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Taking the Fear Out of WebSphere


The word "WebSphere*" strikes fear in the minds of many RPG and COBOL programmers. Visions of Java*, JavaServer Page (JSP) components, HTML, beans and the WebSphere worlds other mysterious features can seem overwhelming to those who live and breathe traditional 5250 host-based applications.


Most of the buzz around WebSphere Development Studio Client (WDSc) for iSeries* has centered on the WebFacing Tool. But in our opinion, the Web interactions are more interesting. WDScs built-in Web Interaction wizards allow you to easily develop Web applications where all of the background business logic is written in RPG or COBOL and the tool generates the Web interfaces for you. Yes, generates. That means you don't need to know a bean from a method. The tool generates all of the necessary code for the WebSphere environment, leaving you to concentrate on writing the business logic in a language thats second nature to you. 


It gets even better when you learn that you can try your hand at developing one of these Web applications on a proof-of-concept basis without loading, setting up or configuring the WebSphere Application Server (WAS) on your iSeries system. The secret is to use the WebSphere Test Environment included in the WDSc toolset loaded on your workstation. (Note: We assume that you have adequate memory on your workstation.)


Hopefully you already have the WDSc toolset loaded on your workstation, since its Remote Systems Explorer (RSE) perspective provides a fabulous development workbench for your traditional green-screen and batch RPG or COBOL applications as well.


Of course you must develop your RPG or COBOL logic in a modular fashion to take full advantage of all of this. If you're still mired in the world of monolithic RPG programs, perhaps Web interactions are the incentive you need to break out a few subroutines and make them available as callable service functions. Once modularized, you can use these programs or procedures with CGI applications, batch applications, Web services or even traditional green-screen programs.


What is a Web Interaction?

From the programmers perspective, a Web interaction has three main components: the input page (i.e., browser-screen format), an RPG or COBOL program or procedure, and an output page. To simplify subsequent descriptions, from here on, we use the term "procedure" to refer to both programs and procedures used in Web interactions. Data fields from the input page are passed as parameters to the procedure, which returns the results that feed the output page. Of course, the output page of one interaction could well become the input page for another interaction, or a single input page could potentially link to multiple alternative output pages. So by linking multiple interactions together, one can create a complete application.


Our example uses a program from the "Building an e-business application with RPG" tutorial, which is downloadable from IBMs Web site ( wdt400/library/iSeriesWebAppDev.html#Tutorials). This simple example allows entry of a customer number and displays the customers details. Not terribly exciting, but it lets us step through the development process.



Jon Paris is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.

Susan Gantner is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.



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