Web Services With Cobol Or RPG on IBM ISeries

1. Introduction

Web Services and SOAP (or REST) are rapidly becoming state-of-art architectural approaches to allow the access of multiplatform and multilanguage systems,

Many companies have legacy applications which represent a high investment and Web Services promise to allow their access from the web without extensive modifications.

2. An Introduction to Web Services

Web services consist of a group of standards intended to make it possible for diverse systems to communicate, without requiring a particular type of middleware, programming language or even operating system. They can be based on SOAP, REST or XML-RPC,.

SOAP is an open source message standard, based on an XML dictionary, that uses standard transport protocols widely used over the Internet such as HTML or SMTP. It represents a paradigm shift in the way applications communicate with each other, because it does not require any special middleware to allow diverse applications to communicate. The messages are text based and accessible by any application over the network. They are described by using a special XML based language called WSDL.

REST is a simpler type of Web Service where the user simply accesses a URL to obtain back an XML document without any standard specification.

XML-RPC is a way to send commands to another system by using and XML document.

Web service allow to develop loosely coupled applications, by allowing systems based on different technologies and languages to communicate by using open standard largely based on XML.

3. Consuming Web Services from Cobol or RPG

If you need to access a Web Service from a Cobol or RPG program, you can use the IBM Web Services Client for C++ toolkit.

It uses extenal data structures to define the mappings between elements of an XML document and fields usable in Cobol or RPG applications and allows to generate C or C++ functions which can be called by the Cobol or RPG program to invoke the web service. The generation is based on the WSDL file which describes the Web service.

4, Exposing Legacy programs in Cobol or RPG as Web Services

If you want to access legacy Cobol or RPG programs as Web Services, you can use the IBM Toolbox for Java or JTOpen to develop a Java Web Service which calls the Cobol or RPG program and return the results as a SOAP message.

It allows to develop clients in Java or other languages to call legacy Cobol or RPG program and return the results as XML messages according to the Web services specifications.

5. Using PHP with Web Services

PHP has recently been ported to the IBM iSeries systems.

PHP has a good support for Web Services and SOAP especially in the PHP 5 version.

Notice the PHP services can call also call programs written in other languages such as Cobol or RPG and therefore PHP can be an alternative to the approach of the previous point.

6. DB2 Web Services

Data in relational database can be accessed though end-user queries in SQL or other interfaces or by applications that use programming interfaces such as JDBC and SQLJ.

DB2 allows also to use Web services to query the database and to obtain the results as standard SOAP messages.

7. References.

You will find plenty of useful information and tutorials on the above techniques and tools at the URL
http://www.ibm.com/developerworks

Web Services Needed: What SMEs Need to Know When Hiring a Web Developer or Designer

Your business is… well, whatever your business may be: human resources, plumbing, running your restaurant. Many SME owners are privileged to do what they love and work very hard to make their businesses successful. Whatever you do, you want your website to work for you, but you want to spend your time running your business, not working on the nuts and bolts of website design, so when you need web services, how do you ensure that you are doing the right thing for your business?

This straightforward checklist will allow you to manage your web service needs from start to finish and to make sure you get the best quality and value web development for your company.

Which web services do you need?

If you don’t yet have a website, the first step is to write down exactly why you want a website and what you want it to do for your business. Is it an online business card for reference? Do you want to sell products or services via your site? Is it to improve communication within or outside the organisation? All of these factors influence the design and development of your website, who might be best suited to do the work and the potential cost.

If you already have a website, try to pinpoint exactly what you do and don’t like about the existing website and how things might be changed. Try and be specific: rather than noting that it looks outdated, identify what makes it so: is it the colour scheme or the fonts? Is the navigation clumsy or out-of-date? You don’t have to be a web design expert to do this, but it will give you a head start in looking for a web developer to solve these problems.

Next, prioritise your “wishlist”, which may be a combination of specific points, e.g. improving the layout and more general needs e.g. “I want to drive more business to my website”. Once you have this, you have a brief which a web developer can use to work out the web services needed and how to achieve the desired results. Since the list is prioritised, when it comes to obtaining quotes for the work, you can decide how much is achievable within your timeframe and budget.

Choosing the right person

Do you need a web designer, web developer or programmer? The terms may all sound similar, but there are distinct differences in the work they do and therefore what you can expect from their web services for your site.

A web designer focuses primarily on the appearance or look and feel of the website, including the layout. A good web designer should be an expert in making websites visually powerful and impactful and in drawing visitors to the right areas of your website. Some web designers combine their services with graphic design, so if you have a new look and feel branding on your website, they can incorporate it for you on company letterheads and business cards too.

A web programmer focuses more on functionality. He or she might program solely for the web or may do software programming too. The programmer’s concern is getting features of your website to work. Examples may include building an online intranet or database application, where information can be stored on your database and manipulated via your website. In larger companies, these roles are often split so that programmers work on the “back end” – the features that make a website work and then apply the “front end” created by a web designer to make the site more attractive.

A web developer muddies the water considerably, sorry. Web developers can incorporate elements of design and programming. Web development is a broader term for getting a website online and making it work. You can expect a good web developer to have an eye to both the appearance and functionality of the website.

If you need to narrow it down and you’re not quite sure about the technicalities, have a look around your site. Most likely your URLs in the address bar will have some kind of extension e.g.(.html,.asp,.php,.cfm). Try Googling for terms like “asp developer” to find someone with the specific skills to enhance your website.

Grill the portfolio When you visit a web developer’s website, check their portfolio thoroughly and don’t stop there – look for their clients’ website online. If you are looking for website redesign to allow you to update content more easily, how well are the developer’s portfolio sites maintained? If you are primarily concerned with Search engine optimisation (SEO), how do client sites fare on search engines for the relevant terms?

The personal touch Above all, pay attention to client recommendations. The website can show you the end result, but the recommendation can tell you about the web design process with this particular individual or company. Every SME is different, but with all those I have worked with, one thing has remained the same: the importance of the personal touch. Whether you are employing a freelancer or a big web development company, you need to ensure that you can establish a good relationship with your web developer. How quickly and thoroughly do they respond to emails or phone calls? Are they forthcoming with advice and what sort of advice do they offer? Again, you don’t have to be an expert, you just have to judge whether you think it rings true and fits for you and your business

Go big or go local? Web design and development is big business and variety is the name of the game. Google, Bing and Yahoo! can play a big part in your decision, but rankings aren’t always the whole story.

It is well worth considering a local web design company or developer, because they may have local contacts to help you promote your website or greater access to resources like online business directory listings which can boost your search engine rankings.

I worked with a Cambridge charity who wanted to employ a Cambridge web developer because they knew the web services needed would be ongoing and that discussion and meeting face to face in Cambridge would be important to them, rather than discussing their needs over the phone or email.

How much should web design cost? As with any investment you make for your SME, it goes without saying that you should shop around and get a few quotes. Even if you know which developer you want to go with, it is worth checking that you are being charged the going rate for the web services needed. If the web design prices are above average, you need to decide whether your relationship with the company or freelance web developer are worth paying the extra cost. If the prices are considerably below average, this should set alarm bells ringing. Canny SMEs know that you always get what you pay for.

Working as a freelancer, I know that my clients prefer me to be upfront about costs and that it builds trust. Beware companies who hedge their bets with quotes as it might be a telltale sign of inexperience. However, it is worth bearing in mind that quoted prices are only a starting point. As an SME, it is down to you to hash out exactly what is included and what is not. For example, many sites offer SEO friendly websites. This means that the web design will incorporate the features needed to give your site a boost on Google. However, SEO does not stop here. In my experience, building websites for Cambridge companies in search engines is an ongoing process which takes place over a period of time.

Web design prices: break it down If in doubt, ask the web designer or developer to break the cost down per task. That way, if there is a time-consuming feature which is not at the top of your web design wishlist, you can decide whether or not it is worth the web developer’s time and – more importantly – your money.

Your SME, your website Love or loathe the internet: your website is a big part of your company’s identity. It pays to get it right; it costs to get it wrong, so take your time to find the web services you need.

E-commerce Web Services Vs E-commerce Software Packages

E-commerce is getting huge popularity amongst companies across the world. Internet is the cheapest way to reach out to the world market. Your products can be bought by people of different culture, language and race by just one click of the mouse. It saves you the hassle of maintaining a physical store. A physical store and a website serve as a boon to the business. Large companies are also picking up this trend and promote their products online through e-commerce.

Owing to the immense popularity of e-commerce websites and online stores, businessmen need to take care that their stores and websites are well designed and developed. The e-commerce websites are different from regular, static websites. The pages should be easily loadable. The website should be easy to navigate. An e-commerce web services company designs the website or store with utmost care. Owners ought to develop a customer friendly website to attract traffic.

Companies can choose reputed e-commerce web service providers to design their online store or e-commerce websites. They are expensive but they maintain the entire store for you. With their expertise in this field, they design and develop the website or store. You may not require any software or hardware expertise as the e-commerce web service providers will look after all your needs, including back-up support.

E-commerce shopping cart solution is also provided by the e-commerce web services company. It customizes the store and the shopping cart as per the requirements of your business. Choosing a service provider will give you the flexibility to make necessary changes to the design and development at any point of time. Any type of shopping cart can be built to enable customers find and purchase products from your store.

Small and medium enterprises, who may not afford to go for e-commerce web services, can also buy existing software packages. These packages are suitable for a wide range of businesses. It saves time and money. The website owners can choose from a selected set of templates and wizards that guides them to set up the website with ease. The transactions are not affected if an e-commerce software package is chosen over an e-commerce web service provider.

The software packages come with ready-made shopping cart software. It enables the customers to select and purchase items, calculate prices and shipping, submit credit card information etc. Integrating shopping carts with the website or store can be easily done with the help of software guides. Unlike shopping cart solution providers, shopping cart software can also be managed by a not-so-technically-inclined person.

Web service providers and ready-made software packages, both satisfy the needs of e-commerce website owners. However, choosing the appropriate system to build their website or store is necessary. E-commerce web services are always advisable over software packages, though they may get costly at times. Existing tools may limit the way you can customize your shopping cart or your online shop, not only now but also in the future. Shopping cart solutions allows you customization as per the needs of your business; software requires choosing one among the existing many that are generalized.

In the age of extreme competition, designing an e-commerce website to the best is utterly necessary. Any good e-commerce web service provider will help in achieving this goal. Having support and service from experts is an advantage over having to manage things on own!

Should Web Services Come Out of the “Marketing/Advertising Budget” for a Business?

The aspect of web services is fairly new to business, so the question of where it should be placed within a company’s budget can be confusing. To begin with, web services can mean different things depending on the person. One manager may consider their web design as part of web services, while another executive does not. For most companies, web services will include the design, development, content, applications, and any other items associated with Internet marketing, such as social media.

Therefore, when you are considering where to put web services in your budget, you should consider everything associated with the Internet as included in the definition. Most people would assume that these costs should be included with all other information technology expenses. Although this isn’t wrong, it automatically places web services in an area that is not considered a critical part of the business by most companies. Replacing a computer is rarely as high a priority as promoting a new product. However, lumping web services into the information technology side of a budget is a huge mistake.

Smart companies realize that web services are a great marketing tool that can be used to advertise your business, services, and products to a variety of potential customers. A custom website design is only the beginning. Businesses should understand that web development must go beyond the corporate website. Of course, you want a great web design that will target customers in your area, but to truly achieve growth you must incorporate all aspects of the Internet. Your custom website design should be used as a hub for all other Internet ventures. For instance, blogs and the use of social media are great ways to advertise new products or services. These tools can also be used to grow a loyal customer base. All of these techniques will deliberately draw people to your website.

Businesses are learning that advertising dollars are more effective when they are applied to online marketing. Television and radio ads are no longer generating the revenue they once did. This isn’t surprising, since must consumers now use DVR’s so they can fast forward past commercials or listen to their iPod rather than the car radio. Smart executives know that if you want to increase revenues, you must go where the consumer is. Today, the consumer is on social media sites, like YouTube and Facebook. He or she is using search engines on a daily basis and accessing data on smartphones. In order to gain customers, you must utilize the technologies available that are capturing the consumer’s attention.

So should web services be included as part of your marketing/advertising budget? Absolutely; there is no other place that it should be. In fact, if you are not using web services to market your business, no matter what your website looks like, you are not making the most of it. Web development is more than just creating a web design for the boutique up the street. It must include the use of social media and everything else the Internet has to offer.