ASNA Launches Monarch for RPG-to-.NET Migration
October 5, 2004 Alex Woodie
ASNA last week launched a new migration tool called Monarch, which, the company says, can help iSeries shops move their RPG applications to Microsoft .NET in a matter of weeks, as opposed to the months or years such a migration could entail. With Monarch and existing ASNA language and database tools, the company says it now offers everything for a whole or partial migration of RPG applications to .NET, and an upgrade path to service-oriented architectures.
ASNA has been in the business of moving RPG applications to Windows–and making Windows developers out of iSeries developers–for some time now. The company’s ASNA Visual RPG (AVR) development language, which uses many RPG concepts and is familiar to RPG programmers, provides a stepping stone for RPG developers to make the move up into an object-oriented language, but without requiring them to throw out all they’ve learned with RPG and, perhaps most important, without requiring them to learn Java.
The latest release of ASNA’s development language, called AVR .NET, features full compatibility with Microsoft’s newest development environment, Visual Studio .NET. With AVR.NET, ASNA allows developers with RPG skills to begin generating Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL), the final executable in Microsoft’s Java-like.NET paradigm, just like the other .NET languages, including C# and Visual Basic.NET.
With Monarch, ASNA provides iSeries enterprises with the capability to migrate their applications to the .NET environment. The company previously offered a code import utility called Importa, but Monarch, particularly with its code analysis tools, adds much more intelligence and automation to the migration process, says Michael Killian, ASNA’s vice president of operations.
Monarch also supports many more components of RPG applications than Importa did. “Before, with Importa, we just handled RPG business logic,” Killian says. “Now we handle all of the business logic, the DDS, CL, message, print files, and more. We handle all of that automatically.”
THE MONARCH PROCESS
Migration begins with Monarch Cocoon, a Windows-based code analysis tool for iSeries application. This tool has many functions, including cross-referencing the iSeries libraries in search of program and object dependencies and showing the user which “hotspots” in their application will require a little more custom coding for a successful migration. Users can also look at their RPG source code, and there is even a “diary” where users can record notes.
Once the Monarch Cocoon has completed its analysis, Monarch Gameplan is used to create a detailed migration strategy. Specific program attributes, such as library lists, the program entry point, and the active database platform, are identified in Gameplan.
Following the Gameplan, individual Monarch agents handle the task of migrating specific RPG programs, display files, CL, menus, message files, data areas, printer files, and data files to .NET. Then AVR is ready to compile them as MSIL inside of Visual Studio.NET. There’s no need to populate a secondary repository or otherwise prepare the original program, ASNA says.
Monarch can be relied upon to translate anywhere from 80 to 95 percent of the RPG source on the first try, say ASNA officials, who are hesitant to put an exact number on it. Depending on the quality of the RPG code, Monarch could translate a much lower percentage than that, or it could translate 100 percent of it. “RPG programmers are not known for their documentation,” Killian says, adding that this is where the Cocoon analysis component really adds structure and value to the migration process.
As with AVR.NET, Monarch gives users the choice of maintaining the iSeries DB2/400 database or migrating the entire database to Microsoft’s SQL Server database, using ASNA’s DataGate product. As far as the user interface layer is concerned, Monarch converts green-screen user interfaces into ASP.NET Web-based interfaces that are served from Microsoft’s Web server, Internet Information Services (IIS) 6.0.
‘IT’S BETTER WITH THE BUTTERFLY’
The world of application development is being compressed into two main camps: one that supports the Microsoft .NET languages and one backed by IBM that supports Java languages. ASNA cites a recent Forrester Research study indicating that 56 percent of the IT departments in American corporations plan to do their future application development in .NET.
Monarch provides an alternative to “IBM’s forced migration plan that devalues both their skills and software investments,” Sanjay Parthasarathy, Microsoft’s vice president of developer and platform evangelism, said in ASNA’s Monarch announcement. Microsoft recently beefed up its Mainframe Migration Alliance campaign to convince mainframe shops to move to Windows, but it isn’t actively targeting the iSeries installed base at this time. Instead, it’s working with partners like ASNA to convince iSeries shops that their future is better served with the combination of Windows and .NET than OS/400 and Java.
One of the key attributes of ASNA’s tools is they doesn’t force users to abandon RPG. Indeed, the ability for RPG programmers to continue development in RPG, while deploying in .NET, is one of the advantages of Monarch. While continued development in RPG/400 or ILE RPG is possible with Monarch, ASNA will tell developers that their application and careers are better served with an object-oriented language like AVR.NET. After all, you can’t do Web services natively in RPG, but you can with AVR.NET, Visual Basic.NET, and C#.
ASNA president and co-founder Anne Ferguson says Monarch enables users to extend or migrate the “tremendous financial, technical, business process, and skill set investments” they’ve made in their OS/400 applications.
“Through ASNA Monarch, enterprises can use automated analysis, planning, and migration technologies to move at their own pace, and to whatever degree mandated by individual business strategies,” Ferguson says. “At the same time, it optimizes the use of current resources, including applications, data, business processes, and programming skills.”
Monarch is available now through ASNA and its distributors. Company officials say the product is priced on a case by case basis. For more information and pricing, contact ASNA at www.asna.com.