TUG Buzz!
May 13, 2011

 

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The Toronto Users Group  
 for Power Systems (TUG) is a user group/forum for the exchange  
 of ideas, and specializes  
 in providing affordable 
  education relating to the  
 IBM iSeries, AS/400,  
 System i, and Power Systems platforms.  

 TUG is in its 26th year of operation.

 
 

Welcome to TUG's eNewsletter: "TUG Buzz!"

IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. IBM HA Lab Services Workshop - May 17
  2. Member Article: How PBAS Embraced the IBM Vision and Executed it (by Ryan Allaby)
  3. TUG's Annual Charity Golf Tournament - June 23

Wednesday May 17th 2011  IBM Canada HQ

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What topics would you like to see at future conferences and MoMs?   Drop us a line with your suggestions at: leo@tug.ca.

Member Article:

How PBAS Embraced the IBM Vision and Executed it

By Ryan Allaby

Assistant to the IT Director, Programmer/Analyst
The PBAS Group
ryan_allaby@pbas.ca
416-674-2407 x249

Introduction

When IBM announced the immediate availability of the J2EE technology on the iSeries, many dire hard AS/400 shops may have frowned, but there was one person that was excited!  (I think you can figure out who!)

Websphere on the AS/400 (iSeries) system meant that Java applications could be run on the iSeries natively, and it provided a strong foundation for moving to web-based environments. 

After Y2K, the interest in most businesses was moving to the World Wide Web.  PBAS, at that time, was in dire need of rebuilding their main internal business application.  The main PBAS business application, the Member System, is a system that allows registration of new members and consisted of complex pension rules.  Our system was originally written back in the late 1970’s with legacy COBOL, RPG and CL applications.  However, over the years, constant scope creep, shifting business requirements and stringent time and resource constraints meant that a concerted effort was required to rewrite the system.


Member System Re-Write

logo_PBASWe gathered the new system requirements for over a year by traveling to each satellite office, across Canada (St. John’s, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver).  Our two analysts exhausted each resource at each office with a variety of requirements gathering techniques.  One of the major business requirements coming out of these exercises was that the new Member System needed to be extended out to the web.  This meant that e-commerce and e-business were now a concern, and going forward, PBAS had to adapt to new web-based technologies.  In short, we had many legacy applications that somehow had to be extended and used in complex and new ways.  We needed a fresh approach to our design concerns, which meant leveraging Java and XML in many ways.

Our main in-house skill set consisted of a group of 8 developers who are mostly strong in RPG IV/ILE and SQL Stored Procedures.  The IT Director, working with a strict budget and time constraints, had to make a decision to use our existing people and their knowledge.  There was limited room for learning, and at that time, there was only one of us trained in object-oriented skills in Java.

However, this decision did not defer our thinking, or steer us off course from our plan.  We had been running on the IBM platform since the beginning, and we were not going to let a new technology alter our development roadmap.  

At first, we had our Java resource attended a 5-day course at IBM Markham on WebSphere development.  Upon his return, he taught weekly workshops to the IT group on IBM’s new toolset, WebSphere Development Studio Client, and the basics of web-based technology.

PBAS’s IT department quickly discovered that IBM has already laid out the groundwork for them.  IBM had already developed technologies that enabled green-screen shops like ours to “springboard” to the web.  Some of these technologies like Webfacing, and iSeries Access for Web gave PBAS the starting point to start moving all of their legacy applications to the web platform. 

Another IBM innovation, an extension of XML (Extensible Markup Language) was PCML (Program Call Markup Language).  This technology gave Java developers at PBAS the means to build a strong communication protocol to effectively interface with both legacy and modern RPG programs.  We developed a standard for handling error data structures, naming conventions with our RPG programs on the iSeries were accessed through PCML.  PCML delivered a seemless means of communicating and data exchange between Java servlets and the iSeries operating system.  PCML is now our standard application level protocol.

Another crucial component in this puzzle was the IBM Toolbox for Java.  This collection of iSeries-based Java classes allowed us to extend the power of the iSeries system to the web very easily and maintain the robustness of the iSeries.  Some of the classes in the toolbox “wrap” native iSeries APIs, which meant the same API could be interfaced with native RPG code or it could be interfaced with Java.  This opened another door to Java developers for interfacing with many iSeries-specific technologies, like absorbing data queues, or working with user spaces, for instance.

We designed our new system on the premise of MVC, the Model-View-Controller paradigm or design paradigm.  The premise here is that each layer of the application is self-contained, and loosely coupled with the business tier.  We decided that our “model” component would consist of RPG and CL program objects, organized neatly in service programs, and SQL Stored Procedures.  Our “view” and “controller” layers would be built with Java, implementing the Struts web-application framework.  Our view components were specifically JSP objects (Java Server Pages) and our controller layer was built by extending the Struts framework.

The open-source Jakarta Struts project gave our developers extreme flexibility when building our web applications.  We were able to leverage the Struts Validation framework, which now monitors our “view” layer.  No RPG or CL programs are called unless our complex data validation framework is passed.  We encountered many design patterns (and anti-patterns) which forced our development team to turn our attention to the Struts framework.  In the space of only a couple of weeks, we had ported our entire system to the framework.

Change management was achieved using CVS, a free and open-source change management solution.  The benefit to using CVS was that we could check-in or checkout our Java and XML code directly from WebSphere Development Studio Client (now known as Rational Developer for IBM i).

At runtime, users can choose between three different styles that will paint the application in different colors, font sizes, font selection and backgrounds.  This gives the user an added sense of satisfaction to be able to “customize” their experience.   New look and feel layouts can easily be extended to include new cascading style sheets if user preferences evolve.

At present time, we have deployed our new Member System to production.  It is accessed across Canada and is used by over 120 concurrent users, running on WebSphere Application Server 6.0 Express for iSeries V5R4. 

Over the years we achieved many exciting milestones during our development phase.  The Member System survived much iteration and scope changes.  Our first version of the system was built without a web-application framework or PCML whatsoever, consisting of Servlets and JSPs calling RPG and CL programs using IBM Java Toolbox APIs. 

Security is robust and based on OS/400 object security and this is achieved by leveraging APIs in the IBM Toolbox for Java.

We now comfortably maintain our applications using Rational Application Developer for IBM i, targeting WebSphere Application server 6.0 as our runtime.

Lotus Domino, the Integrated xSeries Adapter and the Consolidation effort

PBAS embraced the idea of consolidation on the iSeries.  The main driving force for this move was the fact that the iSeries system is extremely stable, but more importantly, it was able to house many dissimilar technologies and allow them to play well with each other. 

Our first effort in the consolidation game was migrating our ancient our DOS-based Lotus cc:Mail system to Lotus Domino on the iSeries.  The migration of this project took place over a Thanksgiving weekend.  Prior to this changeover date, we deployed a test version of Domino on our old 170 system and gave access to it to a group of users across our organization.  The changeover itself was flawless, all email and mailboxes were migrated successfully. 

At present time, over 160 users access our Domino system across Canada, all using the Domino iNotes browser-based client.  We now run Lotus Domino 8.5.3 on the iSeries for the entire enterprise of over 160 users.

The next step in our consolidation effort was migrating from Novell Netware.  When PBAS learned that through an internal or external adapter we could run Microsoft Windows server on the iSeries, we saw another opportunity to consolidate.

Of course all this new data on the iSeries required that the disaster recovery plan be beefed up.  We implemented another IBM technology, Backup, Recovery and Media Services (BRMS) to control our file-level backups of the Microsoft Environment, as well as Domino, our legacy business application, and our new WebSphere application.

At present, we are running a 520, with 8GB of RAM on V5R4.  We have successfully consolidated our main business components to the iSeries.  We have obsoleted our standard 5250 displays for Windows-based thin-clients, Websphere 6.0 Application Server, Lotus Domino 8.5.3, and Microsoft Windows 2003 on IXA and we have BRMS backing it all up every night.

Ryan AllabyResources:

The Server Side: www.theserverside.com
iSeries Network: www.iseriesnetwork.com
Phil Coulthard and George Farr’s RPG-To-J2EE Roadmap published monthly in TUG Magazine
IBM Redbooks: www.redbooks.ibm.com
iSeries Information Centre (V5R3): http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/infocenter/iseries/v5r3/index.jsp?lang=en
iSeries Information Centre (V5R4): http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/infocenter/iseries/v5r4/index.jsp?lang=en
Code 400: www.code400.com
Eclipse: www.eclipse.org
Java World: www.javaworld.com
IBM Toolbox for Java: http://www-03.ibm.com/servers/eserver/iseries/toolbox/
JTOpen (Open source of Java Toolbox): http://jt400.sourceforge.net/


BIO:

Ryan Allaby was professionally trained at Ryerson University, Sir Sandford Fleming College, as well as various IBM courses. Plus, over his career, he has attended C/C++, Java and XML courses at Centennial College. Currently he is working towards his B.A. in Science, studying the Laws of Nature (physics). Ryan has 10 years experience developing on the IBM i, mostly with Java, CL & RPG, has been working with Websphere Application Server since version 4.0, and has experience with IBM's eclipse tooling as well. Primarily, he is a web developer on the IBM i platform working with Java and PCML, and was the chief architect for PBAS's Member System (the software discussed in the article).

Ryan has his own hardware and software support company for the greater Toronto area. He offers free web-based email and provides software support solutions for PCs, Apple Macs, and IBM i systems. RA-CC.COM is the name of his company. Ryan is also a published writer. In 2006, he wrote a fantasy novel in the vein of "choose your own adventure." His book is geared towards teenagers/young adults and is entitled "Wrath of the Behemoth." It is the first book in a series of CYOA books that he plans to publish in the near future. You can buy it from major e-tailers like Amazon.ca and Barns & Noble. "Adventure Quest Gamebooks" has a homepage here: www.adventurequesthq.ca.

Ryan is Assistant to the Director of IT at PBAS (Prudent Benefits Administration Services, Inc.)

PBAS Group has been a member of TUG since 1988.

 

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Thursday June 23th 2011  Glen Eagle Golf Club, Caledon.  Tee-off Time 8:00 am Cost: $130 per golfer (including taxes) Price includes greens fees, power cart, and a delicious New York sirloin steak  and chicken dinner. Limit 144 golfers. Proceeds to Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre

Thursday June 23rd 2011
Glen Eagle Golf Club, Caledon, ON

Tee-off Time 8:00 am
Cost: $130 per golfer (including taxes)

Price includes greens fees, power cart,
and a delicious New York sirloin steak and chicken dinner.
Limit 144 golfers.

Thursday June 23th 2011  Glen Eagle Golf Club, Caledon.  Tee-off Time 8:00 am Cost: $130 per golfer (including taxes) Price includes greens fees, power cart, and a delicious New York sirloin steak  and chicken dinner. Limit 144 golfers.

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