DEVNET Upgrades Software Development Environment

A couple of weeks ago, you probably started noticing something that looked a bit like this when you launched your DEVNET applications each day:


and wondered what we changed.  As it turns out, a whole heck of a lot! (though, to be fair, we had been meaning to update the splash screen for a while now, and what I am about to describe just proved to be the opportune time)

DEVNET recently upgraded its development environment, Powerbuilder, to the most recent version (12.5).  We’ve done this a couple of times now in the history of the company.  While each upgrade becomes potentially more problematic as the number of clients grows, we’d like to think that we’ve got a pretty good system in place for handling upgrades.  Disruptions from the client perspective were very minimal; the upgrade was performed over a weekend, and most clients came in Monday morning to business as usual.

So the big question is why?  From a business perspective, the version we had been running (11.2) was quickly approaching its end-of-life, and as a software developer, using an unsupported development tool is the technological equivalent of riding a bicycle uphill in the wind. From a technical perspective, however, a world of opportunity opened up to us.  While out of the gate, the upgrade changed nothing, the things we can do for our clients now has vastly increased.  In no particular order, we get some great things with Powerbuilder 12.5:

  • Digitally sign our applications. This sends a message to Windows and most virus scanners to say that our applications are what they claim to be, and from who they claim to be from.
  • Consume web services.  There is a wealth of information available through web services, and it is a great way to tie different applications together, even if they are developed with different technologies.
  • Publish web services. This allows other applications to become consumers of data from DEVNET applications.
  • New graphing engine.  We can make prettier pictures now.
  • Lots of stuff under the hood that interests the programmers but not the clients.
  • A lot of bug fixes that we’d been waiting on.

We catch some gruff for using Powerbuilder for Windows development from time to time, but it’s been a great tool for us.  It’s easy to learn, stable, fast…. incredibly productive.  And with its low learning curve, even non-technical people at DEVNET can make reports, notices, and tax bills.  

This update will allow us to do some even more awesome things for our clients… and there are a lot of them coming in 2013!  Keep checking back and I will tell you all about them.