BOS Simplifies Web Site Management

For those who thought creating a Web site was a good idea, only to later curse the amount of work required to maintain such an endeavor, Better On-line Solutions (BOS) has brought to market several solutions aimed at streamlining the back-end process of e-business development.

Foremost among BOS’s new offerings is SiteBoss/400, an AS/400-specific implementation of a Windows 95/98/NT-based Web/intranet site management application that offers the AS/400 Webmaster a sophisticated set of site management, maintenance, diagnostic and improvement tools. The product includes a Net.Data macro editor module that includes a number of features for the Net.Data developer, including: a graphical tree view of the macro; color-coded source code display; hyperlinks to context-relevant Net.Data documents on IBM’s Web site; an AutoComplete Net.Data and user-defined function calls and commands function; dialogs for inserting Net.Data and user-defined functions and variable references into the source code; and automatic downloading of associated "include" files.

"SiteBoss/400 represents something of a change of direction for BOS, more toward the e-business arena than the connectivity market," explains Martin Pladgeman, president of BOS North America (Scottsdale, Ariz.). "SiteBoss/400 is a product we’ve developed with IBM to help users develop interactive Web sites using the Net.Data engine that IBM provides"

SiteBoss/400’s primary appeal is its capability to facilitate working with IBM’s Net.Data, according to Pladgeman. "Up until the release of [SiteBoss/400] the only way you could build a Web site using Net.Data was using something like Notepad," he says. "There was no editor, no way to check the syntax, easily navigate through the code, check the Net.Data macros, build SQL queries--all of these things you had to do manually. Which meant that in reality it was probably unlikely that you would have used Net.Data as a way to build your Web site. It was just too tedious to use."

SiteBoss/400 is a Net.Data editor specifically built to handle all Net.Data’s programming constructs, says Bill Rapp, lead architect for IBM’s AS/400 Internet products. Net.Data functions by providing the user with a way to access a data source like the database and put that information into a format the user can manipulate and display on a browser section.

Net.Data is IBM’s AS/400 Web scripting language, Rapp points out. "We often recommend it instead of writing CGI programs," he says. On the AS/400, Net.Data’s macro processor is included within the system and is part of the HTTP server, previously referred to as the AS/400 Internet Connection Server until it was renamed with OS/400 V4R3.

When Net.Data was introduced with V3R7, users were given the choice to either write a CGI program on the AS/400, or write a Net.Data macro, according to Rapp. "Net.Data--which is a CGI program itself--is fed script tags that tell the macro processor what sources of data the user wants to access," he adds. "In the scripting language, you define what your data sources are and what data you want to access. The scripting language of Net.Data is used to format these results for a Web browser. The results of this would come back in a Net.Data table, then the programmer can use HTML or Java Script or any other Web programming construct to then display the results."

IBM continues to enhance Net.Data, Rapp says, adding, "Since it’s just a scripting language, Net.Data can be created easily using any text editor. Basically, what you’re creating is an HTML file. Inside that HTML file you put SQL statements, calls to other programs, etc. It’s very easy to create this with a normal text editor. However, as your programs and macros start to get large, you get lots of different sections in them and it starts to get difficult to navigate through that."

One of SiteBoss/400’s greatest attributes is the way it brings BOS closer to IBM, Pladgeman points out. "This product fills a hole in the market for IBM," he adds. "If you want to work, say, with Net.Data or Net.Commerce, it’s almost impossible to change any of the macro statements or even really understand how to use them."

The announcement of SiteBoss/400 is one of several new products and enhancements BOS has announced during the spring of 1999. Joining SiteBoss/400 are Jadvantage 1.30, the e-Twin@x controller and supporting BOSaNova emulation software, and PrintBoss 1.20.

Jadvantage--BOS’s Java-based 5250 emulator--is designed to provide enterprise users with access to the AS/400 using a Web browser with a GUI front end. "You tend to find that AS/400 administrators who want to give their users more access over the Internet probably already have existing green screen applications that they’ve been using for years," Pladgeman says.

Jadvantage 1.30 features three significant enhancements: support for SCS printing from the browser; a wizard that automatically configures the browser for printing; and the capability to run on the server as a batch job.

The e-Twin@x controller is the device that enables any AS/400 running V3R2 or newer to provide an IP over Twinax connection for its users. According to Pladgeman, the e-Twin@x controller will help users whose PCs are attached to the AS/400 via Twinax emulation cards migrate to a TCP/IP network without the need to remove a company’s existing investment in Twinax cabling. Use of the e-Twin@x controller also adds TCP/IP over Twinax capability to BOS’s BOSaNova 5250 emulation software.

Version 1.20 of the PrintBoss print and fax management software has been shipping since late February of this year. The primary enhancement introduced with this version is support for AS/400 Virtual Printing. Version 1.20 is designed to allow users to print enhanced documents on AS/400-attached printers with Windows drivers defined. PrintBoss now also accepts LPR-LPD print jobs when the LPD setting is activated and provides "Smart Raw Printing for undesigned jobs," a feature allowing users faster printing by print type, by overriding host parameters.