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WebSphere Express key to iSeries future in e-business

Learn what WebSphere Express for iSeries has to offer in this overview from Web development expert Jim Mason.


Jim Mason

If you thought WebSphere was too pricy and complicated, you should take a look at the new WebSphere Application Server -- Express for iSeries.

Along with the new iSeries 8xx servers and the new WebSphere Development Studio Client versions, WebSphere Express for iSeries is a key to the iSeries future in e-business. Customers now have the right server, the right middleware and the right tools to be cost-effective and productive in rapidly Web-enabling many areas of their business. The new servers offer a much higher value for e-business, since WebFaced 5250 applications now don't require interactive CPW now on these new systems.

If you knew WebSphere before, you will really like the improvements Express offers. If you are new to Web serving, this is the place you'll want to start.

What most customers have been waiting for
WebSphere Express for iSeries was designed to deliver the following:

  1. An affordable, easy-to-use, entry point application server for companies starting in e-business.
  2. Support for common open Web standards: J2EE, XML, Web services application services.
  3. A foundation to build on for the WebSphere platform, solutions (WebSphere Portal Express, etc).

Does it deliver? Yes. These goals clearly make sense for the majority of the market. For many companies starting in e-business with publishing and or basic transactions, WebSphere Express for iSeries will be the right answer. Express is a subset of WebSphere Application Server code and function. As a result, it performs well on low-end servers where WebSphere Application Server can't. IBM recommends a minimum 300 CPW iSeries server. Based on the beta version I've been using, that is a good recommendation. It's very different than WebSphere version 4.

WebSphere Express for iSeries key features
What IS included in the new WebSphere Express for iSeries server? Lots:

  • Express provides a subset of J2EE 1.3 and WebSphere Application Server version 5 function:
    Servlets 2.3, JSP 1.2, JDBC 2.0, JNDI, JavaMail, JAF 1.0, JAXP (Java API for XML Parsing), BSF (Bean Scripting Framework) standards are supported. For Web services, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI support is included
  • Browser console available for configuration with Advanced console application option
  • Multiple server instances can be created to run different applications, environments
  • SSL/TLS configuration option for secure HTTP connections
  • Authentication provided against OS/400 user profiles for server administered security
  • Flexible virtual host mapping: IP address, host name or dynamic hosts
  • Flexible logging, tracing and debugging for diagnostics: HTTP and Express servers
  • A reasonable set of sample applications that you can test and use as a model for your own
  • Migration support for existing WebSphere Standard Edition and Tomcat servers

WebSphere Express for iSeries also includes Web services object runtime facility (WORF) so a Web-services application can access objects. Combine this with DB2 XML Extender (5722-DE1) and you can create applications that read and write DB2 data to and from XML documents without having to write Java code in many cases. The down side is you have to buy DB2 Extender, which means for smaller applications it's cheaper to pay someone to write the Java code, or better yet, use the new Apache XML Standard Tag Library to read and write to your database.

Based on J2EE specifications, what's NOT included in WebSphere Express for iSeries? Client application support, EJB container support (Enterprise Java Beans) and JMS support (Java Message Service). What about JCA (Java Connector Architecture)? You can write applications to the JCA spec using existing database transaction services accessed with JDBC in the Java toolkit and the native JDBC drivers.

Probably the most important features above for many customers will be the support for Servlets 2.3, JSP 1.2 and JAXP for more powerful Web and XML applications. The Servlets spec offers Filters for dynamic customization of HTTP requests and responses. JSP 1.2 offers better tag support for higher levels of code reuse and productivity. JAXP makes it easier to access XML documents from Java. Newer Web applications will want to utilize the Apache Struts framework (struts.jar is included) for improved modularity and customization of Web applications.

WebSphere Express for iSeries offers more than other versions
The new WebSphere Express for iSeries offers some benefits over other versions of WebSphere beyond the cost and improved performance on low-end servers. The iSeries version will be considered the easiest to use by many customers. In addition, it has some functional advantages over the Windows version, which is sold at the same price ($2,000). It includes a processor license, WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries, version 5 development toolset and a sample telephone book application.

Some feature improvements over Windows version
The iSeries version has some key advantages over the Windows version of WebSphere Express:

  • It supports multiple server instances (a critical customer requirement).
  • It uses a browser interface for basic administration. Advanced administration is done through a console application using the Express administration server.
  • It runs on the iSeries server, not an IXS card.
  • Applications can leverage the iSeries built-in LDAP server if using JAAS for application authentication.

iSeries Administration is better
The Express browser console is reasonably well-organized for newcomers. The Welcome screen describes the basic process to get an initial server running. The application is organized into five logical sections:

  • Welcome -- simple documentation on how to setup Express for the first-time user
  • Setup -- wizards to create your initial HTTP or Express server instances
  • Manage -- the primary place to manage all HTTP and Express servers
  • TCM -- management for the Triggered Cache Manager which can improve server performance
  • Links -- links to other IBM Web sites for more information

In general, diagnostics on the iSeries is easier through the browser than the Windows version that uses WebSphere Studio Site Developer as the console interface. If needed, iSeries also has better "command line" options using Qshell than a standard DOS command window. Troubleshooting Express servers is well supported several ways: customizable server logging on HTTP and Express servers, remote application debug using WDSC Debug and RAC (Remote Agent Controller service) and customizable server tracing.

Express administration also is much better than older versions of WebSphere Application Server. Is this a big change? You bet it is. The administration console on the earlier WebSphere versions was considered by many iSeries customers who I know as a perfect example of a bad Web application.

Seven steps to get WebSphere Express for iSeries running
The Express server can be easy to install IF this is the first HTTP server installed on your iSeries server. You can use the defaults for IP address and port when creating a new Express server instance and be assured you won't have any TCP application conflicts. If this is NOT your situation, you may want to check with someone who knows TCP on the iSeries to see what an appropriate IP address and port should be for your Express server. Given either of the scenarios above, the basic steps to setup a new Express server and test it are summarized briefly below:

  1. Plan the Express install, including the IP address and port you want to use for the server
  2. Ensure the hardware and software requirements, including current PTFs, are installed
  3. Install Express product
  4. Start the HTTP admin server and connect a Web browser to the admin server
  5. Configure a new Express server -- updates or creates an HTTP server as well -- take the option to install the sample applications (included Snoop servlet)
  6. Start the Express server and the HTTP server
  7. Run the Snoop servlet to test the Express server setup

The early beta version of the software I used had some bugs that were relatively minor impacts most of the time. The form to view logs only allowed selection of the System error log for example. I used Qshell to view any of the logs. They were under the /qibm/userdata/webase/ase5/ /logs directory.

WebSphere Express for iSeries application install is easy
Application packaging and deployment is done easily with the WDSC tools. Having copied the J2EE EAR or WAR file for your application to the appropriate IFS directory for your Express server, you create a new application definition in the Express server and import your application resources (EAR or WAR file). These steps summarize the application build, install cycle between WDSC and Express:

  1. Create a J2EE application
  2. Package application with necessary jar files
  3. Create a J2EE EAR or WAR file
  4. Add any common jar files to the application server classpath
  5. Copy EAR or WAR file to IFS application server root
  6. Create an application using Express console for the specific server you want to use
    First you create the application, then select it for install on the server
  7. Start the Express and HTTP servers to access the application

Key points to focus on

  • WebSphere Express for iSeries is very affordable, easy-to-use and runs a wide variety of Web applications well
  • Customers will want to migrate to Express to get the big improvements in e-business software (Servlets 2.3, JSP 1.2, XML, Web-services support) compared to the older WebSphere Standard edition, version 3.5.6. IBM supplies a migration tool for Standard Edition servers.
  • The IBM WebFacing Tool is the fastest, easiest and most cost-effective tool for creating Web interfaces to 5250 applications for WebSphere Express for iSeries and the new servers.
  • You should work with your business partners to reassess what the specific benefits are for your situation.
  • Your company, software providers and business partners will all benefit from these products with an increase in e-business solutions available.

Getting ready for WebSphere Express for iSeries
How can you get started to leverage these products in your business?

  • Create a valid e-business plan
    If you have an e-business plan, you may want to review it for potential changes. If you don't have one, you'll need to create one. Engineering the correct e-business infrastructure to meet your needs is an important task and can be done by iSeries e-business service providers focused on WebSphere and WebFacing. In addition to ebt-now, you can find other WebSphere service providers listed at www.eserversoftwarenet.com.
  • Get education
    Both WDSC editions have good online documentation and some example applications. WebSphere Express for iSeries has a simple install guide. If you are planning to develop and implement applications yourself, you'll probably want more education on the tools and Express. Choices to review include: ebt-now and www.eserversoftwarenet.com.
  • Develop your applications
    Whether you develop using in-house staff or contract an outside business partner, utilizing WDSC will make a big impact on lowering the costs and time to develop e-business applications. ebt-now and other service providers specializing in WebFacing can be found at www.eserversoftwarenet.com.
  • Deploy to your new iSeries server and WebSphere Express
    Contact your iSeries business partner to order your iSeries server and WebSphere Express. Installing both is a relatively easy task given the engineering was done earlier when you created your e-business plan.

References
Check these Web sites below for iSeries and third-party information on e-business solutions and services:

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About the author: Jim Mason is president of ebt-now.com, and he writes, consults, teaches, designs and develops iSeries Web applications using Java, WebSphere, DB2, Lotus Domino and the WebSphere Development Tools for iSeries.

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MORE INFORMATION
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  • IBM targets smaller shops with new Express line of WebSphere products
    E-business expert Bob Cancilla, who has also been testing out the new WebSphere Express, provides his opinions and talks about the benefits to small and midsize businesses.
  • WebSphere Express to replace Tomcat bundled with HTTP Server
    With the addition of WebSphere Express, iSeries users will have a robust and sophisticated environment to migrate existing applications to Java and develop new applications. But more important is the possibility of IBM bundling it with OS/400, which could lead to simplifying the operating system, says Bob Cancilla.
  • IBM initiative reaches out to mid-market
    IBM has announced software, training and support initiatives to help business partners deliver IBM solutions to mid-sized companies. The first product, WebSphere Portal Express is due out in December. IBM will then release a database management system, plus Web access and security infrastructure software. Pricing is expected to be lower than IBM normally charges to large enterprises.


Dig Deeper on Web Tools

Q&A: Mason calls WDSC the tool of choice for Web development beginners

Read feedback to this Q&A.

iSeries shops are placing Web development and Web enablement at the top of their priority lists. But if you're just starting out, where do you begin? There are so many options that choosing the one right may seem like an impossible task.

Jim Mason, president of ebt-now, talked with assistant editor Deb Tart recently at the Northeast IBM User Conference in Framingham, Mass., about tools and techniques for developing for the Web and what his Web tool preferences are.

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