Databorough Beefs Up X-Analysis for Application Modernization
October 7, 2008 Alex Woodie
Databorough is in the process of rolling out X-Analysis version 8, a major new release that has been overhauled to provide a range of modernization services for RPG and COBOL applications. With new features such as Java and UML generation, migration to SQL-based databases, and low-level documentation of business processes, X-Analysis version 8 will give IBM i OS shops powerful new options for modernizing or migrating their applications to Java, EGL, or other languages, the vendor says.
From its headquarters in England, Databorough and its X-Analysis suite historically have been focused on providing cross-referencing and documentation capabilities for users of the IBM midrange server. With its powerful capabilities for dissecting RPG and COBOL programs and documenting how they work, X-Analysis has built a reputation for being one of the most powerful tools in its class.
With the launch of X-Analysis version 8, Databorough is now going in a new direction. Instead of just documenting how legacy OS/400, i5/OS, and i OS applications work, the company is using its expertise in reverse engineering so customers can assemble new, re-engineered applications out of the applications they have broken down using X-Analysis’ traditional strengths. In case you’re wondering, this does mean X-Analysis now generates actual J2EE and EGL code, and perhaps VB and PHP in the future. But no, it doesn’t mean it’s a 4GL.
It’s not so much a new direction as a continuation of Databorough’s original goal, says Stuart Milligan, the company’s chief operating officer. “We started life as a re-engineering company that also built documentation tools that we used in our projects,” he said yesterday in an interview. “Four to five years ago, we considered writing syntax conversion tools, but thought there were too many failures.
“What we’d rather do is really beef up what we’ve always done, which is design recovery, data modeling, and business rule extraction,” he continued. “We said, ‘Let’s take the concepts of re-engineering, and use it against the design that we’ve extracted, and actually create, not a code generator, but a re-factoring technology. So it re-factors legacy code.’ But it produces much cleaner, efficient, non-proprietary re-engineered code in new languages, as opposed to a black-box 4GL.”
Much of this new re-engineering capability resides in X-Modernize, a completely new module to the X-Analysis suite that deals with modernization of the database, business logic, and user interface layers. In addition to transforming a DDS-based database into a new SQL-based database, the software is able to extract business rules from RPG or COBOL applications, and then embed them into a third-party business rule engine as UML activity or class diagrams. User interface layers are converted into JavaBeans or JSFs, which can then be enhanced with other products.
The software will generate J2EE or EGL, IBM’s new development language, and support for PHP or VB will be added in early 2009, Milligan said. It’s all about helping System i shops modernize their applications. “We generate artifacts at a very detailed level, a source code level, that then new developers rebuild the system using all of these recovered designs, which we generate as UML, or as actual generated code,” he said. “We generate a great starting point, and the developers can go in and finish the application off.”
Two new subcomponents of the suite, called Database Modernization and X-Ternalize, provide further modernization capabilities. Database Modernization provides field re-sizing, globalization, and DBCS conversion capabilities, while X-Ternalize enables the database I/O in legacy applications to be converted into file access modules. “So you get instant SOA or Web services layers over your database, and it also re-engineers the existing RPG programs, so now they can carry on working without any change, but the database is now completely separated, and the I/O is completely separated from the legacy logic,” Milligan said.
For organizations making the jump to Java, X-Analysis 8 provides a new program called X-JRef that provides cross-referencing and documentation of Java or Visual Basic, alongside documentation of RPG or COBOL code. All the new Java functionality is a direct result of Databorough’s customers’ demands, Milligan said. “A lot of people are actually writing Java and we have a big demand for that,” he says. “It’s an enterprise language, and provides virtualization, if you like, of the application.”
X-Analysis also includes a new component called X-Web Query that works with IBM’s DB2 Web Query product. The software builds the metadata layer in DB2 Web Query using existing relational data structures in DB2/400, thereby streamlining the DB2 Web Query roll-out. The software “builds a ready-to-use drill down application” in DB2 Web Query, and has been out for three months already, Milligan said.
Databorough is working with partners that are building modernization services around X-Analysis or will write tools that plug into X-Analysis and provide specific modernization capabilities. The partners include ADC Austin, ClearBlade, Oxford Technologies, and Sirius Computer Solutions.
X-Analysis version 8 represents the culmination of work Databorough has been doing with System i modernization and application re-engineering. “We’ve been amalgamating and writing a lot of tools around the services we’ve been doing for the last five to six years into re-engineering and modernization toolsets,” Milligan said. “And we ended up with this workbench-type mentality, where instead of having just X-Analysis cross-referencing and documentation, and a little bit of modernization, we’ve now got a complete suite of modernization tools that take the approach of re-landscaping your whole system. Rather than doing a syntax conversion, on a line by line basis, which ends up with an unholy mess, it’s really a lot of power tools.”
X-Analysis version 8 has been live in customer shops for several months. The formal launch will take place during a virtual conference that Databorough is doing with System i Network in a couple of weeks.
Databorough offers standard licensing as well as software rental agreements. A 30-day rental of the basic version of X-Analysis (provides standard cross-referencing and documentation), it costs $4,500. A 30-day rental of the enterprise version (includes support for UML and business rule extraction) costs $6,500. A license for the complete suite is in the $50,000 range for a P05 or P10 box. For more information, visit www.databorough.com.