A Web development application

Web integration is a challenge that most businesses face. Web integration can mean publishing internal documents and company news across an intranet, providing a public presence on the Internet, building data-driven Web site applications, and enabling access to legacy host applications.

Wall Data designed Cyberprise Enterprise Edition for NT to address these challenges. The Cyberprise Enterprise Edition lets you build Web-based applications that can access SQL Server, Oracle, AS/400, and Access databases; publish information to multiple workgroups; and provide access to legacy 3270, Telnet, and 5250 host-based applications.

What's Inside


The Cyberprise Enterprise Edition requires Internet Information Server (IIS) 3.0 or 4.0 and SQL Server 6.5 or 7.0. You can install SQL Server on a separate system, but you must install IIS on the same system as the Cyberprise Server. The Cyberprise Enterprise Edition can support up to 1000 users, and it can support load balancing among multiple Cyberprise servers.

The Cyberprise Enterprise Edition comprises four products: Cyberprise Server, Cyberprise DBApp Developer, Cyberprise DBApp Publisher, and Cyberprise Host. You can purchase each of these components separately, and they work together as a suite.

Cyberprise Server provides centralized management for Web clients. It lets you create different channels of Web content based on user IDs. The channels make it easy for users to navigate the Web client. The Cyberprise Server also controls security for the Cyberprise product suite.

Cyberprise DBApp Developer is a Web building application that performs a function similar to Allaire's Cold Fusion or Microsoft's Visual InterDev. However, unlike these products, DBApp Developer builds Web applications by combining database fields with a set of customizable Web templates.

Cyberprise DBApp Publisher is the server counterpart to DBApp Developer and is a set of ActiveX controls and components that you install on the server. These controls provide the runtime database access for applications you build with DBApp Developer.

The remaining component is Cyberprise Host. This set of host-access components provides legacy host connectivity through a Web browser.

I tested the Cyberprise Enterprise Edition for NT using a 266MHz NEC system with 128MB of RAM. This system was running Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 3 (SP3), SQL Server 6.5, and IIS 3.0. To test the Cyberprise Enterprise Edition for NT, I created a sample Web channel, which combined a custom Web application that accessed the SQL Server Northwind database with an AS/400 5250 emulation session. I used Cyberprise Server's Channel Manager to set up some users and channels that the users would subscribe to. Screen 1, page 56, shows the Cyberprise Channel Manager.

Cyberprise Server's organization system consists of channels and extensions. A channel organizes resources and provides an easy navigational interface from a Web browser. Extensions associate Cyberprise resources such as Web applications and host access with their location on the Cyberprise Server. The Cyber-prise channel contains tabs that divide it into different subject areas. Each tab in turn contains items with different extensions. For example, to set up a Cyberprise application, you first create an extension for the application and then assign that extension to a channel.

Cyberprise Server's user and channel management features make it easy to set up customizable Web content according to user ID. But getting started with Cyberprise was a big hurdle for me. Terms such as channels, extensions, items, and tabs have unique meanings in relation to the Cyberprise product. The product also has unintuitive organization and comes with no printed documentation. Wall Data told me that it usually provides onsite personnel during the product setup period, but I see no reason not to provide a comprehensive manual for this level of product. After I took considerable time to learn the Cyberprise Server product layout, I found the management aspects of the product easy to handle.

After setting up the users and a channel for the application, I used the DBApp Developer to create a simple Web application based on SQL Server's Northwind database. The DBApp Developer takes a different tack from most Web development tools. Other tools such as FrontPage and Visual InterDev begin the Web building process by designing the Web pages. Then you use either code or other integrated functions to link the fields on the pages to the database. In contrast, Cyberprise DBApp Developer starts the Web application-building process with the database. First, DBApp Developer creates the Semantic Object Model (SOM), which is an intermediate database independent from SQL Server. Similar in concept to n-tiered applications, the SOM insulates the Web application from the data sources that it uses. DBApp Developer builds the SOM model by reverse-engineering an ODBC-compatible data source. The DBApp Developer can reverse engineer a SQL Server, Access, Oracle, DB2, or AS/400 database. After DBApp Developer defines the SOM, you create views for the model that let you select the database information you want to publish on your Web pages. After you create the views, you can generate the Web pages and publish the application. DBApp Developer builds HTML pages and Active Server Pages (ASP).

I found that Cyberprise DBApp Developer's unintuitive development process and terminology made the product difficult to learn and use. Additionally, its ability to generate Web pages is limited by its use of templates. Wall Data provides no built-in tools that you can use to design or customize the Web interface. If you want to modify the pages, you need to use another Web building tool, such as Visual InterDev, that lets you edit Web pages. You can use any HTML editor, but Cyberprise provides an ActiveX control that works only with Visual InterDev. The ActiveX control prevents Cyberprise's HTML tags from being modified during the editing process. If you use an editor other than Visual InterDev, you need to manually preserve the Cyberprise HTML tags.

Next, I used the Cyberprise Host to create a Web-based AS/400 5250 display session. Cyberprise Host provides three levels of 5250 emulation. At the low end, it provides host emulation via HTML conversion. Cyberprise Host also includes two sets of ActiveX controls, Host Express and Host Pro, which provided noticeably better host-emulation sessions. The ActiveX host components improved the font and presentation of the host display and improved keyboard functionality.

The Cyberprise Host product is the strongest part of the Cyberprise Enterprise Edition product suite. The Cyberprise Host lets you centrally configure the host emulation, and then it automatically downloads the emulation when the Web clients connect to the Cyberprise Server. In addition, the Cyberprise Host addresses the security problem that plagues most Telnet applications. By default, Telnet connections send a clear-text data stream across the TCP/IP connection that they're using—including the user ID and password. Cyberprise Host provides several methods of securing the Web-to-host connection, including RSA encryption and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) authentication with digital signatures.

After generating the Web pages and adding them to channels, I ran the Cyberprise application from another Web client across my intranet. I was running a relatively low-end server, but I found the Cyberprise application's performance to be very good. The Web application seamlessly connected to my SQL Server database, and I didn't need to manually insert any ADO or ASP code.

Feature-Packed and Complex


The Cyberprise product is feature-packed and complex. As a result, the learning curve is steep. The lack of manuals contributed to my difficult beginning experience with the product. But after I learned the product, I found it reasonably easy to manage.

The Cyberprise Enterprise Edition is an effective platform for combining basic Web applications and host integration, especially for intranet use where internal requirements are less demanding. The product's quick development environment and good scalability make it a good value for this type of application. But as an Internet Web development platform, the product falls short. You can use it to get started, but if you have more sophisticated Web development needs, you'll need to rely on another tool.

Cyberprise
Contact:Wall Data
Web: http://www.walldata.com or www.cyberprise.com
Products Reviewed:
Cyberprise Server 2.0 Enterprise Edition for Windows NT: $25,000 for 1000 users
Cyberprise Server 2.0 Departmental Edition: $10,000 for 100 users
Cyberprise DBApp Developer 2.5 Standard
Edition: $2500
Cyberprise DBApp Developer 2.5 Professional Edition: $4750
Cyberprise Host 2.0 Enterprise Edition for NT: $200
Cyberprise InfoPublisher 2.0: $8000
System Requirements: Pentium 200, 128MB of RAM, 200MB of available disk space
Software Requirements: Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) 3.0 or 4.0, Access to SQL Server 6.5, Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.02 or 4.01, or Netscape Navigator 3.04 or 4.0, Java and JavaScript must be enabled