WaveMaker Revisited: Part 2 –  Observations made by a career PowerBuilder developer

For those of you who don’t know me,  I am a career PowerBuilder developer, having ridden the PowerBuilder wave from before it started until now– still riding the remnants of the huge waves PowerBuilder made in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.   I have a few rhetorical questions to start this article out– and maybe they aren’t rhetorical after all — whet do you think?

Is it ironic that I refer to my career as “riding the PB wave“, and now I am ranting about a new tool called WaveMaker? 

Is it possible that I have a knack for choosing tools that have a future, or is it my confidence or arrogance from the successes with PowerBuilder clouding (another weak pun– intended) my judgement?

Here is an Ultra-Condensed version of my 20 year career with PowerBuilder and search for the Next Big Thing.

My goal to keep this SHORT but it was impossible.  You could skip bullet points if limited on time.

  •  Started my career in mainframe, doing Cobol, CICS, and the usual mainframe stuff of early ’90’s working for utility company in Madison, WI, when a mid-level manager had a huge positive impact on my future (Thank you Wayne Peterson) by recommending me for the the first PB project.
  • The next 15 years was a flash of moving from one contract to the next using every PB version against every DBMS for half a dozen Fortune 100 clients.  I had become a PB expert and could do anything, save any project, was on fire.  All while listening to the masses saying PB is dying you will be out of a job in two years.  I didn’t listen because I tried using the competing technologies.
  • Late 2000’s PB was losing more market share to Java and .NET, and neither impressed me at that point.  I figured I was probably biased.  As my role started becoming more of a support role- and boredom was a problem I started studying competing technologies for at least four hours per night on top of my normal day.  Microsoft started winning me over, reluctantly with Silverlight, WPF, and ASP.NET MVC, the first two shared XAML which I saw potential.  Interstingly WaveMaker has similarities to XAML in use of layers.
  • From 2010 forward, I became somewhat fired up about Microsoft technologies, but the first major blunder that turned me off was lack of direction with Silverlight.  Then it became clear– what MS developers have been dealing with for years- that MS comes up with brilliant ideas, but rarely finishes one.  They are the king of software used to create sample applications– of course this is an exaggeration, but there is some truth to it.  I started to wonder if they suffered from ADHD…joking again of course.

First look at WaveMaker, a 4GL visual AJAX/Java/CSS/Web development tool

Around 2010 I came across the WaveMaker website, and the marketing hype caught me off-guard.  It looked impressive so I downloaded the software and stated following some of the sample applications.  My initial impression reminded me of the excitement of first seeing PowerBuilder– finally something ahead of its’ time.  Keep in mind that I have been very neutral to negative on Java in general, for personal reasons.

Rather than repeat what I learned — here is a link to my first real write-up on WaveMaker. I believe it was mid-2010.  You can gauge my high level of excitement, it was pretty unmistakable.  But as time went on, I wasn’t convinced WaveMaker was ready for prime-time.  I believed they might have a future– but not enough for me to abandon my investment in MS technologies which seemed easier and more mainstream (safer).

This article is a top-ten on this site to this day and there seems to be dozens of variations of it on other tech blogs (sigh), so there were other people looking for the same thing I was.  My version of the article was titled:

WaveMaker™ delivers for the cloud like PowerBuilder did for client-server

Second look at WaveMaker, a 4GL visual AJAX/Java/CSS/Web development tool

After spending another few years studying Microsoft technologies and trying to develop real-world applications in my spare time, I became frustrated with the challenges of doing anything more difficult that a standard marketing sample application.  Frustration with Entity Framework and it’s flaky behavior with complex data-models, frustration with MS constant change of direction particularly with Silverlight.  Call it desperation, or curiosity, but I noticed my blog (this site) was making more and more referrals to WaveMakers’ website so I decided there must be something worth looking at again.

I downloaded WaveMaker version 6.4 GA on or around June 20, 2012 — and was as impressed with how quickly I came up to speed exponentially more impressed than my first look.  The same night I downloaded WaveMaker I had re-developed an application I had been working on using Microsoft technologies (primarily Silverlight, MVC) and found it more refined than my MS version that had several weeks of effort invested — months of effort if you count the time I spent jumping from one MS technology to the next.  This version of WaveMaker is revolutionary – it is fun to use – and coming  from a PB environment there are several similarities.   If I have time I’d like to write some articles about how WaveMaker and PowerBuilder features equate, for example a Wavemaker live-view is a cross between a PowerBuilder dataobject (the query side) and the PB database stored edit types.  The way WaveMaker handles lookup tables is easier than in PB, no need to mess with creating separate drop-down dataobjects and tying them to your dataobject.

I wrote a quick and dirty article after downloading WaveMaker 6.4 GA.

You can find it here, be forewarned it is a bit dramatic:  WaveMaker – Take Two – PowerBuilder Pro Reaction, OMG

WaveMaker 6.4 GA – 4GL Web development tool – Real World Results Coming Here Very Soon

Now a week or so later,  I’ve redeveloped my “toy” application in WaveMaker better than I have been able in a month with Microsoft, AND included multi-tenancy and role based security which were going to be after-thoughts in my MS version.  Saturday morning (yesterday) around 10am I got the crazy idea to create a multi-tenancy application to used with this blog — at first I figured it would be four or five tables, and it ended up being about ten, but I cranked out a rough working version in TWO HOURS.  This includes deploying to my own Glassfish server on a VPS that I lease for $29 monthly.   At the two hour point, my application is functional, with multi-tenancy support,  role based security, and the thing looked damn impressive.  I will spend a few more hours cleaning it up and getting it as close to production ready as I can in that amount of time.

This NEW WaveMaker developed application will be posted on my site (live) in the very near future– I’ll go out on a limb and promise within a week.

The application you will see will be a fully functional Java, AJAX, CSS, Web application using complex powerful Java frameworks that would take months to learn by themselves.  The application will be deployed (via WAR file) to an Open Source Glassfish application server running on my virtual Windows  (yes windows! I want it my way!) 2008 R2 server instance hosted for $29 monthly (it’s a very weak virtual instance with one processor and half a gig ram), and against a MySQL database (via InnoDB) making light use of Triggers and consisting of 1-to-many and many-to-many relationships.

It will not be perfect, but it is pretty damn good right now.  Stay tuned… in the meantime I welcome comments, suggestions, or even requests.

You can try WaveMaker yourself by going to www.wavemaker.com/download!


9 Responses

    • I sure will post all of the source code. My intention with this is to help others, and it would be cool to see the product taken to a much higher level of detail.

  1. I also just found WaveMaker and I am equally blown away. I knocked out a simple CRUD app for my wife’s charity in one evening against a SQLserver 2008R2 DB. I am a Windows guy and I am having trouble deploying to a windows.tomcat server but the app runs perfectly with the built in server. Have you found any good doc on deployment?

    If VMW let’s Wavemaker and Spring thrive the may have the keys to the kingdom as THE cloud vendor from VMs to apps!

    Thanks for your blog.

    • Thanks for the kind words on the site. Much appreciated.

      I agree with you, WaveMaker has really come a long way, and I am a Windows guy too — and I had trouble using MS SQL Server 2008 — so was willing to compromise and use MySQL which I”m almost as happy using.

      I really hate the Tomcat server, for Windows or other. Yeah I am opinionated– but the last time I tried using Tomcat I couldn’t find any decent documentation on it, and none of my hosting providers were too willing to help, nor did they seem to support it. As I mentioned, went with GlassFish on Windows 2008 R2 Virtual Server and the deployment was literally point and click like WaveMaker marketing advertises.

      I generally like Oracle products and find Glassfish to be a very nice tool, with decent documentation and it runs fine on Windows. I tried using Cloud Factory and Amazone EC2 with no luck — anything UNIX based sucks if you don’t have someone to walk you through all of the undocumented features.

      Did you connect to SQL Server, if so, how did you do it? I spent several hours trying to connect to SQL Server and had no luck. I don’t understand a lot about JDBC, JDNI, which is why I like WaveMaker– it insulates me from the ugliness of all of the complex frameworks, and headache causing UNIX software.

      I suspect the Java purists are laughing at me– and maybe some day I’ll get it after someone shows me how, but WaveMaker is truly close to what they advertise, a point and click development and deployment. I highly recommend Glassfish if you like windows, it just works out of the box.


  2. I want to deploy my application ASAP, have spent about five hours total on it; and would like to get feedback and ideas on how to make it better. If I can find time today I’ll post a link to one of my new WaveMaker applications.

    I was considering marketing myself for converting PowerBuilder applications to WaveMaker- I would perfer to have someone who really knows Java to team up with and I can handle the PB expertise should it be needed.

    Is anyone else interested in doing this? If so we should talk, I receive numerous requests for information on how to convert PB apps to Java and/or .NET and nobody is having much success because the tools aren’t ready for prime time (not counting WaveMaker).


  3. Have you tried Velneo? Is a RAD tool developed in Spain, it seems from the outside very promising also as a tool for get aplications done in a snap, even it has nothing to do with Java.

  4. Hi,

    It’s been many weeks you posted this article.

    Where can I see the application you said developed in few hours please..

    Thanks for sharing your discovery of wavemaker and please keep the pace of posting any updates on the same..


    • This is a good question. I do the blog in my spare time and I have not had much spare time lately. It takes a fair amount of time to get a program posted with sample code, database scripts, etc. that will work for someone else but I will try to make it happen for you. Others have asked me as well. Ideally I’d like to just host the finished application and showcase it that way. I’ll shoot for having it updated before the end of November. 🙂 Thanks for your patience.

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