Weaving WebSphere: Shedding Light on Eclipse

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"And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes,
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon."
--Pink Floyd

Uh-oh. I seem to have fallen into quoting popular music. Or at least the music that was popular when I was but a young sprat, developing my first 8085 assembly language programs.

However, the quote is pretty relevant to the subject at hand, IBM's Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE). Developing iSeries applications has become more and more an issue of integrating many different languages into a cohesive whole. With Eclipse, IBM hopes to create a single, comprehensive development platform that will allow developers to create multiple-language applications without leaving the IDE. Many of the next-generation iSeries (and non-iSeries) development tools from IBM will be based on this new technology. In this column, I will introduce Eclipse and what it means to us as developers, and then I'll give you a little glimpse of the future of iSeries development.
  1. What is Eclipse?
  2. What is Eclipse good for?
  3. What happened to VisualAge for Java?
  4. What's the relationship between Eclipse and WebSphere?

What Is Eclipse?

There are two aspects of the Eclipse IDE: technical and, shall we say, political. The technical aspect has to do with the architecture and capabilities of Eclipse as a tool, while the political aspect is more about IBM and its relationships with its own users, its competitors, and the open-source community.

Technically Speaking

In the words of the Eclipse developers themselves, Eclipse is an IDE for anything and for nothing in particular. That is, the Eclipse IDE by itself actually has no support for any language. Instead, it's a framework designed to allow the addition of tools for any language. Think of WRKxxxPDM, but without any of the options enabled. Everything comes up in SEU text mode (or perhaps, more appropriately, in EDTF) because the tool has no innate knowledge of any source types. Nothing can be compiled, saved, moved, or anything, because everything is treated completely generically. This is what the base Eclipse IDE is like. Figure 1 shows the Eclipse workbench as it looks without any plug-ins at all. Basically, it allows you to create projects, inside of which are folders, inside of which are generic files. The only thing the workbench can do is open the default system editor for whichever file types you choose to include in your project. You can also assign tasks, and that's pretty much it.

Figure 1: This is the basic Eclipse workbench, as described in the Eclipse manual.

So what's the point of having what is in essence a big, fat replacement for Windows Explorer? The idea is that developers will add their own options, sort of like the user-defined options in the WRKxxxPDM commands. In Eclipse terminology, these options are called "plug-ins," and there are already quite a few. In fact, I'll review one in particular, the Java Development Tooling (JDT), which comes as part of the base Eclipse package. Actually, it comes as part of the Eclipse SDK, or Software Development Kit, which is the piece that tool designers use to create new plug-ins for Eclipse. The JDT is sort of the reference implementation for Eclipse plug-ins. I'll discuss the JDT in more detail a little later in the column.

Politically Incorrect

There's another side to Eclipse--dare I say it?--a dark side. This dark side is rarely mentioned by the IBM troops but is consistently held up by foes (particularly the fine folks at Sun, as in one issue of their lighthearted, silly, occasionally on-point Webzine, The fact is that Eclipse has some disturbingly non-open implications. The very tool itself is built on IBM's proprietary widget technology, known as SWT, the Standard Widget Toolkit. Because of this, Eclipse, though ostensibly an open technology, will run only on those platforms for which IBM has written a version of the SWT. Today, that's only Windows and Linux, so you can understand that the Sun folks are a bit miffed (not to mention the poor Apple folks, who get ignored by nearly everyone while consistently putting out wonderful software and hardware products).

IBM insists that SWT and its companion technology, JFace, are simply addressing a long-standing problem with Java's Swing technology. Swing has long been considered slow and sometimes not pretty. Because the entire UI is emulated, Swing applications simply don't "feel" like native applications, especially in Windows environments. While space prevents me from going into much detail on the Great Java UI Debate, SWT looks more like a native application, but only because IBM wrote a proprietary layer between the Java application and the operating system. You'll need one of these for each operating system you want to support, and only IBM knows what's in that package, so only IBM can decide which platforms will be supported.

Therefore, since Eclipse requires SWT, it is, at least in part, a completely proprietary IBM tool and will only be able to move to other platforms at IBM's sole discretion. Is this a bad thing? Well, it is if you're developing Eclipse plug-ins and you want to target platforms other than those IBM supports. It's also a bad thing if you want to use Eclipse on anything other than the IBM-supported platforms. Is reliance on IBM worth the added speed and ease-of-use of Eclipse? Well, speaking strictly for myself, I was willing to make that compromise a long time ago when I decided to adopt VisualAge for Java (VAJ) as my development platform, so I guess the point is moot for me. It's a business decision, but at least you now have the information you need to make that decision.

What Is Eclipse Good For?

Okay, time to get past the rhetoric and look at the product. Since I'm quoting lyrics lately, I'll use the opening lines of Edwin Starr's seminal 1970 protest song, "War":

"War. Huh! Yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing."

That describes what Eclipse is good for without any plug-ins. Okay, not absolutely nothing, but pretty darned close. Unless you're doing something relatively trivial like putting together a list of quotes or an article outline, the base features of Eclipse aren't much use. Figure 2 shows a project in Eclipse without any plug-ins.

Figure 2: This Eclipse screen displays the default Resource Perspective with no plug-ins.

Note that Eclipse has no idea what the different file types mean, and if you try to open a Java class file, you get the binary byte codes opened in a text editor. But with the JDT installed, you instantly get a lot more functionality, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Here, you can see how the JDT plug-ins automatically invoke the editor for a Java class.

This is virtually the same project, but this one uses Eclipse with the JDT plug-ins installed. Now, when I select a Java source file, a Java-aware editor comes up. Not only that, but when I select a Java class file, the IDE is smart enough to know that I really want to look at the associated source. Keywords are highlighted, comments are colored, and even errors are indicated. Not only that, but in this perspective you can set breakpoints and then run the class! This is the beauty of the Eclipse framework: The plug-in programmer can add whatever features are necessary. And this is only one of many features made possible by the adaptive nature of Eclipse. Another is the concept of "perspectives." Eclipse allows you to define the various panels in the display to create a comprehensive view of your project. Each view is called a "perspective," and there can be as many perspectives as you want.

Figure 4: This panel shows the same project, using the Java Perspective.

For example, in the Java Perspective, the navigation pane on the left allows the source to be expanded to show the various elements of the Java source, including the class, the instance variables, and the methods. An additional Outline pane appears in the upper right that allows me to view the contents of the selected source member. The Tasks pane on the bottom automatically shows any errors in the current member.

What Happened to VAJ?

VAJ is dead; long live VAJ. Eclipse has actually proven itself, in my opinion, to be a viable successor to VAJ. And this is coming from me, a long-time, die-hard VAJ bigot. I absolutely love VAJ and still use it for the bulk of my Java development. No other tool has ever approached its true Java-centric nature. Most Java IDEs available today started life as C (or Pascal!) editors. Because of this, they tend to act more like C editors, with no real emphasis on the object-oriented nature of the Java language. A real Java IDE has to be able to do things like automatically generate stubs for inherited abstract methods and create getters and setters for instance variables. Changes to a method signature should automatically be reflected throughout the repository. These features are absolutely required for my particular development style, and VAJ handled every one. I'll admit that some of the menus were a little confusing; having to go into the Reorganize submenu in order to find the Move option took some getting used to. But for true industrial-strength Java development, VAJ was the most complete IDE I'd ever used.

So when Eclipse came along bearing the news of the demise of VAJ, I was definitely poised to shoot the messenger. IBM had switched gears on me yet again, and I was in a nasty mood. I couldn't understand how IBM could even consider tossing VAJ on the scrap heap. That is, until I saw Eclipse. I've been using Eclipse 2.0 with the JDT for a little while now, and though I don't yet use it in production, I'm very pleased with the way most of the critical features of VAJ made it into Eclipse, with the added benefit of some more intuitive keystrokes. I shouldn't have been so surprised. The folks behind Eclipse, Object Technology International, are the same folks who designed VAJ. And it shows. Some other day, I'd like to do a point-by-point comparison of the two tools. If you're interested, please send some feedback. Either use the discussion forum associated with this article or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

What's the Relationship Between Eclipse, WebSphere, and the iSeries?

This is a little bit complex, and I'll go into it in more detail in another column. However, you should know that WebSphere Site Developer Advanced (WSSDa) is based on Eclipse 2.0. The workstation tools that will be used for iSeries development are collectively called the WebSphere Development Studio Client (WDSc) and are based on WSSDa. Therefore, IBM's entire application development suite for the iSeries is moving toward Eclipse.

The WDSc tools (which are actually plug-ins for Eclipse) are intended to eventually completely replace the older set of programs that made up the WebSphere Development Tools (WDT), such as CODE/400 and VisualAge for RPG. Already they have replaced VAJ, WebSphere Studio, and WebFacing. There's also WebSphere Studio Application Developer (WSAD), which adds EJB support, but that's just a different set of plug-ins.

PDM, SEU, SDA, and all the compilers still live on in OS/400, but don't expect a lot of additional work in any of the green-screen development tools (other than the compilers). WDT was the first step toward moving these tools to the workstation, and Eclipse is the grand unification of these separate tools into one cohesive IDE. Good or bad, if you want to develop multi-language applications, chances are that you'll want to move to Eclipse (and WDSc) sometime soon.


IBM has put all their eggs into the Eclipse basket. After many years of hit-and-miss workstation tool development, they have locked in on a technology that looks like a very viable design. I'm impressed with how they've managed to coalesce many separate development efforts into the single Eclipse line; I have to imagine there were some rather interesting internal debates as that decision was made. But, having made the decision, IBM has definitely forged ahead, and what I see so far I like.

The concept of being able to stay in the IDE and seamlessly edit everything from RPG code to Cascaded Style Sheets holds a lot of promise. If IBM manages to integrate the debugging of these applications as tightly as they have the editing, we may be on the verge of a whole new level of productivity.

I'm waiting with much anticipation for the new WDSc code. As I write this, WDSc isn't even in public beta yet, and I won't be able to give you any detail on it for a little while, but from all indications, it's going to be a very important step toward true integration of all the various iSeries languages.

One More Thing...

I wanted to add a little extra addendum to this edition of Weaving WebSphere. While not particularly specific to WebSphere, I think it's germane to the entire concept of the iSeries as a server platform. The issue is one of support.

In recent years, I think it's fair to say that iSeries customers have gotten the idea that they may be the forgotten stepchildren of the IBM marketing and support behemoth. It was becoming more and more difficult to get any kind of support for iSeries questions, and the introduction of the cross-platform movement within IBM exemplified by the eServer consolidation and the WebSphere software platform only exacerbated the situation. More than once, I needed support or guidance on a WebSphere issue only to find myself talking to someone who had no idea what an iSeries (or AS/400, for that matter) was.

Well, that seems to be changing. Recently, I had the misfortune of attempting to pay my hardware maintenance with a credit card. Although I'd done this in the past, I was told, after a couple of rounds of phone tag, that credit card payments were no longer accepted. And here's the rub: rather than actually raise the issue with IBM, I had become so inured to this sort of thing that I simply accepted it. All I did was make a comment in one of the mailing lists I frequent, MIDRANGE-L.

Lo and behold, I got an email from someone at IBM! A gentleman by the name of Jim Rubish contacted me and assured me that he sympathized with my plight and would address the issue. He even entered a customer complaint for me into the IBM database. Not long after that, a wonderful lady named Ellie Mahoney contacted me, and after getting the particulars of my situation, she began researching it. From that point on, she kept me apprised on the progress of the issue nearly daily, until ultimately it was resolved. The issue was simply one of procedures not being completely communicated between divisions in the giant corporate structure that makes up IBM, and once the procedures were properly identified, I was walked through the process, and my problem was solved.

It's not so much that the issue was resolved as the fact that IBM so aggressively pursued it. I didn't have to badger people with calls and emails. Instead, IBM personnel took responsibility for the issue and definitely gave me the impression that they considered it their job to make sure I was satisfied as a customer. As I said to someone in an email, my general feeling is that, for the first time in a long time, there really is a sense of urgency at IBM to rekindle the customer relationship. This bodes well for the future.

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. You can reach Joe 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

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

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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.
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    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 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.

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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.