this. IBM says they introduced a program to make more AS/400 legacy software available via a browser (no matter how worded, this is what it means). They said that a beta program of converting AS/400 software with the Webfacing product would take place with selected participants. Let's say all went well and we have a number of participants who now have web enabled versions of their AS/400 software to demonstrate. The reaction? Not one screen shot, not one PR release, and instead shut down the beta conversion program instead of rolling out into an expansion program of converting AS/400 software for our brave new world. A very strange way to react to a successful beta rollout... but then I have a lot to learn from IBM marketing I guess. I will no longer pay M$ to test their software, and I know that IBM is wrong in their assertion that business processing of the future will take place in web pages. On the other hand, BSD announced today that it is now a GNOME XWindows system, the same as every other Unix and Linux OS out there (except maybe AIX). Funny, even as M$ is totally committed to the web via .NET, you don't hear them talking about trying to cram everything into a web page. Instead they talk about P to P software, which has nothing to do with a browser. Why out of all computer companies did we have to end up with a company that pinned their future on web server software? I wouldn't care except for the simple fact that we're stuck between a green screen and a web page, and the rest of the world isn't... Ralph

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                      • #41
                        Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

                        Beta testing is only now beginning. By the time the product is released, , , , , if it is released, , we may see a polished product.

                        You're probably right. But, to my knowledge, comparable products from Seagull and Jacada have been dealing with some of these fundamental issues for years. And they apparently still don't have an answer. They all seem to be a stop-gap, or interim solution at best.

                        My opinion is that Web browsers do offer a long-term solution to the user interface need. Not in their present state. They need to improve. The HTML specification needs to be extended. It needs to be more robust.

                        But I don't agree that IBM should create an AS/400 specific GUI of its own. With all the benefit from, and momentum behind standards, I don't think we'll have too long to wait for a richer user interface.

                        Nathan.

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                        • #42
                          Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

                          "...I don't think we'll have too long to wait for a richer user interface" But one that is 5250 aware to some degree, Nathan? No. Any of us could take off and start over with some kind of Windows GUI client architecture (you and I have both done that in the past), or look into an XWindows approach that is handled by both Windows and GNOME/KDE on Linux, or an AWT forms based architecture, or perhaps the IBM Sash desktop based product that is driven by web protocols but is integrated into the desktop, any of us could have done that all along, but none of us can pitch what we have and start over nor can we implement incremental replacements that aren't integrated with what remains. Porting to ASNA Visual RPG, Jacada's Java code conversions, IBM's VisualAge RPG that can generate Java, or something yet to be written that acts like Webfacing but generates more robust XWindows streams are all approaches that would work well, I think, but all produce large numbers of desktop programs to replace green screens. The approach I pushed last year was integrated into the desktop yet one canvas program, but since then Sash approaches that. I agree with you in general, Nathan, but specifically a 5250 aware interface that interacts with a new spreadsheet enabled subfile will never come from anybody but AS/400 advocates at IBM. Yes, it is yet another interface that may seem to be bucking the tide of standardization, in which the browser is the extreme implementation of, but I contend that the value add of an AS/400 interface is in fact not just another instance of a universal interface but a unique AS/400 powered business interface that marries the qualities of the proven 5250/3270 interface with Windows/Java Swing components. This is the opposite of the universal lowest common denominator browser interface and the only way that we will prevail. We are different, and we need to leverage our unique strengths with a unique interface. I believe all the visual interface cards are on the table, and only an Ace up an AS/400 s leeve will produce a winning hand. Regards, Ralph

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                          • #43
                            Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

                            I just received my 8x11 glossy brochure for this season's MC Connection Conference. Among the sessions offered, I noticed this one: Webfacing: Changing the face of the AS/400 The announced speaker will be either IBM's Phil Coulthard, or George Farr. Within the blurb, it states as follows: Starting with the next release of OS/400, if you have SEU, you have Webfacing. Hmmmmmmmmm. Dave

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                            • #44
                              Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

                              sort of reminds you of being a kid and waiting to open presents on Christmas day, eh? ah...the excitement is in the anticipation of what the future might hold...

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                              • #45
                                Is the new WebFacing tool the first step to Web enablement?

                                Shannon O'Donnell wrote: sort of reminds you of being a kid and waiting to open presents Opening the presents did not involve paying a lot extra for another present that was prerequisite to the present to be opened. i.e. If additional costly Websphere components are required, then I have to change my own presentation to management. If not, then my pitch would involve holding off on HOD. There are legitimate business issues here. At this point in time, it would appear that IBM is muddying the waters by releasing only limited information. And that information, so far, has tended to be confusing. Dave

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