Sybase PowerBuilder tool readied for Microsoft's .Net

Developers can choose Win32 or newer style .Net development

After several years of work, Sybase is ready to deliver on the final step in its plan to move PowerBuilder users over to Microsoft's .Net programming model.

The company will offer on Tuesday a beta version of PowerBuilder 12, which includes two IDEs and a tool to move Win32 applications to the Microsoft .Net Framework. PowerBuilder 12 represents the last of a four-phase plan to move developers over to .Net capabilities, a plan begun in the 2002 time frame.  The beta program is open to anyone who wants to participate; the general release of PowerBuilder 12 is due in the first half of 2010.

[ PowerBuilder 12 allows for development on top of Microsoft Visual Studio, which is gaining parallel programming capabilities. ]

Featured is a rewritten version of the PowerBuilder DataWindow technology that offers native support of Microsoft's WFP (Windows Presentation Foundation) graphics subsystem and enables deployment of .Net applications that use managed code. PowerBuilder 12 will support Windows 7 when that becomes available later this year.

"[PowerBuilder] simplifies development, and the crown jewel of PowerBuilder is a component called the Data Window," which allows data access, data retrieval, data filtering, sorting, and related capabilities, said Sue Dunnell, product manager at Sybase. With DataWindow, developers need to only write five lines of script to perform a task that might otherwise take 300 lines of C++ or C# code, she said.

PowerBuilder 12 could not have come a moment too soon for Sybase, said analyst Al Hilwa, program director for application development software at IDC. "It's taken them a while and they've got to keep moving with this as fast as possible. Their customers are amazingly loyal and patient," Hilwa said.

IDE modules include one labeled "Classic," for Windows 32 development, and a .Net IDE for developing WPF applications on top of the Microsoft Visual Studio shell. WPF is a key component of .Net. A conversion tool, meanwhile, moves Win32 code to the .Net Framework and removes the pain of expensive migration, according to a Sybase representative.

Developers can build Win32 applications and migrate existing code to Windows Forms, WebForms, ASP.Net and WPF. Or, they can  build new WPC systems based on managed code, which provides benefits such as a security shell known as a sandbox. Also, developers can leverage plug-ins in the Visual Studio ecosystem and third-party components.  Access is enabled to virtually any database management system, Sybase said.

"We're delivering what PowerBuilder developers are used to and alongside of that, we're delivering a comprehensive environment to build .Net applications," Dunnell said. Version 12, Hilwa said, allows developers to mix and match applications they already have with .Net and allows evolution into a .Net application.

Other capabilities include visual Inheritance for WPF windows and user objects, involving the ability to inherit capabilities from windows or controls.  Visual drag-and-drop from the solution explorer capability in PowerBuilder 12  tool offers access to properties, methods, and controls in WFP windows.

Sybase has had to alter its .Net plan to incorporate capabilities for technologies such as WPF, Windows Communication Foundation and the Silverlight rich Internet application plug-in technology. "Phase 4 was supposed to make building .Net applications a PowerBuilder experience, but Microsoft moved forward and really changed what .Net meant," Dunnell said.

To accommodate changes in .Net, Sybase last year released PowerBuilder 11.5 , which offer client-server development. Sybase needed an extra  year to incorporate WPF, Dunnell said.

PowerBuilder costs $2,995 for a new license. Other purchasing options, such as updates, also are available.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.