BCD Bridges Development Environments

Business Computer Design International Inc. (Hinsdale, Ill.) has announced a number of new products and enhancements aimed at consolidating and simplifying AS/400 application development environments.

NetBridge/400 is a productivity toolkit developed by BCD primarily for programmers building e-commerce and client/server applications. In addition, BCD has introduced the new ProGen Plus - Implementer Support Package, an add-on module that integrates ProGen Plus Change Management with Implementer Change Management software from Mortice Kern Systems (MKS) Inc. (Waterloo, Ontario).

BCD also announced the latest version of its EZ-Pickin's report mining and data extraction tool. Version 4 of the product is designed to allow PC users to access, extract and manipulate data from existing computer-generated reports.

With NetBridge/400, BCD is looking to offer programmers a toolkit for developing AS/400, TCP/IP and Web client applications that run over local networks, intranets or the Internet.

"NetBridge is a middleware component designed to make life a little bit easier for developers using typical client development tools, such as Visual Basic, Delphi and possibly Borland J Builder," says Kevin Cronin, software development manager with BCD.

What BCD has done with NetBridge/400 is facilitate access to AS/400 information, depending upon the development tool being used on the end user's PC -- for example an OCX, JavaBean, DLL, etc. "NetBridge/400 has client and server components, and each communicates via messages," Cronin explains, adding that the technology behind the product is designed to reduce the complexity of creating a new job to service a client program.

"As soon as a communication is initiated, NetBridge/400 prompts the user for an AS/400 user ID and password., and that implicitly becomes the level of security that you're entitled to on the AS/400," Cronin says. "Essentially, it's the same level of security you'd expect just from the regular sign-on screen."

Using the newly introduced ProGen Plus - Implementer Support Package, developers can construct the visual and functional characteristics of their program. When complete, design criteria are saved as a program definition used to generate the RPG or RPG ILE application. This program definition can now be migrated to and from development and production environments automatically.

"Offering support for Implementer within the ProGen Plus package is going to benefit customers with both of those products, and will likely make those products more attractive when customers go out to start looking at solutions for programmer productivity or change management," Cronin says.

Basically, ProGen Plus is an application code generator that generates RPG/400 or ILE RPG, according to Cronin. "We are just now preparing a beta test for a version of ProGen which will generate Java client program also," he says. "With ProGen, you're working more at program definition level, not so much as you would think of a traditional environment, where you're compiling source code and having objects."

"A traditional development environment works nicely with a change management tool like Implementer from MKS in that it's designed to handle all the source code management issues, back and forth," Cronin says. "When you introduce a product like ProGen, it sometimes creates some headaches because you're working at a different level that those tools -- such as Implementer -- don't recognize.

"So what we've done with this support package is introduce some new commands and documented the necessary configuration when using the Implementer product so it will automatically migrate ProGen Plus program definitions from one ProGen Plus environment to another [for example, from production to development]," Cronin adds. "Whereas these two products have previously worked independently, they now have the hooks to streamline the process of migrating from production to test, and from test to production."

EZ-Pickin's version 4 has been designed to offer new reporting and analysis features, an improved capability to extract data from complex reports and an enhanced user interface, according to Eric Figura, BCD's sales and marketing manager.

Version 4's major enhancements cover: the summary and charting capabilities; import and extraction capabilities; export capabilities; user interface; performance; table window interface; and portable report extensions.