Software AG's natural platform gets XML fever

Software AG Inc. positioned itself as a leader in XML a number of years ago, largely on the back of its Tamino XML server. The company, with a long mainframe lineage, many customers and a pre-relational -- now more widely described as “post-relational” -- database, is also known as the maker of the Natural 4GL development platform, which is an established alternative to Cobol on mainframes in some quarters.

Software AG recently spent some time updating Natural. As a result, the 4GL engine can now create and process XML documents, allowing mainframe developers to extend their apps directly to the Internet, Web and Web services.

Through Natural Version 4’s remote development architecture, applications for Unix and/or mainframe target platforms can be developed using an instance of Natural on Windows. Moreover, Natural Version 4 for OS/390 or z/OS can be extended with the current Version 5 (or the forthcoming Version 6) of Natural for Linux on the same machine.

Runtime performance of the new system, said Bruce Beaman, Software AG’s director of enterprise product marketing, is significantly enhanced through Natural Version 4’s improved object-code-handling techniques, redesigned execution algorithms, widened access paths and increased buffer size. Use of 64-bit technology is supported on z/OS only, and a new version of the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) server is reported.

“This mean the Natural language can bring in XML documents, parse them using a DTD [Document Type Definition], and then turn around and serialize it after it’s been worked on by the Natural program,” said Beaman.

Is it late in the day to bring such capabilities to Natural? No, responds Beaman. Natural users, he said, “are not the early adopters.” So bringing them up to speed with XML now actually represents good timing.

“We’ve been talking XML for some time now. But now Natural can dovetail with our other XML products,” noted Beaman.

XML and Web services have a lot of room to grow in the mainframe camp, Beaman indicated. There, spaghetti code has been a plague for years, and Service-Oriented Architectures (SOAs) are a somewhat familiar concept. Now, too, “Natural people” can begin to share Web services bragging rights with their .NET and Java brethren.

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About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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