September 15, 2021 Alex Woodie
Eradani has always sought to simplify the application programming interface (API) enablement process as much as possible for its IBM i customers. And with the launch of Eradani Connect version 4.1, which features a new GUI, pre-built templates of APIs, and a catalog for the REST-style Web services created with the tool, the Northern California company is taking the simplification mantra to new levels.
As a middleware layer, Eradani Connect ensures the XML or JSON data payloads contained in the external Web services are translated into native IBM i data structures, executed on the IBM i server, and then translated back into the XML or JSON formats that the outside API expects. Plus, it’s bi-directional, so IBM i shops can also use this to push data out of the box.
“So as the caller, all I need to do is do a standard function call the way I normally do that, and we’ll take care of all the things that have to get done in order to call the IBM i native thing, whatever it might be,” Magid says. “As an RPG programmer, I don’t need to know a lot about how the Web works in order to do call a service.”
With Eradani Connect 4.1, the company is seeking to make the product even easier to use. It starts with a new GUI that has been designed to simplify the Web service creation process.
“We’re always trying to push the ease-of-use for IBM i developers, because sometimes it’s intimidating for IBM i developers to get into this space and use the new technology,” Magid tells IT Jungle. “We’ve done a lot of things to make that even easier to generate those Web services. So if you want to create a REST service around a program, if you want to create a Web rest service around the database, it’s just a point-and-click process, so it’s very, very, easy to do through the graphical user interface.”
Version 4.1 also introduces new dashboards for monitoring the Web service that have been created with the tool. The dashboards will show the user how many requests they’re getting, the average response time, the error rates for Web services, and what messages people are getting. “Lots and lots of information about what’s happening with the Web services,” Magid says.
The dashboard also gives users the capability to stop the APIs from running. If something is not working quite right with an API, they can stop the API from running on the server, do the required maintenance, and then fire the API back up. The Eradani Connect API server is a Node.js application that is equally at home on an IBM i LPAR as it is in a Linux or Windows server, or even running on AWS.
Eradani has some customers that generate just a handful of Web services, and these customers generally don’t find it difficult to organize and track their Web services. But it also has customers running hundreds of Web services, and these folks sometimes may find the management to be difficult.
For customers with lots of Web services, Eradani Connect’s new management structure will be beneficial. This feature allows customers to create categories for their APIs to make them easier to find. For instance, there could be a place for billing APIs, warehousing APIs, or banking APIs, Magid says.
“One of the issues we found is when people do start to build libraries of APIs, developers might say ‘Well, it’s going to be harder for me to find the one I want than to just build another one,’ and so they start building duplicate APIs,” he says. “So we give them an easy way to look through to see, okay, I need an API for the billing system that has these fields in it or performs this function, and they can go through and find that.”
There are a handful of Web services that Eradani customers use quite frequently. So, in the name of simplification, Eradani decided to offer pre-built Web services for some of the most popular connections, such as Amazon Vendor Central, Shopify, UPS, the project44 supply chain system, Zebra printers and handheld devices, and even a vehicle identification number (VIN) lookup service. There are also templates for connecting into security and authentication services, such as OAuth, Kerberos, SAML, and Active Directory, Magid says.
“We’ve always been able to connect to those things, but it required us to do a lot of special coding to make it happen,” he says. “Now what we’ve done is we’ve basically templatized that. . . . They can just plug into those things. It’s basically built out, so they can plug those kinds of technologies into what they’re doing.”
Last but not least, Eradani Connect 4.1 brings support for COBOL. The company is finding that a lot of larger IBM i shops in the financial services industry have a lot of COBOL applications that they would like to expose to external Web service, and now it can make that happen.
“Until now, we could call COBOL program, but we couldn’t generate the COBOL code for an API connection,” Magid says. “In order to make sure that the connections don’t break, we generate the IBM i my native code and we generate the Web service code to make sure that the fields match up, all the data schemas match up. We couldn’t do that with COBOL code. We now can do that with COBOL code as well.”
The company is planning to formally announce Eradani Connect version 4.1 at the POWERUp conference that COMMON is holding in Virgina Beach next month. Magid and other company representatives will be exhibiting and presenting at the show. But the product is generally available now. Licensing is based on the number of production LPARs it is run on. For more information, see www.eradani.com.
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