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Smart Client Deployment in PowerBuilder 11

How the Intelligent Updater feature fits into PowerBuilder 11's .NET Smart Client support initiative

This article will talk first about what constitutes a .NET Smart Client, its attributes, its behaviors, and then we'll talk about how the Intelligent Updater feature fits into PowerBuilder 11's .NET Smart Client support initiative. Finally, we'll walk through a detailed tutorial on how you can use the Intelligent Updater to install, publish, and update your .NET Windows Form-deployed PowerBuilder applications easily.

The .NET Smart Client
Arguably, the biggest headache for application development has been...deployment. The initial and ongoing appeal of browser-based applications has always been about automatically updating the application logic and interface for every single user. But this ease of deployment of the so-called thin client application has come at a cost, hasn't it? The lack of richness and functionality of browser-based user interfaces. PowerBuilder 11's Intelligent Updater will give users the rich user interface they deserve and it will give developers, administrators, and anyone responsible for deploying PowerBuilder applications the advantageous ubiquity of the Web.

Sybase will be delivering support for .NET Smart Client with the following attributes: A Smart Client needs to be "occasionally connected," that is, it doesn't need a persistent database connection. PowerBuilder 11 will have occasionally connected capabilities with the enhancement of the MobiLink database synchronization support first introduced in PowerBuilder 10.0. PowerBuilder 11 will also add an updateable Web Service Source DataWindow, which will use Web Service operations for full CRUD support rather than a persistent database connection. The Web Service Source DataWindow will also add to a .NET Smart Client's need to communicate via Web Services. As a superset of Web Service utilization, a .NET Smart Client should also be able to implement network resources. Smart Clients should also maximize their performance using client resources. Isn't that interesting, yes, the pendulum has swung back from thin client, especially for business users who've tired of waiting for rich user interface in the browser since roughly 1996 (note the change in spin from "fat client" to "rich client"). And most notably, a .NET Smart Client should have always-up-to-date applications via Smart Updates. PowerBuilder 11 will give you that powerful productivity with the Intelligent Updater feature, enabling you to install, publish, and update your .NET WinForm-deployed PowerBuilder applications...automatically...to every single user...with not one additional line of code from you the developer.

So what constitutes a .NET Smart Client? Simply put, any application that uses one or more of the attributes defined above. This leaves you and your teams to determine what subset of Smart Client attributes, which Smart Client techniques, are appropriate for your solution, for your enterprise.

The Intelligent Updater
PowerBuilder 11's "Intelligent Updater" is a new application deployment technology that makes deploying PowerBuilder .NET Windows Forms applications as easy as deploying Web applications. This feature is based on the "ClickOnce" technology in the .NET Framework v2.0. "Intelligent Updater" is designed to address the pain of deploying and updating client/server applications as well as the client applications of n-tier solutions. A caveat...the Intelligent Updater is meant only to install/publish/update .NET WinForms-deployed PowerBuilder applications. It is not designed for Win32-compiled applications. As far as system requirements go, the users' workstations only have to have the .NET 2.0 redistributable framework installed and in the system path. (www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx? FamilyID=0856EACB-4362-4B0D-8EDD-AAB15C5E04F5&displaylang=en )

Similarly, your development workstation will also need the .NET redistributable framework. The design time requirements also include the .NET 2.0 Framework SDK, the SDK's %SDK%\bin directory should also be in PATH, and you need to verify that %PBNET_HOME% (the ..\DotNET subdirectory of your PowerBuilder 11 installation directory) has been set as a system environmental variable during the installation of PowerBuilder. You will also need to be able to access an instance of Internet Information Server (IIS) 5.0 or higher.

The Deployment Model
Your WinForm applications will be published to, and your users will install and update from, the centralized IIS servers via HTTP, FTP, or UNC (the Universal Naming Convention if using Windows "share" resources). You may also optionally use CD-ROM or DVD-ROM for initial installations of your PowerBuilder WinForm application.

The Overall Working Process
A high-level outline of the overall working process of the Intelligent Updater is as follows:

  • Using an existing PowerBuilder application, the developer will, in a Windows Forms project, set the publish properties, deploy/compile as a .NET Windows Forms application then publish to an instance of IIS.
  • Users will browse to the application's publish Web page, which will transparently request the deployment manifest, then download, install, and optionally execute the application.
  • The developer will then modify and once more publish the application.
  • Users will run the application, which will again request the deployment manifest from the server, see that there is an updated version available, then download, install, and execute the updated application.
  • The developer or administrator may roll back the version of the application on the server, which will then cause a reversion on the users' workstations.
  • The users may also roll back to a previous version of the application from the control panel's "Add or Remove Programs" feature, or uninstall the application from their workstations altogether.

More Stories By John Strano

John Strano is a Sybase Technology Evangelist and is a charter member of TeamSybase. He has been using PowerBuilder since 1991 and has authored articles for multiple industry periodicals. John has been a Sybase Certified Instructor and has presented Sybase tools on an international basis since 1997. Over the last 17 years John has developed a variety of PowerBuilder applications from single-user scaling up to enterprise-class, web-based projects.

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