Your parents probably told you the best way to deal with challenges was to face them square on. The IBM WebFacing Tool was seemingly created with this pearl of parental wisdom in mind.
The WebFacing tool is designed to help enterprises face and meet the challenges of Web-enabling 5250 applications. An iSeries productivity enhancement available as of OS/400* V4R5, the WebFacing Tool runs production green-screen display files through a conversion process and creates Internet-ready application interfaces.
The WebFacing tool creates a Web interface to existing 5250 applications by generating JavaServer Pages* (JSPs), Java beans and servlets based on the display file data description specification (DDS). Little or no change is required to the business logic of the original application and the "Web-faced" application supports both the 5250 and Web interfaces.
Once a Web interface is published to the application server-such as IBM's WebSphere* or the recently announced Apache Software Foundation (ASF) Jakarta Tomcat on iSeries, an open-source solution-the converted application is available to authorized Internet users worldwide. By converting an application and exporting the Web interface to one or more application servers on the iSeries, you can update work-in-process inventory status directly from remote locations via the Internet. So you can use the same RPG application you're currently using to complete local updates from faxed or hard-copy information. This gives remote offices and salespeople full access (if authorized) to all appropriate company information in real time, via the Internet, in a GUI format.
The WebFacing tool is a component of WebSphere Development Studio (WDS) for iSeries (5722-WDS). This product consolidates all of the traditional and e-business development tools into one package, which is a no-charge upgrade from the predecessor products with Software Subscription. WDS includes these host components: Integrated Language Environment* (ILE) RPG, ILE COBOL, ILE C, ILE C++ and Application Development Tool Set.
In addition to the host components, WDS includes these workstation components (with unlimited workstation licenses per server): WebFacing Tool, WebSphere Studio for iSeries, VisualAge* for Java* for iSeries (with Enterprise Toolkit for iSeries), Cooperative Development Environment (CODE) and VisualAge RPG.
Programmers who choose to learn and use the WebFacing Tool to convert green screens to Internet-ready screens can expect an easier entrance into the e-business world of the future.
Putting on a Web Face
To implement the WebFacing Tool, you'll need an iSeries server with an application server, WDS for iSeries, a PC with a browser. Just as important, you'll need a comprehensive and realistic project implementation plan. Think big: Convert all of your display files. The task isn't overwhelming, and it certainly won't hurt to have each of your display files Web-enabled, with the same GUI look and feel.
Finally, some formal training on the tool is recommended. Properly trained users should be able to Web-enable a green-screen application in a day. Training is available from IBM Learning Services and IBM-authorized business partners. ILS course information is available online. Training on the WAS is also recommended.
Now, let's run down the crucial steps for using the WebFacing Tool:
1. Analyze, and, if necessary, clean up your DDS keywords. IBMs WebFacing Tool Support page (www.ibm.com/software/ad/wdt400/webfacing/support.html ) provides a mechanism for analyzing the convertibility of your DDS. The WebFacing tool doesn't support the conversion of all DDS keywords. Those DDS keywords that aren't supported by the WebFacing Tool or have no equivalent browser function are highlighted in the analysis.
Depending on the display file design, DDS changes may not be required. There's probably no need to change RPG or COBOL source programs. Code cleanup is a positive step; preparing for conversion provides the opportunity to scan your code and fix its clumsy areas.
2. Select the appropriate style sheet from the supplied WebFacing style sheets. IBM provides an IDE workbench to walk you through a WebFacing project. Here are the steps involved:
a. Create a new WebFacing project and select a server.
b. Select one or more display files to convert and choose the style sheet.
c. Select the commands for calling your application.
d. Run the conversion of the selected project to create JSP files, servlets and Java beans.
e. Publish the Web application to an application server: generate your publishing information, generate the output and deploy to the server
f. Call your Web application from the browser.
3. Convert an application using the standard WebFacing facilities and publish the Web application to an application server on the iSeries. Figure 1 illustrates a green-screen product availability display. Figure 2 illustrates the same display converted to GUI format using the WebFacing Tool. In our experience, the programming changes to the DDS were minimal, and the RPG programs didnt require any.
4. Create your own style sheets and customize as desired. Now that you've converted your display files, you'll want to design your own style sheets, which let you add functions for capturing the image your company desires using color, bars, boxes, images and logos. The ILS course materials explain style sheet basics.
5. Use Web Settings and WebSphere Studio to enhance GUI applications. Web Settings allow customization for the conversion process. WebSphere Studio allows the customization of any converted DDS file.
6. Develop and implement secure Internet access to your Internet-enabled applications. Web security involves several critical issues-security of communication lines, OS/400 security and application security. IBM supplies extensive security features in the iSeries. Your WebFacing application should implement security.
7. Train end users on the browser-based GUI displays. Then, implement the application in a production environment and obtain user feedback about the new capability available to them through the Internet. Pilot production implementation of a single major application is suggested to allow focus on the application and train the end users. A pilot project also allows feedback and enhancement of the first production system before other applications are converted.
8. Develop new applications using WebSphere Studio without WebFacing. Use the knowledge, experience and success gained with the WebFacing tool to develop new Web applications that dont convert DDS display files.
WebFacing allows iSeries programmers to develop browser-based, Internet-ready applications now, with little training. Programmers who choose to learn and use the WebFacing Tool to convert green screens to Internet-ready screens can expect an easier entrance into the e-business world of the future. Visit the IBM Web site (www.ibm.com/software/ad/wdt400/news.html) for details on using the WebFacing Tool.