When IBM announced OS/400 Version 5, Release 1, the company went beyond simply presenting to the world a few new features and enhancements. Instead, with the V5R1 release, IBM also introduced iSeries developers to an entirely new development toolset, known collectively as WebSphere Development Studio (WDS).
iSeries developers were swept off their feet by WDS, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. Over the next two years, the IT community is going to see so many changes to the way developers write software and present it to users that the development landscape of tomorrow will only vaguely resemble what we are familiar with today. This overview of IBM’s latest release provides an update on IBM’s new offerings and a preview of the changes that are coming for your development staff.
More flexibility for developers
The WDS product brought together, for the first time, all of IBM’s development languages and products into one cohesive package. iSeries customers with Software Subscription can now receive all of the following development tools for no additional charge:
- VisualAge RPG
- VisualAge Java
- WebSphere Studio 3.5
Except for the WebFacing tool, all of the other tools in the WDS package have been around for a while. However, the introduction of V5R1 and the WDS packaging represented the first time that most iSeries developers had ever had the opportunity to use many of these development languages.
One of IBM’s goals in releasing WDS was to free programmers from the handicap of having to develop all their applications using a single language. With WDS, a programmer can now choose which language works best for the job at hand. So, if a programmer is tasked with developing a back-end program that handles database access on iSeries, he or she might choose to use RPGIV, which excels at record level access. On the other hand, if the programmer’s challenge is to develop a browser-based inquiry system, he or she might use the WebSphere Studio 3.5 tool—and so on.
This all happened just a few short months ago, and iSeries developers have been busy learning to use the new tools and, perhaps even more importantly, learning to install, configure, and use IBM’s WebSphere Application Server (WAS) product, upon which many of the new tools depend. However, much continues to occur at IBM’s development laboratory in Toronto and at other places within IBM, which will change the face of some of the key development tools for not only iSeries developers but also developers on all of IBM’s hardware platforms.
Changes in IBM’s development tools
The first significant change that iSeries developers will face in the coming months is that the Standard version of WAS 3.5, which was free, will no longer be available. In fact, except for a lightweight, PC-based developer version, none of the WAS products from this point forward will be free. All versions of WAS, beginning with WAS 4.0, will now be a chargeable item, regardless of the platform they run on. This change will no doubt have a negative impact on iSeries shops who are just now getting used to the new WDS toolset, many of whose components rely on WAS.
And unfortunately, WAS 4.0, like all previous incarnations of WAS, is configured and functions differently than any of its predecessors. This means that once again, users of WebSphere will have to slog their way through installing, configuring, and even simply getting it to run.
If that wasn’t change enough, IBM Toronto is currently working on a complete rewrite of many of its development tools, including VisualAge for Java and WebSphere Studio. In fact, over the next couple of years, we’ll see a complete rewrite of all of IBM’s PC-based development tools.
This news does not surprise most industry watchers. As early as a year and a half ago, IBM released a statement of direction that basically said that all development tools would share a common launch pad and that, eventually, each could become a shared component of the other. So the same tool that allows you to create a WebSphere Studio project will also allow you to create a VisualAge for Java and even a VisualAge for RPG product, as well.
To accomplish all of this, IBM is currently rewriting all of its development tools, starting with Visual Age for Java and WebSphere Studio, to take advantage of the open source technology known as Eclipse. Eclipse provides a framework that developers—in this case, IBM’s developers in Toronto—can use to present a single, uniform look and feel to users. Developers write “plug-ins” for this Java-based IDE, which in turn, provide the hooks or links into the proprietary product, such as VisualAge for Java or WebSphere Studio. I’ll be covering the Eclipse Project technology, and IBM’s plans for using it, in more detail in my next article.
Moving to WDS
In the meantime, your development staff should be preparing for this new technology. First, if they haven’t already done so, make sure your development managers order the WebSphere Development Studio product for their OS/400 V4R5 box or, better yet, migrate their iSeries system to OS/400 V5R1. With V5R1, your development department will be able to take full advantage of all the development tools available in WDS.
Once your development group has acquired the WDS tools, they should install and configure the free WebSphere Application Server 3.5 Standard Edition product on their iSeries. Even though WAS 4.0 is already out there and is set to replace all other versions of WAS, your development department should still take advantage of the WAS 3.5 product while it’s available. In any event, WAS 3.5 will be a supported product from IBM through December 2002, so developers have quite a bit of time before having to move to another version.
Finally, you should encourage your developers to begin experimenting with and learning how to use the new development tools available with WDS. Many traditional iSeries developers know nothing about developing software using PC-based tools such as WebSphere Studio or VisualAge for RPG. The skills they gain now will serve them well when it comes time to move to the newer version of these tools in a year or so.
Is IBM headed in the right direction?
Do you believe that this is the last big change for IBM development tools? Will the promise of an integrated toolset be enough to get your development staff to rewrite code, relearn IBM’s tools, and embrace the new products? Tell us what you think of this strategy.