Relativity, USTRI Launch iSeries Modernization Initiative
Published: October 10, 2006
by Alex Woodie
Relativity Technologies, an application modernization tool developer, and U.S. Technology Resources Inc., (USTRI) an IT outsourcing firm, have teamed up to provide iSeries users, consultants, and developers with a software and services offering designed to help them better understand their legacy RPG and COBOL applications in preparation for modernization or migration initiatives, the companies announced last week.
Decades-old legacy applications, whether they run on iSeries, HP300, S/390, or VAX systems, often share a similar trait, in that they use monolithic architectures that can be difficult to approach, and difficult to integrate using current technology. This problem is compounded when the original developers of the application have long since retired or otherwise moved along. In these instances, the use of code-analysis and application-understanding tools can be a real boon to breaking down an application into modular chunks and understanding how it all works together.
This has been the goal of Relativity Technologies and its Modernization Workbench, which has targeted some of the biggest legacy installations, including lots of mainframe code written in PL/1 and COBOL. Relativity's Modernization Workbench, which is resold by IBM, also supported COBOL running on the iSeries, but it didn't support RPG. That has now changed.
"On the iSeries, of course, RPG rules," says Charles Dickerson, a senior vice president with Relativity, of Raleigh, North Carolina. "While we had support for iSeries COBOL, now we have support for iSeries RPG."
Support for RPG in the Modernization Workbench considerably widens the tool's audience on the iSeries, which includes software vendors, systems integrators, and the occasional large end-user company. But Relativity expects most of its new RPG-iSeries business to go through USTRI, an outsourcer with offices in California and India. USTRI has an established iSeries services practice and will use the tool to help pick apart RPG applications to prepare them for modernization or migration.
The first step in the Modernization Workbench is loading all the various components of an application into the repository, including its source code, CL screens, printer files, and DDS. Once that stuff is loaded into the repository, the Workbench can perform various low-level actions on that data, including legacy understanding, or "knowledge mining," where the tool performs data flow and execution path analysis.
"We also offer an application architecture, or code slicing, opportunity," Dickerson says. "We can extract, or tease out, strands of logic from the hairball that is your application. We can separate the screen, business, and data logic and begin refactoring the system to create a tiered architecture that is easier to maintain."
Andre Brandt, the business practice director for legacy technology at USTRI, says the Modernization Workbench will be very useful in helping iSeries shops gain a greater understanding of how their applications work in preparation for additional modernization or just to make on-going maintenance easier.
"There seems to be a significant need from what we can see . . . especially for those legacy applications that are 15 to 20 years old," Brandt says. "The original developers have moved on or retired, and companies may not know what to do with the applications. They tip-toe around them. They're critical applications, but they require significant attention to change to adapt to the needs of the business."
USTRI, which employs about 600 people in the U.S. and 3,000 in India, has considerable experience on the iSeries platform, according to Brandt. "We've been involved in iSeries work since our inception," he says. "We're pretty technology agnostic [but] we're iSeries savvy and have a lot of iSeries background." One of USTRI's iSeries customers is the warehouse retailer Costco, a Fortune 50 company whose CIO is very committed to iSeries technology and sits on a key customer advisory board.
USTRI's entry-level iSeries application discovery and roadmap assessment offering starts at about $10,000 to analyze a pretty decent-sized iSeries application--about 500 modules or a million lines of code--and takes about a week. From there, the company's services offerings and associated costs vary with what the customer wants to do. "You might not need to go whole hog and migrate to Java. You might just want to make quick changes and clean up business rules. That may be your goal, so your roadmap will change accordingly," Brandt says.
RPG III and RPG IV code or COBOL is required to use Relativity's Modernization Workbench. For more information on the companies and their offerings, visit their Web sites at www.relativity.com and www.ustri.com.