For Fortune Global 100 Company
 
Business Challenge: 
To meet the demands of customers, an ISV needs to enable its existing client-server product for the Web 
Solution: 
Appeon Web 
Results: 

  • Highly reliable, Java standards-based application architecture.
  • Implementation time a small fraction of that required to rewrite for other Web platforms.
  • Familiar, rich, and productive client-server interface maintained.

Industry: 
ISV 
 
About Shengli Software
Sinopec is the second largest petroleum producer in Mainland China and a Fortune Global 100 company. To take advantage of its extensive experience in petroleum production, Sinopec formed a high-tech subsidiary, Shengli Software Ltd., to provide software-related products and services to the petroleum industry. 

Combining industry experience with R&D efforts to develop competitive petroleum industry software, Shengli has aggressively developed its external market while taking advantage of a stable internal market with Sinopec. Shengli knows that in order to keep growing its business at a rapid pace, it needs to meet customer demands for the most effective and up to date technology solutions. 
   

We Need to Move to the
Web, But How Do We Get There? 
   
"Converged Petroleum Investment Project Management System" (CPIPMS) is an application developed by Shengli for petroleum industry investment project management. The application includes company, oilfield, and factory-level management, with specialized oilfield investment project management functionality as well as for general investment project management functionality. The application is used by Sinopec subsidiaries across China. 
   
The application was built by a team of three engineers working over four years from 2001 to 2004, representing 12 engineering-years of investment. Originally, Shengli chose Sybase's PowerBuilder to build CPIPMS for its high development productivity. < 
   
But by 2004, the client-server architecture of the original application began to show its weaknesses. With the rapid proliferation of the Web in China, users had come to expect the ability to access the system at any time and place. This was especially true for projects in the petroleum industry, which typically involve multiple organizations in different locations that all need to access the system. The original client-server application could only be accessed from machines where the client software was installed, creating deployment hassles and security concerns for many users. Moving to the Web was rapidly becoming a competitive necessity. 
   
On the other hand, the company did not want to throw away its substantial investment in the development of the new application and start from scratch. Shengli had estimated that it would take several years to rewrite the application in Java. In addition, the application contained many PowerBuilder Windows and DataWindows with powerful functionalities that are extremely difficult to replicate with mainstream Web user interface technologies. The user interface of the finished application would have to be changed substantially to accommodate the limitations of these technologies. 
   

Appeon Offers the Best of Both Worlds
 
Is there a way to move our application and development organization to the Web without throwing away our existing investment in PowerBuilder skills and applications? Answering this question became a high priority for Shengli's decision makers. 
   
In choosing a Web strategy, Shengli considered a great number of factors. Major considerations included: 
   

1. Time: Traditionally, migrating a client-server application to the web has involved a complete rewrite from scratch. The difficulty is great, it takes a long time, and the existing investment in the original application is entirely wasted. 

2. Usability: PowerBuilder provides rich, highly productive user interface controls that users had come to expect. The common platforms for Web development limit users to a very simple page-based interface, which was not desirable to Shengli's customers due to the negative impact on user productivity. 

3. Deployment: Shengli's customers typically had end users distributed over different locations, and these customers were asking for a solution that would not require software to be deployed to the machines of individual users. 

4. Reliability: To meet the high standards of petroleum industry customers, Shengli needed to deliver a solution with bulletproof reliability even over network connections that were occasionally slow or unstable. 

5. Maintainability: The Web application needed a good maintenance process. In addition, Shengli was continuing to support the original client-server application, and did not wish to maintain two code bases. 

 
   
In March 2004, Shengli's engineers encountered the Appeon for PowerBuilder solution by chance on the Internet. 
   
Appeon for PowerBuilder (APB) is the only product that can automatically migrate a traditional PowerBuilder client-server architecture application to the Web. Based on the original client-server application source code, APB automatically creates an n-tier Web application. The migrated application precisely replicates the rich user interface of the original application, including powerful DataWindow functionality, a multi-window interface, and advanced printing capabilities. The migrated application possesses the scalability, security, reliability, flexibility, and other benefits of an n-tier network architecture. Because the entire process is automatic, there is no need to spend time understanding the application business logic, which greatly cuts down migration effort. 
   

Technical Architecture

The solution provided by Appeon possesses the following characteristics:

  • A single CPIPMS PowerBuilder code base deploys to both client-server and Web architectures.
  • The deployed Web application is an n-tier Java and Web standards-based application:

 (1) The client-side presentation layer uses only pure HTML, XML, and java script. The new application does not require browser plug-ins, ActiveX, Java applets, or other downloads to the client machine.
 (2) Server-side presentation and business logic is contained within the Sybase EAServer Java Application Server
 (3) Application data is stored in the existing CPIPMS database and accessed through JDBC

  • The application uses only standard HTTP over port 80, making it interoperable with existing firewall and security infrastructure without special configuration.
  • The report printing functionality of the original client-server application is preserved using the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) printing capabilities of Appeon for PowerBuilder, avoiding the hassles that usually come along with printing on the Web.

Shengli was so impressed with Appeon as a migration solution, the company decided to go ahead with Appeon to develop a new suite of software, "Oilfield Project Management Information System". By leveraging its existing PowerBuilder skills, Shengli has estimated that it will need to spend only three months to complete the new project. If Shengli had switched to Java, the project would have taken at least twice as many developers and twice as much time. And Shengli's software engineers greatly appreciated that the usefulness of the PowerBuilder skills that they already mastered can be extended onto the Web, using the same mature and familiar development platform. 
   
Most importantly, Shengli immediately recognized the value of the new platform could provide to its customers. End users can just enter a URL in their web browser and start working immediately. The highly productive user interface is almost exactly the same as before, eliminating the need for customers to retrain end users. And concerns about scalability, security and reliability that were raised with the client-server application are completely addressed by the n-tier Web architecture.