1. Software Engineering

Create Custom Web Apps with Integrated Web Services for IBM i

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Creating, deploying, and maintaining web applications has become the core part of operations for many businesses. For some, it's the essence of their business model and what the entire operation is built around. For others, it may serve as a crucial internal component. Either Way, web apps are essential for the survival and growth of most businesses.

Based on the resources you have, the scope of what you want to achieve with the web app, its functionality, and the environment you have to deploy the app in, the process can range from easy to incredibly complex.

For businesses where IBM i is part of the digital mix, leaning into the integrated web services for IBM i can make the process fairly straightforward and lead to powerful web apps created and deployed with reasonable resources.

Integrated Web Services for IBM i

IBM i was designed as more than just an operating system – it was designed as an operating environment that makes it easier (and more resource efficient) for IBM Power (formerly AS400) to complete various business tasks. As a fully integrated operating system, it combines various elements in the stack, which leads to higher efficiency.

The integrated Web Services for IBM i is an extension of this design ideology. Instead of creating a custom web service from scratch and defining each element (like the protocols), IBM i offers businesses a head start by covering/hiding many of the complexities associated with web services under the hood.

This allows businesses to focus on the business-relevant/task-relevant functionality of a piece of software/web app instead of its architecture and other technical aspects. This greatly improves the development process and significantly reduces the development load.

By creating a web app using IBM i’s ILE programming model and its native languages, developers/businesses can even go low-level enough for efficient hardware resource utilization.

SOAP vs. REST

SOAP or Simple Object Access Protocol relies on XML or Extensible Markup Language for accessing web services. SOAP is a very structured web-services architecture and has an inherent lack of flexibility, but it's quite robust and safe.

It was the default web-services architecture for IBM i, but now, IBM i also supports REST architecture and the development and deployment of RESTful APIs/REST-based web services. REST or Representational State Transfer is a more flexible way for computers to connect over the internet and share web services. It allows data in multiple formats to be shared, not just in XML. This leads to a more extensive range of uses.

Creating Custom Web Apps with Integrated Web Services for IBM i

Before you start planning your custom web app on IBM i, it's important to note that you are not limited to the native languages of the IBM i operating system, like RPG and C++. You can build your frontend and backend on the most commonly used languages, like Javascript, through the open-source command line package management utility called YUM.

IBM provides its own set of tools for developing web applications that you can use to create, manage, and deploy a wide range of web applications while taking advantage of the integrated web services for IBM i. These applications and the data they give users access to are hosted on IBM Power servers.

Once the web application is developed and deployed, users can leverage a variety of electronic devices (primarily PCs and smartphones) to securely request data from the IBM i servers.

The process of creating an application is similar to the development process over different systems. It starts with defining the business function, scope, functionalities, and other specifics of the web application a business needs. Once these are sorted out, a wireframe of the web app is usually created. Then, the front end and back end are developed.

Here, IBM i's developer tools are useful. The “IBM i Access for Web” gives web apps access to enterprise data. “IBM Rational Application Developer for WebSphere Software” allows for the actual development phase, including the development of SOA (Service-oriented architecture) applications.

Once the application is developed, it can be deployed on an IBM Power server (using IBM i) and made accessible over the internet.

Key Benefits of Creating Custom Web Apps with Integrated Web Services for IBM i

Some of the key benefits a developer or business can gain by creating custom web apps with integrated web services for IBM i are:

  • Web apps developed for the IBM i environment can easily be deployed on public clouds like Amazon and Azure. This resonates with the hybrid cloud strength of IBM systems.
  • Development becomes easier, less complex, and less resource intensive thanks to the integrated web services for IBM i, which reduces the significant technical load of the development, allowing for better business efficiency and utility of a web app.
  • Security is built into the IBM i architecture, and it benefits the web apps that are developed and hosted on IBM Power servers running on the operating system.
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