Weaving WebSphere: WDSC6, Take One

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"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"
--The Great Oz

We're in what I think is a watershed period of iSeries development, and WDSC is a key player in this era of change. The relationship with Rational, the coming of age of the next generation of user interface (rich clients and portals), and the fact that an iSeries box is nearly evenly priced with a comparable PC--these events all come together to create at least the possibility of a new era in IBM midrange development.

At the same time, the current release of WDSC really doesn't do much for RPG developers. It's a lot prettier with all the Eclipse 3.0 enhancements, and you can't help but realize that it's a Rational product, but this release seems a bit more bluster than substance, a little bit like the Great and Powerful Oz. Let me present my findings as I took the new version of WDSC through a test drive.

Drivers, Start Your Engines!

I had a lot of fun with this, actually. In fact, I'm sure I had more fun than normal people, but that's part of the reason I do this. Anyway, what I did was load both versions of WDSC on one workstation. Then, I started testing. Sometimes I ran one, sometimes the other, and sometimes both at the same time (yes, I am a sick and twisted boy). But since most people aren't interested in running two different versions of WDSC at once, let me simply give you the lowdown on the side-by-side comparisons.

Testing was done on a 3 GHz Pentium 4 with 1 GB, running Windows 2000 Professional, with two 7200 RPM 80 GB drives on an Intel SATA RAID 1 card. Later, I'll try to get you some numbers on other operating systems, but my stalwart W2KPro machine is the one I'll be using for this article.

Startup Time

First, the startup time has been reduced, most noticeably for new workspaces. Not counting JVM startup time (which you see only the first time you start WDSC after rebooting), it takes WDSC5 about 25 seconds to create a new workspace, and WDSC6 takes only seven seconds. This is also reflected in the size of the workspaces: 3.5 MB for WDSC5 versus 150 KB for WDSC6.

The numbers get closer after the initial creation: five seconds to start WDSC6 for an existing workspace, and seven seconds for WDSC5.

First Look

The real difference is the huge Welcome splash screen on the initial load of WDSC6. Unlike WDSC5, which showed the Welcome page in a panel on the Remote Systems Explorer screen, the WDSC6 Welcome page basically takes up the entire workbench. While there's a lot of good stuff on that page (see my August article), the Rational branding gets a little heavy handed, as you can see in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Can you guess which IBM product line this tool belongs to? (Click images to enlarge.)

I guess it's not so bad. You can at least just close the window and get on to the business at hand, which for today will be the Remote Systems Explorer (RSE).

UI Changes

The UI has a ton of changes--some significant, some not. As I've pointed out in other articles, the UI changes are all inherited from Eclipse 3.0, so they're not really new; they're just new to us as WDSC developers. I'll show you the two versions side by side so you can get an idea of the changes.

Note: The following side-by-side view shows the two workbenches at a resolution of 800x600 pixels. While WDSC5 was designed to be run at 800x600, WDSC6 was not; it's clearly designed to run at no lower resolution than 1024x768. So while I compared them at 800x600 to give you a better apples-to-apples comparison, realize that WDSC6 isn't designed to be run this way, so some things, like toolbars, may be more abbreviated than usual.

Figure 2: This figure shows the two UIs compared to one another.

Many similarities exist, of course. The basic look and feel is still there, but several tool-wide changes have been made: some major, some minor. As an example of a minor change, all the tabs are rounded now, and the icons have been reworked. While minor, one of the real breaks from the old VisualAge products is the "Run" icon, which has been changed from the running man symbol to the "universal" VCR-button, right-pointing triangle. It's no big deal, really, just one more step in the homogenization of computer programming.

Certain UI features may annoy those who are averse to change. For example, the upper left pane contains two views, Remote Systems and Team. In WDSC5, tabs appeared along the bottom of the pane when multiple views existed, which allowed you to select between the panes. The top bar of the pane was dedicated to the current view. Now, the top bar does dual duty, allowing you to maximize, minimize, and close the current pane, as well as allowing you to select between panes. While this more closely resembles the editor view, it can take some getting used to.

Again, most of these changes are really part of the Eclipse UI, and you can get a really good idea of them by reading the Eclipse documentation. To find out what's new in the Eclipse platform itself, the Java Development Tools (JDT), or the Plug-In Development Environment (PDE), do the following:

Figure 3: First, select menu option Help > Tips and Tricks....

Figure 4: Next, in the ensuing pop-up, select the area you wish to review.

Figure 5: Here is the Tips and Tricks for the workbench; you can also click on What's New.

You'll see that Tips and Tricks is selected in the left-hand navigation pane. Tips and Tricks gives you some pointers as to neat ways to use the UI. The What's New section gives you a complete rundown of the changes implemented in Eclipse Version 3.0 (this procedure also works in WDSC5, by the way, to show what was added in Version 2.1).

Back to the Meat

So as you can see, the changes that have been inherited from Eclipse are quite extensively documented. And believe me, there are a lot of really great enhancements in there. However, they are pretty ancillary changes--window tabs and stuff like that. And the major UI changes for editing primarily affect Java programmers. That's nice, but it doesn't really do anything for the common iSeries programmer.
The iSeries programmer looks at the world through the twin lenses of the Remote Systems Explorer (RSE) and the LPEX editor. The RSE is sort of a Windows explorer on steroids, allowing you to access not only your own machine, but machines throughout the network. An RPG programmer will use the RSE to find a source member and then load that source member into the LPEX editor to edit it. If you're an RPG programmer, the LPEX editor is the area where you would want IBM to focus most of their attention, adding usability and productivity features. Yup. That's what you'd want. Unfortunately, you would be disappointed, especially with the LPEX editor.

Remote Systems Explorer

The iSeries programmer is the most likely end user for the RSE. And while the RSE can be used to connect to systems of many types--including Linux, AIX, and Windows--its primary purpose is to talk to iSeries boxes. I'm particularly pleased about one little detail in the new version: When you create a new connection, iSeries is the first option in the list, not the last option as it was in WDSC5 (you can actually see that in Figure 2 if you look closely).

In general, the RSE looks and acts much the same. Nearly all of the options are the same, with the exception of a few additions. You can now target OSes such as Power Linux and AIX, and when you do connect to an iSeries, you have an additional option of running Qshell. This latter option looks quite interesting, but I don't think it's compatible with V5R1, or maybe that's just a matter of PTFs. I'll order up the latest set of PTFs for this box and try it, or I'll run it on a V5R3 machine, whichever comes first.

The LPEX Editors

This is the depressing bit. Unfortunately, I haven't found anything in WDSC6 for RPG programmers. I looked hard, but there's nothing here. Let's see...they added an outline view for DDS source. Yeah, that's helpful. But I don't see anything that makes life better for RPG programmers. I can understand now why I haven't been able to find any real "new feature" lists on any IBM Web site.

The changes from 5.1.0 to 5.1.2 were far more extensive. In fact, as far as I can see, the only substantive changes to the LPEX editors are their upgrades to Eclipse 3.0. I've looked all over the tool, and I just don't see any enhancements.

Way back when, I noted that the Version 5.1.2 release really had a lot more in it than a typical point-point release and that maybe it was being pushed out a little prematurely in order to address some problems in the field. As it turns out, I think perhaps the 5.1.2 release was something of a shakeout for the new features. These features were then wrapped in Eclipse 3.0 and released as WDSC6.

Remember, the change from Eclipse 2.1 to Eclipse 3.0 is quite extensive, especially for plug-in developers. Since WDSC is basically just a huge set of Eclipse plug-ins, you can imagine the amount of work that went into simply retrofitting the existing code base. But by jumping the gun with the WDSC5.1.2, IBM really took a lot of the steam out of the WDSC6 update. Unless I'm missing something major, for RPG programmers WDSC6 is just a prettier face on the existing tool.

Now This Makes a Little More Sense

The relative paucity of new features for RPG programmers in WDSC56 could explain the recent call for participation from IBM regarding the RPG portion of the tool. By the time you read this, the event will unfortunately have passed, but it seems to be in line with the idea that the RPG side of the tool wasn't really the focus of this release.

The event is scheduled for a day that I'm presenting, so I can't attend; I hope lots of others do. IBM needs some good input from the field, because the key to getting green-screen developers to WDSC is to make the RPG programming experience as pain-free as possible, and they've still got a way to go.

On to Bigger and Better Things

But while the news on the tool front isn't perhaps the best, a number of other things are fantastic. Last month, I talked about the new Express Edition machines, and putting my money where my mouth is, I went and ordered one. I have a brand new 500 CPW machine with a complete set of development tools wending its way through the ordering process.

It took a few passes to make sure I was getting the right software (I had to learn about Infoprint Server, and I had one option on my current machine that I just didn't need anymore). But now a machine with 35% more power than my current machine (and over 15 times the power of my original Model 150!) is going to be gracing the halls of PBD very soon. If you know someone who develops software but doesn't have an iSeries, you can now tell them that they can get a fully functional development box for less than $200 a month.

The iSeries Application Initiative (iAI)

It seems that in order to be competitive in today's market, you need to make sure your iSeries application also takes advantage of modern technologies. Where oh where does a poor green-screen RPG developer learn all this stuff? Well, the answer is easy: the iSeries Application Initiative. I've mentioned this program once or twice already, but I will mention it again here with a little more detail.

The way the program works is simple. You apply for the program, and you get set up with an assessment. The assessment is a phone call with somebody who has a long background with the iSeries. This person will talk to you about your product and what your technology needs might be. Remember, IBM's idea is to take your existing solution and teach you how to enable new technologies that will add more value, thereby making it easier for you to sell your product and making the iSeries that much more attractive to potential customers.

In my case, I was lucky enough to get Cheryl Renner, who has been an iSeries expert for as long as I can remember (at least as far back as when she was Cheryl Pflughoeft!). Cheryl, Ed Armbruster, and I talked about what I want to do with my application. You might know that my company markets a product called PSC/400, which Web-enables 5250 applications. The product has been out and stable for several years now, but we've recently released a new product and some special pricing editions. With the new release, we're now looking to expand into a couple of areas, including Portal enablement and WDSC plug-in development. (I'm keeping a third technological direction secret until I determine whether it's really feasible; once I find out one way or the other, you'll see a whole new series of articles on the technology.)

Cheryl has already set me up with some information on a Portal-enablement class, and if you're interested, I will continue to let you know how the process is going. There are options for remote learning, face-to-face learning, and DVD video classes. Also, as you continue to develop your product, IBM continues to help you with everything--from allowing you to test your products at an IBM location to even using the IBM "Virtual Loaner Program" in which you basically get free time on an IBM machine over the Internet.

Wrapping It Up

It promises to be an interesting ride as I find out just how committed IBM is to making ISVs successful. To me, it's pretty much the defining point of IBM's iSeries program. We haven't seen much of the promised advertising; it almost seems as if that initial salvo was a one-time thing, as we had feared. However, the "official" response (or as official as you're going to get regarding this issue, anyway) is that the focus this year has been on the ISV and bringing developers back into the fold.
Well, I'm going to put that particular notion to the test. I've never used an IBM program in my life; everything I've done I've learned on the job or in my copious free time. But if IBM is serious about getting ISVs up to speed, then let's see how they do with me.

Because even if they are trying to reach out to ISVs, they're doing a pretty poor job of marketing that effort. But if it works with me, then I'll tell you, and together we'll get the word out, eh?

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

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.
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  • 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.

  • 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.