WebClient i+ Framework White Paper - ADC Austin

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Rich Internet Application Development
For IBM System i


Generate and publish end to end
Web 2.0 / Ajax Apps using the

WebClient i+ Framework for CA Plex



White Paper









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C o n t e n t s

I n t r o d u c t i o n ......................................................................................................................... 3

What are Rich Internet Applications? ................................................................................. 4

WCi+ Product Overview .................................................................................................... 7

WCi+ Development Process ............................................................................................. 10

WCi+ Deployment Architecture ....................................................................................... 13

WCi+ Development Architecture ..................................................................................... 16

Road Map / Futures ........................................................................................................... 23

Conclusion ........................................................................................................................ 24

Company and Contact Information ................................................................................... 25

















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I n t r o d u c t i o n

Implementing enterprise browser-based applications for IBM System i RPG/Cobol shops
has always been a challenge. Screen scraping and related host based access tools can
provide web sites quickly, but over time these application tools can prove unsatisfactory.
The user experience is usually limited by the technology, and improvement to the
application often means a loss of separation between the presentation and business logic
layers. Other approaches involve developing web presentation layers in separate
technologies – which is often not a reasonable option due to cost issues or due to a desire
to have an integrated development methodology and a single code base.

The WebClient i+ Framework for CA Plex (WCi+) is a fresh approach, unlocking the
promise of RIA application generation directly from a CA Plex model based development
environment. WCi+ adds Web 2.0 capability to the CA Plex enterprise development tool,
enabling complete application generation from the presentation layer (HTML, JavaScript,
Ajax) to back end business logic (RPG, .NET or J2EE). Designed as a joint effort
between ADC Austin and Websydian, WCi+ builds on CA Plex’s multiplatform
application generation capabilities and Websydian’s proven web server environment.
Importantly, WCi+ can also utilizes existing functionality in developed in RPG or
COBOL.

The remainder of this white paper provides some background on Rich Internet
Applications, and then describes the features, architecture, and value proposition behind
the WCi+ Framework.





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W h a t a r e R i c h I n t e r n e t A p p l i c a t i o n s?

R i c h I n t e r n e t A p p l i c a t i o n s a r e w e b a p p l i c a t i o n s t h a t a r e c o n s i d e r e d t o h a v e m a n y o f t h e
f e a t u r e s a n d f u n c t i o n s o f t r a d i t i o n a l d e s k t o p a p p l i c a t i o n s. A l t h o u g h th e r e i s n o d e f i n i t i v e
list of features that make a web application an RIA application, generally RIA
applications are considered to be richer and more responsive than classic web
applications. RIA web applications use desktop-style GUI controls, coupled with client-
side interactions and asynchronous communication to the server. This produces a web
application that combines the best of both the client-server and web capabilities – a full
rich application that does not need to be separately distributed and installed.

WCi+ supports RIA in the following ways:

Standard JavaScript control libraries

WCi+ ships with the Dojo toolkit DHTML/JavaScript library
(http://dojotoolkit.org). This library contains controls that are pure open source,
and can be used and resold. Examples include grids, tabs, and trees – all of which
map to the controls most commonly used in business applications. Future versions
will likely support Ext JS (http://extjs.com), an advanced JavaScript library with
even more Ajax style controls.

With WCi+’s open approach to HTML templating, it is possible for the developer
to plug in their own preferred set of RIA controls, and to integrate with other RIA
applications like Google maps. All this takes is knowledge of JavaScript and
HTML.

Asynchronous “Ajax” communications

WCi+ supports Ajax-style web page interaction with grids and other controls.
This enables the grids to be loaded and paginated without refreshing the browser
window. Tabbed windows are another example of using Ajax – this lets the user
rapidly switch between tabs without triggering a page refresh.

Client side validations

WCi+ supports client-side data type validations generated into the web controls,
eliminating the need for round trips to the server and web page refresh for simple
validations. This can be extended by the WCi+ developer.







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Business Process Modeling and Workflow

WCi+ applications can be integrated into enterprise business process modeling
and workflow applications such as Lombardi’s TeamWorks and Soreco’s
Xpert.Ivy. All WCi+ panels can be “deep linked” via URLs that specifies function
name and input parameters. WCi+ panels can be called as SOAP web services.
WCi+ applications are architected to run in single sign-on environments, and to
make use of standard web service calls both as a publisher and subscriber. This
enables WCi+ applications to become part of business work-flows, and to become
a key element of an organization SOA strategy.



Model Based Advantages for RIA Applications

Although RIA applications are powerful, and represent the future of application
development, they also have practical drawbacks for enterprise applications. Primarily,
their additional complexity makes them harder to design, test, measure, and support. The
ability to move code to the browser client gives application designers and developers far
more creative freedom. But this in turn makes development harder, increases the
likelihood of defects being introduced, and complicates software testing activities.
Additionally, there is the possibility of security flaws introduced into the application by
inexperienced web programmers that can be extremely difficult to detect.




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T h e t r u e p o w e r o f u s i n g R I A i n a m o d e l b a s e d e n v i r o n m e n t l i k e C A P l e x i s t h a t t h e s e
drawbacks are mitigated almost entirely. WCi+ ships with best practices built in to the
patterns and HTML templates, and makes use of the solid Websydian security model.
When new RIA features and patterns need to be added, software architects can add these
features as extensions of the shipped patterns and templates. After the new features have
been added and tested, the architects simply make a new pattern version/level available to
the organization. This approach makes it easy for general developers to create RIA
applications in a managed environment, and eliminates repetitive HTML coding for RIA
controls.





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WCi+ Framework Overview

WCi+ was designed to be both simple and powerful. A simple development process hides
much of the complexity of RIA web development. WCi+ developers use CA Plex to
model applications using existing CA pattern libraries, and generate these web functions
using standard techniques. However, WCi+ is also powerful. WCi+ applications use
readily available and open RIA component libraries, with no restriction on the
complexity and capability. WCi+ applications integrate seamlessly with other enterprise-
level web applications, including single sign-on environments and web based
applications with business process modeling and workflow. Last but not least, WCi+
applications are deployed to enterprise class application servers like Websphere, JBoss,
or Tomcat, and can run in load balanced configurations on any hardware or OS platform.
WCi+ supports business layers generated in .NET/C#, and in the future plans include
support for a .NET presentation layer via ASP proxy technology.

WCi+ works with Websydian Express and other products in the Websydian Product
Suite. WCi+ business processes can be added to WCi+ site structures and menus, and run
under the WSE framework in a seamless manner. WCi+ developers can use WSE API’s
to access security, sessions, users, and a wealth of other common web API’s.

In short, WCi+ is an enterprise solution that integrates well with other enterprise
architectures, applications, and development products. WCi+ should be given strong
consideration when an organization develops an SOA strategy around their IBM System i
architecture.




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WCi+ Framework components

CA Plex

Develop applications in a Windows environment and then compile and test them in the
target environment which might be Windows/.NET, Java/J2EE or the IBM System i. CA
Plex supports the development of many different types of applications including
client/server, web-based, service-oriented, character-based, batch and wireless device-
based, all from a single set of skills and development techniques.
Websydian Enterprise Server

The Websydian Server supports the operational environment for a Distributed Web
Architecture including J2EE, continuously monitoring the application, performing error
recovery, and enabling automatic start and stop of application services without disrupting
e-business operation. The Websydian Server is available in modules for various numbers
of simultaneous sessions. You can combine the modules to easily and safely scale the
server for your performance requirements.
WebClient Plug-in Page Builder / Generator
The WebClient Plug-in for Eclipse generates the necessary HTML, JavaScript, and Ajax
calls for the presentation layer of the application, and publishes the resulting WAR file to
the web server.

Key Features

WYSIWYG HTML generated directly from the CA Plex panel layout

HTML web pages are automatically created based on the control layout created in
the Plex panel designer. Web page layouts are created in Plex, without a
requirement for external HTML layout tools. This enables the application
developer to maintain a similar look and feel between web and client server
applications.
Use existing action diagram code without modification
Plex functions can be published to the web as is, without any modification to the
action diagram or other function properties. Quickly deploy existing Plex



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a p p l i c a t i o n s t o t h e w e b. M a i n t a i n c l i e n t-server, 5250, and web versions of
applications from a single model code base.
Integrates with Web Based and Traditional Applications
Utilizes the Websydian architecture as the underlying framework. Deep linking
support to and from standard Websydian applications and other web applications.
Make use of Websydian pattern libraries, with a full set of web functionality.
Creating interfaces to and from other web based enterprise applications, work
flow engines, single sign-on frameworks, and portals are straightforward.
Produces secure, robust, and scalable applications
Websydian Server+ is used to run the web application – with proven security,
scalability, and enterprise level reliability. Utilizes standard Websydian session
and security framework. Deploy your applications without having to code
specifically for security and scalability – these features are built in.
Supports CA 2E applications migrated to Plex via ADC Modernization
Studio
Applications migrated from CA 2E using ADC Modernization Studio are fully
supported, without necessity for any hand modification. Migrate your 2E
applications to the web as quickly and easily as to client server.
Deploy on any J2EE web/application server such as IBM Websphere
and Tomcat
Utilizes standard J2EE architecture, with full support for standard J2EE features
like sessions. Wide range of web servers and platforms supported, including IBM
System i/p/n, Microsoft Windows, and Linux. IT J2EE staff can implement on
hardware and software they are familiar with and can easily support.
Web server software can be sized to meet the organization requirements – from
open source options like Tomcat to full-feature options like IBM Websphere.
Advanced HTML templating capability available for sophisticated web
applications
Patterns are available to enable sophisticated web applications to be generated
directly from Plex, including supporting requirements around advanced HTML
controls, Ajax, and JavaScript. Use the power of Plex patterns to generate
applications that offer an advanced web browser user experience – without having
to train all your developers on advanced web techniques.




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WCi+ Development Process
The power and simplicity of WCi+ is best demonstrated by showing how a web
application can be modified, generated, and published with a short sequence of simple
steps. In the scenario below, we will make a change to Ajax-based tab dialog to add a
button that triggers a business process. The sequence of illustrations shows how we can
add a “Register” process to the existing tab around a user group event.

1. Original web panel
2. Make change to panel and action diagram
3. Generate presentation source
4. Compile and publish (using Eclipse, optional)
5. View results

Original Panel







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Add a button to the web page, tie to an event, and make a call to the business logic
layer.
Make a Change


Compile and Publish

Three actions accomplished by toolbar clicks – generate in CA Plex,
compile/generate HTML in Eclipse or WDSc, and publish to the web server.




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End Result

The panel is published to the web site seamlessly.



The preceding section is the best illustration of the value that WCi+ can bring to System i
organization: WCi+ produces a quality application in a short period of time. The
remainder of the whitepaper will go into further detail on how WCi+ applications are
architected from a deployment and development point of view.



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WCi+ Deployment Architecture

Overview
At its core, WCi+ is a J2EE Proxy Servlet which uses the CA Plex java runtime to
translate panels into HTML pages. WCi+ applications typically run in a multi-tier
application server environment. The presentation or view/controller layer runs under
J2EE applications servers such as Tomcat, JBoss, or Websphere. The business logic and
database access layer (or model layer) runs on any supported CA Plex configuration.


WCi+ is currently implemented as a Java Servlet, enabling the widest range of
deployment options. Virtually all hardware platforms including Intel, Sun, IBM System i/
z/n/p support multiple J2EE server options, along with a equally broad array of operating
systems including Microsoft, Linux, System i OS, and many others. Future releases of
WCi+ are planned to include a Microsoft ASP .NET proxy option.



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Multi-Tier Separation of Logic

As previously mentioned, WCi+ applications can be deployed in a variety of
configurations. CA Plex architects can partition the application according to best
practices around separation of presentation and business logic. Business logic can run
where appropriate, including across multiple hardware platforms and operating systems.
In the case of J2EE-focused organizations, an EJB layer can be employed. Or in .NET
focused organizations, the application business logic can reside on .NET servers running
C# and Microsoft SQL Server.


The separation of business logic from presentation logic is an important aspect of the
WCi+ approach. Different presentation technologies can be plugged into the HTML
layer, allowing user interface focused developers to take advantage of new approaches in
web application design.
Sessions, SSO, and Audit Stamps

WCi+ applications run with standard J2EE sessions. Information can be stored on session
related tables, and standard session based error logs created. Highly concurrent web
applications are possible under this architecture.




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WCi+ can also be used to solve two very common and complex problems with web
applications, Single Sign On (SSO) and record audit stamps. Due to its open and
standards based architecture, SSO frameworks can be plugged in quite easily. SSO
authentication and role-based security is a snap. Additionally, WCi+ can make use of
WSE role based security, and can authenticate to the WSE security framework.

Audit stamps are another common web “issue”, especially when using existing 2E or
Plex based programs. The reason is that typical web applications run under a security
context of anonymous “super user”. Although the web session is aware of the logged in
user, the programs and database access routines are not aware. Web applications typically
solve this by adding routines to access the session, or by passing this information as a
parameter to the business layer function. However, in many cases this solution is not
feasible, since it requires modifications to existing RPG or COBOL programs. In the case
of typical 2E applications, the impact may be hundreds or even thousands of individual
programs. WCi+ applications solve this problem by optionally running user sessions
under the security context of the authenticated user. This means that System i programs
can work as originally designed.
State Behavior

It is important to note that WCi+ supports both stateful and stateless operation. Both
modes of operation are valuable in a web environment. Classic web applications designed
for the public internet are generally designed to be stateless. Stateless applications do not
have deep dependencies between pages based on user actions. This behavior is valuable
in environments where an internet connection is not considered reliable enough to persist
between pages. Simple state information can be passed on the URL as parameters, or
persisted in custom session or database structures. Complex state information is difficult
to design and program, and is generally not recommended.

On the other hand, stateful applications contain program call information and variables
that persist between pages. This behavior is valuable for applications that are complex,
long running, and containing transactions spanning several pages. Most typical business
applications fall into this category, including typical 5250 and client server applications
developed with CA 2E and Plex and other tools. As web applications grow more
complex, the need to persist state information grows. Most complex intranet applications
do track extensive state information as a mechanism for improving the user experience.

With WCi+’s architectural support of both stateful and stateless modes of operation,
developers can switch between modes as per design requirements. This offers the
ultimate flexibility to the web developer, and also provides the power to run client-server
or migrated 5250 applications directly in a web based environment.





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WCi+ Development Architecture
Overview

The next section describes the development architecture behind WCi+. The diagram
below shows an overview of how WCi+ development works. For business layer
processes (lower left of diagram), there is no change in development practices.
Developers generate and build C#, Java, or RPG as they do with client-server
applications. For the presentation layer, standard Plex functions are generated in Java.
WCi+ provides automated ANT scripts and Eclipse/WDSc integration to compile/build
the functions and produce HTML templates. Most of this activity is transparent to the
Plex developer, who uses a development process largely similar to the client-server
development process. Details of HTML generation and the development process are in
subsequent sections.

To the developer, WCi+ consists of two key components: the WCi+ pattern library, and
the WCi+ HTML builder, currently implemented as an Eclipse plug-in. These two
components work in concert to generate and render an HTML presentation for a standard
CA Plex user interface function.



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WEBCLT Pattern Layer Component

The WCi+ product is shipped with a group model named WEBCLT. This model is added
as a library to the application group model. To enable advanced functionality, functions
should inherit from patterns in this library for WCi+ to translate the panel properties to
HTML templates. Note that this inheritance does not change business logic, or the
appearance of the panel when running in client-server mode. The WEBCLT pattern
library consists of basic building blocks to tie CA Plex panels and UI components to
HTML web page templates. These patterns are unobtrusive, and contain HTML and
JavaScript source code objects and control name settings. In most cases, the patterns can
be used without knowledge of HTML or JavaScript.



Here are some of the commonly used patterns in WEBCLT:

• ~WebShell – Basic web page
• ~StyleBase – Tie into cascading style sheets
• ~FrameProperty – Child Panel
• ~TabStrip – Tab presentation
• ~IFrame – Region

• Note that more advanced patterns and Websydian API integration will be
included in a separate pattern library via Websydian Web Developer+.

Another important concept of the WCi+ approach is that it does not require any
modification or special consideration for the presentation and business logic layers. Plex
action diagrams are developed in exactly the same manner as with client-server
applications. WCi+ runs presentation-layer business logic in the web application
container (such as Websphere, Tomcat, or JBoss). Server-side business logic runs on the
Plex application server layer. This can be any configuration supported by CA Plex -
including .NET/C#, C++, Java/EJB, and RPG.




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T h i s a p p r o a c h e n a b l e s t h e P l e x d e v e l o p e r t o q u i c k l y d e p l o y e x i s t i n g P l e x a p p l i c a t i o ns t o
t h e w e b b y j u s t r e g e n e r a t i n g. N e w a p p l i c a t i o n l o g i c d o e s n o t r e q u i r e s p e c i a l t r a i n i n g o r
n e w p a t t e r n s. P l e x d e v e l o p e r s s i m p l y d o w h a t c o m e s n a t u r a l l y, a n d d e v e l o p c o d e u s i n g
standard best practices.

HTML Page Builder Component

The translation of CA Plex panel designs to HTML is at the heart of the product. WCi+
itself is not tied directly to the HTML. When the Plex developer generates and builds a
Plex panel, WCi+ resolves HTML templates from the panel control type and generates
the HTML. This is implemented by an Eclipse plug-in called a “builder”. Some of the
template information is resolved during generation and the rest is resolved by expanding
substitution tags and attach points during Run Time. All of the Plex states are taken into
account when displaying data in the Page.

WCi+ Builder Diagram




The WCi+ builder is driven by settings in the panel properties, and by the inheritance
path of the WEBCLT patterns employed. The following diagrams show how



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s e t t i n g s/patterns are used to display a geo-map on a panel. In this case, the
iFrameContents is set to an URL, which renders a map of an address. Note that the map
effect can be replicated throughout an application with a simple “is a” triple, and one line
of action diagram code to set the URL.
.
Plex Panel Properties


Note that the URL field on the panel has HTML code in the control name via inheritance.
This code specifies how the panel component should tie to the HTML template. Note the
tag “iFrameContents”, which is referred to in the next section.









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Shipped WCi+ Templates


Many templates are shipped with WCi+, corresponding to the commonly used patterns
and control that ship with CA Plex. The developer is free to create his or her own
template libraries to adjust the shipped template code, or to create their own templates
from scratch.

In the case of the geo map, the iFrame template is picked up by the WCi+ Builder from
the connection in the control name property. This is used to generate a run time template
to display the function.




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Example Panel


The end result of basic HTML rendering is shown below, and can be accomplished
within minutes of installing and using WCi+. With WCi+’s templating mechanism and
CA Plex patterns, web RIA components can be incorporated into an existing application
in a very short period of time. This speed cannot be matched by using third party web
development tools, and the resulting quality of application is second to none.



5250 to GUI to Web Controls

Although WCi+ applications produce a close approximation to the experience of a client-
server application, due to the basis in HTML the experience is not exact. For example,
double click is not supported by browsers, so it is not supported by WCi+. Another
example is command keys – although it is possible to map function keys to the browser,
this is not best practices since it breaks with standard web page design.





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Using Eclipse and IBM WDSc
WCi+ can use the open source IDE Eclipse to develop web applications, or its IBM
Websphere centric cousin WDSs. Many developers find Eclipse to be a very productive
environment when developing J2EE applications. Applications and web pages can be
inspected, compiled, debugged, and deployed to application servers. WCi+ ships with
ANT scripts and Eclipse plug-in capability to make your Eclipse experience as seamless
as possible.

Note that WCi+ supports Eclipse, but does not require knowledge of it. WCi+ developers
can work from the Plex generate and build window exclusively if they desire, and can
also work in Visual Studio centric manner. With Plex 6.0 ANT support, ANT based
automated build and deployment capabilities are possible. Future releases of WCi+ will
include support for Visual Studio and direct builds without Eclipse.




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Road Map / Futures

The following diagram shows how Websydian WebClient fits into the Websydian
product family. WCi+ applications are interoperable with standard Websydian
applications. WCi+ applications required the Websydian Server+ version of server.
Websydian Server+ can run any standard Websydian Server application.



Websydian and ADC Austin have many items on the WCi+ development roadmap. These
features include:

• Ajax / JavaScript Libraries – WCi+ ships with a dojo presentation template layer.
Other presentations such as EXT JS will be supported in future releases.

• ASP .NET Proxy – Implementation of presentation layer logic on a pure .NET
server. Note this will be accomplished with platform independence intact – i.e.
without any need to change your CA Plex model code or HTML templating.

• Additional Websydian Integration – The integration between WCi+ and
Websydian is already strong, and will be further strengthened by the release of
Websydian Web Developer+ pattern libraries.






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We b Cl i e n t i + F r a m e w o r k f o r C A P l e x Wh i t e P a p e r
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C o n c l u s i o n


C A 2 E a n d P l e x s h o p s h a v e a n e w o p t i o n f o r d e v e l o p i n g R I A a p p l i c a t i o n s – W e b s y d i a n
W e b C l i e n t f o r P l e x. WCi+ enables the model based developer to develop web
applications in a direct, straightforward manner.

WCi+ users can expect the following benefits over competing technologies:

• Fast, direct web development directly from the model
• Publish existing or migrated applications without modification
• Fast, safe, secure

ADC Austin and Websydian invite you to try this technology for yourself. We offer a
variety of evaluation options and information programs. Please contact us to set up a no-
obligation demonstration and trial of our software.

Resources for further investigation:

ADC Austin Web Site
http://www.adcaustin.com/


Websydian Web Site
http://www.websydian.com/websydiannet/app


Direct link to page
http://www.modelbasedmodernization.com







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C o m p a n y a n d C o n ta c t I n f o r m a t i o n

ADC Austin

ADC Austin was established in 1996, and today the Austin based company employs a
team of professionals throughout the USA. ADC Austin has been working with solution
development and modernization within 2E and Plex for many years - from the days of
Synon and AS400 until today’s CA 2E and Plex, Microsoft .NET, and IBM System i
/Rational/Websphere. Clients include medium to large development shops across all
industries.
Websydian
Websydian has provided web development tools to the CA Plex and IBM System i
market for 10 years, and has been in the solution market for more than 20 years.
Websydian products are developed on this experience, best practices, and user feedback.
Today more than 200 companies in 35 countries worldwide use Websydian web
application tools.

Both companies are CA Smart certified and IBM business partners.

Websydian products hold the following IBM certificates: IBM ServerProven, Built on
IBM Express Portfolio, IBM Galaxy Program, System i5 Security & Compliance Proven

Enquiries about this white paper should be directed to:

Europe


Mikkel Schnack, Sales and Channels Director,
Websydian
+45 39 66 02 00
mikkel.schnack@websydian.com


Americas, Spain, and worldwide


John Rhodes, Principal Architect
ADC Austin
+1 800-605-9848 x 705
jdrhodes@adcaustin.com

Spanish Language

Juan Gonzalez, Ibero-American Partnership Director
ADC Austin
+1 800-605-9848
jgonzalez@adcaustin.com