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TechTip: Riding the Rails, Part 1

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The IT industry is putting an emphasis on automation. The Ruby on Rails web framework has been doing that for a decade. Ride this rail with me as we dive into the many cool realities of Ruby on Rails.

In the February 2015 article "Trying on a Ruby Ring," I talked about doing a small Hello World Ruby app and showed how to invoke an RPG program from Ruby. In March 2015's article "Sinatra Sings, Ruby Plays," I introduced you to a very simple web framework named Sinatra. In the April 2015 article "Ruby Talks to DB2 for i," I showed how a simple Ruby web application can query DB2.

Some of those articles touched briefly on portions of the Ruby on Rails web framework (Rails for short). We are about to embark on a journey to further define the many benefits of Rails and see why so many other technology stacks have followed their lead over the years.

So, what is Rails?

Instead of giving a canned Wikipedia definition, I will instead ask a question. Do you have tasks in your daily RPG duties that are repeated time and time again, requiring manual coding that you could write in your sleep (essentially "busy work")? That's what the creator of Rails, David Heinemeier Hansson, resolved to do after doing web development for a number of years. He spent too much time doing the same things over and over in his web apps. During that time, he started recognizing patterns of best practices. It was then he decided to write a framework to address the repetitious coding. Eventually, Rails was born.

It's time to kick the tires.

In this article series, we will incrementally build a database maintenance application in PASE on IBM i using PowerRuby. There are two ways to start coding on a Rails project. Either you are creating the application or coding in an application already created. The latter involves cloning a Git repository. We will be taking the approach of creating a new Rails application from scratch by using the rails new command, as shown in the log output below. Notice how Rails generates files and directories.

Note: I am running this in a PASE shell. It's best to use ssh to log into your IBM i. However, you can also get a PASE shell using CALL QP2TERM (the poor man's shell).

$ rails new app1 --skip-bundle

     create

     create README.rdoc

     create Rakefile

     create config.ru

     create .gitignore

     create Gemfile

     create app

     create app/assets/javascripts/application.js

     create app/assets/stylesheets/application.css

     create app/controllers/application_controller.rb

     create app/helpers/application_helper.rb

     create app/views/layouts/application.html.erb

     create app/assets/images/.keep

     create app/mailers/.keep

     create app/models/.keep

     create app/controllers/concerns/.keep

     create app/models/concerns/.keep

     create bin

     create bin/bundle

     create bin/rails

     create bin/rake

     create config

     create config/routes.rb

     create config/application.rb

     create config/environment.rb

     create config/secrets.yml

     create config/environments

     create config/environments/development.rb

     create config/environments/production.rb

     create config/environments/test.rb

     create config/initializers

     create config/initializers/assets.rb

     create config/initializers/backtrace_silencers.rb

     create config/initializers/cookies_serializer.rb

     create config/initializers/filter_parameter_logging.rb

     create config/initializers/inflections.rb

     create config/initializers/mime_types.rb

     create config/initializers/session_store.rb

     create config/initializers/wrap_parameters.rb

     create config/locales

     create config/locales/en.yml

     create config/boot.rb

     create config/database.yml

     create db

     create db/seeds.rb

     create lib

     create lib/tasks

     create lib/tasks/.keep

     create lib/assets

     create lib/assets/.keep

     create log

     create log/.keep

     create public

     create public/404.html

     create public/422.html

     create public/500.html

     create public/favicon.ico

     create public/robots.txt

     create test/fixtures

     create test/fixtures/.keep

     create test/controllers

     create test/controllers/.keep

     create test/mailers

     create test/mailers/.keep

     create test/models

     create test/models/.keep

     create test/helpers

     create test/helpers/.keep

     create test/integration

     create test/integration/.keep

     create test/test_helper.rb

     create tmp/cache

     create tmp/cache/assets

     create vendor/assets/javascripts

     create vendor/assets/javascripts/.keep

     create vendor/assets/stylesheets

     create vendor/assets/stylesheets/.keep

Log output: Wow, that's a lot of created files!

So what just happened? The rails new command uses the first parameter as the name of your application, app1 in this case. The option --skip-bundle is declaring we don't want the bundle command to run, which would go out to the Internet and download the latest versions of Rails. PowerRuby gives us everything we need to write Ruby applications, so there's no need to download additional components (yet).

Why did the creators of Rails determine these directories and files should be created? This is where I'll introduce the Rails concept of Convention over Configuration, or CoC for short. CoC goes back to the heart of why David created Rails. He found the majority of web apps all need to have the same base directory structure, the same configuration files with default settings, so on and so forth. By running that single command to generate all those files and folder, we probably saved the better part of a couple hours. The actual completion time was under 5 seconds! You'll see CoC mentioned frequently throughout this article series.

Now let's go further into the generated files and directories. The first file of significance is Gemfile, a configuration file that uses the Ruby language syntax. This stores all of the dependencies of our Rails application and is shown below.

source 'https://rubygems.org'

gem 'rails', '4.1.8'

gem 'sqlite3'

gem 'sass-rails', '~> 4.0.3'

gem 'uglifier', '>= 1.3.0'

gem 'coffee-rails', '~> 4.0.0'

gem 'jquery-rails'

gem 'turbolinks'

gem 'jbuilder', '~> 2.0'

gem 'sdoc', '~> 0.4.0',         group: :doc

gem 'spring',       group: :development

As you can see, the Gemfile lists out all the Gems (think of Gems as RPG *SRVPGMs) and versions that our application makes use of. This serves two purposes. First, it keeps a running tally of the various Gems used in our application. Second, it is reviewed when deploying to production. When you deploy to production it will look at Gemfile and compare the Gems listed to the ones that exist on the local machine. If it is lacking any Gems, it will then download them from the URL specified on the source line. This is some nice automation that's a huge timesaver.

 

Interesting tidbit: HelpSystems recently sent out their 2015 survey results, which indicated automation was one of the priorities IBM i shops are looking at. Rails has had it for a decade. This is a good train to get on, folks!

Next in the log output, we see the app/assets directory and subdirectories being created. This is where your static client-side CSS and JavaScript will be stored. Likewise, we see directories created for app/controllers, app/models, and app/views. These correlate to the MVC (Model-View-Controller) concept of separating out portions of the application. To relate this to RPG, think of the Model as *SRVPGMs, where you do business logic and database access. Think of the View as your *DSPF DDS. And think of the Controller as your RPG mainline program, where you have your EXFMT and monitor for user key presses.

Next in the log output, we see many directories within the config directory. There are many configuration purposes served in here. I will highlight a few and will expound further in subsequent articles. The routes.rb is used to declare how browser requests should be routed to corresponding controllers. The environments directory has three files: development.rb, production.rb, and test.rb. Rails assumes that each application will, at minimum, need three different environments to configure the application. For example, when the application is being run in development, you will want errors to display in the browser. However, you wouldn't want the same in production for your customers to see. There's a setting for that. There are many more environment-specific settings that allow you to fine-tune. The most common settings are set for you. Note, it is very simple to add additional environments. One I usually add is called "staging"a deployment that allows select users to test before deploying to production.

File config/database.yml contains the database configuration for the three environments (development, test, and production). In this case, our application is using the SQLite database. We will convert it to use DB2 in a subsequent article.

The last thing I want to point out in the log output is the test directory. To describe this directory, I will describe my days doing RPG-CGI (web) development. When I deployed to production, it was always with a decent amount of anxiety because I didn't have unit tests for my APIs and web pages. This meant I often deployed in the evenings or on the weekends. With Rails, unit testing is not an afterthought and instead was included from ground zero.

 

Interesting stat: Amazon deploys their apps to production every 12 seconds (they obviously have many apps). Do you think they are able to do that without automated unit testing? No!

The rails new command has actually created enough foundation that we can start our application and see a "Hello World" page. PowerRuby comes bundled with an application server, so we don't need to set up Apache or other to get it working.

Before we do start the Rails webserver (and depending on which PowerRuby version you are using), you may need to add the following line to your Gemfile file:

gem 'tzinfo-data'

And whenever you add something to your Gemfile file, you also need to run the bundle command, as shown below:

$ bundle install --local

At this point, we are still outside of the app1 directory that was created with the rails new command. To run additional commands against the Rails app, we need to be within the directory by using the cd command. Then use the rails server command to start the application.

$ cd app1

$ rails server -p 8080

Open your browser and point it at port 8080 of your IBM i IP address. You should see something like Figure 1.

 

011516Bartell Figure1

Figure 1: Rails server is started and running.

That concludes this first article.

I hope I've piqued your interest enough to start exploring Ruby on Rails. We've only touched the tip of the iceberg! If you need an IBM i sandbox to start getting your hands dirty with Ruby on Rails, please contact me and I'll hook you up!

If you have any additional questions please let me know in the comments or reach me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Aaron Bartell

Aaron Bartell is Director of IBM i Innovation for Krengel Technology, Inc. Aaron facilitates adoption of open-source technologies on IBM i through professional services, staff training, speaking engagements, and the authoring of best practices within industry publications andwww.litmis.comWith a strong background in RPG application development, Aaron covers topics that enable IBM i shops to embrace today's leading technologies, including Ruby on Rails, Node.js, Git for RPG source change management, and RSpec for unit testing RPG. Aaron is a passionate advocate of vibrant technology communities and the corresponding benefits available for today's modern application developers. Connect with Aaron via email atabartell@krengeltech.com.

Aaron lives with his wife and five children in southern Minnesota. He enjoys the vast amounts of laughter that having a young family brings, along with camping and music. He believes there's no greater purpose than to give of our life and time to help others.

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    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.