IBM Offers Application Development Tool Sandbox for i and z Shops
August 11, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
If you want to modernize your RPG or COBOL applications on System i or System z platforms and their predecessors or, in the case of the System i, its Power Systems i successor, and you have programmers who learn and type at lightning speed, then IBM has a deal for you.
It’s called the Enterprise Modernization Sandbox, which you can view at www.ibm.com/developerworks/downloads/emsandbox/, and it is a freebie three-hour session on a hosted set of IBM’s software development tools for i and z platforms to give programmers a taste of the tools that the Rational division within IBM’s Software Group has to modernize legacy applications.
As the developerWorks Web site where these tools run put it, the sandbox is a place “to explore our latest products for modernizing and deploying core System z and IBM i applications in a ‘tinker, test, and try’ environment without downloading and installing them.” While installing tools is certainly a hassle, IBM’s trial for its Rational tools is online most likely to keep IBM from having to create special trial versions of the Rational tools and temporary keys; IBM might also be watching to see what parts of the toolset online users tinker around with as a way to gauge potential customer interest–something that is more difficult to do with CD distributions of trial software. Moreover, an online trial costs a lot less to distribute than trial CDs, and if you can get the IT trade press to help out by letting the i and z customer bases know the sandboxes exist, then the marketing budget for the sandboxes is also low. (D’oh!)
Considering the complexity of both legacy application modernization projects and IBM’s Rational tools, the three-hour time limit on a sandbox seems insufficient to the task. Right now, the System i sandbox has an online version of Rational Developer for System i, Rational Business Developer, Rational Host Access Transformation Services for Multiplatforms (which we all know simply as HATS), and Rational Application Developer for WebSphere. The online trial gives developers a slice of an i server to let programmers deploy and test their applications on. The good news is that IBM will allow programmers to save their work as the three hour time limit is running out, then re-register, and then go on from there. It is not clear how many times programmers can do this. It might make more sense to convert the trial to a fee-based weekly or monthly trial with a nominal fee instead of forcing developers to keep re-registering; moreover, it might just make sense to offer such tools on as a subscription-based service instead of trying to peddle perpetual licenses. Why not?
The System z sandbox offers the similar stack of Rational mainframe tools for COBOL applications, but also includes access to Rational Transformation Workbench, which can analyze legacy COBOL applications and figure out how to cut up the code into reusable code snippets and look for inconsistencies in the business rules embodied in the code. This Transformation Workbench feature will eventually be available for i sandboxes, too, but is not ready now.