We have recently teamed up with LookSoftware to use their products for Application Modernization, something which I am sure is going to be a key activity for the IBM ‘i’ community in the coming months/years.
One area which we are really keen to take a look at (no pun intended) is Web services using IBM ‘i’ data. Look Software has a LookServer product that runs on a IIS based server that allows Web Services to be exposed using the IBM ‘i’ data and screen content. The use of the screen content is something which is really interesting, we saw a demo on how it can transactionalize (not a real word) the IBM ‘i’ screens and provide some or all of the data from those screens via a Web Service!
Let’s say you had a requirement to display some data that is stored in your database, you don’t have access to the programs to bring out that data but your users regularly require the information to carry out another process. The normal method of getting the data is to sign onto the IBM ‘i’ and go through a number of screen before finding the information, writing it down and closing all of the screens before going into another application. With the Transaction recorder available in LookSoftware you can take all of those screens passing in any required data and return the data back to the user in a single request. That data can be displayed in another application or it can be exposed as a Web Service to anyone that needs it.
The initial requirement to test out the process is to set up IIS, we had a Vista 64bit install which we thought we could use, unfortunately IIS doesnt like 64bit Vista so we had to come up with a separate PC running Vista 32bit and IIS. That’s a whole other story, but I have to say Windows and 64bit is a nonsense, support in the applications supplied by ISV’s and Microsoft does not always play together as they should!
Installing the LookServer was easy and connection to the IBM ‘i’ was a breeze. We now have a web browser based interface to most of the IBM ‘i’ applications we run without any further changes. I say most because some applications that do not follow CUA guidelines cannot be rendered correctly using the web interface. Fortunately all of our products are CUA compliant due to our use of UIM which enforces CUA compliant screens and menu’s!
Our next project will be to create our first web service using the data and applications we have on the IBM ‘i’, but in the meantime we thought we would see just how cool the LookServer is.
I have an iPod touch that I obviously use for playing music etc, it comes with a WiFi connection so I thought I would see if I could connect via the LookServer to the IBM ‘i’, the iPod doesn’t come with a 5250 emulator so I thought I would give it a try and it worked immediately. I can now sign onto the IBM ‘i’ via the LookServer using my iPod touch and use the GUI interface provided by LookServer to access my programs and products. I could have set up the IBM ‘i’ graphical interface using the IBM provided tools, but this is definitely an option which works well.
This is early days for us and LookSoftware, but the initial response we have is very favorable. if you are interested in application modernization and would like us to discuss the product let us know, we will be happy to discuss the options with you and if possible show you what it can do with your applications.