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Features added to WebFacing v5.1.2

If you haven't looked at WebFacing lately, you'll find a lot has changed. Jim Mason takes a look at the main features that have been added to each edition of the WebFacing tool.

This tip is an excerpt of the article "Discover the next generation of WebFacing, v5.1.2" published in the May/June...

2005 edition (volume 8, number 3) of the iSeries 400 Experts Journal. Provided courtesy of iSeries 400 Experts.

Jim Mason

If you haven't looked at WebFacing lately, you'll find a lot has changed. There are now two versions of the tool. The base version is packaged in the Standard edition of WebSphere Development Studio Client (WDSC); the advanced version of the WebFacing tool is part of the Advanced edition of WDSC. Let's take a look at the main features that have been added to each edition of the WebFacing tool over the last few releases.

Impact of Standard edition enhancements

There are several significant enhancements to the WebFacing tool in the Standard edition of WDSC v5.1.2, including boosts to performance, new APIs, and portal deployment support.

Performance enhancements. Performance of WebFacing applications, when properly tuned, is equivalent to that of most other Web applications today. While not critical in impact, new support for the INVITE keyword, support for Send File (SNDF) and Receive File (RCVF) in CL programs, and the program-to-system fields eliminate host program modifications previously required to accommodate WebFacing.

The QQFENV API. Also updated in WDSC Standard edition v5.1.2, the QQFENV API can be called from RPG and COBOL. The API makes it easy to differentiate workflow modifications for a Web user from those for a 5250 user. The API simply returns an integer indicating if the application is running with a Web browser client. A value of 1 is a Web client; 0 is a 5250 client.

More Information

Dynamic call support. This enhancement allows programs to dynamically call the host application without predefining CL invocation commands in a WebFacing project, which can be useful. At ebt-now, we've created a QuickWebMenu security tool that allows users to log on to the Web site and then invoke a menu option to call a 5250 application, passing user information and custom variables on the call.

Style enhancements. With the enhanced user-defined styles and the Style wizard, you have great flexibility in defining application styles and an easy WSYIWYG tool for customizing style attributes.

Spool file access via the Web. The Standard edition of WebFacing doesn't include system screen support, but IBM supplies a Save file, WRKSPLFRPG.SAVF, that you can download from the WebFacing site. This includes an RPG version of the Work with Spool Files (WRKSPLF) command. You can WebFace this application and give your users access to spool files from a Web browser. For other system screen support, you'll need the version of WebFacing available in WDSC Advanced.

Portal deployment. You can now deploy a standard WebFacing application in a Web portal server (WebSphere, Apache Jetspeed, or other compliant portal server) using an IFramePortlet. The primary limitation is that you can't have two IFramePortlets pointing to the same WebFacing application. IBM donated the IFramePortlet to the Apache Software Foundation. You can find it at both the IBM and Apache Web sites.

Server mode support. Perhaps the greatest enhancement to the Standard edition of the WebFacing tool is server mode support. For any iSeries shipped by IBM after Jan. 1, 2003, WebFaced 5250 applications don't use interactive processing; they run in server mode. If you WebFace and run an application on a newer iSeries server, you don't have to pay the IBM "interactive tax" anymore.

In order to be enabled, these enhancements require the latest WDSC 5.1.2 software updates. If you have a high-speed Internet connection, the WDSC Update Manager makes these easy to apply.

Impact of Advanced edition enhancements

The Advanced version of the WebFacing tool (in the Advanced edition of WDSC v5.1.2) has also received several enhancements, including improvements to WebFacing portlets, single sign-on, spool file access, and Struts.

WebFacing portlets. For implementing WebSphere Portals, the new WebFacing portlets capability in WDSC v5.1.2 Advanced edition is very helpful. Now, multiple WebFacing applications can run as portlets, each with its own unique ID, in a WebSphere portal. The portlet support is added at the project level when you create a WebFacing portlet project.

The details on how to create and run WebFacing portlet applications is beyond the scope of this article, but you should be aware there are a number of differences from a Standard WebFacing application, including how JavaScript is defined for Web settings.

IBM has also included the WebSphere Portal toolkit so that you can easily build and test portlets that comply with the old IBM Portlet API or the new portlet standard, Java Specification Request (JSR) 168.

Single sign-on. With single sign-on support, users can be automatically authenticated on each iSeries program without being required to sign on each time. This is accomplished via digital certificates that are assigned to the user and then accepted by the iSeries wherever a logon is required. The digital certificate identifies the specific user ID that you want assigned for the iSeries log-on. The sign-on information can be supplied by IBM's Enterprise Identity Mapping (EIM) product for single sign-on support or by the Java Connector Architecture (JCA) connector and Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS).

While the Standard edition of WebFacing allows you to specify a single default user ID and password for your application, single sign-on support allows you to map user IDs to different iSeries user IDs, offering more fine-grained security control.

Although the support works very flexibly, I found both options to be somewhat more time-consuming and expensive to set up than our customers wanted. For simpler scenarios, you can write a simple Web menu application (if you know Java). At ebt-now, our QuickWebMenu security tool lets a Web user log on once, maps the user to an assigned group ID, and then uses that ID to automatically log on to multiple iSeries applications. The administration for a simple Web menu system is much lighter than that for an iSeries user profile or validation list.

Enhanced spool file access. IBM has included a simple Report Service that allows users to view their spool files as .gif images in a Web browser. The service is fairly simple: You are presented with the list of spool files in your assigned output queue, you select one to view, a black-and-white .gif image is generated, and it opens in the browser. The .gif image format was chosen because many shops use IBM's Advanced Function Print (AFP) toolset to write spool files that contain image data. If you want text data instead of spool images, the new system screen support allows you to view spool data over the Web.

Struts support. Enhanced Struts support allows you to generate the WebFacing application as a Struts-compliant application. With Struts, different JSP tag libraries are used in the Web pages and the control flow for the application is specified declaratively in configuration files (struts-config.xml). This makes it somewhat easier to integrate other Web applications with your WebFacing application code.

The Command Key Customization wizard. Leveraging the Struts support, the Command Key Customization wizard makes it easy to assign a user-defined service as an action for a specific command key. The assignments can be made for display files that have the command key-enabled or globally for all display files. I've used the wizard to assign a command key to the supplied IBM Report Service so that my Web users could access spool files easily. If you want to use other services, you'll have to write them as Struts applications first.

  • The Work with Active Jobs (WRKACTJOB) command
  • The Work Job (WRKJOB) command
  • The Work Job Queue (WRKJOBQ) command
  • The Work Journal (WRKJRN) command
  • The Work Library (WRKLIB) command
  • The Work Menu (WRKMNU) command
  • The Work Message (WRKMSG) command
  • The Work Message Description (WRKMSGD) command
  • The Work Message Queue (WRKMSGQ) command
  • The Work Object (WRKOBJ) command
  • The Work Object Lock (WRKOBJLCK) command
  • The Work Output Queue (WRKOUTQ) command
  • The Work Output Queue Description (WRKOUTQD) command
  • The Work Print Status (WRKPRTSTS) command
  • The Work Submitted Job (WRKSBMJOB) command
  • The Work System Status (WRKSYSSTS) command
  • The Work User Job (WRKUSRJOB) command
  • The Work User Profile (WRKUSRPRF) command
  • The Work Writer (WRKWTR) command

Until version 5.1.2, the majority of iSeries customers would choose not to pay the additional price for the Advanced edition. You need one developer license for WDSC Advanced (priced at $5,000). Now, with the addition of system screen support in the Advanced edition, that may change. Most of the system screens that users have access to in a 5250 application are now available in WebFaced applications. Just check the option on the Advanced WebFacing project to support system screens and you have it. The following CL work commands (and their associated detail screens) are all available in a WebFacing application generated by the Advanced version of the WebFacing tool:

WebFacing's many deployment choices

IBM's eServer Magazine incorrectly stated that WebFacing requires WAS in the July 2003 issue. The majority of iSeries customers I've worked with are successfully using either WAS Express on the iSeries or Apache Tomcat (downloaded directly from Apache, not the version shipped with the iSeries) as their Web application server. Both offerings are easier to configure, come at a lower cost, and require less processing power than options like the full version of WAS. Properly configured, they both also will scale well.


About the author: ebt-now jemason@ebt-now.com

This tip is an excerpt of the article "Discover the next generation of WebFacing, v5.1.2" published in the May/June 2005 edition (volume 8, number 3) of the iSeries 400 Experts Journal. Provided courtesy of iSeries 400 Experts.

Unlike most of the other IBM Web-enabling options, a WebFaced Java application can run well in any J2EE Web application server (i.e., WAS, WAS Express, Apache Tomcat, WebLogic, Jetty, and JBOSS) that supports J2EE 1.3 (or later) on an iSeries, Windows, or Linux server. Jim Mason works at , an iSeries Web integration company, providing QuickWebServices for iSeries customers: Web planning, WebSphere, WebFacing, Web development, Web networking, Web support, Web security and training services. Jim is creating a self-study course for RPG programmers that teaches "hands-on" rapid visual development with WDSC for all types of iSeries and e-business applications without the need to become a Java expert. Rochester Initiative will publish the course. You can reach Jim at .
This was last published in July 2005

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