BOS Brings GUI Editor to IBM Net.Data

Better On-line Solutions (BOS) has targeted early March to announce a number of enhancements to its existing AS/400 connectivity products as well as its contribution to IBM Net.Data improvements. In addition to new releases of BOSaNOVA Plus and BOSaNOVA TCP/IP, BOS plans to make available SiteBoss/400, which provides, among other things, a graphical user interface (GUI) editor for IBM's Net.Data.

IBM announced its own improvements to Net.Data with the launch of V4R4 in early February. SiteBoss/400 will facilitate working with macros within Net.Data, a tool for simplifying the creation of dynamic Web pages with data originating from a variety of sources. Net.Data users currently require a text editor to work with Net.Data templates.

"BOS has been working closely with IBM on SiteBoss/400," says Martin Pladgeman, president of BOS, an Israeli-based company with domestic offices in Scottsdale, Ariz. "[SiteBoss/400] was announced a while ago but will not ship until early March."

IBM is currently administering the beta site testing for SiteBoss/400, which consists of the following components: a site management module; Webserver control center; and Net.Data macro editor.

"If you [previously wanted] to use Net.Data, you basically had to use some sort of text editor to work with the macros that enable Net.Data to work, which is actually kind of tough," Pladgeman says. "It means you have to have a very deep knowledge of the way Net.Data is put together to be able to do much with it. We provide a very easy-to-use way of programming the macros built into Net.Data to provide e-commerce solutions.

"IBM really likes the SiteBoss/400 technology because, to use Net.Data without SiteBoss, is unlikely," Pladgeman adds.

Net.Data was designed by IBM to sit between a browser connection and a database, facilitating the construction of templates for presenting information from the database. "SiteBoss/400 enables the user to do this seamlessly," Pladgeman says. "You're not working on the AS/400; you're working on a PC that manipulates files on the AS/400 transparently."

With improvements to its BOSaNOVA Plus and BOSaNOVA TCP/IP products, BOS plans to provide users with software for dumb terminal emulation, APPC emulation and now TCP/IP emulation, all in one package, according to Pladgeman.

BOSaNOVA Plus is available in regular Industry Standard Architecture (ISA), plug-and-play 16-bit ISA and 32-bit PCI. "The benefit of our product is that it's IBM compatible without requiring an [interrupt request line, or IRQ]," Pladgeman says. "One of the main hindrance's to implementing such a solution in a PC is resolving conflict between IRQ and memory segment. With some of the PCs around today, there aren't any IRQs available at all."

Most emulation cards feed some upper-level memory segment basically to talk to the card, according to Pladgeman. "It's an interface from the computer software that's running on the PC in memory to the software that needs to be transported to the card to communicate with the AS/400," he says. "We designed our ASIC -- a customized processor -- from silicon with a feature such that the chip does not need the shared memory region or an interim request. We’ve built inside the chip some timing which normally is supplied by the PC."

One company that has been taking advantage of BOSaNOVA Plus since September of last year is Farmer's Insurance Group, a Los Angeles-based firm that offers a variety of insurance programs. Richard Christie, an agent with Farmer's Insurance, says his branch installed BOSaNOVA Plus to provide terminal emulation on two of the office's PCs.

"A business associate and I got the BOSaNOVA software so we could use our PC, put in an emulation card and link into the AS/400 and not have to have two terminals sitting on our desks," Christie says. Christie and one other colleague in his office had been using dumb terminals to access the AS/400 and separate PCs to run personal productivity applications.

"BOSaNOVA TCP/IP is a TCP/IP client designed with the capability to be run on any IBM-compatible card as well as BOS's own card," Pladgeman says. "It's for the people who already have cards in place, but who want to add extra functionality to the desktop." Such "functionality" includes the ability of users to share files on their own PCs with their neighbors or others in their workgroup, while still supporting shared folders.