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What's New in PowerBuilder?
What's New in PowerBuilder?

At TechWave 2002, I was able to catch up with Dave Fish, Sybase PowerBuilder Evangelist, and ask him a few questions. I hope you find his responses as interesting as I did.

Q: What is the current state of PowerBuilder?
A: Many organizations who thought that Java was the holy grail of development languages are finding out that it hasn't lived up to its marketing. They're looking at other tools to allow them to meet their business goals (on-time/on-budget development) and PowerBuilder is one of their choices. PowerBuilder developers are much more productive than their Java counterparts because 4GL tools allow developers to be more productive than 3GL tools.

In addition, many companies don't need to Web-enable their applications or move them to n-tier. They're quite happy developing two-tier client/server applications and quickly putting them into production, which of course PowerBuilder allows them to do.

Today, PowerBuilder is being used by organizations to develop for all three architectural frameworks, and they'll continue to do so going forward as Sybase continues to incorporate next-generation features.

Q: What new features are coming in PowerBuilder 9.0?
A: Our goal is to make PowerBuilder the choice for rapid application development and deployment of client/server, distributed, and n-tier applications. PowerBuilder 9.0 is one of the biggest releases for the application that will help it reach this goal. I'd say it's bigger than version 5 or even version 7 in terms of the areas of functionality being incorporated. These new features will really help developers expand their applications into new technologies while leveraging their PowerBuilder skills. We're adding support for XML in PowerBuilder 9.0. Developers will have the ability to import and export XML data through the DataWindow. They'll also have the ability to easily manipulate XML in PowerScript using PB DOM.

We're also adding functionality in PowerBuilder 9.0 to allow developers to create PB applications that access Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) running on EJB servers (such as WebLogic and WebSphere). This will allow developers to take advantage of business logic written with EJBs while giving their users a richer client interface that can be developed using Java or HTML. Plans for beyond 9.0 include having NVOs running in third-party application servers.

We're adding support for Web services in PowerBuilder 9.0. This feature allows developers to build applications that access Web services without having to become experts in Web Services Description Language (WSDL), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), and XML.

We've also added JavaServer Pages (JSP) authoring capability in PowerBuilder 9.0. This is an extension of the Web target functionality added in PB 8.0. Developers will be able to create and deploy JSP Web applications directly from PowerBuilder. We've also made it easy for developers to incorporate Web services directly into the JSPs they create using PowerBuilder.

Finally, we've added a new feature called PowerBuilder Native Interface (PBNI), which greatly expands PowerBuilder's ability to integrate and work with third-party programs and utilities. In fact, using PBNI technology Sybase is delivering features such as EJB client support, PB DOM, and Web services support.

Q: Regarding the integration message "Everything works better when everything works together," which features reinforce that message?
A: I think PowerBuilder 9.0's new features show that Sybase is committed to having the application be an open RAD 4GL that integrates with its own as well as other vendors' products. EJB client support, Web services client support, PBNI, and JSP authoring and deployment all allow PowerBuilder developers to integrate their applications with other technologies in their organization.

Q: When can PowerBuilder components run in other application servers? Not Web services but in the VM?
A: Work is already being done on this. The goal is to allow developers to take their business logic (written in NVOs) and deploy them into application servers like WebLogic or WebSphere. Because PowerBuilder is a 4GL, the goal is to abstract this functionality and shield the PowerBuilder developer from the complexities of working with EJB servers. We're planning to deliver this functionality after PowerBuilder 9.0.

Q: How can people find demos and more information about PowerBuilder 9.0?
A: We have a beta Web site set up for this. We are now in public beta so I encourage all developers interested in PowerBuilder 9.0 to visit www.sybase.com/betapb90program.

You need to be a registered Sybase Developer Network (SDN) user to access the beta page and download the software, but SDN membership is free. More information about SDN and a registration form can be found at www.sybase.com/developer/.

Q: What is Sybase's commitment to PowerBuilder?
A: Some PowerBuilder customers have told me that they felt that Sybase had neglected PowerBuilder for some time. I'm not sure if it was neglect, but much of the company's attention was focused on new technologies and keeping pace with the rapidly changing software market during the Internet bubble.

Sybase realizes that PowerBuilder has a loyal following and that companies want to use PB to develop client/server, n-tier, and Web-based applications. To that end, Sybase reorganized its PowerBuilder group, creating the role of PowerBuilder evangelist, along with dedicated worldwide resources to marketing PowerBuilder, including a director of sales and various personnel in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This group, as well as many others, has been working hard to provide the PowerBuilder customer base with the capabilities that will meet their current and future application development requirements.

About Jerry Neppl
Jerry Neppl, previously CEO of a small liquidation company, has been working for PowerTeam, Inc., in Minneapolis, for the past year and a half, having fun and getting
paid to play everyday.

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