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How about that? The iSeries has experienced 25% growth year over year! There are companies that would kill for such growth and products that will never see it, especially "dying legacy" platforms like the iSeries. From the IBM Web site: "Revenue growth from S&TG eServer products was driven by iSeries midrange servers, which increased 25 percent." My guess is that no other midrange server product did as well. Yes indeed, the reports of the iSeries' demise are premature.

A large part of the iSeries' current success is due to the basic strengths of the machine. CFOs are starting to wise up to the server farm racket. The low total cost of operation of the iSeries, which I've been preaching for so many years now, is finally becoming an issue as the initial entry costs for server farms have proven to be just that: entry points. And low entry points at that. Soon after the initial installation, servers suddenly begin sprouting up like mushrooms, along with staff to run them and the associated costs.

But there's more to it than that. Not only is the iSeries a great individual performer, it has a great supporting cast around it, and I'm going to point out a few of those cast members. The four I'm going to discuss in this article include Enterprise Generation Language (EGL) and its co-technology JavaServer Faces (JSF), the Easy Website Builder (formerly known as B.O.S.S.), and something called the "Try and Buy Program." Each of these provides a unique strength to the iSeries platform, and I'll tell you why. And while I won't have much room for each topic in this particular article, I'll address each in more detail in upcoming issues.

EGL and JSF

Anybody who has spent time on the iSeries probably knows Bob Cancilla. Back when he was in the "private sector," Cancilla ran one of the original sites dedicated to the IBM midrange. You know it's an original because the site is called IGNITe/400, which gives it an immediate credibility back to the days when an iSeries was called an AS/400. The site is still there, but it has sort of drifted a bit since Cancilla joined IBM a little while back.

But Cancilla is doing anything but drifting. He does a lot of work with the tool developers at IBM, and one of his current interests is the EGL tooling available in WDSC. I have mentioned in passing that I didn't find EGL to be particularly appealing, but that's with little time spent on it other than reviewing the syntax and a couple of simple tutorials. Since talking with Cancilla, I've become convinced that EGL deserves a second look. According to Cancilla, EGL manages to do two things in particular that are becoming crucial to developers: It hides the complexity of middleware, and it makes creating the user interface easy.

Now remember that this is just an introductory article, so I can't go into great detail about some of these capabilities, but I am intrigued by the possibilities. This tool not only allows you to abstract your programming up a level, but also allows you to quickly put together applications without worrying about the complexities of the various middleware components that are required for today's multi-platform, multi-language architectures.

As Cancilla explained it to me, there are hooks for XML, MQ-Series, and Web services, all pretty much built into the infrastructure of the language. I'm understandably skeptical about the ease of using these hooks, and that will be a major focus of mine when I really take EGL out for a test drive. But one very important point that can't be overlooked is that you have EGL available to you today. If you have even one compiler on your iSeries, you have 5722WDS, the WebSphere Development Studio (WDS). One part of WDS is WDSC, the PC-based client portion, and EGL is a standard component of WDSC. (Some of the more esoteric features, such as creating green-screen displays, are available only in the advanced edition, but that's a subject for a different day.)

So you can start playing with EGL today. The documentation isn't perhaps the most friendly in the world, though what I've looked at seems fine as long as you don't mind the fact that it was written for zSeries users. Given the platform-independent nature of the tool, that really shouldn't be an issue. To get to the documentation, head over to developerWorks. Under the Rational brand, you'll find the EGL resources. Look at the documentation for your version of WDSC (and if you haven't upgraded to WDSC Version 6, please do so as soon as you can; it's really a good idea).

What About JSF, Joe?

Yeah, I did say I would talk about JSF, didn't I? Well, the truth of the matter is that I find JSF all but useless for development. That's primarily because it is so complex that you need a code generator just to write relatively simple code. I hate that idea, especially since other than the compiler teams, nobody can write a code generator that writes code as well as I want it written. Application code generators in particular have to be so generic that they rarely write code efficient enough for anybody. But it looks like there might be enough of an affinity between the code definition aspects of EGL and the code generation aspects that relatively efficient JSF code is created.

Cancilla told me there are already some pretty cool wizards available, including one that makes it easy to knock together an entire DFU application with just a few clicks. I'll be interested to see that. It will be a good test of just how efficient the EGL-generated code is going to be.

B.O.S.S. (aka IBM Easy Website Builder)

As we ended the discussion, I mentioned to Cancilla that I was also planning on talking to Kelly Schmotzer, the driving force behind the IBM Easy Website Builder. As it turns out, Easy Website Builder is also one of Cancilla's babies; I think his relationship with the tool even predates his IBM employment. In any case, he was quite passionate about what this new tool brought to the table in terms of allowing non-technical people to put together dynamic Web sites.

So I got on the phone with Schmotzer, and I got an earful of what this great new product is. Understand that I'm a techie, and I have a natural aversion to non-techies creating lots of tools. For example, take those massively complicated Excel spreadsheets some companies have, with dozens of macros and graphs and whatnot; they become critical, the gal who created them leaves the company, and eventually IT gets stuck with them. So I wasn't exactly in the most receptive frame of mind. Well, let me tell you: I thought Cancilla was passionate, but Schmotzer makes Cancilla look like Keanu Reeves. Schmotzer truly believes in this product as a crucial part of the new generation of IT infrastructures.

Let me tell you a little about it: The tool was the result of brainstorming and polling the iSeries user community a couple of years ago. Over 300 customers were asked what they thought of WebSphere, and the overwhelming response was that they needed more applications to see how to use the thing. And between you and me, that's always been a problem with IBM; the company delivers great technology that nobody knows how to use. Even when IBM does provide great examples and tutorials, it's as if they're bashful about telling anyone. For example, two applications currently ship with WebSphere: the telephone directory application and a survey builder. I knew about the directory, but I didn't even know the survey builder existed. These are great applications that you can play with to learn more about using WebSphere and building your own applications.

But those applications require too much technical skill for the typical non-IT worker to be able to use. So Schmotzer got in front of a large user group for a school district and asked them what kind of tool they wanted. One guy told her he wanted to be able to quickly put together a Web site (Schmotzer writes down "Site"), and he wants the site to show people what they do in their job ("Show") and then let them calculate a simple order, such as how much the lunch program costs for three kids (Schmotzer writes down "Order"). And optionally, he says, he wants to let them pay for it right there with a credit card ("Buy"). So now Schmotzer has her marching orders: S.S.O.B. And since those particular initials are likely to cause more grief than anything, she switches them around, and B.O.S.S. is born.

The goal is a tool that a non-IT person can use to put together a simple Web site and then pull data from a database and put data back into it. The tool must allow enough basic calculations and verification of data to support the entry of a simple order (e.g., pricing and availability) and then eventually allow connection to Web services to perform business functions such as credit card payments.

Current Status

Well, now the tool is in alpha stage at (appropriately enough) Alphaworks. It had to get an "official" IBM name, so it's now known as the IBM Easy Website Builder. It's at Version 1.5, I think, and it's well along the road I outlined above. Today, it only allows you to display static pages and then create forms to push data into a database. As I understand it, other options may become available as the project gets more support. As Schmotzer explained it to me, the ability to get data out of a database is not currently part of the tool, so I have some question as to its real-world usefulness, but I may also have misunderstood that part of it. In any case, like the EGL product. I hope to give Easy Website Builder a more thorough test drive in coming months so I can update you on it.

In the meantime, you can go to Alphaworks and download it. The file is large, about 164 MB, but that's actually smaller than most major game demos these days! And just as importantly, it's designed to run on a relatively modest PC. So go download it yourself and let me know what you think. More importantly, let IBM and especially Kelly Schmotzer know what you think; your support will likely determine the long-range success or failure of the tool! A simple review page on the Alphaworks site allows you to record your impressions of the product, and a forum enables you to discuss it with the developers and with other users.

The "Try and Buy Program"

This little-known program is not a tool, not a language, not a technology. It's a program designed to help ISVs, primarily tool vendors, market their products. The current program has been around for a little while, and it centers on a set of CDs that are delivered with every new V5R3 purchase or upgrade. Qualified applicants pay to have IBM create a special installation program, and then their tool is distributed on those CDs.

While a good idea in theory, this program suffers from some practical problems. For example, as you cut the disks, you're freezing the code, so no new features will be on the distributed media. It's not inexpensive, and frankly not that many people know about it, so it's up to you to market it. A new program is in the works that will allow a broader base of participation. The "Tool Innovation eCatalog" (you heard it here first!) will be an interactive tool shipped with the iSeries Welcome package--and distributed at user groups, COMMON, you name it. It will be sort of a clickable version of the IBM Developer Roadmap.

The Roadmap, incidentally, has undergone a renovation. While it still has its five pillars of Improve Productivity, Enhance the End User Experience, and so on, each of those pillars now has a number of subcategories (see Figure 1).

http://www.mcpressonline.com/articles/images/2002/051020%20-%20Technology%20PotpourriV4--10310400.png

Figure 1: This is the new Developer Roadmap with its subcategories. (Click image to enlarge.)

In this new eCatalog, iSeries customers will be able to click on one of the subcategories to get a list of vendors with the appropriate tools. As the eCatalog evolves, more capabilities will be added, such as the ability to see all the products for a vendor or maybe more-advanced search capabilities. As customers review the various products, links will be available to take the customer to the vendor's Web site, where the vendor can provide information, including the latest and greatest downloadable demonstration version of the software.

You'll have to be a member of the Tools Initiative, which means your software will have to be ServerProven, but that's to be expected. Other than that simple criterion, though, the eCatalog will be available to all tool vendors.

The eCatalog will also contain whitepapers and the like, which are further marketing vehicles for the vendors. This is the sort of program that can make iSeries ISVs more profitable and can perhaps make the platform more attractive to new vendors. Whereas I think IBM spent 2005 rebuilding relationships with the iSeries ISVs, I think 2006 is going to be the year that IBM uses its considerable marketing abilities to get the word out to the public, and the eCatalog is one way of doing that.

Man, I told you the iSeries was the place to be!

A Last Note

I had planned on talking about the Domino products, but unfortunately, some hang-ups forced me to delay my order of the xSeries box required to run it. That box is currently on its way, and you'll be hearing a lot more about not only Domino, but also many products from the Dark Side as I compare the ISV programs of Microsoft and IBM.

The Ongoing Saga of Hardware Procurement

There are people in IBM who are simply wonderful. They manage to get the earth to move. They make calls and things get done. They know who they are, and they need no further words from me. But at the other end are a number of people who actually do the work, and they deserve some mention. To that end, I'd like to send kudos out to David Pirnik, Grady Baggett, and Lynette Huff from the iSeries side, and Bill Tirpkos from the xSeries program. At this writing, the new iSeries is humming along, and the xSeries is on its way. Prepare to hear lots more about those particular boxes in the coming months.

Joe Pluta is the founder and chief architect of Pluta Brothers Design, Inc. He has been working in the field since the late 1970s and has made a career of extending the IBM midrange, starting back in the days of the IBM System/3. Joe has used WebSphere extensively, especially as the base for PSC/400, the only product that can move your legacy systems to the Web using simple green-screen commands. Joe is also the author of E-Deployment: The Fastest Path to the Web, Eclipse: Step by Step, and WDSC: Step by Step. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Joe Pluta

Joe Pluta is the founder and chief architect of Pluta Brothers Design, Inc. He has been extending the IBM midrange since the days of the IBM System/3. Joe uses WebSphere extensively, especially as the base for PSC/400, the only product that can move your legacy systems to the Web using simple green-screen commands. He has written several books, including Developing Web 2.0 Applications with EGL for IBM i, E-Deployment: The Fastest Path to the Web, Eclipse: Step by Step, and WDSC: Step by Step. Joe performs onsite mentoring and speaks at user groups around the country. You can reach him at joepluta@plutabrothers.com.


MC Press books written by Joe Pluta available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Developing Web 2.0 Applications with EGL for IBM i Developing Web 2.0 Applications with EGL for IBM i
Joe Pluta introduces you to EGL Rich UI and IBM’s Rational Developer for the IBM i platform.
List Price $39.95

Now On Sale

WDSC: Step by Step WDSC: Step by Step
Discover incredibly powerful WDSC with this easy-to-understand yet thorough introduction.
List Price $74.95

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Eclipse: Step by Step Eclipse: Step by Step
Quickly get up to speed and productivity using Eclipse.
List Price $59.00

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    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.

     

  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.