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In a recent article, I introduced the new Eclipse-based Rational tools and did the best I could to explain how they relate to the existing Eclipse-based WebSphere Studio tools. In essence, the primary connection is that they are Eclipse-based. That, and the fact that IBM renamed the WebSphere Studio tools to Rational are currently the only features the two have in common. And although I'm still hoping that the future will bring a better integration between the lines, I fear that the philosophies of the iSeries group and the rest of the tools teams might not be compatible. Rational's pricing model conflicts with that of the iSeries, and as far as I've been able to tell, the Rational team has no plans to include support for QSYS objects in any of its tooling.

This is perhaps the worst decision I have seen IBM make in several years. IBM has an opportunity to create a truly revolutionary development tool: a single IDE that could start with a UML design document and generate a complete application with any sort of architectural configuration you could ask for. The front-end could range from a JSP Model II front-end to a portal to a Domino-like rich client. Clients could be everything from dumb tubes to smart phones. The back-end could be anything from pure EJB to RPG business logic connecting to a DB2/400 database. You could run on a roomful of Windows machines, a cluster of Linux boxes, or a single iSeries.

This would be the killer development app that would blow .NET out of the water, but nobody at IBM seems to understand this. The standard edition of WDSc gains relatively little from Rational. The vast majority of WDSc functionality comes from WebSphere Studio Site Developer (WSSD) and Remote Systems Explorer (RSE); the parts of Rational that would actually complement iSeries development (UML, Crystal Reports) are available only in the incongruously expensive Advanced Edition of WDSC. And nobody at Rational seems to be willing to even acknowledge that the iSeries exists. But I digress, and to avoid the peril of falling off my soapbox, I'll get back to the topic at hand. Let me start, as I often do, with a little history.

A Brief History of IBM Tool Offerings

IBM has had quite a number of offerings in the tool space over the years. Just counting those designed to be used on and around the iSeries, you've got the green-screen tools such as SEU and SDA (and all their predecessors), thick-client tools including CODE/400 and VisualAge for RPG, Java development tooling in VisualAge for Java, any number of PC-based integration tools (from PC support through Client Access), and even prettification utilities such as HATS and HOD.

A parallel development line includes the Lotus offerings. Since buying out Lotus in 1994, IBM has been working to integrate the product line into the rest of the IBM vision. This integration has resulted in the IBM Workplace tool suite, including the Managed Client, Collaboration Services, and Services Express offerings. I haven't yet been able to set up a test environment for the new offerings, so I can't tell you much about them, but I do have a little bit of information. First, from the end-user side, the tools are designed to provide a rich-client interface that Lotus users will find very familiar: disconnected services, document management, all that good stuff. Workplace Managed Client is the Workplace version of Lotus Notes. Second, there will be new tools for developing applications in this environment, including the new Workplace Designer. From what I've been able to find out, though, Workplace Designer is very much a Lotus Domino Designer work-alike, but without the @functions. Since this is yet another development tool, I'll do what I can to bring you more information about it in the coming months.

Finally, there came the plethora of Eclipse-based offerings, which a long time ago were named "WebSphere Studio" something or other, such as WebSphere Studio Site Developer and WebSphere Studio Application Developer. The pinnacle of those offerings, at least from an iSeries-centric standpoint, is WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries, whose acronym has gradually settled down from WDSci to WDSc to WDSC (there is a special place in Hell for people who insist on toying with capitalization, and my guess is it will be almost entirely populated by IBM marketing people).
The most recent move was to combine the Rational development products with the WebSphere Studio line. This involved some rebranding: WebSphere Studio Site Developer (WSSD) became Rational Web Developer (RWD) and WebSphere Studio Application Developer (WSAD) became Rational Application Developer (RAD). Interestingly enough, add iSeries features such as Remote Systems Explorer and that nullifies the rebranding; you're back to WDSc (WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries) and WDSC/AE (WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries, Advanced Edition). However, as I've noted already, the level of co-development of these tools is minimal at best; IBM seems intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of what could be one of the biggest victories in computer tools history.

Darn it. There's that soapbox again. Enough history.

So What Does Rational Bring to the Table?

So while I could be writing about extraordinary, exciting things like UML-driven generation of RPG stored procedures and Web service programs (that's my term for a Web service that is provided by an ILE service program), instead what we have here is largely the same stuff in a newer package.

That's not to say it's not good stuff! As we've come to expect, George Farr and his team have done some incredible things with the new version of WDSC. In this article, I'll go over what Rational brings to the table at a high level, which is primarily nontechnical in nature. Don't get me wrong; there are very nice enhancements in the new release, and I'll go into specific technical detail about the various WDSCenhancements--focusing on the iSeries pieces--in my next "Weaving WebSphere" column. It's just that I'm a little bit disappointed that this is an evolutionary release when it could have been a revolutionary release.

OK, on to the actual product. Relatively few brand new features spring from the Rational relationship. The Clear Case integration is one, I suppose, but the vast majority of new content in WDSC6 comes in the form of documentation. I'll address enhancements to the existing features in my next "Weaving WebSphere" column, and I'll devote this section to the new features.

You may have heard that WDSC6 has a brand new interface, but the interface changes have little to do with WDSCor Rational. As I described back in May, they come from Eclipse 3.0, which is actually pretty long in the tooth; it was released in June of 2004. Eclipse 3.1 was released at the end of June this year, and Version 3.2 is well on its way. So any "new" interface features of WDSC6 are over a year old, and you can actually find them in the Tips and Tricks section of the Help menu (I'll address this a little more near the end of the column).

Don't Brand Me, Sir. I'll Stay in the Corral!

The first thing you'll notice is that the package has the Rational brand all over it. Even though the tool is WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries, the name of the product as it presents itself is IBM Rational Software Development Platform. If you take the About IBM Rational Software Development Platform option of the Help menu, you will see eight features: four are Rational and one is Clear Case. One feature represents Eclipse itself, and one is for WebSphere Development Studio Client for the iSeries (with a strange logo that looks sort of like a small figure trying to escape from an enormous spider web). The old WDSc logo identifies a feature with a few miscellaneous functions like the JavaScript debugger. Even the splash screen says IBM Rational Software Development Platform. So there you have it: This is a Rational product.

I Never Needed Anybody's Help in Any Way

But now those days are gone, and I love as much help as possible. Context-sensitive help, code assist...you name it, I love it. And the WDSC 6 workbench provides that in spades.

The Overview section is a good place to start. First the fluff: There are a couple of movies that aren't exactly required viewing, but they don't take much of your time either; feel free to check them out. The interesting thing is that the movie for Rational Web Developer contains almost nothing new from the last release. With the exception of a brief mention of Clear Case, all of the features shown in the movie are from either Eclipse or WSSD.

But the written material is a lot better. For example, the overview contains a pointer to something called the Information Map, which is a concept I think every tool of this complexity should have. It's really an overview of everything in the package, and it assumes almost nothing. It lists the basic functions that a person might use this tool for (such as developing iSeries applications or Web applications) and then outlines exactly how to go about doing those tasks.

The fact that I didn't find much in the What's New section has more to do with my own personal biases than the section itself. It seemed to me that the vast majority of the What's New features had to do with J2EE development, with its unique world of roles and artifacts and development meta-data and the (to me) completely unappealing world of visual development of Web applications using Struts...oops, I mean JavaServer Faces... oops, I mean whatever the UI fad du jour is. One thing I did notice, though, was that the visual developer is supposed to allow the development of UIs where components are bound to simple JavaBeans. If this is a lightweight binding, I may be interested. Stay tuned....

The Tutorials section is where the new version shines. An entire gallery of tutorials has been included with the product, and they aren't all Java- or even Web-specific. There are some very iSeries-centric tutorials, including one on editing, compiling, and debugging an iSeries application. When I first looked at this particular tutorial, I immediately had mixed emotions. It has the exact same look and feel as my WDSC Step-by-Step book, with very detailed instructions and lots of screen prints. On a positive note, it vindicates the approach, but on the other hand, it makes it unlikely that I'll be doing a follow-up version of my book. I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with the fact that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The Samples section has more information in the form of sample programs that you can install and run. I think this is a superb trend that should be encouraged. In my experience, if you ask programmers how they learn best, the answer almost invariably involves looking at working versions of code. I can read all the theory I want and pore over reference manuals for days, but nothing teaches me like a sample program that I can tweak (and especially break!). Give me a working program, a reference manual, and a good debugger, and I'll learn more in a few hours than I would in days of reading the manual alone.

The First Steps is sort of a brief list of things to do. It complements the Information Map I mentioned earlier in that it is geared more toward migrating existing projects and Web sites than creating things from scratch. If it were IBM, I'd have tried to figure out some way to combine it with the pieces in the Information map.

The last piece is the Web Resources, and while I was at first going to give this page short shrift because of its preponderance of Rational links, upon further review I realized that it really does a good job of providing access to most of the major pieces of iSeries expertise out there. In fact, the only things missing are MC Press and www.midrange.com .

A Couple of Extra Goodies

One additional resource isn't immediately apparent from the Welcome page. This feature is an underlying addition to Eclipse and is sort of an uber-wizard, called a "cheat sheet." You access cheat sheets by taking the Cheat Sheets option from the Help menu.

A cheat sheet walks you through a series of steps for a given development task. Each step typically has its own wizard, but each wizard is a specific self-contained function. The cheat sheet provides the logical navigation through each of the functions required to actually complete a development task, such as editing and compiling an iSeries program. Unlike a tutorial, the cheat sheet is very interactive and integrated tightly into the workbench itself; as you proceed through each step, the appropriate wizard actually pops up as if you were doing the steps manually. It's a very powerful way to learn the individual steps and see how they are related. As I noted, one of the cheat sheets is on developing iSeries applications (I'm happy that a few of the cheat sheets did at least acknowledge the iSeries). The majority are not--tasks like creating Web services or plug-ins are hardly relevant to a typical iSeries application--but you'll appreciate them when it comes time to use them.

Another goodie, but one that unfortunately seems to have been completely missed by the iSeries folks, is a little section called Tips and Tricks. This section provides detailed information on the enhancements to Eclipse between Versions 2.1 and 3.0, broken down into the functional areas of the platform itself (the workbench), the Java development tooling (the JDT) and the plug-in development tooling (the PDT). I wish there were a similar sort of thing for the enhancements to the LPEX editors, for example, or the WebSphere Test Environment. Then again, if there were such a thing, you might not read my next "Weaving WebSphere" column, which will cover just those things.

Let's Hope More Is Coming

At the risk of being called a troublemaker (who, me?), I'm going to note one last time in this article that IBM has an opportunity to completely slay the competition. If IBM combined all the pieces of its development strategy and created a coherent development environment that could generate code for every architecture (and by that I mean being able to drop the "UI framework of the day" addiction or to use native DB2/400 database I/O when appropriate rather than EJBs), then IBM would conquer the development world. Such an environment would have a place for both legacy programs and legacy programmers and would provide a vehicle for people to actually take advantage of the vaunted Roadmap.

I even have a name for such a thing: It's a multi-architecture development environment, or MADE. IBM builds one of those, and we'll all have it MADE in the shade .

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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  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • 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.

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave 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.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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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.