IBM Saves Time for Web-to-Host App Development

SAN MATEO (01/28/2000) - WEB-TO-HOST applications have a proven place in today's enterprise: They provide fast and secure access to back-end data sources without breaking the IT budget.

Typical Web-to-host solutions merely allow users to access host-based applications, but IBM Corp.'s SecureWay Host Publisher 2.1 allows developers to create composite applications that appear to users as a new single application, while integrating data from multiple sources. This results in faster development of custom applications with no back-end legacy changes.

IBM differentiates its offering from competitors, such as Attachmate e-Vantage Host Publishing System, with an open-systems-based architecture and newly included run-time integration with IBM's WebSphere 2.0 Standard edition application server, which provides the server-side "plumbing."

SecureWay Host Publisher 2.1 is made up of two components: the Host Publisher Studio, a graphical interface from which developers create new Web applications using JavaBeans and JavaServer Pages; and the Host Publisher Server, which provides the necessary run time for these applications.

The Host Publisher Studio employs wizards to guide the user through all the necessary steps in application creation, including host access, identification of data to be used, and recording and encapsulating interactions from a data source such as a database or a 3270 application. The Publisher Studio also records the host interactions and places the Integration Objects (IBM's term for JavaBeans) onto a JSP (Java Server Page). This Java object architecture assures the reusability of objects, saving time on future development.

The Host Publisher Server offers many run-time components, such as connection management, license monitoring, and log and trace management. Its integration with WebSphere assures security, load balancing, and reliability, and supports your choice of Web server including Microsoft's Internet Information Server, Apache, Sun-Netscape Alliance's iPlanet, and others.

I began my testing in the Host Publisher Studio, where a wizard gave me the option to create either an Integration Object or an application (should I already have Integration Objects with which to work). I chose to create a new Object, and was then prompted to choose between a Database Integration Object for encapsulating a database transaction or a Host Access Integration Object for recording and encapsulating interactions with a host application.

The product supports screen recognition -- used to segment the data elements used in your Web-to-host application -- and supplies options for recognizing data either by text on the screen, number of input fields, or cursor position.

Once I defined the screen recognition locations and rules, I moved effortlessly into the macro-recording portion of the wizard, where my interactions with the host system were captured and built into the new application's logic.

When I chose to create a new application rather than an Integration Object, I had the option of either starting with the data and building pages around it or defining a layout and then flowing data into it. By simply including the Integration Object I had previously created, I was able to quickly build an HTML page that collected data as well as displayed information from a host system. Publishing proved to be as easy as creation, with only a few menu selections to work through.

My only negative experience arose from the product's integration with WebSphere. I had assumed I would be able to use my existing WebSphere environment rather than load a previous version but was disappointed to find that I had to remove WebSphere 3.0 in order to successfully install Host Publisher.

That said, I highly recommend IBM's SecureWay Host Publisher 2.1 to companies that want to leverage the power of their existing host-based applications by giving end-users direct access to back-end mission-critical data via the Web.

Tim Fielden (tim_fielden@infoworld.com) is a senior technology analyst at InfoWorld.

THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD

IBM SecureWay Host Publisher Version 2.1Summary: Host Publisher provides all the necessary tools for developing, hosting, and deploying Web-to-host applications. Its use of Java, included application server, and wizard-based Studio will make development projects a breeze.

Business Case: Companies that use Host Publisher to extend their legacy applications to the Web can dramatically reduce development costs while leveraging the power and scalability of their host systems.

Pros:

+ Excellent integration of client and server-side tools+ Exceptionally easy-to-use wizards+ Bundled with WebSphere Standard edition 2.0 application serverCons:

- Lack of support for WebSphere 3.0

Cost: $15,000

Platform(s): Host Publisher Studio: Windows 95/98 and NT; Server: OS/390, AIX, Sun Solaris, and Windows NTIBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.; (800) 426-3333; www.ibm.com

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