Product Architecture for Product Endurance?
Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: September 30 2005
LANSA Target Market
While not a household name like Microsoft or IBM, LANSA has been quietly delivering software solutions to mid-market companies for two decades. It is a global provider of enterprise application development and integration software and its target market consists of an estimated 250,000 mid-sized organizations. Many are IBM iSeries shops within manufacturing and distribution segments, and while some frequently buy new solutions, many try to leverage and modernize existing legacy systems to participate in global, Internet-based supply chains.
Such organizations need to harness Web services and ultimately, a service oriented architecture (SOA) to achieve any-to-any integration across diverse architectures, platforms, and companies. They also need universal device support for user interfaces (UI) ranging from the green screen, browser, personal digital assistant (PDA), portal, and whatnot. Underlying all that, is rapid application development with support for gradual modernization and portability (owing to fixed information technology budgets) and the team's appropriate application knowledge.
With these needs in mind, LANSA claims to help chief executive officers (CEO), line of business (LoB) vice presidents (VP) answer the question "Can we compete with the current infrastructure?" while reconciling with the quandaries of chief information officers (CIO), and VPs of IT departments who ask "Can we survive with the current IT staff?" and "Should we choose Java or .NET?".
This is Part Two of a two-part note.
Part One discussed the situation and how LANSA is addressing it.
The rapid pace of global business places a unique set of challenges on all enterprises looking to improve and automate their operations. These same businesses must also remain poised to adapt quickly to change. With increased competition, deregulation, globalization, and merger and acquisition (M&A) activity, enterprise software buyers increasingly realize that product architecture plays a key role in how quickly they can implement, maintain, expand, customize, and integrate their products. The product architecture is going to do much more than simply provide the technical functionality, UI, and platform support. It is going to determine whether a product is going to endure, whether it will scale to a large number of users, and whether it will be able to incorporate emerging technologies, all in order to accommodate increasingly evolving user requirements. Thus, one should be aware of how technology might develop in the future, while conducting the alignment of business and IT.
To that end, by using Web Application Modules (WAM), a feature of LANSA 2005, developers should experience gentler learning curves and lower development costs to produce browser-based commercial enterprise applications. Green screen developers can fairly quickly learn to produce sophisticated n tier Web-based applications using the what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) screen painter's drag-and-drop capabilities. At the same time, they can use the same high-level Rapid Development and Maintenance (RDML) language to implement business rules and processes.
LANSA 2005 WAMs may also develop into Web services, since the WAM architecture separates business logic from presentation through a layer called the Technology Service Provider (TSP). This layer protects applications built upon WAMs from future likely changes in the UI layer, making them fairly ready to adapt to the next wave of UI technologies. Users, should, for example, simply be able to plug in the new TSP of the day and go. The architecture also enables WAMs to interoperate with both .NET or Java applications.
In addition, LANSA 2005 promises to empower developers to use Java services almost effortlessly in their applications, including vastly simplified access to and implementation of Web services from LANSA and 3GL programs alike. For organizations going down the SOA path, the platform might provide the necessary tools and architecture, since all new applications built with LANSA 2005 are automatically Web services-enabled and existing legacy applications can be wrappered as Web Services.
As for rapid application development and productivity, with support for gradual modernization and portability, LANSA 2005 represents a comprehensive Windows-based development environment, from which single-code base users can deploy applications to multiple platforms including Windows, iSeries, UNIX, Linux, and wireless devices. LANSA 2005 developers use LANSA's platform-independent object repository and high-level business language to develop 5250 Web-browser and Windows-like rich client/UI programs.
In addition to this, through a capability called Visual LANSA Framework, LANSA 2005 provides the necessary business infrastructure and security for developers to relatively rapidly prototype, develop, and implement Windows and browser-based applications from a single application model. Given the framework is a mere Internet connection away from the application server, it also offers the team development and change management capabilities.
Namely, the host repository synchronization feature keeps all developers up to date within a single, master repository. Task tracking and development partitioning capabilities ensure that research and development (R&D), quality assurance, and production environments remain independent but can be easily kept in synch. Additional change management capabilities are available via certain LANSA partners. The Framework's productive prototyping and development tool translates into the end user application using an extendable markup language-based (XML) snap-in architecture. Through a code assistant that builds the application logic via a template-driven approach if necessary, this architecture might lead to a remarkable reduction in application maintenance. A shorter learning curve would substantially reduce the user's start-up costs.
LANSA 2005 generates single-code, base, cross-platform portable applications, which means they can be deployed to and even exploit the use of multiple server platforms (i.e., iSeries, Windows, Unix and Linux) and multiple databases running on these platforms (e.g., Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase, Oracle, etc.). Further, by using this single development methodology, developers can build applications that may be deployed not only to multiple server platforms, but also to Web services or any browser-capable devices and presentation technologies such as Palm, Pocket PC, and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)-enabled mobile phones.
Because the business logic is separated from the presentation layer, applications built today using WAMs will be capable of delivering UIs that use tomorrow's hot presentation technologies, without an impact on the business logic. To that end, the platform exhibits an open, interoperable n tier architecture. The presentation layer supports extensible hypertext markup language, or XHTML a hybrid of HTML and XML, which was specifically designed for Net device displays. It also uses XML, wireless markup language (WML), and extensible application markup language (XAML). Other layers include the business logic layer (WAM) and the data access layer, such as LANSA object access modules (OAM) to various back-end databases.
These features should vouch for rapid adaptation to new Web-based technologies and standards like .NET, J2EE, WAP, XML, portlets, IBM promoted abstract user interface markup language (AUIML), and so on, where no proprietary tags are generated. Also, user-defined presentation is enabled via XML as an input that is subsequently transformed through the extensible stylesheet language-based (XSL) TSP technology. Users can tap multiple TSPs to generate multiple outputs, and to that end, LANSA 2005 will provide XHTML, XAML, wireless, and Web services TSPs with many more to come. LANSA also pledges to enable its customers' software to change over time, as any application can change the interface with little or no code change. Moreover, it can also relatively easily switch the application server the application code needing to be modified.
Last but not least, as for enabling any-to-any integration across multiple architectures, platforms, and business to business (B2B) companies, LANSA Integrator features built-in support for multiple transport protocols for HTTP, file transfer protocol (FTP), simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP), short message service (SMS), and simple object access protocol (SOAP). It also supports multiple data formats, including XML, EDI, comma separated values (CSV), XLS, etc., while other services help automate the creation of compressed (ZIP) and portable data file (PDF) files and the conversion of iSeries spool files to PDF documents. An integration studio now lets developers administer, configure, debug, and deploy applications for integration with disparate systems inside and outside the user organization.
Merely implementing new technology will not directly impact profitability—however, if it can improve business processes, a company will indirectly see the benefits expressed monetarily. When a legacy system appears to be in working order, a company is less likely to adapt a whole new system, but will likely consider some bolt-ons or modifications. If an enterprise opts for the approach outlined here, there are some things that need to be considered. First, while in theory, a company can abandon its existing infrastructure to favor RDML, it may not be practical because, in reality, the IT world is a mix of technologies and applications. Enterprises should look at their incumbent vendors to fill in the gaps of existing application portfolios, and should consider alternative suppliers. Vendors with multiplatform strategies and accompanying integration and migration capabilities and those offering flexible standards-based development models should be considered. Also keep in mind that architecture will benefit only after products appear en masse. Given this, potential and current customers should not necessarily depart from their short-term IT investment strategies. They should also consider third-party enterprise application integration (EAI) particularly if a company is looking to integrate middleware standards.
For more user recommendations, see The Blessings and Curse of Rejuvenating Legacy Systems.
If the incumbent vendors do not adequately fill the need, vendors like LANSA, with strong application function plus the ability to participate in composite applications should be favored. What is required from an ideal composite solution is the ability to integrate the business process, integrate the applications and data, and supply additional functionality to "fill the gaps" to produce a cohesive, composite application that ensures transactional and contextual integrity across the entire business process including manual process/workaround, a spreadsheet, or some other solution that keeps the business process from being fully automated by applications.