Weaving WebSphere: What's New in WDSC 7

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Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
—Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau is considered an optimist. That's why the statement above has a particularly dark tone to me. Of course, Thoreau was something of a Luddite, so I suppose I can understand his distrust of all things invented. Then there's the other end of the spectrum, where all that glitters is gold and the shiniest new tool is the one that we simply must use. These polar attitudes are too common among the System i population when it comes to WDSC: A gulf exists between those who hate it because it's not SEU and those who want it to be a brand new paradigm that completely displaces the legacy systems.

Meanwhile, in the middle, the WDSC developers have managed to create a remarkable piece of software despite having perhaps one of the most difficult jobs I can imagine: bridging the gap between the Rational and the System i development worlds. That job must be particularly difficult when most of the people you work with either unashamedly admit that they want to get rid of legacy languages and perhaps the platform itself, or at least seem to quietly share that view by way of their actions (or lack thereof).

I think that a lot of System i developers appreciate the prodigious amount of work the WDSC developers have accomplished. As soon as I can, I'll write a WDSC 7 column for programmers that will cover more of the in-depth things they need to know. This article, though, is directed toward management. If you are a manager of software developers, I want you to see what the WDSC development team is to providing to your staff. They have gone the extra mile in so many ways that it's almost criminal if you don't try to get your programmers to use the tool. And if you're a developer having a hard time getting buy-in on WDSC, I want you to show this article to your manager. This is not just a shiny new toy.

I also think it's important that we in the development community applaud the WDSC team for the job they've done to this point. We also need to make it crystal clear to the Rational group—now nominally in charge of the WDSC product—what we need and expect from future releases of the tool. There is an ongoing tension between the needs of System i developers and the "vision" of the Rational group, and I'll delve into that a little bit at the end of this article.

But for now, I'd prefer to focus on the tool itself and the remarkable forward progress it has made. Yes, there are a few flies in the ointment, but this release of the tool has made remarkable progress.

Begin at the Beginning

One of the single largest and loudest complaints about WDSC has been that the installation process is almost impossible to manage. The "integration" of WDSC with the Rational product line brought us the Rational Product Updater, a product that wasn't exactly the most intuitive thing on the planet. The new Installation Manager seems at first use to be much easier, much more polished, and definitely more stable. I used the tool to install multiple versions of WDSC 7 on multiple machines (including inside a VMWare virtual machine) with no difficulty, and later I was able to add a missing component without so much as a hiccup. I simply fired up the Installation Manager, selected Modify Packages, and checked the box for WebSphere Application Server 6.0. The utility did the rest.

Figure 1: Installing a missing or forgotten component is as easy as point and click. (Click images to enlarge.)

I still don't know what will happen with updates. I installed from a folder rather than from CDs, and as far as I can tell the Installation Manager went right to that location without my telling it to. Will I have to copy any updates down to that location? Will I be able to install updates off the Internet like I did with Rational Product Updater? Those questions will have to wait until the first fix pack, due out very soon now (in fact, it may be available when you read this).

By the way, you may have gotten the idea from Figure 1 that you could selectively install bits and pieces of the tool. You would be absolutely correct. And while it's not entirely clear exactly which bits you might need for a given job, I don't mind because it's really easy to add a feature if I need it.

Look What They've Done to My Workbench, Ma!

The workbench is a great example of the work that the team has accomplished. Since Version 6.0, the workbench has sported a flashy little Welcome screen that performs two distinct functions. One function is to enable or disable development "roles." Disabling unused roles helps to reduce the complexity of the interface by removing the associated options; this feature is still pretty much unchanged (albeit expanded a bit). The other function of the Welcome screen is to provide a point-and-click introduction to an absolute wealth of information about the tool itself.

Figure 2: This is the Welcome screen, poised to enter the Tutorials section.

Again, this idea of clickable circular icons is the same as the previous version, except that there's a neat new feature. If you click on the folded arrow icon on the upper right, the Welcome screen will be minimized to a set of icons on the lower-right edge of the workbench.

Figure 3: Clicking on the Workbench icon makes the Welcome icons available on the workbench.

This is a nice feature, because it allows fast access to any of the Welcome sections at the click of a mouse. This was entirely unnecessary, in the sense that I don't think any WDSC developers would have complained if the WDSC team didn't add this capability. In fact, I don't know how many people even know this exists, but it's a perfect example of the kinds of touches that WDSC 7 includes that you just don't find in other tool suites.

Figure 4: Here are a couple of WDSC views detached from the workbench.

Another feature way up at the workbench level is the idea of detachable views, although the feature can't be specifically attributed to the WDSC team. Instead, since this is an integral part of the more recent release of Eclipse, the whole Eclipse/Rational/WDSC family benefits from this concept: Whereas with Version 6 you could drag a view to any point within the workbench, now you can actually drag the view outside of the workbench as a "detached" view. This is reminiscent of floating menus in many other tools, but this is an entire view, such as, for example, the Debug Variables view, which can not only be dragged out of the workbench, but even off to another monitor. This is an absolute vindication for those of you who have provided dual monitors to your developers (and admittedly a little added fuel on the fire for those developers whose employers haven't seen the light).

A seemingly minor addendum to this particular achievement is the fact that WDSC 7 has been released on Version 3.2.1 of Eclipse. Not only is this a huge leap forward from the 3.0 release that WDSC 6 used (two entire releases), but also this indicates a much tighter integration with the state of the art, since the only later release is 3.2.2, which just became available in mid-February. There were a lot of complaints that WDSC 6 used a very old version of Eclipse; this certainly isn't the case for WDSC 7. Eclipse release 3.3 isn't even scheduled for delivery until late June of this year!

Author's note: This is one of those places where the whole Eclipse and open-source model works so well. However, all is not sweetness and light, as I'll later explain. But let's continue with the good side, shall we?

Lots of great things have been added to the platform in Versions 3.1 and 3.2, and I plan to publish a whole host of those features as tips over the coming weeks. Not to mention that the whole thing starts and runs a lot faster and requires less resources!

WDSC-Specific Features

But the really incredible thing about WDSC is that not only do you get all the great features that are being added to the package as part of the open-source juggernaut that is Eclipse, but you also get System i–specific features because of the dedicated work of the WDSC team. System i developers truly get the best of both worlds in that regard.

Figure 5: The RSE Getting Started sheet is a nice introduction to the tool.

Another gripe I hear about WDSC is the learning curve. Personally, I find that complaint to be a little bit lame. RPG programmers are some of the best and brightest programmers I know, and how long did it take you to learn how to program an input-capable subfile? And anybody who has ever managed to get IBM's Report Layout Utility (RLU) to work can handle WDSC. But even so, IBM has expended some considerable resources providing an introduction to those who wish to be completely self-directed.

For example, when you first load the tool (and each time you create a new workspace), WDSC will display the Welcome screen previously discussed and shown in Figure 2, and then the iSeries RSE Getting Started screen shown in Figure 5 will come up. Once you get past the irony that IBM itself still calls the platform the iSeries (even more ironic: check out the package names for the JTOpen package; I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader), you'll find that this is indeed a respectable if somewhat limited introduction to the tool. Of course, I'm a bit biased; I give introductory hands-on seminars about the tool at user groups around the country, and I'm comfortable that you get more in a day with me than you will with the onboard tutorial.

Many things get added incrementally. For example, when the RSE was first introduced, one of the things you could do was see a list of either the members or the fields in a physical or logical file. OK, that's all fine and good, but of course System i developers being the grasping, immediate gratification lot that we are, we immediately asked for more.

Figure 6: The data table view is the next step in the evolution of the WDSC version of DFU.

And we got it! In WDSC 7, you can now list the contents of a physical file as well. It's far from perfect, of course. It works only on physical files; there are no capabilities for searching, sorting, or positioning; and my guess is that showing a really big file would probably cause some headaches. But it's a step in the right direction, and maybe some enterprising soul will decide to add some capabilities to this feature, such as being able to view an arbitrary SQL statement. Ah, wouldn't that be nice! But that's one of those things that will depend on us asking for more, I think.

How About the Editor?

Another big issue with WDSC has been one that shouldn't surprise anyone, since it also plagues the green-screen: Namely, support for embedded SQL has been a little shaky. A variety of errors existed in the early versions of WDSC, ranging from a stark inability to even process the errors to a subtle bug in which programmers thought they were modifying the embedded SQL source but were instead modifying the temporary generated member (which was then immediately wiped out by the next compile, thus negating all the work done in the previous edit cycle and greatly raising the programmer frustration level).

I'm happy to say that embedded SQL support continues to get better. The tool parses SQL statements and checks for syntax errors, although it doesn't yet add the accessed files and fields to the outline. Perhaps in another release.

Another feature that seems to be in an introductory state is the block capability. I've had two people ask me in the last month about whether WDSC had a feature similar to CODE/400's indent feature, which would show indentation. CODE does this by presenting a second view of the source with the lines literally indented.

Figure 7: This is the first pass of WDSC's indentation visualization.

WDSC is a little different. It shows an indentation tree to the left of the code. I'm not sure whether this is better or worse, but I can understand why the WDSC team did it because it will also work with free-format RPG. In any event, the initial tool is there, so now it's up to System i developers to decide whether they need it enhanced and the WDSC team to decide whether they have the resources to do so.

Unfortunately, All Is Not Wonderful in the Land of WDSC

By the time you've finished this article, you may have come to the conclusion that I've been immersed in a vat of the IBM Kool-Aid. However, trust me that this isn't the case. What I wanted to do was to present a management-level overview of some of the great new features in WDSC. I hope to write a technical piece that will go into more detail and really shake out the pros and cons of some of the design decisions. But I wanted to really press the fact that, from a System i development manager's standpoint, the tool has made impressive strides on nearly every front, becoming more productive and less resource-intense.

So what's the bad news? Well, there are a couple of things.

First, WDSC is based on Eclipse. While good in a wide variety of ways, this isn't an entirely perfect situation. For example, Eclipse 3.2 not only doesn't support 64-bit versions of Windows, it plain doesn't work on them. WDSC's Installation Manager won't even function there, and from what I can tell on the Eclipse site, there's really no sense of urgency about fixing it. This is the underlying danger of using Eclipse and its platform-dependent SWT implementation; if SWT isn't ported to a given platform, Eclipse (and thus WDSC) doesn't work. And while there has been a lot of attention paid to making sure Eclipse works on Vista, it works only as a legacy port, not on the new Windows Presentation Framework that forms the foundation of the new Vista UI.

Much more frightening is the ongoing idea of "unbundling" that keeps being presented by the Rational group. They seem to expect System i developers to pay for every copy of WDSC, and they want to do it by unbundling anything they can. They have already unbundled EGL, and there was rumor that both the new Application Diagrammer and the Screen Designer would be available only in the Advanced Edition of the tool. This rumor was given a lot of credence due to the fact that these two things appear only in the Advanced Edition of WDSC 7, although people at IBM who I talk to insist that at the very least the Screen Designer would appear in the Standard Edition of the tool.

However, there is continued talk about unbundling and making System i developers pay for various features of WDSC a la carte. This to me is the very height of insanity and is completely unjustified. System i clients already pay a premium: They pay extra for their disk, extra for their RAM, thousands of dollars for their compilers, and additional premiums for mandatory support and maintenance. As a manager, you're going to need to pound the doors of IBM to make sure they don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again by trying to gouge System i clients.

As I pointed out in a recent article, and as I will continue to shout from the rafters as long as I have breath, the very best solution is simple: tack a premium of up to 10 percent onto 5722WDS and earmark that for the Rational group. For that "tool tax," System i shops get a fixed number of free licenses of the tool with everything needed to develop System i applications (this includes all Web development pieces, since that's the direction the platform needs to go; unbundling EGL was a huge mistake). The number of licenses depends on the processor group, just as the price of 5722WDS does. For shops that need more developers, make it relatively easy and not too terribly expensive to purchase additional seats. In this scenario, Rational would get money for every sale of an RPG compiler, as opposed to the scenario in which IBM unbundles the tools—one in which I guarantee you'll have lots of shops that will contribute zero dollars to Rational. Here's the real issue: If the tool is good enough to warrant the extra money, people will buy extra licenses. If not, it's a crime to force normal workaday System i clients to pay for the development of a tool that others won't buy.

Make sure you tell IBM to quit this unbundling nonsense. The System i is not a UNIX or Windows box with razor-thin hardware margins. The company makes enough off of you already; tell them to allow you to do your job without having to worry about trying to guess which tool might be "unbundled" in the next release. And tell them to please, please not touch things that aren't broken: Don't even think about separating 5722WDS into pieces...because that way lies madness.

Joe Pluta is the founder and chief architect of Pluta Brothers Design, Inc. and has been extending the IBM midrange since 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. He has written several books including 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 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
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    These are just three common reasons why it might be time for your company to implement a paperless document management system.
    Watch the webinar to learn more and discover how easy it can be to:

    • Capture
    • Manage
    • And distribute documents digitally


  • IBM i: It’s Not Just AS/400


    IBM’s Steve Will talks AS/400, POWER9, cognitive systems, and everything in between

    Are there still companies that use AS400? Of course!

    IBM i was built on the same foundation.
    Watch this recorded webinar with IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will and IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington to gain a unique perspective on the direction of this platform, including:

    • IBM i development strategies in progress at IBM
    • Ways that Watson will shake hands with IBM i
    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days


  • 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 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.