IBM to Meet Upset WDSc Shops Half-Way on Features?
March 26, 2007 Timothy Prickett Morgan
After a hullabaloo for the past month about features within the new WebSphere Development Studio Client V7.0 integrated development environment for the i5/OS and OS/400 platform, IBM appears to be ready to make some changes to appease customers who want to use the Standard Edition of the product but who do not want to pay for an Advanced Edition license to get what they perceive as two key features that are aimed at traditional green-screen programming.
Those features, Screen Designer and Application Diagram, are only available in the Advanced Edition of the product, and as the story by Bruce Guetzkow revealed two weeks ago, this was going to be perceived as a major shortcoming for the Standard Edition product. Considering the cost of the Advanced Edition product, many shops told us in response to his article that they felt Big Blue was being unfair, particularly to those shops that are engaged primarily in green-screen programming and who do not need the features in Advanced Edition.
In last week’s issue, The Four Hundred published a long list of reader feedback about the WDSc Standard Edition issue, and Guetzkow explained in detail and repeatedly that CODE/400 was not removed in WDSC V7.0, but would not be in the next release of WDSc. (I got a call from an ex-IBMer who seems to think we said this, when we didn’t. Quite the opposite.) To say that i5/OS and OS/400 shops that have been advocating for the use of WDSc were disappointed would be an understatement.
George Farr, solution manager of WDS, WDSc, and the RPG compiler at IBM’s Toronto Labs, gave the keynote address at System i Developer‘s RPG & DB2 Summit last Thursday in addition to participating in an online chat hosted by the iSociety System i user advocacy group that was held by System i Developer’s founders: Susan Gantner, Job Paris, Paul Tuohy, and Skip Marchesani, long-time gurus in the AS/400, iSeries, and System i market.
In the keynote, which was addressed to over 100 RPG developers, according to a statement put out by System i Developer, Farr hinted that IBM was willing to componentized the bits that go into WDSc Advanced Edition and offer those components as separately priced features. Programmers working with RPG and green-screens are understandably irritated that they have to spend nearly $4,000 to get an Advanced Edition license–even if they have no use for all of the Java and Enterprise Java Beans features in this full version. And Farr explained that IBM understands that, and according to the statement, he went so far as to chide attendees for wanting everything in WDSc for free. According to one source at the conference, IBM is mulling offering features for prices in the range of hundreds of dollars, but Farr apparently warned the attendees of the RPG & DB2 Summit that he does not set IBM’s software prices. Such a move by IBM–depending on what features we are talking about and how many hundreds of dollars–would probably defuse this situation to a large extent.
Later in the conference, when pressed for details on IBM’s specific plans, Farr kept his cards close to his vest. “Trust me, you’ll be happy, and I can’t say more than that.”
Farr also explained during the RPG & DB2 Summit, as he often does at IBM and other events, that AS/400, iSeries, and i5 shops have to move to RPG IV. He also said that while IBM would continue to invest in RPG development, it was also pushing Enterprise Generation Language, or EGL, from its Rational unit as a key, strategic, cross-platform, SOA-friendly language. EGL was spawned out of the VisualAge Generator, which itself is based on an older fourth-generation programming language called Cross Systems Product. The basic idea with EGL is to help those who are used to RPG, COBOL, and other procedural languages code in an object oriented manner and deliver Java or COBOL applications. IBM’s current EGL generators can crank out executable Java and COBOL, and it is not a big step to add RPG IV to the mix, if IBM chose to do so. IBM has said nothing specific about its plans in this regard.
In the iSociety chat, Farr said that IBM was looking to make some changes with RPG–something IBM hinted at in the WDSc V7.0 announcement a month ago. “We’re looking at moving RPG forward, potentially renaming the language and modernizing the overall language,” Farr explained.