Essential Application Modernization with NaturalONE

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Issue 3, 2011 Download pdf

AAFMAA (Army and Air Force Mutual Aid Association), a long-time customer of Software AG, uses NaturalONE to create web services from existing Natural code to extend applications via their website to their 86,000 members. NaturalONE has provided AAFMAA greater code flexibility, program comprehension, overall engineering support, and program maintenance. Read AFMAA’s CIO describe how NaturalONE has proven to be a useful and important component in a very successful IT modernization initiative below and hear him speak.

AAFMAA’s mission is to be the lowest cost provider of insurance and services to military personnel. Adabas and Natural have been an instrumental part of our insurance and services administration since 1984. We recently embarked on a modernization initiative to improve our user’s online experience. We selected NaturalONE to create new business functionality that adheres to the principles of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), Business Process Management (BPM), & Process Intelligence. By modernizing with NaturalONE, AAFMAA successfully re-used Adabas and Natural business logic, thus protecting our existing investments, while reducing processing time from days to less than an hour and succeeded in providing our customers a welcoming, up-to-date on-line experience.

Why NaturalONE?
Like many organizations today, AAFMAA leverages many applications and technologies to deliver services to customers and employees (as show in Figure 1). For example, the AAFMAA Insurance Sales process runs .NET/Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the Insurance Quoting Engine is based on Adabas and Natural. As we embarked on our modernization  initiative, we strongly wanted one development site for creating web services. For us, NaturalONE was the obvious choice with IDL, WSDL, SOAP and XML all within one tool.

One Stop Web Service Development
Let’s explore one example that demonstrates how easy it is to use NaturalONE to develop and test web services. The Insurance Process—how to get a quote for life insurance policy—uses NaturalONE to create a robust user interface for an improved user experience while still using the Natural/Adabas code to calculate the quote. NaturalONE is used to create, configure, deploy, and publish the web services that make this possible.

The process takes place in NaturalONE’s Eclipse IDE (Integrated Development Environment). Since it is all wizard-driven, very little programming is involved. We first looked at existing applications that we wanted to call and made sure they were “callable” by building a wrapper. Next, we created the Software IDL (or interfaces). Once this was complete, we use NaturalONE to see the Web Services available on any given server. This is known as the Web Service Stack view, as shown in Figure 2. With a basic point and click, the web services are then generated through the wizard with as little code as possible. Finally, we visually inspect all servicegenerated components and test the web service at anytime.

Web service Development Approach
  • Build a Wrapper
  • Create Software IDL
  • View the Web Service Stack
  • Generate Web Services
  • Inspect Service-Generated Components


Consuming Web Services for Transaction Integration
Another example of how NaturalONE has served us well—as the single tool for all development—is the transaction integration between our off-the-shelf customer relationship management (CRM) application from Microsoft and our contact data, maintained in Adabas and Natural. Every time a contact changed, we needed to pass a message to the CRM application. We used NaturalONE to build an interface in Natural to use CRM transaction integration services. This “Transaction Integration” is quite simply a technique to put a “wrapper” around a transaction.

We previously integrated the CRM application with the Adabas and Natural application with EntireX Broker. Now we can consume services through the NaturalONE interface. To do this, we first create the NaturalONE project with all the specific components. Next, we select the wizard that’s going to the IDL extraction from existing WSDL file. All that remains is to test the service and ensure the program is callable by service wrapping the Natural subprogram.

Web Service Consumption for Transactions Approach
  • Create NaturalONE Project
  • Select a Wizard: IDL Extractor for WSDL
  • Test the Service
  • Wrap the Natural Subprogram

Using Commercial Web Services
Most AAFMA members travel frequently and have many temporary locations. Since it is important for us to keep in touch with our membership, verifying member addresses is of utmost importance. Fortunately, the US Postal Service provides a web service for verifying and validating any address in real-time. Using NaturalONE, it was very simple for us to consume this commercial web service for address verification.

Using NaturalONE, we simply saved the WSDL file provided by USPS; determined where the IDL file would live; created the IDL and mapping file; and set-up the EntireX broker file for communication. With just a few clicks, all the code was auto-generated (as seen in Figure 3). Nothing manually needed to be created! This is just one small example of how AAFMAA has saved a tremendous amount of time because of NaturalONE.

NaturalONE - Essential Tool for Re-engineering
NaturalONE played an important role in helping us formulate our re-engineering plan and approach. By using NaturalONE, we could use XML documents as the standard interface between our legacy system and Microsoft Windows applications. We also generated Natural objects for parsing and serializing. With NaturalONE, we were able to re-engineer and modernize all system layers:

  • Presentation (Pages, Forms, Maps, etc.)
  • Business Logic (Transactions)
  • Database Access

NaturalONE provided us a more flexible debugging environment, a robust terminal emulator, a variable look-up tool, a trace tool, and more. With the XML Toolkit, shown in Figure 4, embedded in NaturalONE the flexibility and ease of re-engineering and re-factoring is greatly simplified.

NaturalONE is really an essential collection of all the tools needed for re-engineering. With just a few clicks, you are able to assign library attributes, create new parser and serializer, all without much code generation. With the code required auto-generated, we saved tremendous time and effort. Based on our experience, I can confidently say that NaturalONE is an essential tool for anyone re-engineering and refactoring in a heterogeneous architecture.

One Development Environment for Java and Natural
We have both Natural and Java applications at AAFMAA, but we don’t need to use a different tool to work with both. With NaturalONE, we can import existing or create new JAVA projects and perform all Java development related tasks (edit, debug, run, etc.) in the same development environment as we create and edit Natural projects. Debugging is simplified with the use of wizards which provide a consistent debugger view for Natural and Java. We can run the Java application from NaturalONE as well as any integration and then see the results of the execution of the Java application.

NaturalONE has provided a wide range of developer features in a single tool to accelerate AAFMAA’s ability to create industrial strength modern applications using Natural, .NET, and Java. Some of these features include:

  • Code Reviews: code analysis
  • Component Testing: web services and component testing
  • Runtime Analysis: analysis and debugging of important runtime parameters of an application

These features enabled AAFMAA to increase productivity and helped to detect problems and to prevent them from happening when performing functional integration testing prior to introducing code in the production environment.

NaturalONE has created tremendous time savings for AAFMAA’s Natural and Java projects. I recommend NaturalONE as an essential tool for any organization performing development in a diverse environment; looking to move to a SOA; and integrate existing applications with modern interfaces in Java or .NET.
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Essential Application Modernization with NaturalONE