Monday, January 23, 2012

New Toolkit, anyone?

Want a new, simpler way to access IBM i artifacts like HLL Programs and Spooled files? The new open Source toolkit is just for you!

Zend Server for IBM i 5.6 no longer ships with the old i5 toolkit. That much is true. And there has been some press about the expiration of the relationship with Aura, the authors of the toolkit we have used for the last few years. Zend’s official position can be found here. So with change comes the good, the bad and the downright awesome! What we are witnessing here is not just a new toolkit, but the dawning of a new era in software development.

IBM has been a primary engineer of the new toolkit as they have built XMLSERVICE. XMLSERVICE is IBM's first (as far as I know) official entry in the open source arena regarding IBM i. Sure IBM has contributed projects like Eclipse and contributed to projects like Apache and others. But XMLSERVICE represents IBM Rochester’s biggest investment in opening a new technology to the community that will drive IBM i workload for PHP and other open source languages to come. Yes, I said it, when the right group comes around to support Python or Ruby, IBM will be ready and waiting with XMLSERVICE to take care of their system integration needs! Special shout out to the YoungiProfessionals website for hosting the project up to now. the new home is a closely guarded secret, but will be made available very soon. And a GREAT BIG community shout out to Tony Cairns for the development work on XMLSERVICE, Sam Pinkhasov on the Toolkit API and Alan Seiden for the CW!

Zend is the first official consumer of XMLSERVICE by introducing the new Toolkit API classes into Zend Server. These classes represent the plumbing necessary to communicate with XMLSERVICE and return values important to the IBM i developer whether they be parameters from HLL programs or values from data areas. Oh, and we fixed a few things along the way. If you ever tried calling a sub-procedure from PHP you might have gotten frustrated with the fact that all you could get back was an INT. Well, not any more! The new toolkit can process goo-gobs of stuff and pass all kinds of data around the house.

But I have all those i5 function calls out there, what do I do? Well, as the FAQ indicates, we are also introducing the new Compatibility Wrapper classes in the new toolkit. These classes will deliver the ability to code i5 function calls using the procedural model and have the work completed by the new toolkit. This fills the last gap in the migration of the new toolkit. Customers who upgrade from previous versions of Zend Server for IBM i to Zend Server for IBM i 5.6 will still be able to use the old toolkit, if they so choose. But they also have the option to explore the new Open Source toolkit, as well. Kind of like having you cake and eating it too!

I just got back from Toronto where I introduced the new toolkit to TUG and it seems the enjoyed the presentation. I’ll be doing that at Omni in Chicago tomorrow and maybe at a local user group near you, soon! Drop me a line and let’s talk!