VisualAge makes back-end access easier

Java developers will now be able to use stored procedures in DB2 applications with IBM Corp.’s new beta release of its development environment VisualAge for Java.

VisualAge for Java, Professional Edition, Version 3.0., features links for faster access to back-end platforms such as MQSeries and DB2, including the ability to build and execute stored procedures in DB2. Due for full release in Q4, it also features support for building Java-based applications on Sun’s Solaris, and a remote debugging feature that allows developers to debug programs residing on a remote platform such as its WebSphere server.

Joseph Damassa, vice-president of AD marketing for IBM’s software solutions division in Somers, N.Y., said the Internet has forced the industry to go through an evolution, and this product is a result of those changes.

“Now we’ve gotten to the generation where e-business is synonymous with business. It’s not a choice anymore. You need tools that address the complex development environment that traditionally we had focused on for enterprise applications.”

The product targets what Damassa calls the “modernization” of code. “In VisualAge for Java 3.0, what you have is a continued focus on our Enterprise Builder Access technology that allows you to build JavaBeans that can hook into CICS back-ends.”

Most significant of these features is the software’s tighter integration with DB2, he said. “So we can execute stored procedures from VisualAge – we have beans that allow you to peruse databases – and do that in a much easier environment.”

Two new Data Access Beans will be added as well. The Modify bean will enable developers to create a connection to the database that allows users to insert, update or delete rows without first having to query the database. The ProcedureCall bean can be used to invoke a stored procedure, and work with its parameters and the resulting set of data.

Version 3.0 also includes VisualAge for Java Distributed Debugger, which enables remote, source-level debugging of the stored procedure, Damassa said.

“So when you have a problem, or a bug, instead of having to run the code on a server someplace – look at the error messages, tweak your code and go run it again someplace else – all that can happen now within the VisualAge for Java environment.”

Other features of Version 3.0 include a more navigable developer interface, code assistance macro support, added Linux support, easier access to help files and customizable code-editor key bindings.

Anne Thomas, senior analyst/consultant for Boston-based Patricia Seybold Group said full support for the SQLJ, the standard embedded language for Java, is a significant enhancement of the latest release.

“So rather than writing database access calls in JDBC, a developer can write SQL requests directly in Java using SQLJ. DB2 – and most other databases – now support database procedures written in Java/SQLJ. In the past each database provided a proprietary stored procedure programming language,” Thomas said.

“VisualAge for Java 3.0 provides a set of JavaBeans that make it really simple to build database access code, plus it provides wizards for building stored procedures.”

Joshua Walker, software development research analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research said VisualAge for Java 3.0 is part of a “resurgence” of the use of repository technology in the development environment.

“It’s integral to the development process because meta data’s becoming more and more important. You are no longer acting with the resource itself – you are looking at the reference to that object, which becomes more important than the object itself,” Walker said.

Mark Winter, president of Toronto-based consulting firm Winter and Associates Inc., plans to purchase Version 3.0 as soon as it is released.

“There are some things with DB2 we want to move to, but prior versions (of VisualAge) didn’t allow us to use the Java and the Small Talk pieces (within DB2).”

Winter is also looking forward to the extended SQLJ support. “The queries on our database are very complex – we actually had to make some limitations on our Java piece because of performance issues. But now, with the speed up on that, we can take those limitations away,” he said.

IBM will also be offering VisualAge for Java for Linux and Java 2 environments. The Java for Linux suite will allow developers to build, test, and deploy Java applets, applications, and JavaBean components and servlets on Linux. IBM was inspired to come up with the Linux version of VisualAge when one of its developers presented the company with a petition, signed by 1,000 developers, demanding such a version.