Product Review: IBM unites enterprise development

Product Review: IBM unites enterprise development

With its integrated development environment, WSED 5.0 (WebSphere Studio Enterprise Developer 5.0), IBM has nicely blended development support for mission-critical legacy technologies, such as Cobol and PL/1, together with tools that support web technologies

You hear a lot these days about Java, XML, and Web services. In the majority of enterprises, however, legacy applications are still alive, well, and powering some of the most mission-critical business functions within the organization. With its integrated development environment, WSED 5.0 (WebSphere Studio Enterprise Developer 5.0), IBM has nicely blended development support for mission-critical legacy technologies, such as Cobol and PL/1, together with tools that support Web technologies.

There are a number of benefits that can be derived from the all-inclusive nature of IBM Corp.'s IDE. Developers can more easily maintain existing legacy assets using WSED. But that existing legacy code can also be extended and transformed into new or improved applications by blending legacy assets with Web-related technologies.

Further, it saves companies the expense of purchasing multiple development tools to support legacy, Java, and Web technologies.

WSED is a superset of WSAD (WebSphere Studio Application Developer), the IBM IDE that supports Java/J2EE, Web applications, XML, and Web services development. While WSED (US$7,500 per processor) adds support for mainframe assets, WSAD ($3,499) is a solid IDE for organizations that don't need to include mainframe support.

IBM also supplies a superset version of WSAD that supports its iSeries (AS/400) platform. I've tested the WSDC (WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries) and, as with WSED, have found that it too does a good job of supporting both existing midrange assets, such as RPG (Report Program Generator) code, as well as Web technologies.

I had no trouble getting WSED up and running on Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. Although other versions of the WebSphere Studio IDE, including WSAD, run on Linux and other platforms, WSED does not yet support platforms beyond Windows. IBM has indicated that it expects to expand WSED's platform reach in the near future.

About the only beef I have with WSED is its intermittent sluggishness. The recommended 500MHz Pentium III configuration was just too darn slow to be productive. Even on a 2GHz Pentium 4 machine with 2GB of memory, the IDE would occasionally take a frustratingly long time to execute certain tasks, such as loading a JSP (Java Server Page) for editing, and it offered no indication as to what was holding up progress.

But for other tasks, such as starting up an application server to test an application, WSED at least displayed what it was doing. I also observed several occasions when WSED would hang, though only on Windows XP.

Performance issues aside, WSED proved reliable on a number of fronts. I was able to easily connect to remote z/OS systems and, using the built-in WSED perspectives, I was able to customize my IDE environment so as to modify an existing Cobol sales application to collect a greater amount of demographic data. I had no trouble editing, testing, and redeploying the app. In particular, I appreciated WSED's editor support for filter views, which let me see my application in outline form and quickly locate the code that I wanted to modify.

The WSED IDE is highly configurable to the needs of a variety of enterprise developers. The default perspectives enable developers to work in the role of legacy developer or J2EE, Java, XML, or Web services practitioner. However, developers may customize a particular perspective to meet the demands of application integration when legacy and Web technologies are involved.

Next, I decided to extend the Cobol assets of my sales application to Web browsers. I used WSED's support for EGL (Enterprise Generation Language) to expand the applications' reach from internal sales people to the general public. In short order, I was able to redeploy a modified application that allowed customers to order from their Web browser.

Beyond existing Cobol applications, I tried working with some PL/1 code I had on hand and achieved equal success.

WSED nicely implements the open source Struts framework. Enterprise developers creating Web applications will find working with the Struts model, view, and controller paradigm a breeze.

Companies that depend on legacy assets and leading technologies, such as J2EE and Web services, should consider deploying WSED as a way to gain the best of both worlds while minimizing costs. -- InfoWorld (US)

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