What's new in IBM Rational Host Access Transformation Services Version 8

Quickly and cost-effectively modernize your host applications

Find out about the new functions and benefits available with IBM® Rational® Host Access Transformation Services (HATS) Version 8 (to be released 12 August 2011): Web 2.0 functions and new web page templates, RESTful services, Dojo widgets; support for the latest portlet standard and enhancements to various HATS portlet functions; extended mobile device support; ease-of-use improvements; and bidirectional language support for Arabic are among the topics covered in this article.

Jiayun Zhu (jiayunz@ca.ibm.com), Co-Architect for HATS, IBM

Author1 photoJiayun Zhu is the co-architect for IBM Rational Host Access Transformation Services and also the technical lead for its WebFacing tool. Jiayun has been involved in the design and development of WebFacing and HATS since 2000.



09 August 2011

Also available in Portuguese

Rational Host Access Transformation Services overview

In the current web-dominated era, enterprises with 3270, 5250, and video terminal (VT) host applications running their businesses face unique challenges. They have made significant investments to these applications over the years, and the applications are fully functional, robust, and fine-tuned for optimal performance. On the other hand, the applications are accessed by using character-based terminal user interfaces, which are not intuitive and not easy to navigate. These user interfaces must be improved to reduce training costs for users, to streamline the application flow for improved user productivity, and to extend the information and transactions in the existing applications to new users, inside and outside of the enterprise. In addition, interfaces to these applications must be provided to integrate them into modern business processes.

The objective of IBM® Rational® Host Access Transformation Service (HATS) is to help enterprises quickly and cost-effectively modernize their host applications to adapt to today's fast changing markets. With HATS, host applications including IBM® System z® (3270) and IBM i (5250) host applications can be quickly deployed with a new user interface (UI) including web, portlet, rich client, and mobile device user interfaces. In addition, 3270, 5250, and VT host transactions can be extended as standard web services so that they are ready to be integrated with other applications. Rational HATS is a low-cost and low-risk solution for modernization because it does not require rewriting the existing host applications.

HATS also lets you work at your own pace. You can create a transformed UI for your host applications within minutes after installing HATS. Following that, you can easily improve the default UI with little or no programming knowledge. For example, using tools provided by HATS, you can replace text with images, populate input fields with data either from other screens or from a database, convert date fields into pop-up calendar widgets, and much more.

You can also improve the navigation and usability of your applications for increased end-user efficiency by combining multiple screens into one page, reducing the number of keystrokes required for a task by adding buttons, links, and drop-downs, and so on. You can also turn hard-to-understand screens that require cryptic commands for navigation into a more intuitive application with drop-downs, buttons, or tabbed organization.

With HATS, your host applications can behave like natural web applications. For example, an order entry host application can function like a shopping cart on the web. You can get optimum return on investment (ROI) with HATS by reusing existing and proven host applications and extending them through the web, portals, mobile devices, rich clients, and web services.


HATS Version 8 new functions and benefits

HATS version 8 includes numerous new functions and enhancements, which the subsections that follow describe in more detail:

  • Web 2.0 additions, including new templates, support for RESTful services, and Dojo widgets, which improve application developer and user productivity, enhance application capabilities, and enable reuse.
  • Portlet standard enhancements, including single sign-on support for JSR 286 portlets and automatic refresh and disconnect for HATS portlets. These enhancements promote use of best practices in portlet design and improve user productivity.
  • Apple iPad support extends the reach of your HATS applications to new users and new mobile environments.
  • Ease of use improvements to increase application developer productivity, such as screen capture support for VT connections and simplified specification for rich client type-ahead support.
  • Arabic translation and UI mirroring, plus other enhancements to bidirectional language support.

Web 2.0 enhancements for improved productivity, new users, application reuse

Web 2.0 enhancements provided in HATS V8 include:

  • New Web 2.0 templates that improve application developer productivity and user experience.
  • Support for RESTful services, which enhances application integration (mashups) and extends reach to new users.
  • Dojo widgets, which improve application developer and user productivity, enhance application capabilities, and enable reuse.

New Web 2.0 templates

Templates provide a unified look for all pages of your HATS application. Because first impression matters, HATS Version 8 includes three new templates that have a Web 2.0 appearance, with tabs, menus, highlighting, and rounded corners. HATS developers can follow the examples for how to achieve a certain look or style as shown in the new templates to develop their own templates or enhance the look of their company's website. Figures 1, 2, and 3 show the three new templates added in HATS Version 8.

Figure 1. Medical template
Screen capture of the Medical template
Figure 2. Research template
Screen capture of the Research template
Figure 3. Transport template
Screen capture of the Transport template

RESTful services

HATS web services enable 3270, 5250, and VT host transactions to be extended as standard web services so that they can be ready to integrate with other applications. These integration-ready components can be delivered as shareable services and reused in service-oriented architecture (SOA) environments.

In addition to supporting Java API for XML-based RPC (RPC: remote procedure calls), or JAX-RPC, and JAX-WS, for SOAP web services, Rational HATS Version 8 supports JAX-RS, for RESTful web services. RESTful web services are becoming highly popular due to their simple and lightweight interface. In addition, they can be easily integrated into mashups and other Web 2.0 applications for use by new and existing users.

RESTful services use URIs to identify resources and HTTP methods (POST, GET, PUT, and DELETE) to do create, retrieve, update, and delete basic functions. Either XML or JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) can be used as message formats.

HATS Integration Objects are Java beans that encapsulate interactions with a host application. They are constructed from HATS macros. As with SOAP web services, RESTful web services are created from HATS Integration Objects and their input and output properties. You can customize the message formats supported for input and output, as well as edit parameters of a resource.

Dojo widgets

With HATS Version 8.0, you can use Dojo widgets to improve both your productivity and your users' productivity. The Dojo framework is a popular user interface framework for Web 2.0 applications based on standard HTML, JavaScript, and cascading style sheets (CSS). This enables you to customize the HATS user interface in a standard way that enhances capabilities and enables reuse.

Dojo widgets for Integration Object input and output properties

HATS Integration Objects can be used in many ways. For example, you can build web pages based on the inputs and outputs of an Integration Object. To enhance the functionality and appearance of Integration Object web pages, HATS Version 8 adds the capability to use Dojo widgets, in addition to HTML controls, to render Integration Object input and output properties.

You can use the Create Model 1 Web Pages wizard to map HATS Integration Object input and output properties to Dojo widgets. Use the Insert Integration Object Properties wizard to insert an Integration Object input or output property into an existing Integration Object Model 1 web page and have that property rendered by a Dojo widget.

Dojo widgets for web transformations

To improve the usability and capability of HATS web transformations, Version 8 provides new HATS widgets that use Dojo technology. The new widgets enable you to quickly create a richer UI for HATS applications that is based on modern Dojo widgets. They are flexible, standard, and extensible, which improves application capabilities and reuse and increases HATS' ability to reduce training costs and data entry errors by taking advantage of Dojo capabilities, such as easy data validation. The new widgets are enabled when creating a new HATS web project and select the Use Dojotechnology option (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Creating a HATS web project with "Use Dojo technology" selected
Create a Project wizard dialog window

New HATS widgets are added to the project and can be used to transform HATS components (see Figure 5). A component is a visual element of a host screen, such as a command line, function key, or selection list. HATS applications transform host components into widgets.

Figure 5. New HATS Dojo widgets available for selection
Menus to select widgets and components

As a HATS application developer, you now have a richer set of widgets to use.

The Text box widget allows for the basic data entry.

Figure 6. Text box widget
Example shows 5 input fields

The Validation text box widget allows for user-side validation of text data.

Figure 7. Validation text box widget
Widget settings window

The Date text box widget allows either typing or choosing a date from a pop-up calendar.

Figure 8. Date text box widget
Calendar to select flight date (widget example)

The Filtering select widget allows users to type or select an option (see Figure 9).

The Combo box widget allows users to type or select an option or to type their own entry.

Note:
Filtering select and Combo box widgets are similar, because they both show a drop-down menu for selection. The main difference is that the Filtering select widget does not allow users to submit values not in the list, while the Combo box widget allows users to submit values not in the list.

Figure 9. Filtering select widget
Filtering select widget to filter and validaten

The Enhanced grid widget allows advanced manipulation to tabular data (see Figure 10). In HATS Version 8, the table rendered by the Enhanced Grid widget is read-only.

Figure 10. Enhanced grid widget
Picture shows HATS Dojo Enhanced grid widget

In addition to improving usability and capability, an advanced option called Transforming for Dojo Editing is provided for you, as an application developer, to customize the new widgets easily. In the transformation .jsp file, you can select a <HATS:Component> tag that contains the component and HATS Dojo widget definitions, right-click, and then select HATS Tools > Transform for Dojo Editing to transform the <HATS:Component> tag to a <HATS:Render> tag. The <HATS:Render> tag contains the JSON data source, rendered widget, and data binding that enable you to do advanced customization.

Figure 11 shows using the Transforming for Dojo Editing option to transform a <HATS:Component> tag to a <HATS:Render> tag.

Figure 11. Using the "Transforming for Dojo Editing" option
JSP code and drop-down menus for this process

You don't have to know Java to extend or customize the new widgets. You can use your knowledge of Dojo and JavaScript to quickly make changes to the widget output. The example that follows shows how to update a Text box widget to a Number spinner widget.

  1. Update the dojo.require statement for the Text box widget to the Number spinner widget:
	<script type="text/javascript">
	dojo.require("dojo.parser");
	//dojo.require("dijit.form.TextBox");
	dojo.require("dijit.form.NumberSpinner");
	</script>
  1. Update the creation of the Text box widget to create a Number spinner widget and add constraints as necessary.
//var uInputWidget = new dijit.form.TextBox({"type":inputType},"<HATS:ElementId/>_input");
var uInputWidget = new dijit.form.NumberSpinner({"smallDelta":1,"constraints":
{"min":1,"max":20,"places":0},"required":"true", "promptMessage":
"Please enter a number between 1 and 20"},"<HATS:ElementId/>_input");

Figure 12 shows the Number spinner with a prompt message and different validation messages.

Figure 12. Number spinner widget
Screen capture of the widget

Portlet enhancements to improve design and user productivity

IBM® WebSphere® Portal enables users to access applications personalized to their needs through a web browser from a single entry point for increased usability and productivity. HATS provides integration with WebSphere Portal, where HATS applications can run directly within WebSphere Portal as portlets and interact with WebSphere Portal and other Portal applications. The following enhancements for HATS portlets are provided with HATS Version 8. These enhancements promote use of best practices in portlet design and improve user productivity.

JSR 286 HATS portlets

In addition to supporting the IBM Portlet API and the standard Java Portlet Specification API Version 1 (JSR 168), HATS Version 8 adds support for the latest portlet standard, Java Portlet Specification API Version 2 (JSR 286). While JSR 168 focuses on providing a basic portlet programming model, JSR 286 makes significant improvements and adds many new capabilities including inter-portlet communication through portlet events and public render parameters, resource serving using the portlet, Ajax data served directly from the portlet, portlet filters, and more. JSR 286 HATS portlets include these functions:

  • Global variable and connection parameter override
  • Web Services for Remote Portlets (WSRP).
  • JSR168 HATS portlet capabilities, such as single sign-on.
  • JSR 286 event publishing and event processing, where JSR 286 portlet communication using HATS global variables enables you to have portlet intercommunication on a standardized framework

Automatic refresh and disconnect for HATS JSR 286 portlets

The automatic refresh function presents screen updates sent by the host application without users having to manually take action, such as refreshing the screen to see asynchronously changed screens from the host.

The automatic disconnect function can detect if a user's browser has been out of contact with the HATS application for a predefined period of time, which could be due to a network failure, a closing browser event, and so on. Automatic disconnect processing runs the disconnect event and the disconnect macro to clean up resources associated with the browser session; therefore, it can reduce the load on the server.

Automatic refresh and disconnect are Ajax-based and were added to HATS Version 7.5.1 for HATS web projects. The support is extended to HATS JSR 286 portlets in HATS Version 8, so you no longer need to add custom code to handle asynchronous screen updates and abrupt disconnects.

iPad support to extend HATS applications to more mobile devices

HATS applications can be accessed by mobile devices such as smart phones, data collection terminals, and personal digital assistants (PDAs), so your applications can be accessed "on-the-go". HATS support for Apple iPhone and iPod Touch devices, added in HATS Version 7.5.1, is extended in HATS Version 8 to include iPad support so you can reach new users and new mobile environments.

Tip:
Compared to iPhone or other mobile devices, the iPad has a larger screen, which enables it to work better with a wider range of applications. Therefore, do not select the Optimize options for mobile devices option when creating a HATS web project for an iPad.

Due to the differences between the iPad browser and other browsers, HATS applications might appear or behave differently on iPads, compared to PC browsers. For example, with the iPad browser, the pop-up keyboard does not support function keys (F1 - F24). To enable the use of these keys in your applications, you can include a host keypad so the user can send them to the host.

Ease of use improvements to increase application developer productivity

HATS Version 8 also adds the following functions that make it easier to develop certain HATS applications:

Screen capture support for VT connections

Screen capture files represent host screens and are useful because they enable you to develop a HATS application even when not connected to the host. The screen capture icon on the HATS host terminal is now enabled for all connection types, including 3270, 5250, and VT connections. You can create screen capture files for VT connections and then use them to create or customize a macro by using the Visual Macro Editor and as the check-in screen when configuring pooling.

Simplified specification for rich client type-ahead support

Rich client type-ahead support, added in HATS Version 7.5.1.1, enables a user to begin typing data intended for input fields on the next screen, or screens sent by the host, before they are received and processed by HATS. As the next screen or screens are received, HATS sends the previously typed data (type-ahead data), including any keys that submit the input to the host. This function is especially useful to users who want to type faster without looking at the UI and waiting for screen changes. Type-ahead support optionally includes a field displayed in the Operator Information Area (OIA), which displays the type-ahead data as the user enters it, so the user can see the typed data.

To enable type-ahead support and display the type-ahead field in the OIA in HATS Version 7.5.1.1, developers you must manually update your project's application.hap file. This step is simplified in HATS Version 8 because these functions can now be enabled by using the Enable type-ahead support and Type-ahead field settings in the project editor.

Arabic translation and UI mirroring and bidirectional language enhancements

HATS Version 8 includes Arabic translation for all HATS menus, editors, views, and wizards. In addition, because Arabic text flows from right-to-left (RTL), UI mirroring is added for HATS menus, editors, views, and wizards to be viewed in an RTL-oriented environment with an Arabic locale.

You can start the HATS Toolkit with an Arabic locale by using the –nl <Arabic-locale> environment variable to launch HATS in an RTL-oriented mirrored environment.

When HATS Toolkit is installed on a machine with an Arabic locale, two shortcuts are installed:

  1. Shortcut to start the HATS Toolkit in a non-mirrored environment, for example:
    C:\IBM\RAD8.0.X\SDP\eclipse.exe -OpenHatsPerspective
  1. Shortcut to start HATS Toolkit in a mirrored environment, for example:
    C:\IBM\RAD8.0.X\SDP\eclipse.exe -OpenHatsPerspective -nl arwhere nl refers to national language and ar refers to Arabic

HATS Version 8 also includes other new functions for bidirectional language support.

Support for the latest development tools and runtimes

HATS Version 8 includes support of the latest IBM Rational development environments, such as IBM Rational Application Developer for WebSphere® Software V8.0.

New HATS runtime environments include IBM® WebSphere® Application Server Version 8.0, WebSphere Portal Version 7.0, IBM® Lotus® Notes Version 8.5.2, and Lotus Expeditor Version 6.2.2, and Eclipse Versions 3.5 and 3.6.

For detailed information about prerequisites and operating environments, see the Rational Host Access Transformation Services V8.0 - Detailed System Requirements page link in Resources.

Resources

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  • Evaluate IBM software in the way that suits you best: Download it for a trial, try it online, use it in a cloud environment, or spend a few hours in the SOA Sandbox learning how to implement service-oriented architecture efficiently.

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