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By Patrick Gould, Chief IT Architect, Software AG
Natural is more than 30 years old and still going strong. It is my opinion from hands-on experience that Natural is by far the easiest programming language in the world to code with. This means we can still deliver strategic business applications in a fraction of the time it takes in other programming languages.
Unfortunately, there is still a misperception in the user community that Natural business logic assets are trapped inside the legacy Natural environments; that it is not an easy task to open this mass of knowledge as a service or as a Web application to business users.
NaturalONE brings together a number of system development kits which will help to enable the modernisation and re-use of Natural applications. NaturalONE was launched in March 2010 and helps to address many issues faced by companies today in leveraging existing and future investments.
NATURAL DEVELOPMENT SKILL SHORTAGES
NaturalONE is a modern Natural integrated development environment that better enables development staff by providing an integrated GUI based development environment. NaturalONE users need not be aware of the location or nature of the production server environment as the Natural systems files are exposed directly to Eclipse. This allows developers who until recently only had access to green screen development environments, and those just coming out of college, to gain huge developer productivity gains. NaturalONE introduces new productivity tools such as: context sensitive help, code completion, code templates, GUI code debugger, WYSIWYG Natural map editor, identification of all syntax errors, hovering, and code folding—just to mention a few.
NaturalONE is wizard-driven, which eases the use of features such as browsing the data on a Natural DDM, generating a REQUEST DOCUMENT subprogram from an existing WSDL file, and setting up and running unit tests.
WEB-ENABLE EXISTING NATURAL GREEN SCREEN APPLICATIONS
One of NaturalONE’s best features is the Natural for AJAX system development kit, a Software AG product that allows you to build Rich Internet Applications (RIA) without separating Natural business logic from Screen IO. Natural for AJAX allows existing Natural programmers to do all the work to Web-enable your existing applications. When the pages are saved in the Application Designer (GUI Page Layout editor) a Natural Adapter (a new Natural object type) is saved in your Natural Library. This adapter serves as the plumbing between the executing HTML page in the browser and the Natural code on the Natural Server. With Natural for AJAX, you start a Natural session in a browser, and can leverage your existing investments in three ways. The best part about these three ways is that they can all be combined in the same Natural session. This allows you to move all your end users to a browser-based application out of the box and then decide which pieces of the application should be modernised, and how.
Three ways to leverage your existing investments with Natural for AJAX
1. Expose your application to the browser out-of-the-box with the product feature of Dynamic HTML Terminal Emulation. The appearance of your pages is controlled by a standard Cascading Stylesheet that can be customised into your companies’ Web standards.
2. Convert existing Natural green screen Maps to HTML page layouts using a wizard in NaturalONE. This allows you to add new AJAX based controls to your existing pages. Programs that used the “INPUT USING MAP” can be converted to use the new “PROCESS PAGE” statement manually or with help from the Natural Engineer plug-in in NaturalONE.
3. Pages can of course also be designed from scratch per business users’ requirements using an array of Rich Internet Application AJAX controls. Then, either new Natural code can be written to handle the pages or existing Natural code can be reengineered for the new pages.
WEB SERVICE-ENABLE EXISTING LEGACY NATURAL APPLICATIONS
NaturalONE provides wizards to service-enable your existing Natural subprograms without leaving the NaturalONE perspective inside Eclipse. By service-enable, we mean generating the .idl, .wsdl, .xmm. and .aar files (webservice related files). The same wizard allows you to deploy the “service” to your webservices stack where your Web developers can now use this service to integrate with the Natural business logic that has been wrapped into this “service”.
It’s very easy to accomplish: just right-click on your subprogram and a context menu will pop up with all of the actions you can take on this subprogram including “Generate Web Service…”. From within NaturalONE the “service” can also be registered with your UDDI repository for governance and policy requirements.
This clearly negates the misperception that Natural business logic is trapped in some Natural legacy application. The process to open it up to your organisation and customers is clearly a very simple task to accomplish, and the business benefits are tremendous.
LEVERAGE EXISTING NATURAL CODE WITH CURRENT VERSIONING TOOLS IN ECLIPSE
Eclipse is an open source development environment. As our business users demand more and more browser-based applications, the need for application managers to have the ability to keep all application code related to these applications in a central repository sets a major advantage.
Browser-based applications generally cross programming language and operating platform borders such that Natural code, Java code, and GUI components like HTML/XML/Pictures are all part of the same application.
NaturalONE offers this capability to share all the code that relates to the Natural browser based application with a code versioning tool like SVN or CVS. Simply right-click on your project and share it with a versioning repository. At this stage, code can be checked out by developers to be later synchronised back into the repository when ready for production use. This provides a centralised mechanism to version Natural code, compare different versions of Natural code and move Natural Code to production environments together with all the other non Natural components that make up the application. Of course, in the tradition of NaturalONE, all actions for versioning and migration of code are wizard-driven.
To discuss this article or for further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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