20
Mon, May
3 New Articles

TechTip: CNX Valence for PHP

Scripting
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

PHP help tools. That’s what we’re looking at. And this month, we are looking at the CNX Valence product.

Part of getting familiar with PHP is getting familiar with the way in which PHP relates to the IBM i. Over the past year, we have looked at different options for creating PHP scripts that we might use with the i.

The first way is the low-tech method of using a simple text editor and MAMP/WAMP/LAMP to generate the server-side environment that we needed with the text editor PHP script. This is great for getting started but does not have much in the way of embellishments.

The second is Zend Studio from Zend. We spent a number of tips on this, getting a feel for it and learning how to navigate our way around it. In essence, Zend Studio gave us an interactive development environment where we could create and test PHP scripts. It interfaced with the Zend Server, but it can also function on its own with built-in facilities. It interfaced seamlessly with the Zend Frameworks. But everything you built you had to build from scratch (or else copy from something you had created previously).

The third thing we looked at was BCD Software’s offerings. There is a charge for these, of course, but then there is also a charge for Zend unless you want to do without support and updates after the first year. What BCD has to offer is twofold: an IDE similar to Zend Studio, and a set of templates or models that you can use to quickly create PHP scripts.

But we’re not quite done with our review of what’s out there.

CNX Valence PHP

CNX has been around the i world for a long time, and Valence is their flagship product.

Originally, you could describe Valence as an RPG development environment, but over the years that has changed as Valence has grown and matured. Today, it can best be described as a server-side, language-agnostic development environment that is based on HTML5 and Ext JS Using this format, developers can relatively easily create Rest-ful, modern apps.

Historically, RPG was the language of choice for the business logic, and you can certainly still do that. But now, CNX has added a PHP capability.

What Does It Look Like?

There are two things that make the CNX offering interesting.

The first, to me, is the very modern approach that CNX is taking: HTML5, JavaScript, Rest for the mobile apps, etc. I am not saying the folks at CNX are the only ones doing this, but they definitely are doing it, and the result is that you can build apps that represent the latest in web design thinking. Yet what is running behind the scenes, either synchronously or asynchronously, to do the thinking part of the process can be either RPG programs or, now, PHP scripts.

The second part of this is that CNX offers a unique way of doing these PHP apps. Valence does provide models to build applications. The Nitro AutoCode application generator and Nitro Inquiry module are designed to provide “quick wins” by creating maintenance and dashboard/inquiry functions very quickly. This gives developers a chance to learn the full power of Valence and still deliver something almost immediately.

At the same time, however, Valence does not just throw you into an IDE and hope for the best. What they do have is a PHP Toolkit. This is different from the Zend Toolkit, which is designed to allow you to interface between the i and the Zend Server environment. It is similar in a way to the RPG Toolkit that comes with Valence. The RPG Toolkit, for example, is a set of web services that you can embed in your RPG program to perform complex tasks. This includes formatting JSON data, sending email, determining whether a given user is authorized to a given method, performing actions on the IFS, creating charts, etc.

Now there is also a PHP Toolkit that consists of a series of scripts that can do really neat stuff. This includes things like executing an SQL statement or a stored procedure. Or retrieving or posting a string or array from/to the browser. Each of these scripts contains the data structures and the methods required to perform the action described. And that can save you a lot of development time. For example, if you want to execute an SQL statement using PHP statements, you need several separate statements to do this. But with the script in the Toolkit, it can be done in one. Could you write this yourself? Sure, but with the Toolkit you don’t have to.

What Does It Cost?

Of course, everyone wants to know how much a piece of software costs. And, as with most products, there are a couple of options.

To start, I should mention that the Valence software is loaded only on your i. There is no component that goes on your PC unless you choose to use the Sencha Architect product to create your UI. I believe you get a certain number of licenses for this with Valance.

First, and this is what you are waiting for, there is a free version of the product, the Community Edition. This has limited (but still robust) functionality, and you can use it to create apps. It does not, however, include the Nitro components, and that is a significant fact. Once the app is created, you can distribute it to at most five users at an installation. While it is primarily oriented around allowing a developer to learn about Valence, you could use it for all your production work if that work is limited enough. The downside is that there is no support, and no updates are available to what you downloaded.

Second, the next step up is the Enterprise Edition. This is a full-function version of the product, and it comes with support and updates. The cost is per partition, in the sense that you pay one price for one partition, another price for two partitions (not double), and then a third price for three or more. The default value listed on the CNX website is $14,495 for one partition, but that’s for an unlimited number of developers (on one partition) and includes the Sencha Ext JS Developer 5 Pack (which is worth about $6K by itself) plus the Nitro apps (AutoCode, Query, iAdmin, source editor, file editor, and Instance Manager, which, of course, manages instances).

Third, the final step is the Commercial Edition that’s for software companies that are going to be using Valence to develop commercial products for sale. You have to contact CNX to get a price on this, but I am sure it is very reasonable.

To see the different versions and what they offer, you can refer to this handy chart thing.

The Bottom Line

CNX Valence is a modern, technologically advanced product that gives you a middle ground between doing everything from scratch and using standard templates that can be modified. The Toolkit offered allows you to roll your own using standard PHP classes. And for a lot of people, that’s a very comfortable way of doing things. For more information on Valence, check out the website.

David Shirey

David Shirey is president of Shirey Consulting Services, providing technical and business consulting services for the IBM i world. Among the services provided are IBM i technical support, including application design and programming services, ERP installation and support, and EDI setup and maintenance. With experience in a wide range of industries (food and beverage to electronics to hard manufacturing to drugs--the legal kind--to medical devices to fulfillment houses) and a wide range of business sizes served (from very large, like Fresh Express, to much smaller, like Labconco), SCS has the knowledge and experience to assist with your technical or business issues. You may contact Dave by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at (616) 304-2466.


MC Press books written by David Shirey available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

21st Century RPG: /Free, ILE, and MVC 21st Century RPG: /Free, ILE, and MVC
Boost your productivity, modernize your applications, and upgrade your skills with these powerful coding methods.
List Price $69.95

Now On Sale

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:
$

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 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. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) 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:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. 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:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot 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:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic 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.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: