Net.Data for IBM i

Myths and realities

There has been a lot of misinformation and confusion in regards to Net.Data, how it compares with WebSphere Application Server, when to use one technology over the other, and the future of Net.Data. This white paper will attempt to set the record straight.

The technologies

Software building blocks for e-business from IBM can help you transform any technology base into a platform for continuous change. Whether you're a dot-com growing from zero- to megasite size, or an enterprise morphing at Internet speed, these software building blocks can help you develop in any direction. Upwards to millions of customers. Outwards across a world of suppliers. Or onwards to whatever the new mission turns out to be. Two such software building blocks are Net.Data and WebSphere Application Server.

Net.Data is a server-side scripting language that extends Web servers by enabling the dynamic generation of Web pages using data from a variety of data sources. The data sources can include relational and non-relational database management systems such as DB2, (DRDA)-enabled databases, and flat file data. Net.Data applications can be rapidly built using a scripting language that is simple yet powerful. Net.Data allows reuse of existing business logic by supporting calls to applications written in a variety of programming languages, including Java, C/C++, RPG, COBOL, CL, REXX and others.

WebSphere Application Server extends existing Web servers by allowing you to implement and manage server-side Java components, such as servlets, enterprise beans, and JavaServer Pages (JSP) files. These Java components can add complex business logic and dynamic functions to static HTML Web pages. Servlets are used to access legacy data and perform programmatic functions. Enterprise beans are used to model more complex data and to process more complex logic, especially transaction-based work. JSP files are used to present dynamic data in a Web interface.

Advantages and disadvantages

The information below should give you a good idea of the benefits of both technologies.

Table 1. Net.Data advantages and disadvantages
Net.Data advantages Net.Data disadvantages
Simple to learn
The Net.Data scripting language is easy to learn, and allows you to use existing skills to rapidly develop Internet and Intranet applications.
Not high profile
Net.Data does not get a lot of press. That does not mean that Net.Data is a technology that is going away. It simply means that Net.Data does not get much visibility.
Powerful
The Net.Data scripting language contains lots of built-in functions that enable you to easily perform such tasks as sending e-mails, manipulating cookies, etc. Net.Data is shipped with data connectors called language environments that allow you to retrieve data from a variety of sources including databases such as DB2. Net.Data is rock-solid and has proven itself in such venues as the Nagano Winter Olympics Web site, where Net.Data was one of the key technologies used.
Lack of tools
Tools to enable you to easily create Net.Data scripts are scarce. However, Net.Data is simple and existing tools can be used to generate HTML or SQL statements that can then be included within the Net.Data script. In addition, IBM WebSphere Studio can be tailored so that it recognizes Net.Data keywords.
No additional charge
On the AS/400, Net.Data is shipped as part of the IBM HTTP Server, which comes standard with OS/400, but is optionally installable. Net.Data for the AS/400 was first introduced in release V3R2 and V3R7 of OS/400.
Table 2. WebSphere Application Server advantages and disadvantages
WebSphere Application Server advantages WebSphere Application Server disadvantages
Based on Java
WebSphere Application Server is a Java-based Web application deployment platform focused on supporting and executing servlets, JavaBeans, and Java Server Pages (JSP) files.

There is a learning curve in order for you to create and deploy Java applications.
Powerful
The Java programming language is rich in features, allowing you to perform such tasks as sending e-mails or accessing data from a database. In addition, WebSphere Application Server is a platform that has many features built into it, such as work load balancing.
High profile
Java and WebSphere Application Server get a lot of press.
Lots of tools
IBM WebSphere Studio is IBM's Java development environment.
Cross-platform
WebSphere Application Server is available on Windows NT, AIX, Sun Solaris, OS/390, and OS/400.

Which technology to use?

IBM often provides more than one option to our customers for a broad solution like Web enablement. Some customers want an easy to use yet high performing tool for access to heterogeneous relational data, so Net.Data, which works with DB2, Oracle, etc. is a good choice. Others want a programming model paradigm such as Java, so JDBC, Java support and the new WebSphere products meet that need. Others want to Web enable collaborative data like Lotus Notes, so the Domino product meets their needs. All of these are very valid approaches to meet different requirements.

You as the customer need to decide what is best for you, whether it is Net.Data, Java and WebSphere, Domino, etc. An important point to remember is that you do not have to settle on one technology. It may be the case that in a certain situation you want to use Net.Data, and in another you need to use WebSphere.

It should be noted that IBM considers Java and WebSphere to be strategic and the preferred language and application server, respectively, for developing and running Web-related applications.

The future

Future enhancements to respond to customer requirements are planned.

Summary

The Net.Data product is an important part of the IBM internet/e-business portfolio of software products.

The choice between WebSphere or Net.Data is dependent on what direction you want to go. Java? Then choose WebSphere. You want Java but you have no expertise and want a Web presence now? Start with Net.Data and transition to Java at your own pace. You do not want Java or do not have the time or resources to invest in Java? Choose Net.Data.

Contact IBM

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