Speedware Says RPG-to-.NET Code Converter Is the Real Deal
February 24, 2009 Alex Woodie
Want to get from RPG to .NET without a lot of muss and fuss? You might be able to, now that Speedware is reselling and servicing Sykora-ML‘s ML-iMPACT code converter in the North American market. Skykor-ML claims the tool can convert 100 percent of RPG functions into fully maintainable C# or Java. That’s quite unusual and special for a code converter, according to Speedware officials, who have decades of experience in the IBM midrange and mainframe migration business.
The ML-iMPACT tool is one of the most advanced code converters that Speedware director of marketing Chris Koppe has ever seen. “It’s in a class of its own because it does some really fascinating things in the area of automated transformation to native Java and native .NET that you really don’t see people doing very well in an automated tool,” says Koppe, who sounds more like a seasoned systems architect than a marketing director.
The tool converts an RPG application’s DDS code to WebForms or ASP objects, while printing and other operating system-specific functions, such as batch job management, are also accounted for. What really impresses Koppe, however, is that Sykora-ML built an automated testing tool directly into ML-iMPACT, “so they can guarantee the result is exactly the same as the source platform. That, again, is very rare to see in a tool.”
According to Koppe, ML-iMPACT converts all sources of RPG and CL applications to standard C# or Java, without changing the basic structures of the data or the algorithms. The tool does this through a series of stages that include decompiling the code, analyzing the type of routines and functions that are being called, and then generating the right target structures based on what is normal for .NET or Java versus what’s normal for RPG.
Koppe and the folks at Speedware have seen their share of automated migration tools. After all, it’s been the Saint-Laurent, Quebec-based company’s bread and butter for the last 10 years (with S/34- and S/36-migration experience going back to the 1970s). Speedware makes it their business to know the state of the art in migration tools for legacy platforms, whether it’s for AS/400, S/390, HP3000, or Tandem systems.What they like, they acquire.
Speedware has tried out most of the RPG migration tools in the AS/400 market, but found them lacking for one basic reason: They required the company to maintain the RPG base code. In many circumstances, eliminating the RPG is the biggest requirement. RPG application modernization projects eventually face a lack of human resources–those with special skills around RPG and CL and the operating system, Koppe says. And he points out that that this skill set is expensive to maintain compared to .NET or Java.
Excited at what they found with ML-iMPACT, Koppe and his colleagues decided to do their due diligence by putting the tool through its paces at the Speedware R&D lab. The result: The product works as advertised, and does indeed convert 100 percent of RPG into managed code. That in turn paved the way for the partnership with Sykora-ML, which was looking to expand into the North American market.
There are caveats, of course, but few of them compared to many other migration tools. “There will be little things around API calls and certain CL statements that will have some issues that have to be looked at and assessed how to best treat,” Koppe says. “Some customers may not have any of these, some may have a few. For sure it does the code properly and generates something that’s very maintainable, to our surprise and delight when we first tested the product. And we’re certainly very happy with it.”
Just to make sure, Speedware asked some .NET experts to take a look at the converted RPG. “We’ve given them before-and-after samples of their RPG code and what it generated in C#, and the customer’s .NET people say ‘Yeah, this is maintainable,'” he says. “As you’re probably well aware, RPG is a very difficult syntactical language to reproduce in any other language, so to have some .NET people look at it and say I can maintain it, I think is a true testament to the true power of the conversion.”
Speedware is selling licenses to ML-iMPACT, but Koppe expects most customers to engage the company in a services engagement to migrate their RPG and CL to C# or Java. “We see typically migration as a one-time activity and a throw-away skill set from the customers’ perspective,” he says. “We find that, for many customers, they find it more cost effective to outsource the bulk of migration activity to migration experts.”
After hundreds of migrations, Speedware has yet to fail, according to Koppe, who attributes that amazing success rate to using the best migration tools and to paying attention to the details. “Today we boast that, and want to be able to always boast that,” he says. “But a large part of that success is to be able to deal with the little things, and never leaving that up to the customer.”
There are many hurdles that can trip up a migration, the least of which is the actual code conversion process. “That’s actually the easiest part,” he says. “The hard part is the integration with system components or third-party components, and that’s where Speedware has built a practice that specializes in this.”
For example, backup and recovery software or file maintenance tools are often critical elements of a company’s application infrastructure, but they’re overlooked when it comes to planning and executing a migration. Speedware strives to incorporate the entire application infrastructure stack into their customers’ migration plans, a practice that Koppe says greatly contributes to Speedware’s success rate.
ML-iMPACT licenses and services are currently available from Speedware. Pricing was not disclosed. For more information, visit www.speedware.com.