Moving Beyond RPG: mrc-Productivity Series Evolves Openness
by Alex Woodie
Michaels, ross & cole has officially opened the kimono. The longtime provider of an OS/400 fourth generation language (4GL) development environment is in the early stages of rolling out a new flagship development environment that can live on any platform. While the new tools don't yet have a formal name, and won't generate RPG, they will be largely based on the established mrc-Productivity Series development environment, and feel equally at home running on OS/400, Unix, Windows, and Linux platforms.
The mrc-Productivity Series was traditionally a menu-driven 4GL development environment that programmers used from a green screen. In 2002, mrc expanded the toolset to enable programmers to develop Java Servlets from a Web browser, using the Browser Enhanced Development add-on. Together, this suite of development tools was capable of generating RPG, CGI, XML, HTML, and Java servlet programs, which could be deployed on any number of supported platforms, including OS/400 for RPG and CGI, and Windows, Linux, Unix, and OS/400 with Java virtual machines.
Until now, mrc developers, even those programming from Browser Enhanced Development, have needed a live connection to an OS/400 server to use the mrc-Productivity Series of tools. Not any more. Now the core of mrc-Productivity Series (which we'll continue to call the tool, until it is formally christened) can live on any platform.
The advantage of this, the company says, is that it frees developers and companies to program from the most cost-effective platform. This basically means developers can now code and test on inexpensive Intel hardware running any operating system or database, including Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and MySQL. Companies no longer need to invest their expensive CPWs or iSeries memory into development workloads.
It also means mrc-Productivity Series developers are free to work anywhere, even places without an Internet connection. Since the entire development suite can now be installed on a laptop, coders can now generate reporting programs from an airplane, or write shopping cart applications from the beach. This new capability releases developers from feeling tied to specific platforms or languages, and frees them to choose the best platform for a project, depending on the situation, says Brian Crowley, mrc's director of development.
"For example, most businesses are running mission-critical applications on many different operating systems, on a variety of hardware. Imagine being able to manage and build all the applications your business would need for all of those operating systems with just one tool," Crowley says. "That is what this is about."
There is one important caveat: the new development tools are entirely Java based and will no longer generate RPG or CGI. And there will be no green screen. Over time, the company sees the new product replacing the mrc-Productivity Series, says Heather Gately, mrc's marketing director. "However, we'll continue to support the mrc-Productivity Series well into the foreseeable future, and will let our customers and the marketplace determine when it has run its course," she says. Current mrc-Productivity Series customers will also receive a free upgrade to the new version, which will be "seamless" to the older tools, she says.
The new tools will also be less expensive than the current mrc-Productivity Series toolset, with pricing starting at $28,800. The company says the new product will become generally available in the third quarter, which starts July 1. Contact mrc on the Web at www.mrc-productivity.com for more information.